On Homophobia In Gaming
'Of course sometimes the act of condemning homosexuals in the real world overlaps with the imaginary realm. Over the past few weeks,games company Electronic Arts has been subjected to a letter-writing campaign from idiots outraged by its decision to allow players to define their characters as gay in a Star Wars game. The Florida Family Association says, “children and teens, who never thought any way but heterosexual, are now given a choice to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender” – adding that even if they chose to be straight, they would still “be forced to deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters chosen by other players”. Personal choice and co-operation: two appalling threats to our youth.
They also claim “there were no LGBT characters in any of the Star Wars movies”. I don’t know which wacky re-cut version of Star Wars they’ve been watching, but I saw the original when I was about six years old and even then I was struck by how outrageously camp C3PO is. He was a gilded John Inman in space. And what about Luke Skywalker? Apart from briefly kissing his own sister, he shows no interest in women whatsoever. The first film is a tender gay parable in which Luke falls in love with Alec Guinness and gradually “comes out” as a Jedi. The final scene oozes symbolism: having penetrated the Death Star’s trench in his phallic spacecraft, he closes his eyes, submits to his true inner instinct and triumphantly blasts his X-Wing’s seed into an anus-like aperture, causing an orgasmic eruption that changes his universe for ever. It’s hard to see how they could make Star Wars any gayer, unless they gave the Millennium Falcon a handlebar moustache.
But hang on, some of you are saying, this is a video game we’re talking about. Isn’t this gay content a bit shoehorned in? Sonic the Hedgehog never agonised over his sexual identity. He was too busy sprinting through a rainbow-coloured landscape leaping at rings. True, but that was in 1991 – which in “technology years” was about nine millennia ago. It’s like comparing a cave painting with a surround-sound 3D movie. EA’s Star Wars title in question is an MMORPG or massively multiplayer online role-playing game with more than a million subscribers: real people playing and interacting with each other in real-time, and hey, statistically, at least three of those people are going to be gay. The least you can do is let them reflect that in the characters they pick.
But wait: there’s even more gay content in another EA space epic, Mass Effect 3, which to the uninitiated is a bit like playing through an entire Star Trek boxset. It’s bold space hokum and it’s great fun – and just like Star Trek, it includes a range of potential love interests for the main character. Previous Mass Effect titles have let you play as a woman and – gasp – seduce other women: this final instalment is the first to give players the option playing a man who woos men. Play your cards right (or play your dialogue tree options right) throughout hours of gameplay and you’ll be rewarded with a short, chaste love scene in which two bare-chested men kiss and cuddle in bed.
Players have complained bitterly about the ending of Mass Effect 3 – not because of the potential for homosexual love, but because they found the narrative underwhelming. The game has a variety of different endings, depending on your decisions: some have moaned that none of the possible endings are happy or satisfying enough. In fact, they’ve moaned so much, EA has hastily released an additional ending free-of-charge, so these players can experience “further closure”.
I can’t work out if that’s depressing or sweet. On the one hand, they’re spoiled little emperors with a mind-boggling sense of entitlement: it’s one thing to be disappointed by the end of a story, but another to demand the author sits down and writes you a new one RIGHT NOW. You need “further closure”? What’s wrong with you? But on the other hand, it’s a sign that players sometimes invest so much of themselves into the characters they play, they care about them to a degree that should make any author jealous. Sneerers will doubtless leave comments about “saddoes” and “shut-ins”, oblivious that by doing so, they too are playing a character in an immense MMORPG called the internet. Face it: you’ve even chosen a nickname and an avatar just to join in.
Allowing players to identify their characters as homosexual isn’t, as the anti-gay campaigners claim, a tokenistic novelty, but an unavoidable consequence of the fascinating evolution of video games. Not that there’s much point explaining that to them. They don’t believe in evolution either. And they wouldn’t hear you anyway over the thunderous roar of dicks screaming for ever in their frightened mind’s ear.’