hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Does sexual orientation have a place in games?

4:00 PM on 11.10.2009 // Anthony Burch

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

Last week, I recorded a rant in which I argued that gay characters have not been particularly well-represented in videogames. The subsequent discussion, while remarkably civil, included many variations of an argument I had not considered before: that explanations of sexual orientation of any kind should have no part in videogames to begin with.

"I don't know why a characters [sic] sexuality often even needs to be mentioned at all," commenter kefkaesque argued. "Sure everyone assumes Master Chief is straight because of how manly he is and because of the games he's in, but it's not like he ever goes around telling random characters HEY GUESS WHAT, I LIKE VAGINA."

While I can respect kefkaesque's point, I also completely disagree with it. Sexual orientation, especially in regard to narrative-driven games, is an important, honest, and useful aspect of characterization that can and should be explored whenever possible.

Hit the jump if you wanna know why.


Firstly, I'm not arguing that every single video game character in existence needs to be clearly defined as either straight, gay, or bisexual. Some games simply do not focus on story or characterization, and thus don't really need to discuss human sexuality any more than they would the difficulties of getting a mortgage. I don't really need to know whom Pac-Man or Luigi or the pilot from Ikaruga sexually desire, because that's got absolutely nothing to do with my overall experience in those games (though it helps to know that Mario likes women because then I know why I'm trying to beat Bowser).

The sorts of characters I'm going to discuss here, and previously talked about in the Rev Rant, are those characters who exist in primarily narrative-driven games: games that, while providing entertaining, interactive situations, rely on a story of some sort to drive that gameplay forward. Games like Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, Halo, Half-Life 2 -- you name it. These games include characters that we, as the player-slash-audience, are meant to partially understand and, ideally, care about.

Any creative writing instructor will tell you that in order to figure out who a person is and why the audience should care about them, we need to know what they want. What they wish to be, what sort of life they'd like to live. By seeing their desires, and then watching them act on those desires, we gain a greater understanding of who they are and are thus in a better position to give a shit about them.

And more often than not, that means finding out exactly what type of person they want to have sex with.


Not as a sole means of characterization, of course -- that's how you get shallow or stereotypical supporting female characters who exist only to fawn over the male lead, or vice versa -- but as one of many methods of examining a person from as many angles as possible. Sex isn't the only thing that matters in characterization, but it's pretty important. Every single person on the planet wants sex and love, and the specific types of sex and love they desire can tell us a lot about them.

This is why we like Nathan Drake. This is why we like Solid Snake. We don't define these guys solely by what they want to put their penises into, but it certainly helps our understanding of them. Nathan's dealings with Elena Fisher, especially in Uncharted 2, contextualize most of his actions -- we see how much he relies on her and how far he's willing to go for her sake, and the conversations he has with both her and Chloe are a heck of a lot more entertaining thanks to the sexual, quasi-flirtatious undertones. Same thing with Snake and Meryl in MGS1, as abrupt and awkwardly-handled as their love story was (though it did thankfully lead to a much more bittersweet, adult treatment of their relationship in MGS4).

This is also why I find it so difficult to care about Master Chief on a purely human level. Yes, I can admire what he represents to the story of the Halo universe and how cool his abilities are, but he never feels like a real person to me; his priorities are limited almost solely to stopping the baddies and saving the day, and I'm never allowed to see him in any other real context.


Not that this is an inherently bad thing. The whole minimalist characterization thing avoids all the pitfalls of having a character who wants or feels something the player does not (Prototype, inFamous). But it doesn't really work for Master Chief, who speaks with a voice which is not mine and says things I would not say, and who often appears in cut scenes doing things I would not do. He is a character -- he is not me -- and as such should feel like a believable human being.*

The funny thing is, I literally never heard the argument that sexual orientation should not be approached in videogames before doing my Rev Rant. I've never spoken to anyone who, upon finishing God of War, complained that Kratos was written as a heterosexual. I've never heard of anyone arguing that Cloud should have never had any romantic feelings of any sort for either Aeris or Tifa. Sexuality in games only becomes an issue that shouldn't be fully discussed when the sexuality in question differs from the norm, and that's disingenuous.

