Mortal Kombat X is the latest AAA video game to include a LGBT cast member.
In flashback scenes during Mortal Kombat X‘s story mode, Kung Jin – a member of the Special Forces and a descendent of razor-rimmed hat wearer Kung Lao – is seen discussing his feelings with the series’ longstanding cast member, Raiden. Raiden pleads that Kung Jin join the Shaolin Monks, one of the game’s fictional factions, to help them repel the forces assailing Earth Realm. “I can’t.. they won’t accept,” Kung Jin replies. Raiden responds that the Monks don’t care ” whom your heart desires”.
In earlier scenes, Raiden comments on how Kung Jin is filled with self-loathing over who he really is. The scenes generated plenty of speculation among Mortal Kombat fans and the gay gaming community, who quickly decided that the conversations were an implicit confirmation that Kung Jin is gay.
It turns out they were correct.
Cinematic Director Dominic Cianciolo confirmed the suspected theories on Twitter, saying that he was pleased fans of the long-running series had been paying attention.
@bcharred I see people are picking up on the subtle exposition contained in Kung Jin's flashback. Glad we have observant fans!
— Dominic Cianciolo (@domcianciolo) April 14, 2015
The confirmation was met with overwhelming approval from both the gay and gaming community alike. European LGBT news site Pink News even ran a story on the subject.
We’ll have our review of Mortal Kombat X early next week. But we can safely say that NetherRealm has produced the best Mortal Kombat yet – so if you’re still leaning on the fence, you have nothing to be wary about.
OPINION: This is good news for the LGBT gaming community, which has long been under-representented in their favorite hobby. Kung Jin’s sexuality is largely well-handled, and it’s good to see a developer embracing the gay community instead of pandering to it or undermining it. The fact that Kung Jin is gay isn’t used to define his portrayal in the game: he’s just as effective a kombatant as any of the cast list; nor do scenes become bogged down with clichés about some unrequited love, or form the topic of every conversation. He’s simply a kick-ass kung-fu master who can protect Earth Realm with the best of them.
Whilst for the most part gaming hasn’t received much credit for portraying gay characters, it has seen its fair share over the years. Ellie from The Last of Us serves as a more recent example, with the Left Behind DLC revealing that she’s a lesbian; and Trevor Phillips has expressed his bisexual tendencies in Grand Theft Auto V. Other third-party companies such as Bioware have seen their fair share of incorporating same-sex relationships in titles such as Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition, as well as allowing same-sex romance in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The video game industry may still under-represent gay characters both on and off screen; but with influential developers like NetherRealm championing inclusivity rather than exclusivity, perhaps the industry is finally waking up to the fact that not everyone who holds a controller conforms to traditional marketing demographics – and that gaming characters can kick ass whatever their orientation.