More Than Just a Combo of Slaps? Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Trans Gaming

By Ben Light.

Good overview of the area, brief but looks like it could be interesting to see what Ben comes up with in his research.


Was originally going to also talk about the experiences, but will explain the representation of LGBT areas. Do need to think of sexuality related to gender, age, race but going to black-box that a bit. There are also ethical issues brought up although not addressed directly – in some ways the designers do have some responsibility, but sometimes they don’t – finished this long get out now. Sexuality is a complex thing, related to gender.

There are a variety of things going on about having services specifically aimed at gays, and the counter people saying it is an overrated area. Strange research too (not sure how it was acquired) where gay users of technology use more of the additional features. Just interesting to note.

There are missing cultures in videogames – brought up on, where additionally there was the top 20 gay characters in games listed too. Some totality of the gaming experience means there are other aspects – such as wearing wigs and costumes playing Singstar – and even posting youtube videos of it.

A paper at DiGRA previous pointed out a need to re-evaluate certain group’s relationships with games. As for Singstar, a specific version – Singstar Anthems is labelled as the “Gay edition” – besides the track list, even the artwork has the box characters looking at each of the same gender. There is something there 😉

Have picked several gay characters. Ash first from Streets of Rage 3 – has a combo of slaps (related to the title of the talk). A lot of typical stereotypical things (crying, laughing, slaps). He was made into a NPC on the American version, which is a major thing – most of the characters are non-playable.

Fear Effect 2 – it is an instrumental thing including the lesbian love (perhaps for the teenage boys). Questions if it is a main plot, subplot if it is integral, and why it was included.

Bully – Over the Rainbow achievement is kissing 20 boys – homosexual activity – can kiss women as well and therefore be bisexuality and so forth.

The Temple of Elemental Evil – one of the first games that has gay marrage taken seriously. However Fallout and Fable has it as well. However it is openly talked about, and openly said it was included to make it a more rounded experience.

Cho Aniki – means “Super Big Brother” – there’s a bit more to that in translation, it implies a more sexual relationship between a older man and younger boy – need to do more research into this. A very different perspective in Japan. There’s a version of the game where a piece of sperm is one of your weapons – it is highly sexualised.

For completeness – drag queens – in Dance Summit 2001. Comments marked from Gay Gamer which mainly means someone has commented that they are drag queens, so it doesn’t matter if they are or not.

Transvestites in Code Veronica X, brother dressing as his sister who is in cryogenic stasis.

Birdo – Super Mario Bros. 2 was a guy thinking they were a girl, which was changed when it was made into a main character (changing to a direct female).

Tingle – chicken-hawk, someone who picks on young guys.

Also there are some contested characters – where there are disagreements – so highly contested between gay and not.

Game of Life game – Christian Fundamentalists went mad since you can put two women or two men in the car – it’s more like a bug in the system – the men are identical.

Conclusions so far

Some people of the LGBT community are treating this representation with a degree of humour. Some however do have issues when they bring it up – such as being banned from Xbox. The LGBT characters can be peripheral to the game, or just there to sell the game, or are playable and active. Different rationales on it, especially on the guesswork behind thinking some characters are gay or not. Some conflict appears out of that (wikipedia wars, comment flames).

Next Moves

Ethnographic work on SingStar – some LGBT networks in the SingStar community. People looking in people’s houses and seeing how they perform on it that then brands them.

Rethink assumptions:

  • Sexuality does not figure in gameplay? – They don’t play because they are gay, it is because they want to play games.
  • gaymers vs. gamers? – Mix of groups of gamers or those who say they’re gay.
  • what do we mean by game? – Only certain games we are looking at. What people are comfortable playing, not just because of who they are.
  • Gaming and pornography? – Flash games developed where you rub and jack someone off and so forth.
  • where does the gaming experience end? – Not just on screen, but Xbox Live community problems, World of Warcraft, all that kind of stuff.


Q – Tendencies of game designers to include the gay love interest intentionally, and while the game is not directed to the LGBT community, but they want to integrate that form anyway. What do you think?

I don’t know, I can’t speak for them, but on face value it is a positive thing. Some designers have said it is there to be a more rounded experience, fair enough. See how political it gets, it isn’t very political so far.

Q – Do you think the LGBT want products directed at them like that? or have just games which are more general?

Can’t speak for the entire LGBT community, but that said, would I? No, not directed. However looking at products like Gaydar though, there is a market for it, but I imagine some people will think the opposite.

Q – So are you investigating, along with the SingStar things, looking at the participants playing the games?

Non-participant research will be starting, much more to look at beyond SingStar, around characters are not LGBT but how they are enacted in the games. Have to look at other games since SingStar doesn’t have this. Something to look at you’re right.

Q – Were you struck by the possibility of available characters given mainstream games. You had to do a lot of digging to find what you found.

I wasn’t expecting to find what I found. Wikipedia has a really good entry on this stuff which highlights, more then you think but minority stuff.

Q – Did you feel at all it was like archaeological study “Who was in the closet in games”?

Very much so, not just one that are identified as that but are played as such. Quite important to look at that, such as SingStar performances and playing the gender identity and sexuality. SingStar on release day, the upload-video functionality was man-man-man-man-man-man – not all gay men of course, but the message boards were people saying “buying it for my girlfriend/wife”.

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