Video games have taken many strides over the years when it comes to inclusivity; although overt anti-LGBT hatred remains entrenched amongst online gaming trolls, many creators are taking active steps to explore and celebrate LGBTQ+ characters and experiences. With each of these titles, gaming history was made so stay in, have a cup of tea, and celebrate inclusivity in gaming!
The Dragon Age Series
As Bioware fully understands, everyone deserves to be represented when playing an RPG. The Dragon Age series has consistently provided romanceable LGBTQ+ characters, all of which are fleshed out and complex. With Dragon Age: Origins having been released in 2009, the characters of Leliana and Zevran are both bi-sexual but the later 2014 title, Dragon Age: Inquisition, has both gay and lesbian romances, as well as a transgender character. Admittedly, the creative decision to make all characters in Dragon Age II bi-sexual is problematic; though, they had clearly acknowledged this mistake moving forward in the series. Most importantly, these games demonstrate that anyone can be a bad-ass dragon slayer!
The Sims 4
Upon its original release also in 2014, The Sims 4 has undergone a transformation over the years, incorporating much needed inclusivity into an industry that remains catered to the heterosexual-male gaze. With LGBTQ+ romances being a staple of the franchise, same-sex/non-binary couples possess all the same rights as heterosexual couples. In a game update, Maxis also provided deeper gender customisation options and equal access to male and female clothing across all genders. The Sims 4 demonstrates that such inclusivity in gaming is possible and not at all too much to ask! Hopefully, other developers will take note of Maxis and further improve their own offerings.
The Last of Us
Yes, the release of The Last of Us 2 divided fans of the original. However, love it or hate it, it is refreshing to have a gay protagonist whose sexuality isn’t their sole identity. As we have seen Ellie mature from the throes of adolescence into maturity, seeing a teenager be openly herself is empowering, especially for younger gamers who are learning more about their sexuality. Ultimately, the plot of The Last of Us, the DLC and the sequel remains centred upon the zombie apocalypse and human challenges in the face of ultimate adversity. Naughty Dog excels in creating moving human relationships that make even those with hearts of stone cry and The Last of Us 2 is no different, despite some controversial and problematic elements.
Life is Strange
Speaking of crying … Life is Strange is the leviathan of the choose-your-path story-driven genre. Having dipped into the first chapter of the game solely because it was free, I quickly became glued to the screen, being deeply invested in the lives of Max and Chloe as well as the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Rachel. As this is a game based on choice, who you romance is up to you! In capturing the turbulent lives of young people, this game reflects the openness found amongst (most) millennials and Generation Z. Although human relationships arguably take priority in this game, the mysteries surrounding Arcadia Bay provide an enthralling story, creating a perfect gaming experience for all.
This is hardly an exhaustive list; there are many independent game developers making history, pushing both social and technological barriers in the industry. Their work needs to be celebrated all year round so that inclusivity will increasingly become the norm rather than the exception.