I love stories. I really do. I love story-telling in all forms. I’m an actor, a writer, an avid reader and a gamer. I’ve played a lot of games and I mean a lot. I feel that games give the most immersive sense of storytelling; it’s all well and good watching a movie and the story is told for you, or reading a book and letting your imagination explore a whole new world… but gaming is you. Whether you are playing a game where you create a character, or you’re playing a game with set characters, or even if you’re playing Tetris as an omnipotent shape-flipper, it is you in charge.
This is why I think gaming is one of the best platforms to tell a story. I have loved stories since I was a child and, as I’ve grown up and been able to comprehend more complex narratives, I’ve realised that representation is a very big part of storytelling. If I’m reading something and they mention my hometown or where I currently live, I feel this really happy sense of pride. That’s me. I’ve been there. Something along those lines – the amount of games that are set in New York is one of the main reasons I’d love to visit New York! When you watch a movie and hear your accent you feel something. I guess it’s a sense of belonging? That’s what representation means to me.
That got me thinking about the power of representation. How many books have I read when I was younger and not even realised there was no ethnic diversity? There were no gay neighbours, lesbian teachers? I mean, yeah, we have Dumbledore, but that was never a confirmed thing, or at least it wasn’t brought to question within the books… Which is a good thing and a bad thing.
Let me explain. I bought Mortal Kombat X when it came out; I’m a massive Mortal Kombat fan and I had to get this game. I was playing through the campaign with my housemate (who is also gay) and we came across as cut scene. The Cute Scene was between Kung Jin and Raiden.
Raiden says: “They care only about what is in your heart. Not who your heart desires.” My housemate gave me a look and instantly asked if he was gay. I laughed it off – obviously he wasn’t gay.
I was wrong. I had never been so happy to be wrong. Dominic Cianciolo confirmed this on Twitter. I was so happy; the first game I’ve played with an intentionally gay character. I made a facebook status about this with footage of Kung Jin’s fatality. A friend of mine attacked the integrity of the franchise asking why on earth they need to add a gay character… “What does it matter if someone’s gay in a game like Mortal Kombat which is just about fighting.”
It absolutely does matter. This was a level of representation that not only did I expect, but I had laughed at the potential of. Not only that, but they did it in such a small way. It wasn’t spectacle; he was just gay, there was a stigma (within himself) about this and Raiden reassured him. All in one cute-screen. I, myself, find that incredible. Most people won’t even recognise- they will just accept it for what it is… But for those who have experienced shame or embarrassment for being who they are, it stands out like a beacon.
It’s a start.
Now, I know there’re games like Sims, Fable and even Skyrim where you’re in control of your own character and you can do what you wish with them… but there’s a different between intentional and play controlled.
Now, the difference between Kung Jin and Dumbledore (besides the obvious) is that they are gay within their worlds, but Dumbledore had no indication, or at least no cement indication within the narrative. It’s cool to re-read the books and know he’s gay – it gives the whole Grindelwald situation a whole new light, but again, there is nothing directly highlighting it.
Basically, what I’m trying to get at is this is a massive step forward. I read about a ‘glitch’ in Tamadachi life that allowed to males to get married and that Nintendo wanted to patch this up – but that seems to have been a misunderstanding and I don’t really know what to believe on that… but regardless, it was another case that raised a lot of controversy of representing sexuality in games.
Growing up, I loved games. As a grown up, I still do.
I don’t see why there could ever be a problem of representing minorities. Why not have Lesbian protagonists? Why not have Gay side-kicks? Why not have Transgendered classes? If I seen people in all forms who think the way I do, then I would have felt a lot more comfortable with who I am.
Why stop there? Why not a character with autism? Why not a character with schizophrenia, depression, dissociative disorder? I’m not saying fill stories with absolute everyone represented, but why not try to at least diversify things? Look at ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’… What a massive series with empowered women and gay characters. That should be the norm. Gaming has transcended racial differences (at least there’s a massively notable change through the evolution of gaming), so why not jump the other hurdles. I would adore seeing everyone represented; not all in one game, maybe, but even just a controlled influx of representation?!
I guess I’m just an avid believe of equality. I live my life with a motto of ‘Let people do what they want, as long as they don’t harm, inhibit or offend others’. That’d be a perfect world if everyone had that. I think games have the ability and the stature to educate people… So why the hell not?
It’ll give that one child who plays a game for a form of escapism, that extra “It’s okay to find other guys attractive, kid. Now enjoy this game.”
P.S I know there’re a lot of flamboyant characters in games; even a lot of genderqueer or transgender or transvestite characters but it’s very common for these to be the villains. That’s not cool. It doesn’t help our secret gay agenda!