Tag Archives: gay

EA Employees: It Gets Better

The “It Gets Better” campaign has had its fair share of critiques and attempts at constructive criticism. At the same time, the videos it has produced often have the effect of leaving me very teary-eyed.

Therefore, while I will still examine EA games as I have always done (particularly as BioWare is among their branches), their posting of this It Gets Better video definitely leaves me with a positive impression (trigger warning for coming out stories and retelling of threats against LGB persons):

In an industry mired with so many examples of heteronormativity, and often outright insulting jabs at the LBG community, seeing something like this is heartening. Whether or not it was intentional, seeing a broad, diverse range of faces and voices is also appreciated.

Quick Snippet: Zynga CEO on FrontierVille gay marriages

The FrontierVille game logo, with three avatars dressed in Western wear scaring a cartoony fox.

 

We posted several months ago about the fact that you can have a same-sex marriage in FrontierVille and our excitement about this big win in a new gaming space.  Today, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Zynga’s CEO Mark Pincus stated that FrontierVille has had over 650,000 same -sex marriages.  He also stated:

“That’s amazing, that’s probably more than any country in the whole world.

It’s no surprise to me that the rapidly growing social game market is just as uniquely diverse as the real world, considering it has broad appeal to a very wide demographic.  It’s great to see Zynga giving out these stats to show that gay gamers are interested in social games, and perhaps more social game developers will give these kind of options to players in their games.

Homosexuality in Mass Effect 2

Tracey John recently interviewed some people at Bioware and among the questions asked included one about the lack of homosexual relationships in Mass Effect 2. The article had a quote from Casey Hudson, the Mass Effect 2 project lead,  We still view it as… if you’re picturing a PG-13 action movie. That’s how we’re trying to design it. So that’s why the love interest is relatively light. …

So, does that mean that homosexuality is R rated? I saw the implicit claim here that heterosexuality is PG-13, normal, but homosexuality is “dirtier” and deserves a stronger rating. I find that claim offensive. Love is good no matter the gender of the individuals. But the problem with this comment goes further than simply implying that homosexual sex is only acceptable for more mature audiences than heterosexual sex. A large problem with this quote is that Mass Effect  as well as Mass Effect 2 are M RATED games! These games already have the equivalent of an R rating for movies. So, is he implying that gay sex in video games deserves an even stronger rating? Is it seen as deserving of an Adults Only rating? It was possible to have a male Grey Warden character in Dragon Age Origins have a sexual relationship with the male party member Zevran. This Bioware game was rated M, just like Mass Effect 2. Bioware has already shown that they are willing to have homosexual relationships in M rated games. So what makes Mass Effect 2 different and why the PR spin? Is it simply because they felt Mass Effect 2 would be purchased by more people than Dragon Age Origins and they did not want to offend some of those consumers? If that is the case then I would like to remind Bioware and other companies that some of their consumers are gay. We are gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, queer, male, and female and we all count as gamers.

Change to xbox live code of conduct

Members of the Xbox LIVE community received an open letter today. It read as follows:

A Letter from Marc Whitten: Update to Xbox LIVE Code of Conduct

Published March 5, 2010

Dear Xbox LIVE members,

Since the beginning, Microsoft has made an investment in the security and safety of Xbox LIVE and created tools and monitoring practices to ensure it is a fun and welcoming entertainment experience for people of all races, nationalities, religions and sexual orientations. And thanks to this investment and the enthusiasm of community members like you, we’re proud to be the strongest and most diverse online community of its kind at 23 million.

The Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct are designed to create a place where people can safely enjoy all of the ways to interact on our service, be it online multiplayer gaming, photo sharing, Netflix parties, or social games such as 1 vs 100, without fear of discrimination or harassment. As the service evolves and our customers provide us with feedback, these rules evolve to incorporate new features or changes in how people wish to interact.

With that in mind, I’d like to announce an update to the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct which will allow our members to more freely express their race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation in Gamertags and profiles. Under our previous policy, some of these expressions of self-identification were not allowed in Gamertags or profiles to prevent the use of these terms as insults or slurs. However we have since heard feedback from our customers that while the spirit of this approach was genuine, it inadvertently excluded a part of our Xbox LIVE community. This update also comes hand-in-hand with increased stringency and enforcement to prevent the misuse of these terms.

