Queer Gamers Seize Controller

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“The entire thought behind the site was really that sometimes we want different types of information about games than other gaming sites can offer,” she elaborated. “We might want to know more about the females in the games, if there is any lesbian content in them and whether certain homophobic content is likely to be offensive. These are all issues we cover regularly.”

Still, Whitelaw admits that it can be frustrating holding out the welcome banner in a sometimes-hostile environment, not to mention working in a field that is so traditionally dominated by men.

“We don’t find it ‘difficult’ as such to work in a field that is male-dominated, but we do find it a little depressing at times,” said Whitelaw. “The idea that gamers are still young straight males is very strong, but that’s because they DO make up a large percentage of the game buying public. What affects us more is that when advertisers do try and target female gamers, it is ultimately through stereotypically gendered games or dance/music games.”

She continued: “Nintendo [has] probably been the most successful with advertising games and consoles to a variety of markets regardless of age, race, sex so far, but there’s a long way to go.”

On the tricky subject of actual lesbian content in games, we have only the spotty history of those few-and-far-between cases to go on.

Hannah and Rain from Fear Effect 2

Fear Effect 2’s tantalizing girl-on-girl kiss inspired many a young baby dyke in 2001, last year’s Fable II allowed gamers to construct a female character and marry a woman, and 2005’s Jade Empire allowed female players to engage in an optional lesbian plotline.

A scene from Jade Empire

Still, lesbians are so rare in video games that it makes mainstream TV look like Dinah Shore Weekend.

The lack of queer women in games makes what little content there is ripe for sensationalized treatment. Take the 2007 Bioware hit Mass Effect, in which a player could potentially play as a female character, who (through optional dialogue) could bed a female shipmate. The media storm that surrounded the one tasteful (and hot!) love scene was truly blown out of proportion.

Whitelaw and Simpson, who covered the whole debacle from beginning to end, certainly had a few opinions on the matter. “Mass Effect was ridiculously handled by the mainstream media, who saw it as an opportunity to vilify gaming,” said Whitelaw. “Nobody was forced to get involved in a lesbian love story; and having the choice to do so should have been applauded rather than made into something sordid.”

Hopefully, the pervasion of grown-up storylines and the slow (baby steps) trend of increasing queer inclusion will mean that lesbians will have a much stronger foothold in the mainstream video game landscape one day. Until then, we’ll just have to go on making inroads for ourselves — by creating content and communities online that serve our own needs.

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