With LGBT+ characters appearing in hits like Life Is Strange and The Last Of Us, gaming’s toxic side can still hold back representation.
Whoever we are and whatever we do, we all deserve to see ourselves represented in the things we love. For LGBTQIA+ gamers, a healthy amount of genuine representation can be hard to come by. While groups such as queer men and trans people have an equal amount of depiction issues, queer women’s inclusion in the gaming world presents an extra challenge. As gaming is still largely seen as a man’s world, the introduction of queer female narratives can have varying consequences – with the frequent danger of sexual objectification.
It’s still debatable if gaming is a safe enough space to explore queerness at all. ‘There is still a big mentality that gamers are straight men and straight men only,’ Twitch streamer and game voiceover artist Anna told Metro.co.uk. ‘Women still feel very unwelcome in gaming spaces, let alone queer people.’ For queer gamers, the experience is extremely subjective, and when positive is largely rooted in individual gameplay.
Games publicist Abbi recognises the problem is often found when playing online. ‘Personally I avoid things like online gaming, partly because a lot of the games don’t appeal to me, but also because the idea of having to interact with potentially homophobic and sexist people worries me. However, I think there’s a lot of changes happening, and outlets like Gayming Magazine are really shining a light on all the amazing queer games and people in the industry.’
As games take centre stage for female queer representation, titles like 2015’s Life Is Strange and 2020’s The Last Of Us Part 2 are well renowned for their success in integrating the queer female perspective into narrative gameplay. ‘You don’t learn about Ellie’s background until further along in the game. [In fact, until the second game, it is only brought to light in the optional DLC.] No issues are made of it, she is not emblazoned with rainbows nor have the creators felt the need to make her any different,’ says avid gamer and DJ Short.
‘I actually feel this kind of portrayal and the ability to play this character may lead to a better understanding of the LGBT+ community.’
Both household names and independent gems have had their hands in prioritising change. Gamer Bee particularly praises The Sims team for adding inclusion to their updates. ‘They’ve expressed that whilst it’s hard to find directly translatable pronouns for other languages, it’s important for them to release an update allowing players to have the freedom to choose.’
While successful female representation has made a name for itself, it’s no secret that there is always more work to be done. ‘It feels like a novelty when I see a queer lead character, and it shouldn’t be – it should be equally as mundane as a heterosexual character,’ says player Bethany.
As some gamers commend the industry’s collective action to make room for more queer female characters, others feel that slow change isn’t enough. ‘I think the ‘bury your gays’ trope should be retired. It seems to be a tendency to kill off queer female leads even in games, and I think that is killing any healthy representation,’ one anonymous player told us.
Many queer female gamers have an abundance of negative experiences when it comes to entering online multiplayers alongside men. Competitive shooter titles like Call Of Duty have been accused of being some of the worst offenders for breeding hostile environments, with plenty of discriminatory and misogynistic comments being directed at queer female players, including from younger players.
When asked if straight male players were likely to take genuine representation seriously, the mood remains mixed. ‘The Last Of Us is taken very seriously as a story by all genders and that is led by a gay woman. I do think it could probably be the butt of jokes rather than genuine interest,’ says Anna. ‘Good representation in the development stage is what leads to good representation on screen,’ Abbi remarks. ‘But a lot of men will complain when they still see gaming as their space.’
Queer players are well aware that reactions can differ depending on the storyline, but what do the guys think? ‘I suspect that many use it as a tool to titillate fantasies,’ states gamer Conor. ‘But, I equally feel that there are many heterosexual players who would see a queer narrative and treat it as another story regardless of sexual identity.’
The problem is bigger than just queer female players and affects all women in the gaming world. ‘I would say a bigger problem to ‘toxic’ gamers is women having agency. Their sexuality is almost not important,’ remarks gamer James. Short agrees: ‘The way the female characters are portrayed (e.g. tight clothing) isn’t helpful. It would be nice to have a greater variety of human characters with different body shapes.’
So where does queer female representation go from here? The answer isn’t clear cut. ‘I don’t want an influx of queer characters or fewer straight ones in gaming. It would be amazing to see every community represented fairly to the point it becomes normal,’ says Bethany. For gaming to get rid of its toxic side, change is still needed.
Follow Metro Gaming on Twitter and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here.
For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.
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.
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, as well as the likes of 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, and youth homelessness charity AKT. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.