Homosexuality has long been a controversial issue amongst gamers, developers and publishers alike. With the ever-growing popularity of online games and gaming in general, players often bring their intolerance online and to the community, sharing it with family and friends, teammates and guilds. This tends to lead to knee-jerk reactions from the industry, normally erring on the negative but not this time.
Over the past week, a provocative issue cropped up across the gaming community; Electronic Arts, the massive games company, began being targeted by a hate campaign. To be precise, they are called the Florida Family Association and the American Decency Association. How can this be though? On two of their recent releases, ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ and ‘Mass Effect 3’ there is the option to play as a homosexual character. Within SWTOR, you can even opt to have a homosexual partnership within the plot. This has since divided opinion.
Since SWTOR’s release, the anti-gay community in America, including the above two organisations have been writing away and sending their letters of disapproval to EA. They do not want their young children (who should not really be playing the 13+ and 15+ video games Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3 video games) to have the option to choose a same-sex romance as part of their virtual experience.
In retaliation, the sane people of this world who have the ability to accept gay relationships have made a stand. LGBT campaigners AllOut have put together a petition in support of EA Games – they have labelled it ‘keep fighting the dark side’.
Andre and Jeremy of AllOut.org have claimed;
“Video games – like books, magazines, TV and film – are enjoyed by hundreds of millions around the world, and the fictional characters in them often inspire us, and teach us about the world we live in. This is exactly why anti-gay hate groups are targeting them – because they know that the more LGBT people are represented as regular characters, the harder it will be to deny them equality in the real world.
Games from Electronic Arts (EA) reach 100 million players in 75 countries around the world. When a major company like this makes the effort to create gay role models for all players, gay and straight, we need to let them know that we’ve got their back – especially in the face of an organized hate campaign.”
With gay rights and same-sex marriages encouraging diverse opinion in the UK and America at the moment, this debate comes at a relevant time. The main issue the religious organisations have is that kids play these games. This is true, but the game is rated at 12+ – kids watch worse on soaps like Eastenders which the majority watch with their parents on a weekly basis and listen to the lyrics of pop stars like Rihanna and Lady GaGa. Kids only have to get 50p to go and buy trash like The Sun and turn to page 3 for an eyeful. Is this not more damaging then having a homosexual romance plot?
The groups claim to be protecting their children by complaining to EA and asking them to remove the material. What these parents fail to realise is that homosexuality is just another form of sexuality, it is a part of reality and kids, sooner or later, will have to face up to this. These parents are simply using their own children as an excuse to force homosexual culture out of society, firstly, through the gaming industry, an industry kids spend most of their time involved in. Surely that 12+ age rating is there for a reason? It is there to protect children from anything harmful within the game itself. You can hardly say the same for Eastenders which is aired at far too early a time for young kids to watch and as for the lyrics Rihanna spouts, she has to have parental warnings on her records but this isn’t going to stop kids of all ages listening to the sex-driven lyrics.
Gay gamers are constantly marginalised and are the least-considered in the industry, yet games have toyed with homosexuality, throughout the industry’s history. For example, The Sims Online virtually offers legal options for gay marriage. Games that have been around for years have been offering this option and they have become household names. Academic research has proven that internet communities and massive multiplayer online games have often given kids the anonymous environment in which they can try out new identities and attempt to find their own in the real world. Games have consistently broken taboo; including gender bending, sexual fetishism and heterosexual sexual scenarios have featured in games for years and continue to grow in number. None of these have received the attention and significant discomfort of current game players; it takes homosexuality to make gamers uncomfortable. This is a sad reality.
Even if you didn’t wish to examine your own identity through gaming, identification with a character often leads players to become immersed in the plot. Groups promote women and homosexuality in gaming so more people feel included within the games industry and communities. Inclusion can only be a positive measure to involve more people in one of the quickest growing industries of the current age. After all, who wants to play as the butch male protagonist all the time?
This ridiculous boycott towards EA needs to be ended swiftly, homosexuality is in society, it is accepted by the majority and people should support it not shun it. Charlie Brooker quoted on Twitter, ‘’EA targeted for including gay romance in a videogame? What is this the 1930s? No. We didn’t have games back then, ‘’ he followed this with a suggestion, ‘’In the next Modern Warfare, they should have a special ‘gay’ gun that’s better than all the others, thus forcing online players to use it.’’ Wouldn’t this be wonderful? Forcing people to comprehend an issue they wish wiped out of society due to fear and ignorance.
When organisations like the Florida Family Association and the American Decency Association organise campaigns based on myths and outright lies it is essential that we demonstrate opposition. It is important to take a stand against the use of prejudice to intimidate and shun groups from society. EA may not back off from its plans to implement same-sex romance options into its games, but the fight is on, and an organised LGBT front needs to be presented.
Personally, I think homosexuality should be featured in the gaming world, on TV programmes and in music – it is a feature of the world we live in. It is equal to a heterosexual relationship and deserves equal recognition. I applaud EA for making such a big step in bringing forward the issue of homosexuality and putting it into the impressionable gaming industry. It is these big brands that are going to make a difference. EA have set the ball in motion.
If you agree and want to back EA against the ‘darkside’ then go ahead and sign the petition on http://www.allout.org/en/actions/theforce