I truly believe that our diversity is what makes us strong: diversity in gaming and entertainment options, and diversity in the people that make up this amazing community. I look forward to seeing you on LIVE soon.

Jump in,

Marc Whitten
Gamertag – Notwen
www.twitter.com/notwen


This change comes after many customer protests to the Xbox LIVE policy. Back in February of 2009 there was a story of a user being banned for stating that she was a lesbian in her profile. While she  experienced harassment at the hands of other Xbox LIVE users, she was then punished for declaring her truth and her life to the world.  While this was not the first instance of a user being banned for self-identifying as LGBTQ, this instance was widely publicized.  GLAAD and other blogs quickly took note of this incident and made their outrage known.

It is wonderful to see the Xbox LIVE finally allow people to include their sexual orientation in their profiles. Acceptance and understanding  begins with awareness. It is wonderful to see sexual orientation handled as just another facet of a person. It should not be treated as a negative thing that needs to be hidden. It is just one descriptor of the individual, such as height or eye color. This should have been how it worked at the very beginning, but it is still good to see them acknowledge the problem and fix the policy. Admitting a mistake is not always easy.

The question now becomes, how will Xbox LIVE handle new harassment cases of self identified LGBTQ players? Perhaps this letter signals a turning point for Xbox LIVE. I am hopeful that this means they will not look look away from harassment of LGBTQ players and the use of homophobic and transphobic slurs. I look forward to seeing what this will mean for the community over time.

Uranian Love vs. Status Quo

N.B. The title makes a reference to an early term used for homosexuals, based on the belief that they were a third gender: uranian. A little LGBT history for you.

Thane Krios, a drell assassin from Mass Effect 2.

Thane Krios, a drell assassin from Mass Effect 2.

Having finished Mass Effect 2 last week, I’ve been gladly spoiling myself of various details. This includes the romantic options, and confirming that there is no same-sex option for my male Commander Shepard. The reason I played him was to ascertain if there were such options for him, in fact. Finding out I could not comfort and fall in love with Thane made me sigh in longing a bit (and resolved whom Ronia Shepard would be romancing).

IGN recently interviewed Dr. Ray Muzyka about Mass Effect 2, and they asked him about this:

GN: Will there be gay relationships for the male Shepard? Here at IGN we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from the inclusion of gay relationships in Dragon Age; compare that with the somewhat conspicuous absence of them from the first Mass Effect, especially with the chance for a lesbian relationship.

Ray Muzyka: Here’s how the games are different: Dragon Age is a first person narrative, where you’re taking on an origin and a role, and you are that character at a fundamental level. It’s fundamentally about defining your character, including those kinds of concepts. In Mass Effect it’s more a third person narrative, where you have a pre-defined character who is who he is, or she is. But it’s not a wide-open choice matrix. It’s more choice on a tactical level with a pre-defined character. So they’re different types of narratives, and that’s intentional.

We’re not saying that one approach is better than the other. In our previous games, as we did in Jade Empire, as we did in KOTOR, as we did in Baldur’s Gate, and many games before and in the future, we enable those kinds of choices, whereas in Mass Effect it’s more about Shepard as a defined character with certain approaches and worldviews, and that’s just who he or she is. So we constrain the choice set somewhat, but enable more tactical choices and enable a deeper, richer personality, because it’s more focused around defining one character, it’s not as wide open. But that’s by choice.

It’s first person versus third person narrative, and the types of choices you get to make within that are related to that, whether you’ve got a pre-defined character or a wide-open character. Some of our games have been wide open, and some have been more constrained, and we’ll probably continue both kinds of character development in the future.

Really? Artful dodger Dr. Muzyka is not. More thoughts below the fold (with spoilers).

After dodging the lesbian relationship by calling the Asari non-sexed in the first game, I was curious how they would approach female same-sex relationships in the sequel. I, personally, do see the Asari as female, but that is a whole other can of gender and sexual theory worms for another post. Our own editor Alex explicated this after playing the first Mass Effect.

While no lesbian relationships occur for female Shepard (though she can stay faithful to Liara if that relationship happened in the first game–which is problematic, and a point to which I will return), she still has the option of having sex with two females: Samara’s daughter, Morinth the asari Ardat-Yakshi (though at the cost of her life–Morinth is the asari version of vagina dentata), and your administrative assistant/ship psychologist, Kelly Chambers.

Kelly Chambers in a red bodysuit, dancing in Commander Shepard's cabin.

