One media changes all the time, and

One identity
defines who they are, it can be their gender, sex, race or social class. But one
thing that plays a big influence on our identity is the media. We all know the
media changes all the time, and those changes it portrays, can influence us to
change parts of our identity such as our gender or sex which is a topic that
has been in the media for a while. It gives us some sort of platform to express
ourselves and our identity, and bond with others who have the same ideals as we
do. With one’s gender or sex being a constant topic in the media, it is certain
that both positive and negative comments will be said in regards to their
identity. These people who feel constantly criticized for their identity are
usually people of the LGBTQ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and
Queer). The media does struggle to represent this community in a positive way
and with this lack of representation, one does feel like they are not being
taken seriously in the world or they are considered not acceptable. But with
countries now being appreciative of the LGBTQ community, it is only fair they
should be treated right by both the media and people. One media example that
does not seem to represent the LGBTQ community so well would be the gaming
industry. If there are no good representations in video games, how would one be
able to identify themselves with a game character or even as a gamer? In this
essay, I will be talking about how LGBTQ characters in video games are being
represented, why there are not enough of them being introduced in games and how
positive representations would allow gay gamers to feel appreciated by the industry.
In contrast to this essay, I will also be discussing how women are being misrepresented
in video games and why inclusivity and diversity is not being appreciated in
the gaming industry. Video games
are seen as a “social artifact and as such it is important to look at them from
a cultural angle”, and how characters are represented in them will “impact the
cultural corpus of those who interact with them” (Utsch et al, 2017). Exploring
and researching a character’s sexuality or gender for any form of media can
greatly improve the depth of that character but when stereotypes are used, it
destroys any form of depth of that character (Spencer, 2016). The LGBTQ
character make up only about 3% of all video games made since the 1980s with
the rest being mainly heterosexual characters. Here are some stereotypes mainly
used with some examples of video game characters. With male gay characters,
they are most time portrayed as “the gay menace” which can be seen in video
game characters such as Maxwell Roth in Assassin’s
Creed Syndicate, Pagan Min in BioShock
and Sander Cohen in Far Cry 4. These gay
characters are mainly known for their “sadistic, ruthless actions and
theatrical flair” (Telegraph, 2016). Their sexual agenda is then used to define
their evil status. Maxwell Roth was known for his ‘laissez-faire’ attitude on
sexuality, while Pagan Min and Sander Cohen were seen as ostentatious and
stereotypical gay manner to contradict viewers from their stony-hearted
measures. The fundamental notion is that being gay is visible as divergent from
the sexual values of a predominantly heterosexual culture, and that if
someone’s sexuality is different in any way, then they should also be extra
willing to move in opposition to the grain in greater risky approaches.  Another stereotype
being used in the ‘tragically gay’ which basically means even though they are
openly gay, there is bound to be involved in something immoral. This stereotype
is seen in The Witcher 3’s Mislav. According
to Spencer (2016), the game “provides one
of the best examples of showing how depth can be brought through exploration of
LGBT themes”. Mislav was a huntsman and very rarely interacted with humans as
he was seen as abnormal; in the game’s world, he is seen a beast. But when the
protagonist Geralt encountered Mislav, he offered to cure Mislav of his “curse”
(Geralt thought he was a werewolf) but he confesses he is gay. Most people in
that sort of world would have thought of him as an abomination but Geralt did
not care what others thought of this and felt sympathetic towards Mislav
(Spencer, 2016). In the game, Mislav had a secret relationship with the Florian
(the lord’s son) but their relationship was later revealed for all to see which
then let to Florian’s suicide. With this example, being gay is used as an embellishment
to reveal how merciless and unforgiving the people and the world are. Some may
also use ancient precision as a way to give reason as to why the lord’s son
committed suicide, but video games are particularly scripted and proposed to
inform a tale with importance to a player. With the aid of such storylines, the
writers are preferring to apply a gay calamity as a way to make our world
appear a little ugly. This really shows that game developers need a bit more
research for their gay characters instead of just writing stories where these
characters are bound to lose their lives.  There is also the
stereotype ‘all or nothing’ which simply means the characters are programmed to
