The videogaming medium often mirrors popular culture, so it makes sense that as society becomes more accepting of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or transgender people, that the once taboo subject of sexuality should be represented within the gaming world.
If truth be told, the gaming genres have had their fair share of LGBT characters, you just might have not been aware of them. As gamers, it’s easy to forget about a character’s sexuality when controlling them; when I’m sawing my way through Locust grubs, my focus is on staying alive, not pondering if Marcus has ever been tormented by thoughts of being a woman trapped in a man’s body.
With acceptance comes a rise in the amount of LGBT characters found in video games. Here’s a run-down of the top 5 LGBT characters in gaming history.
5: Birdo (Super Mario Bros. 2)
Birdo is female, there’s no question about that now. However, back in the beginning Birdo (Catherine in Japan and Ostro in the US) was depicted in the official instruction manual as a guy who thinks he’s a girl thanks to the quote “He thinks he is a girl,” and obviously he has a sack.
The latter part may have been made up, but originally Nintendo – who didn’t really make Super Mario Bros. 2 as a Mario game at first (No, really!) – went with the idea of having her as a gender-confused, egg-spitting dinosaur.
Keep in mind that this was released in 1988, a time where transgender men and women were deemed outcasts. This, at the time, was a very bold move on Nintendo’s behalf. Fast-forward twenty years, and Birdo has saved up enough money from Mario-related appearances for the op and is now living openly and happily as a woman. Even Nintendo has taken to referring to her as a she.
4: Zangief (Street Fighter 2)
By definition, gay men prance around in pink singing showtunes all day long. Or at least that’s what the Daily Mail and Fox News would have us believe. Zangief, who was created during a time when homosexuality was still somewhat frowned upon, breaks the mould of what a gay guy should be. Zangief is very much a man’s man. He loves fighting bears, wrestling and he’s from Russia, a place where men have been replaced with Soviet style war machines. He couldn’t get more hetero right?
During Streetfighter Alpha 3, Zangief’s bio reveals everything I listed above, which comes as no surprise.
The surprise comes when we take a look at the things he doesn’t like. Within this list is “young beautiful girls.” This coupled with a “straightened” out version for the western market makes Zangief one of the first pioneers in gayming history.
3: Alfred Ashford (Resident Evil: Code Veronica)
Thanks to political correctness there’s no way you could have a game’s main protagonist be so openly prejudiced, but at the time it made for pure comedy gold. Alfred Ashford may not be revered in the same light as Birdo, due to being Code Veronica’s main villain, but his schizophrenic ramblings made him an icon within the Resident Evil universe. Players remember him as the weaker of the two siblings. His sister, Alexia, was a megalomaniac genius intent on becoming an improved version of their grandmother, Veronica Ashford.
In comparison, Alfred came across as somewhat simple. With two similar characters, gamers the world over united to bring down the sinister pair. That was until the realization kicked in that Alexia was actually in cryogenic suspension for the past ten years and that Alfred, the creepy one, was not only dressing as his sister, but was convinced he was his sister and had convinced himself that the two had never been separated.
Mr. Ashford may never be the poster boy for transgender acceptance, but he did make for an unbelievable story with a shocking twist.
2: Wade And Herren (Dragon Age: Origins)
For those of you who have played Dragon Age: Origins or Awakening, chances are you will have come across these two at some point in your travels. Herren runs a shop that specializes in lavish weaponry and armor and Wade is the genius who crafts said weaponry and armour. What puts the pair so high up our list is even though Wade is overly camp and is a walking cliché, at no point in Origins or in Awakening is it pointed out that they are, in fact, a couple. The general consensus was that Wade was obviously gay and that Herren was his business partner.
That was until Sir David Gaider, Bioware’s lead writer, posted on the official forum that Wade and Herren were in fact a couple. Sometimes in videogames a character’s sexuality is completely non-essential to the storyline.
We should appreciate that Bioware took the subtle approach to their relationship, rather than spoon feeding us unimportant information in an attempt to seem current.
1: Gay Tony (GTA IV: The Ballad Of Gay Tony)
The Ballad Of Gay Tony changed the videogaming landscape. Bigoted people – who would hear the word gay and then proceed to run a mile – were given the choice of playing an expansion pack for their favorite game or sticking to their misguided morals and missing out on something great. Gamers finally started to realise that interacting with a gay character didn’t mean that they were gay and because of the amount of people who had downloaded the DLC, the word gay was no longer a word shrouded in fear and enigma.
Companies, namely Microsoft, lifted bans on the use of the word gay, allowing gamers to openly declare their sexual preference within their bio or gamertag. Gay Tony may not be the most influential character in history but what the expansion did was mix up what was expected of a game from a storytelling perspective; and for that alone, Gay Tony should be commended for bringing haters into the 21st century and changing the stigma surrounding being gay.