LGBTQ game characters have their moment

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In a significant move towards diversifying the world of video games, two titles from major studios releasing next year will put queer protagonists at the center of the action.

Why is this important: The game has always been a tough world for LGBTQ gamers, with lots of harassment and few visibly weird characters.

Driving the news:

  • Announced on Thursday and debuting next summer, “Tell Me Why” is an Xbox title that features Tyler, a trans character, as one of two playable options – a first for a major studio game.
  • “The Last of Us Part II”, a highly anticipated sequel to a PlayStation game, features Ellie, a young lesbian, as the game’s only playable character. (Ellie was one of the two main characters in the first game in the series. )

History lesson: The debut comes 5 years after Gamergate, a controversy that involved the online harassment of a number of prominent female game developers that is often interpreted as a precursor to the wider alt-right movement.

What they say : GLAAD’s Jeremy Blacklow notes that in many ways these new game titles represent a response to Gamergate, given that major release games take many years to develop.

  • The industry, adds Blacklow, effectively says, “We care more about reaching people who need to see themselves represented than trolls. That’s huge.”

The creators of “Tell Me Why” said Tyler wasn’t created solely to be a transgender character, but rather as one aspect of a complex character telling a unique story.

“With ‘Tell Me Why’, we want to develop a unique depth of character that includes a very special bond between the twins. When we decided that Tyler would be a transgender man, we didn’t want him to be recognized just for being transgender. . .”

“Tyler is a very nice, courageous young man who knows who he is and what he stands for. He is full of hopes, dreams, but also fears. He has a good side, but also flaws, like all of us.”

Florent Guillaume, game director

Excluding players: The experience of those who play the games is as important as what happens in the games, especially in a live streaming world. One of the best players in the world, Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, proudly identifies as gay, black and hairy.

Yes, but: Everyone is prepared for a possible backlash when the games release next year.

  • “We all know what’s in the comments section,” Blacklow said.

As a result, Microsoft tightened policies on its Mixer streaming service and said it was “already hard at work on several new programs and tools to reduce harmful content and toxic behavior.”

  • “We are committed to making intentional choices that reflect the vibrancy of our differences, and hostility is not welcome in our culture,” Microsoft Xbox senior creative director Joseph Staten told Axios.

A few stumbles: Progress hasn’t been linear, even in the past two years since GLAAD began working with the gaming industry to be more inclusive.

  • Ubisoft had a game, “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey,” that let people choose whether their characters would find same-sex or heterosexual romance, but one download forced all characters into heterosexual pairing. The company then backtracked after an outcry.

The bottom line: Done right, games that represent a wider range of human experience can help us broaden our horizons. And if it helps a generation of video gamers understand the transgender experience a bit better, so much the better.

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