Bioware: Bastions of gaming equality

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As part of LGBT History month The Edge and The Wessex Scene have joined forces with SUSU’s Equality and Diversity Committee and SUSU LGBT Society to create a special issue magazine. This article continues the online series celebrating LGBT in the entertainment world.

It’s unfortunate that the gaming industry has had such a turbulent history with the LGBT community. After all, the first ever inclusion of a homosexual in a video-game, for example, was a villainous lesbian in a text adventure PC game entitled Moonmist (1986). The character in question was bitter because her girlfriend had married a man…not a great start.

It didn’t really help matters that Nintendo, the most important gaming company during the late eighties and early nineties, were determined to keep their American audience free from any possible ‘cultural controversy’. Nintendo consistently censored any mention of homosexual, bisexual and trans matters in their games throughout this period. Since then, LGBT representation has become a louder and louder vocal point within the industry. In recent years, games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) and Saint’s Row IV (2014) have encouraged a much more inclusive attitude towards LGBT matters. It’s a shame that companies like Nintendo of America still remain blind, when ground-breaking titles like Gone Home (2013) and The Last of Us (2013) continue to spread wide the net.

Which brings us to another large publishing company, Electronic Arts; whatever some might say about EA, they cannot deny that they’ve played a pivotal role in helping push LGBT rights. Having won an award for outstanding innovations in diversity this year, the company have established a name for themselves. This is in no small part thanks to their ownership and direction of Bioware; a company of developers renowned for their willingness to include a diverse cast of characters in all of their games. Their sci-fi Role-playing series Mass Effect (2007) for example, has received critical acclaim for its inclusion and portrayal of homosexuals and bisexuals. The ability to romance the alien doctor Liara Tsoni as a woman in the first game, sadly, caused some controversy, particularly over what was a fairly tame sex scene.

Bioware’s other successful role-playing series; Dragon Age, has received possibly even more support for its inclusion of homosexual and bisexual characters. In the first game; Dragon Age: Origins (2009), the player was able to have relationships with the male elf Zevran and the bard Lelianna, regardless of gender. The most recent game in the series; Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) includes the characters Dorian and Sera; both homosexuals, both treated with respect.

Perhaps the game’s greatest achievement, however, is its portrayal of the trans-gender character; Cremisius ‘Krem’ Alcassi. The process of Krem’s creation has been lovingly detailed in a blog posted on Bioware’s website by writer Patrick Weekes. Having been praised by the LGBTQ community in the past, the company featured on a LGBTQ panel at the PAX gaming convention a few years ago. The audience’s most popular request was ‘for representation of transgender and/or genderqueer characters in a way that did not make them either a monster or a joke.’ Weekes goes on to describe the many steps Bioware made to bring Krem to life; how his team aimed to place the character into an a role that fit, how they illustrated his body-language effectively, how they crafted Krem’s dialogue so that his trans-identity did not feel shoe-horned in or misrepresented. The feedback received by Bioware was overwhelmingly positive, with the gender-queer community commenting how pleased they were with Krem’s depiction.

This instance spells a change in the representation of the LGBT community in gaming. As Patrick Weekes explained: “The world of Dragon Age has room for people of all backgrounds and identities, and it was a pleasure to show that in one more way.”, a statement which will hopefully be echoed by many others.

LGBTmagweb

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Third-year English undergraduate, dabbles in records and video-games. Can be found trying to raise money for new games and consoles, worshiping David Bowie and reading young-adult fiction unashamedly.

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