Overcoming the Griefers

By Hana Khalyleh, Feb. 26, 2015.

Streets of Rage, which release several versions in the early '90s, features a homosexual character named Ash.

The gaming industry has a long history of portraying characters across the LGBT spectrum inaccurately, offensively, not portraying them at all or omitting elements of their identities for American audiences.

However, like many other segments of pop culture, this platform is also seems to be heading in a more all-inclusive direction.

“Video games deal with a lot of fantasy,” said Arik Salazar, member of the Phoenix Gaymers. “You can have things like dragons and mythical creatures. I mean, is it really such a stretch to represent someone who’s comfortable with their [sexuality]?”

Here are a few that are worth making note of as the industry continues to evolve:

Character: Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince | Game: GTAIV

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has a long record of portrayals of sexually diverse characters in outlandish or offensive manners. Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince from GTAIV is a character presented in a stereotypical manner and shown to be a drug addict.

Character: Reni Wassulmaier | Game: GTAIV

A trans character, also from GTAIV, Reni Wassulmaier, is a porn star, portrayed as mentally unstable, and has had three sex changes, from female to male to female. Trevor, from GTAV, is bisexual, but is also shown to be violent and manic-depressive.

Character: Kanji | Game: Persona 4

Though Kanji’s made little reference to his own sexual orientation, speculation sparked a closer look into the industry’s treatment of LGBT characters. Although the English release of the game has received harsh criticism from the LGBT community for not actually stating Kanji’s sexuality, it was one of the first titles to present a character grappling against social constructs of gender normativity. The game’s developers admitted to making Kanji’s sexuality subtle for an American audience.

Character: Eagle | Game: Street Fighter

Eagle, known for shouting catchphrases between fights that alluded to a gay identity in the original Japanese game release, these phrases were removed in the American release. Eagle’s design is based off a blonde Freddie Mercury.

Character: Vivian | Game: Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

In the Japanese release, she is revealed to be transgender, but in the English release, all references to her identity are erased.

Character: All | Game: Mass Effect 3

Bioware’s critically and commercially acclaimed release, Mass Effect 3, allowed characters to choose sexual partners of any gender, overcoming limitations in previous titles of the series.

Game: Dys4ia

The 2012 flash game, Dys4ia, took the player on a journey through the eyes of a male-to-female transgender woman enduring the social limitations, frustrations and physical changes surrounding hormone treatment. The game’s developer, Anna Anthropy, based the game off of her own experiences.

Character: Cremisius Acclasi | Game: Dragon Age

Also from Bioware, this game has always featured NPCs (non-playable characters) of varying sexual orientations, and Dragon Age: Inquisition, which released in late 2014, featured Bioware’s first transgender character, Cremisius Acclasi, a warrior who identifies as male.

Character: Ellie | Game: The Last of Us: Left Behind

This 2013 release’s 14-year-old lesbian protagonist, Ellie, shared an onscreen kiss with her then-best-friend Riley. Kotaku, a video game-focused blog, described it as significant “because video games have never suffered from an overabundance of queer characters (let alone two young women in a queer, mixed-race coupling).”

Love gaming? Read more about the Phoenix Gaymers in "Multiplayer Interaction Meets the Real World" here.

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