The characters I really, really care about, in videogames or otherwise, do not exist in a vaccuum. They want safety, freedom, happiness, victory, and, at the end of the day, an orgasm. It's not outright impossible to craft an interesting character without approaching their sexuality (if I remember correctly, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil never shows an inclination in one direction or the other), but why ignore a simple, universal aspect of the human condition?

*The whole minimalist characterization things almost only works in first-person games like Half-Life, where the player effectively is the protagonist, or third-person games like Shadow of the Colossus, which has such a minimalist story that you may as well be making up Wander's character as you go along.

Though even as I say that, I realize that both of these non-characters still have potentially sexual dimensions; the way Alyx Vance relates to Gordon, it is very difficult not to see some sort of romantic chemistry between the two, just as it's hard to imagine that Wander wasn't so in love with Whatsherface that he's willing to kill 16 giants to resurrect her.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

extatix avatarextatix
Seems rather excessive for a 3ds game. (3ds xl for scale) [img][/img]
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Tried the stealth approach for awhile, time to switch things up. *plants C4 everywhere* I'll probably toss one on the poor schmuck that delivers my copy of MGS V. For taking so long.
WryGuy avatarWryGuy
Just a quick update for folks. Phil/Mike Martin is off the streets and safe for the next month. Thanks to everyone who helped out. You can keep up to on the forums:
Script avatarScript
Watching Twin Peaks for the first time. Just yooou... aaaand IIII...
Perro avatarPerro
So the 3DS Dragon Quest VII remake is coming to mobile in Japan, so there's a chance that version will get ported over here. Not ideal but if we get it at all I'll be happy!
The Travisionist avatarThe Travisionist
I'm just waiting for "Mad Max: U Mad, Bro?"
gajknight avatargajknight
Put down the deposit for my new car, will probably be able to pick it up on the weekend. Insurance is pretty good too, sub £1000 which is excellent. Kinda. My mum tried to reverse in 5th gear. She drives an automatic. What a noob. :P
Bardley avatarBardley
We are Diamond Dogs.
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Still waiting by the mailbox. Tranq'd a jogger and stuffed them into a locker just for fun. I keep throwing rocks to get the attention of the neighbors and then hiding in tall grass. They look noticeably upset. Probably because I kept them up all night.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Metal Gear or Mad Max? The choice is obvious. [IMG][/IMG]
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Quickpostmortem My wife´s dog died yesterday . Rest in peace Diamond Dog . [img][/img] Here's to you, Malu Rest forever here in our hearts The last and final moment is yours That agony is your triumph
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Xbone journey continues! I thought I would like Dead Rising 3 well enough as a huge fan of 1/2, but I must say I find it's emphasis on hard drama laughable and the game fundamentally disingenuine. Guess I'm moving on to Forza Horizon 2.
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
I dig the feature in Until Dawn where, if you have the Playstation camera, it will record you briefly during jump scares for you to watch later. It's a really neat use of an underused peripheral. Too bad I'm dead inside and never react to them.
Shinta avatarShinta
nanashi avatarnanashi
Fallout Shelter: Impossible to Learn, Easy to Master.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Not saying this is the case, but Kojima has gone on record as being a huge Mad Max: Fury Road fan. Konami decided to release MGSV on the same day as Mad Max TVG. They're trying piss on Kojima's lawn, man.
ooktar avatarooktar
Downloading Phantom Pain. ETA, 16 hours. Just in time for lunch tomorrow.
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
OH WOW. Talk about a complete about face. After slogging through the horrid beginning and slow ass swap sequence this game picked up exponentially. So far, I'm enjoying the hell out of it now. All if forgiven. Thank you based Kojima.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
Oh, joyful night. [youtube][/youtube]
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -