Sexuality and Sexual Orientation in Computer and Console Games

Abstract

Within the field of sociology, it is common knowledge that an individual gains an understanding of social norms, mores, mannerisms, and attitudes through means of socialization. Historically, this job has been undertaken by the parental figures, then later by educational authorities. With the infusion of media into mainstream American society, television and the silver screen both became primary sources of socialization, sometimes even stronger than the parental figures in this endeavor. Studies have been done regarding film and television regarding both socialization and representation of minorities, but computer and console games are typically overlooked as means for socialization. While video games may not have first been an effective tool for socialization – Pong had little to tell us about family dynamics, race, gender, or class – with the immense development in realistic 3-d rendering, storyline, and character, video games have a fair amount to teach us. Toys like Barbie clearly send messages about the female body (to be attractive, one must be blonde, white, thin, and essentially plastic); however, in video games, the power of these and similar messages is much stronger because in video games the Barbies talk and practically live. In a society where we mimic celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, it should come as no surprise that children, teens, and even adults will begin to internalize characters like Lara Croft and Duke Nukem as normative. What message does this send minority gamers? How does an African-American gamer feel while playing as the all-white team of Final Fantasy VIII? How does a girl gamer feel while playing as Mario, a stereotyped Italian male plumber in Mario Sunshine? How does a gay gamer feel while playing as Jack and being forced to marry a girl or live alone forever in Harvest Moon? What message does the “norm” that’s being reinforced in all these games send to gamers, minority and majority alike?

While gender and race studies have been done on video games (even if very few and far between), the issue of representation of sexual orientation in video games has largely been overlooked academically. Within gaming culture, there seems to be a certain level of accepted homophobia, probably due to the lack of cultural diversity that is associated with “gaming culture.” The character stereotypes found in games, recent and in the days of old, do not improve the situation; in most situations, the character takes on a role of a white heteronormative male, typically to save the white heteronormative damsel in distress. This can cause severe disconnections between player and avatar if the player identifies as a minority, and only strengthens the close-minded nature of that which we have labeled “gaming culture.” That being said, this presentation will delve into the recent attempts of inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters into video games, the do’s and don’t’s of this endeavor, the reception of this new style of character within the gaming world, and what new messages these characters may be sending to the receptive audience.

Within the field of sociology, it is common knowledge that an individual gains an understanding of social norms, mores, mannerisms, and attitudes through means of socialization. Historically, this job has been undertaken by the parental figures, then later by educational authorities. With the infusion of media into mainstream American society, television and the silver screen both became primary sources of socialization, sometimes even stronger than the parental figures in this endeavor. Studies have been done regarding film and television regarding both socialization and representation of minorities, but computer and console games are typically overlooked as means for socialization. While video games may not have first been an effective tool for socialization – Pong had little to tell us about family dynamics, race, gender, or class – with the immense development in realistic 3-d rendering, storyline, and character, video games have a fair amount to teach us. Toys like Barbie clearly send messages about the female body (to be attractive, one must be blonde, white, thin, and essentially plastic); however, in video games, the power of these and similar messages is much stronger because in video games the Barbies talk and practically live. In a society where we mimic celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, it should come as no surprise that children, teens, and even adults will begin to internalize characters like Lara Croft and Duke Nukem as normative. What message does this send minority gamers? How does an African-American gamer feel while playing as the all-white team of Final Fantasy VIII? How does a girl gamer feel while playing as Mario, a stereotyped Italian male plumber in Mario Sunshine? How does a gay gamer feel while playing as Jack and being forced to marry a girl or live alone forever in Harvest Moon? What message does the “norm” that’s being reinforced in all these games send to gamers, minority and majority alike?

