Getting Some Play: Is Yoshi gay?

Welcome to Getting Some Play— the spiritual successor to Sarah Warn’s excellent Good Game column — where we’ll take a look at the latest releases, news and developments in the world of videogames.

Fake or Gay?

There was a minor Internet kerfuffle last week, when IGN — a game site better known for featuring “babes” and a generally “bro-friendly” attitude  — published confusing piece called “Fake or Gay” which analyzed two videogame characters with supposed queer identities. Making things even more bizarre, it was written in the context of “Dinosaur Week” on the site, so the two characters in question were Nintendo icon Yoshi and professional dinosaur hunter Turok (from the sometimes goofy FPS series of the same name).

In the piece, writer Jack DeVries drops a few stereotypical jokes and decides that Yoshi is definitely queer, though Turok is a “fake.” People were up in arms about the story, the sense being that this was a homophobic (or, at the very least, insensitive) way to grab hits. Then, fellow IGN writer Arthur Gies revealed that Jack is himself gay, and wrote the piece to discuss issues of representation.

I got that sense the moment I read it – the actual knowledge of the term “queer,” the writer’s own description of himself as “the Perez Hilton of IGN, minus the pink hair, bad attitude and, like, 60 lbs.,” and the link to another post claiming that Yoshi should be “reclaimed” as a gay gamer symbol all pointed (to me, at least) — that the writer was part of the community.

It does make me wonder, however: Do you get a free pass to use stereotypical humor if you are part of the community you are stereotyping? And does that come across as “OK” if you do not say — in black and white — that you are part of that community?

While it seems a little silly that it took a post about digital gay dinosaurs to get people talking about the representation of LGBT characters in games, it’s at least good to see some conversation on the topic. My hope is that other queer game writers at major sites will get the chance — and have the courage — to approach the topic in the future.

Network Failure

Gay dinosaurs aside, the biggest story by far this week was the Playstation Network disaster. Between April 17-19, PlayStation Network was hacked, and sensitive, personal information (including user credit card numbers) was compromised. The network has been shut down for days – and if you had information on there, check this blog post for the correct next steps.

This is obviously a catastrophe – a complete nightmare for Sony and potentially a very serious problem for anyone with a credit card tied to their PSN account. As someone who has had ID theft occur, I feel your pain and hope that things get cleared up, pronto!

Coming Attractions:

The next two weeks are a bit more sedate than the last. I’m not sure when early May became the slow season, but I’m not complaining. At the rate I’m going, I may even be able to play Portal 2 within a year of its release!

Without further ado, here are the highlights for the next two weeks:

Virtual Tennis 4 will be out on May 10, allowing you to get your digital Dana Fairbanks going on the 360, PS3 and Wii.

The next installment of the fun-for-kids-and-also-series-fans Lego: Franchise series is out on May 10 as well, and this time, it’s pirate themed. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game looks adorable and fun, so we’ll see if this can top current series highlight Harry Potter.

Two real heavyweights will launch on May 17: For PC gamers, The Witcher 2 is set to follow up on 2007’s incredible debut, while Rockstar’s stylish looking ’50s detective adventure LA Noire will heat things up on the 360 and PS3.

I’ve been looking forward to LA Noire ever since the first previews dropped, so let’s hope Rockstar brings something special next week. What about you?

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