Games that pave the way for LGBTQIA+ pride
This Pride month we take a look at inclusive games that make a difference.
29 Jun 2021
Just like with TV, films, or any other kind of entertainment, it makes a big difference when we see ourselves in the games we play. It’s more immersive, more fun, more meaningful. That’s why LGBTQIA+ representation in gaming is so important. No one should ever feel excluded from the things they love or the community that’s sprung up around it.
Sadly, gaming doesn’t have the best track record for inclusivity. Which is weird, since back in the day our ‘nerdy’ rep made gaming the perfect place for those of us who felt like we didn’t quite fit. We’ve still got a long way to go. But games that encourage LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, whether that’s through representation or storytelling, make a difference.
So, to mark the end of Pride month, we want to celebrate those games- the ones that open our eyes to being a better ally or make us feel seen if we’re LGBTQIA+. Here are our picks:
If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ll know the graphics aren’t anything to write home about. But this one’s all about the story, which draws you in from the get-go. In this first-person exploration game, you show up to your family’s home to find it empty. Why has it been abandoned? You’ll have to piece the mystery together yourself, exploring the different rooms to find clues.
Without spoiling too much - Gone Home thoughtfully explores what happens when misunderstanding and ignorance drive a wedge between families. Rather than tell you what impact intolerance has, Gone Home lets you see it for yourself… which is why it’s such a powerful piece of advocacy.
And until Gone Home, the queer experience hadn’t really been explored in gaming. The attention Gone Home got – like Polygon’s 2013 Game of The Year and the British Academy Games Awards for Debut Game – encouraged other LGBTQIA+ creators to tell their own stories using the format.
The Sims 4
Maybe you’ve raised an eyebrow here, but hear us out. The Sims has long paved a progressive path where other game developers feared to tread.
If you don’t know, The Sims is a life simulator game. You create characters called Sims, controlling what they look like, what they do, their homes and how they live their lives. Back in 2000 when the first Sims game came out, if you played video games you usually had to play as a straight white cis-gender man… occasionally you could play as a straight white cis-gender woman.
But in The Sims you could play as anyone you wanted to. You could be gay, bi, polyamorous, the list goes on. The Sims was a safe and accepting place to explore gender identity and sexuality. And the Sims has very much continued on that vein with each new game. Now, in The Sims 4 you can create transgender or non-binary characters with an interest in any or all genders.
As Maxis (the Sim’s developers) said, “The Sims is made by a diverse team for a diverse audience, and it’s really important to us that players are able to be creative and express themselves through our games.” We agree!
Life is Strange: Before the Storm
This is – maybe you guessed – the prequel to the episodic story driven game Life is Strange. In it you play Chloe Price, and the game largely focuses on the relationship she has with her schoolfriend Rachel Amber. Like with all of the Life is Strange titles, the choices you make have a big impact on how the story plays out. And it’s up to you whether your relationship with Rachel is platonic or something more.
But if you do choose to go down the romantic route, the relationship has real depth. This isn’t some tickbox afterthought of an interaction. Instead it’s a layered, honest and beautiful look at a gay relationship… something that we sadly haven’t seen on our PC or TV screens that much. If you’re an LGBT player, you’re not shoehorned into playing out a straight narrative. And that can only be a good thing.
Night in the Woods
Another game that gets serious brownie points for its LGBTQIA+ representation is Night in the Woods. Like most of the other games on our list, Night in the Woods gets our vote for its really intricate storytelling. It takes place in Possum Springs, in a world filled with animal-human hybrids and is a kind of coming of age story for its main character Mae.
One of the great things about Night in the Woods is that it doesn’t make a massive song and dance about its characters’ sexuality. Mae is pansexual and her best friends Gregg and Angus are a gay couple. It’s a realistic portrayal, where their preferences are a part of them, but don’t clumsily define them or fall into lazy inaccurate cliches. At the end of the day these characters are just people, wonderful and flawed and struggling with a whole range of different internal demons.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
In general, big budget triple-A titles need to do more to make the LGBTQIA+ community feel included in their stories. But Dragon Age: Inquisition shows that things are starting to change. Remember when you had romance options in RPGs but they were all hetero relationships? Or maybe there’d be a single side quest featuring a gay character? Not in Dragon Age.
Here there a whole range of different LGBTQIA+ characters, fleshed out and properly included in the story. And the romance options for same-sex relationships don’t feel like an afterthought, but a natural part of the gameplay. This isn’t just about recognition, but choice and acceptance.
There isn’t a fear of tackling some hard-hitting LGBTQIA+ issues either, like conversion therapy or trans rights. The fact that Dragon Age: Inquisition includes these topics, without making their LGBTQIA+ characters’ entire personality or plotline revolve around them, is a welcome change.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Again, the main thing to focus on here is choice. For a long while, open world games haven’t necessarily felt that open, at least when it comes to the options for gender or sexual identity.
In Valhalla you can play as male or female and even switch between genders mid-story. But there are also lots of romance options for both men and women no matter what sex you are. So it’s entirely up to you whether you roleplay as a straight, gay, bi, or asexual character. Let’s hope this becomes the norm for open-world RPGs!
Now, there are way more games we could talk about here- like Last of Us: Part II or Butterfly Soup. But these are just some to get you started… and we definitely hope we’ll be seeing more and more like these in the future!