While gender and race studies have been done on video games (even if very few and far between), the issue of representation of sexual orientation in video games has largely been overlooked academically. Within gaming culture, there seems to be a certain level of accepted homophobia, probably due to the lack of cultural diversity that is associated with “gaming culture.” The character stereotypes found in games, recent and in the days of old, do not improve the situation; in most situations, the character takes on a role of a white heteronormative male, typically to save the white heteronormative damsel in distress. This can cause severe disconnections between player and avatar if the player identifies as a minority, and only strengthens the close-minded nature of that which we have labeled “gaming culture.” That being said, this presentation will delve into the recent attempts of inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters into video games, the do’s and don’t’s of this endeavor, the reception of this new style of character within the gaming world, and what new messages these characters may be sending to the receptive audience.

I hear ya brother!

I hear ya brother! Up until recently Link from Legend of Zelda has always been left handed, and I'm right handed, damnit!
I was just . . . sob just so tired of being discriminated against for primarily using my right hand.
I mean, I know it sounds -absolutely fucking minor- but, I just can't relate to any video game character unless he (and just -he- because I'm a guy so I can't relate to women) is right handed.
As a matter of fact, I still don't relate to Link because he's blonde and I have brown hair. I'm going to write to Nintendo and demand they change his hair colour to appeal to me.
It's just not right how they pedal these narrow views on us.

Who can understand this better than me?

I myself am a transgendered gamer. I of course have made few transitions in my past due to to...

  1. My Families views on who I am.
  2. I a few years back accepted Christ into my life. While I have been told by some not all friends at my church. Whenever my femininity come to the point I think I'm ready to accept who I am. I get told off that I need to pray more harder.

Which I've tried that and I feel an inner change in me due to my faith and am more kind hearted and forgiving towards others often no matter what they do or say to me. I just feel that I was meant to be female not in my view that God made a mistake because he is perfect in all he does. But because I feel being born in the body I was given I was tested by God. Like for example kids who are born with deformities or life threatening illnesses. Me I'd call my male body somewhat of a natural defect. But I am most the time timid when talking to people and back off often to avoid conflict especially with friends who disagree with who I am or just wish for me to keep sexual topics to myself whether or not they are related to my gender issues.

Also I kind of feel hurt by some of them I know they are only looking for my best interests. But anyways...

I often unfortunately can't associate completely with most game characters. Though I like many genres but there are a small handful I can but unfortunately not all of them are me either. One is from a Japanese dating game that
1. I don't own. Though I've tried it at a friends house.
2. From what I've heard has no actual translation patches only way to translate it is a translation device that I had a hard time using.
3. Besides she is not the protagonist of the game but a dating option. Of which I like women and other MTF transgendered people as far as my love interests.

Of course playing as a game like that would be perfect to me if I could play as a MTF and have the option between women and other MTF's but only games like that are MMORPG style games and I don't have enough an imagination for that. Plus I prefer not interacting with strangers in video games. But the dating game I was speaking of of which your forced to play a male protagonist and only have one MTF love interest to explore out of all the women and like I said is only in Japanese is none other than Happiness Relucks. The MTF is known as Jun Watarase.

Two other MTFs of whom are in fighting genre style games one is only a villain and that's Poison in some versions of the first Final Fight game but as I was saying being she's a villain I can't play as her which makes me feel a little bad when fighting her.

The other of which I never bothered getting the games but would probably enjoy them is Bidget in the Guilty Gear though do to her backstory does not consider herself female but being she prefers her appearance and the comfort of women's clothes I'd say that there's got to be more to her than trying to prove herself a man which I could relate to her perhaps. Being this world and society we live in can often bring confusion to someone like me.

And finally my favorite and with the track record the series bringing her back as a hidden bonus boss. The reason I 100% hope for a sequel to Chrono Cross in chance she may become an actual playable character is Flea in Chrono Trigger. I know first thing she says in similar to the the personality of Bidget is "Hey I'm a man" or in the original she used the term guy. But if you enter Ozzie's fort in the DS version I believe without Magus in your party you can still have Magus just not in your current group but. She refers to herself as a woman meaning she has to have some confusion about herself as well. Other than that I can't think of anymore MTF transgendered characters. If it's OK I have one request if anyone knows of any others please reply to this post and let me know. Thanks.