(Warning: Some game descriptions might contain spoilers!)
We turn to different resources and content to invest our time in, as most of us are trying to find ways to navigate our daily lives in self-isolation. The content that some find solace in are video games.
It doesn't matter if you're a „hardcore gamer“ or if you just like submerging yourself into a new world once in a while, there are many games with queer themes and elements at your disposal. And trust us, they are worth checking out!
Despite the fact that elements of toxic masculinity can sometimes dominate the gaming community, we've seen huge steps toward inclusion and representation of different identities in the last ten years. No matter the way, implicit or explicit, the gaming scene manages to create progress and a safer space for us all. The concept of games isn't stapled to the male gender anymore, in fact it's growing into something much more constructive – a tool, whose moderate use, can serve the purpose of entertainment, venting, education, rehumanization and bonding (with family, friends, or yourself).
We've selected a few games with queer-inclusive or queer-centered content:
Steven Universe: Save the Light
This game is pure love, same as the show it's based upon (Steven Universe). One of the most famous animated series, Steven Universe is popular with younger and older audiences. Its stories are permeated with LGBTIQ+ identities, gender equality and nonviolence. It is considered that this series has had an unprecedented influence on the younger generations, and all the credits go to Rebecca Sugar, the creator of the series, and a pioneer in LGBTIQ+ rights for younger age groups. Steven Universe: Save the Light is a game with RPG elements, and it follows a new storyline of our familiar and beloved characters: Stevonnie (an intersex person who is a fusion between Steven and Connie) and our favourite lesbian couple (Ruby and Sapphire).
Life is Strange
This narrative indie, critically acclaimed game has left quite an impression on the gamers throughout it's five episodes. When you play the game, you are in the character of an inspirational photographer Maxine Caulfield who, afer her friend Chloe's death, discovers she has the power to rewind and go back in time. When she rewinds the time, her and Chloe investigate the disappearance of a girl from their neighbourhood, Rachel. During this time Chloe reveals to Max that she has feelings for her. The players have a choice in romantic partners; they can choose either Chloe or Warren.
This iconic series has an exceptionally long history of enabling players to develop different kinds of relationships between their Sims. While playing this game, there are many opportunities to get your two Sims of the same gender to date, get engaged and married! Same as with heterosexual Sims. You have the freedom to copy your authentic real world into the world of Sims, all with the accompanying charm of the game!
One Night, Hot Springs.
We know that the LGB representation in games is relatively low, but the representation of the trans* community is pretty much non-existent. The exception to this is One night, hot springs, a visual novel that follows the storyline of the main antagonist Hara who visits her her old friend Manami. The reviews of this game cite that this is a short, warm, sweet and emotionally intelligent creation. The game has unique graphics and skillfully written dialogue which convicingly puts us in the shoes of a transgender person. „My friend recommended this game to me, and as a trans person, I love it!... I've looked into all possible endings of the game, and I will find a way to additionally support its developers.“ was written in one of the reviews.
Mass Effect and Dragon Age
It's hard to name a game that has represented a love story between LGBTIQ+ persons better than these two games. The creator of these games is Bioware, and they've done an incredible job in giving the players multiple options for their characters to fall in love with characters of the same gender. The game also allows for your character to have a massive spectre of gender expression.
Final Fantasy XIV
The second to last continuation of the famous Final Fantasy serial allows the players to have same-sex relationships. This was a given, after the problematic stereotypical representation of gay men in Final Fantasy VII. „Why should there be any restrictions on the preference of relationships or friendships?“ said the game's producer Naoki Yoshida.
„I still have issues with accepting who and what I am. I've felt shame for the most of my life just like Alex, so this game had a big impact on me. It's very emotional, it was worth playing it.“ says one reviewer. Newfound Courage is a narrative game that follows the life of a gay protagonist who falls in love with his best friend, and specific events that play out in their neigbourhood. In 2018 this game won the Queer game of the year award.
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
In this DLC to GTA IV, this is a chance to enter a world of bad deeds filled with slightly more rainbow colors. Specifically, the story revolves around Tony, a member of the criminal family, who owns a gay nightclub. You play this DLC as Gay Tony's bodyguard, driving around, doing naughty things (umm... crime), or simply ruining things for fun.
Always Sometimes Monsters
The main story of this game revolves around your character traveling in order to regain the love of their life. After receiving a wedding invitation from their ex, your character decide to head to another country to prevent their significant other from gettin married. Queer elements are simply up to your choice, as you choose the gender of the character you are playing and the character you are trying to bring back to your life. The game radiates a very dark existential energy, and you have the opportunity to influence the outcome of many moral dilemmas.
The Last Of Us
The Last of Us is one of the most famous games of all time, it set significant standards in the gaming industry, and won over 240 Game of the Year awards. The story is set in a zombie post-apocalyptic world. Although the main game only implicitly expresses queer content, its expansion (Left Behind) has direct representation of queer characters in an honest way without relying on stereotypes. Considering its popularity, the expansion has had a significant impact, and we will definitely always remember the kiss between two teenage girls Ellie and Riley, the protagonists in the expansion to the main game. Unfortunately, the game is only available for PS3 and PS4, but we hope to have the opportunity to play it on a PC soon.
Night in The Woods
Of course we cannot forget this gem; this game radiates charm, depth and intelligence. You play it as the protagonist – Mae, who returns to her hometown after leaving college. Mae is pansexual, and among her friends, there is a gay man and a trans woman. In addition to the colorful queer representation, the game deals with topics of trauma, identity, self-acceptance and mental health. It is one of the most famous indie games and has received very positive reviews.
This text was published with the support of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, but solely those of the author.