Kelly Chambers in a red bodysuit, dancing in Commander Shepard's cabin.

What is notable here is that one of these options is a human female, not being able to be explained away by mono-sexed alien debates. To reiterate, Kelly Chambers is human and is female. Ta-dah! Lesbian sex in the game if you want it.

From this, it is very clear that the female Commander Shepard is bisexual, or at least bi-curious. But what if she isn’t? What if she is a lesbian, only preferring women? Or straight and loves the sometimes awkward and bumbling flirtations with men? You could play her that way, and your choices would be canon for you. And yet, female Shepard and male Shepard are really not all that different. The dialog choices they have available are the same, the way people react to them are the same. Why is it, then, that she is allowed to dally around with members of her own sex, but male Shepard is not?

A choice was made, and the choice seems made to capitalize on how sex between females is desirable by the mainstream. If they were to fully embrace Liara and female Shepard as a lesbian relationship, that would be one matter. But hedging out and saying this female-bodied alien is not really female, but has the body of one so that when the sex scene occurs there isn’t a discernible difference beyond blue skin…

I happen to see this as the media’s old trope that lesbian sex is okay, but don’t let them have a relationship. This is then codified in the sequel, where the only lesbian interactions you can have are of the sexual variety.

It is curious that these options would be included in pre-defined characters as such. This tells me that I can create my Shepard, but he or she isn’t mine, actually. No-no-no. My choices are limited beyond three options, they don’t really matter as my choices and how I may develop my character, who has many different options and trajectories, since I do not have to follow just one path the entire time. Many options, three different ways to respond (or five if you have either your charm or intimidate high enough), and things start getting complicated as to who my Shepard may be and the choices made.

I do not see any of the BioWare games I have played as wide-open choice matrices, to be honest. They are always fairly limited in how I can respond, though they many times offer more choices than I have in other games. The main difference, in this regard, for me between Dragon Age and Mass Effect is the fact that my choices are not as clearly marked as good/neutral/bad in the former. While an argument could be made that this is why Commanders Shepard have voice acting, and the protagonists in Dragon Age do not, I still believe it was likely a technical constraint of recording all that dialog. As it stood, the lifeless lump of character I had pulled me away from the supposed ‘first person experience’ whenever a cutscene occurred.

And yet, I have created characters in both games that mean something to me personally. We would not have created the My Commander Shepard series if we did not have this relationship with our Shepards. BioWare provides the tools for me to create my character and narrative. They can provide the plot and choices, I provide the reasons and protagonist.

I like BioWare, a lot. At this point, I suppose I still somewhat hope they can be fully forthright in their answers (particularly as they keep locking down forum posts dealing with these same questions). Prior to this, I was under the impression that same-sex male romances were not in the first game due to time constraints (a choice that perhaps disappoints me a little, but is something with which I have and can continue to live). However, answers like Muzyka’s continue to confound me, and make it easier to dissect their own words with their own logic in a not-so-flattering manner. If they simply do not want to put same-sex romances in the game, they should just say so, instead of coming up with poor excuses.

A Treatise on Homosexuality and Gaming

(by Guest Contributor Jordan Lynn)

I’m Jordan, a videogame researcher with a Master’s in Journalism and Communication. I live with my wife in Athens, GA, where we both work in an office that seeks to improve childhood education through videogames (without making crappy edutainment). I’ve been looking for a good outlet for my academic rantings, now that I’ve graduated; the Border House seems a good place for that :)

An image of a Brokeback Mountain XBox 360 game, with "I Wish I Knew How to Quit You" in rainbow colored font.

An image of a Brokeback Mountain XBox 360 game, with "I Wish I Knew How to Quit You" in rainbow colored font.

I am a 400-pound linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.

I am a wizard with unimaginable power.

I am a shotgun-toting, wisecracking zombie destroyer.

I am an Operative in the Her Majesty’s Special Air Service.

I am a plumber who likes mushrooms.

I am a cage fighter with a bad attitude.

I am a knight on an epic quest.

I am a yellow three-quarter circle being chased by ghosts.

I am a giant, laser cannon-toting battle mech from the future.

But I am not gay.

I can break the sound barrier in a jet fighter.

I can take on a horde of mindless drones with my trusty rocket launcher.

I can explore uncharted planets.

I can drive a Ferrari through Manhattan at 217 MPH.

I can kill everything in sight.

