Gay for the game: how video games attract the queer community
GameCentral begins its celebration of Pride Month with a look at how important video games can be to those exploring their sexuality and gender.
A recent study* showed that 21% of people in the video games industry identify as LGBTQ+. That represents up to seven times the average of the general British population – depending on which sources you trust – and the figures continue to surprise when we look solely at the non-binary and transgendered community. While just 1.4% of average Brits don’t identify as cis-gendered, that figure rises to 5% in the games industry.
The video games industry, and in particular the indie scene, has become a creative outlet for a number of LGBTQ+ developers. Most famous, perhaps, is Maddy Thorson who explored her own trans identity while developing the award-winning Celeste in 2018. Or there’s Midboss, the team who created 2064: Read Only Memories, a studio which ‘seeks to make the world better, safer and more inclusive to marginalised people, especially those in the gender and sexuality spectrum’ by hiring almost exclusively from this pool.
Creative industries lead the way in LGBTQ+ representation. Our community makes up 37% of all leadership roles in artistic businesses and so, in order for these individuals to get there, they usually begin by consuming the art form they then go on to create for.
From small eggs mighty peacocks grow
As the name suggests, role-playing games (RPGs) have long been safe havens for gamers’ escapism. Some people play RPGs for the power fantasy, while for others the appeal is the predictability that working hard will guarantee progress, which is so rarely the case in the real world – or indeed most other styles of game. While these are experiences even the cishet community can enjoy, RPGs offer something indispensable to those who are questioning their gender or sexual identity.
In the transgender community, the metaphor of the egg is used to describe someone who doesn’t yet realise that they are presenting their gender incorrectly. Trapped inside the shell, each experience which leads them to question their current identity adds another crack to the surface. These cracks collect, before the person can emerge as who they truly are. While a closet is the more common metaphor for those who have yet to realise they are not hetrosexual, the metaphor of the egg can be extended across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
Many RPGs are referred to as ‘egg games’ within the LGBTQ+ games community. In 2000, one of the world’s most popular games franchises allowed you to choose your gender for the first time, and subsequently many trans women thanked Pokémon Crystal (2001) for helping to crack their eggs. For cis queer people, many cite games from series such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Persona, which allow the protagonist to romance characters of the same gender.
While choosing to romance Jun in Persona 2: Innocent Sin (1999/2011) doesn’t mean you’re gay, for many it allowed them to explore their sexuality – or gender – in an environment free from judgement, while also mentally distancing themselves from their actions and feelings.
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To celebrate 50 years of Pride, Metro.co.uk has teamed up with Kyiv Pride to raise money for their important work in Ukraine.
Despite war raging around them, Kyiv Pride continue to help LGBTQ+ people, offering those in need shelter, food and psychological support.
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Entering the Matrix
From the world of RPGs came the MMORPG, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game. With the increasing popularity of games such as World Of Warcraft gamers could build their own avatars and communicate with others online as their alternate selves. This worked not only for players hoping to explore their gender or sexual identity in a safe space, removed from their real-world personas, but also let them be themselves when factors in the real world would make doing so difficult or even dangerous.
I know this experience all too well. Coming out as bisexual to male partners, I’ve been met with jealously, insecurity, fear, and, unfortunately, retaliation – over unfounded beliefs that one day I may leave them for a woman. Yet, while denial of my sexuality was the easiest route for me in these situations, I could share with them my homosexual in-game crushes or romances, without impacting on their egos.
I could easily fawn over any number of female love interests to friends, partners, and strangers alike, without it being seen as typically gay. When you add social media into the mix, I could reach out to a number of like-minded people both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community, discussing my desire for homosexual romances through the shared passion of gaming. My sexual identity, queer or not, seemed to matter little in this community, where only the controller or keyboard are king.
It’s easy to see why queer people would be attracted to an alternate reality, where they can not only present as their desired identity, without worrying about affecting their real-life relationships, but also form new friendships within a game’s community. The ability to experience and experiment with gender and sexual identity in a space free from fear of repercussions is something not to be underestimated.
It’s strange how the games community has somehow gained the reputation for intolerance, in an arena where queer players are so much more likely to be found than in the population at large. While there are pockets of intolerance in sections of the community, gaming as a whole has long been known as a hobby where those who identify as LGBTQ+ can form bonds, explore their identities, and show their true colours with pride.
Freelance writer, full-time PlayStation Vita enthusiast, and speaker of some languages. You can find Georgina Young on Twitter @vitagamergeorge.
*UK Games Industry Census – understanding diversity in the UK games industry workforce
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Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride
This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.
MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here
And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights.
During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.
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