I can create an entire species from the cellular level to spaceflight.

I can brave unfathomable danger to rescue the woman I love.

I can save millions from destruction in a nuclear assault.

I can do virtually anything.

But I cannot have a meaningful relationship with a same-sex partner.

The universe of videogames is populated with countless worlds: some simulate reality as we know it, others recreate how it once was, and others still imagine what it could be. These worlds are densely populated and highly active, and traveling between them poses no great difficulty. However, no matter the world you inhabit or the eyes through which you see the events of the world unfold, you cannot be gay.

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“Muscle March is coming to America” or “We’re afraid of being silly”

The characters of Muscle March flex for the camera in nothing but their thongs/bikinis.

The characters of Muscle March flex for the camera in nothing but their thongs/bikinis.

It’s Japanese.  It’s completely odd/random/silly.  And it’s coming to your Wii with a E-10+ rating.  It’s called Muscle March, and it has gaming commenters up in arms.

Why?  Well because it’s gay.  And how does the common gamer determine that this game is gay?  Well, it’s simple, you see.  These characters are muscled and wearing nothing but their thongs.  If they’re burly and in thongs, they must be gay, which makes this game gay.  Oh, and did I mention this game uses rainbows?  That alone makes it gay, right?

Yes, if you read the above paragraph and sighed, then you share my feelings exactly.  People once again heaping labels atop a game that’s just… well… incredibly random.  Like, impossibly random.  For Pete’s sake people, there’s a muscle-bound polar bear up there in that row of men/the single woman!  A polar bear!  Polar bears don’t work out in gyms!  (Unless I’m completely missing something when I’m going to the gym.  It’s possible.)  And that man has a bird in his afro!  And… and… things!

It’s certainly very much embedded in the Japanese culture, as all this game is about is 8 burly characters chase after another person through multiple levels for whatever reason Namco-Bandai chose at the time.  As the chase is conducted, the target smashes through walls, leaving holes that are perfectly shaped for body builders!  Each character must do a specific flex to get through the wall, otherwise they collide into it and are cast out from the game.  As the chase continues, it gets faster and faster, forcing the player to move quickly to get into position for the next flex.  If this doesn’t sound completely off the wall, then I don’t know what does.  Will the E-10 content rating last?  I hope so, as this game perfectly falls into the E-10 category of lighthearted cartoon randomness that barely passes as making sense.

It’s cartoon mischief at its finest, yet I’m sure we’ll hear someone complain about homosexual content being aimed at children in the game, just as we’re hearing gamers cry “gay” at the mere sight of it. I’m not exactly sure when the oily bodybuilder type became a symbol of someone being gay but then again I’m also not sure why so many militant straight people don’t find the “football ass smack” as a type of homosexual behavior.

So remember people.  It’s bad for your children to be bodybuilders because it’s homosexual, but there’s nothing wrong with a good ass grab at the end of a 40-yard-touchdown pass.  Hoo-rah.

</doublestandardsmakemybrainexplode>

Dragon Age features “dirty gay sex”

Two male characters in Dragon Age, sharing an intimate shirtless moment.

Two male characters in Dragon Age, sharing an intimate shirtless moment.

Lots of gamers have been playing Bioware’s brand new RPG, Dragon Age – with myself as no exception.  From thin portrayals of transgender and intersex NPCs to blatant sexism and threesomes, the game is no stranger to controversy lately.  The latest upset is over the gay sex that is possible between the player character and elf Zhevran.  It’s even caused (trigger warning: homophobic statements) some anti-gay bloggers to send petitions to Bioware in anger.

In one video clip posted online, a player selects the role-playing option, “I want to discuss something personal.”
During a fireside chat, the player’s Grey Warden character asks warrior elf Zevran, “Can you join me in my tent?”
The elf reveals he specializes in assassination, and the other character replies, “I bet you’re good at a lot of things.”
The elf responds, “Mmmm, that’s quite an offer, especially coming from another man – if we are both speaking of the same thing.”
If the player selects the response, “I suspect we are,” the elf agrees to have homosexual sex with the character.

(Source)

Personally, I commend Bioware for opening up conversations about these situations.  While I don’t think their representations have been 100% accurate or necessarily deep – I am glad to see the option to have romantic encounters with whomever I want regardless of gender.

What do you readers think?  Does *any* sex belong in video games?  Have you played through this scene in Dragon Age?