have sexual relations with anyone irrespective of their gender or sexual
orientation. These characters tend to have no backstory whatsoever. Popular games
such as the Saints Row series and Skyrim feature characters with this
stereotype. Dorian Pavus and Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition are both
openly gay characters who sleep around with other of different genders and
races, and with these sexual encounters, their character becomes more
interesting in the sense that they have had sex with a good number of people
(Spencer, 2016). Lastly, there are the gay characters who are openly gay but
have mental health problem. In Grand Theft
Auto 5, protagonist Trevor had bipolar disorder and homicidal behaviour,
and in the Resident Evil series,
Alfred Ashford was a transgender male whose character was deemed ‘demonic’ and
was highly schizophrenic. Also in the topic of transgender, it seems male
transgender characters are not really shown as much in video games. From the
Dragon Age: Inquisition, Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi was openly transgender (Shaw,
2016). A reason as to why there are not enough transgender game characters is
that “it is difficult to define characters as transgender, in large part
because the localization process sometimes changes how their genders are
described” (Shaw and Friesem, 2016). It seems as though the producers view their
targeted customers as heterosexual men that might react undesirably to seeing
male on male affairs in video games. This may result in writers focusing mainly
on lesbian and bisexual girls to accommodate to multiplicity, in place of
finding ways to make their consumers be interested in playing video games with
gay male characters as men seem to be more interested in a game when two
females are in a relationship together. A girl’s sexuality is underestimated
and less frightening to white males which still incorporates most gamers. Even
when transgender characters are added to games, they are stereotypically represented.
Transgender women are in most cases the subject
of explicit sexualisation. For example, in Grand
Theft Auto V, “the trans
characters are portrayed as sex workers, constantly misgendered and made fun of
in the dialogue with the main character. There’s also a named character, the
stripper Peach, who is voiced by a man, and supposed to be interpreted as a
trans woman” (Bragança et al, 2016). The voices of transgender men in video
games are then voiced by women. A game that features some aspects of the LGBTQ
community would be The Sims series. I have been a player of The Sims since its
first release and in The Sims 4, it is clear that they are improving their ways
of allowing players to create their character or “sim” as players would call
it. According to Bragança et al (2016), creating one’s sim will not be limited
by their masculinity or femininity. This allows both males and females to dress
gender-neutral and males can give birth.So why do game producers not make more LGBTQ characters? Ubisoft
writer Lucien Soulban who is openly gay state that it is “because of fears that
it’ll impact sales” (Lejacq, 2014). “Rather than
depicting a character as gay outright, Soulban worries companies will retcon
sexuality or issue surprise reveals once they’ve already been embraced by the
masses” (Karmal, 2014). GaymerX creative director Matt Conn says that one has
the “fear that the first company that
makes a AAA title featuring a gay character will not only fail, but that they
will be branded as the ‘gay’ company who makes ‘gay games’ and that they’ll lose
their 18-35 male demographic” (Lejacq, 2014).  Now in comparison to representations of women
in video games, LGTBQ characters are still significantly less than that of
women. But then the representation of women is also significantly less compared
to that of males in video games. Because it is a man’s world, video games are
mainly made for men and when women are portrayed in them, they are “strictly
formulated for the male gaze” (Perry, 2012). As a gamer myself, it does disturb
me that there are not enough female protagonists in most games and that women
are generally being portrayed in a sexual way or helpless. In reality, women
are now taking charge of their lives and are not as helpless as we are made out
to be. Some games such as The Sims
series and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider have
given female gamers the opportunity to identify with the characters and build
on their self-identity. The Sims 4 release last year introduced many different
features; it brought about more job opportunities for characters as one does
not have to stick to a job that is stereotypically fit for a certain gender. My
sim currently has a job in Public Relations, and in several other Sims
versions, my sim was a firefighter and a real estate agent. All jobs that are
generally meant for men. Other games such as FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) had
introduced 12 women’s national teams in 2015 and now they have 15 teams but
compared to the number of male teams, that number is annoyingly small. FIFA
still has a long way to go as they are lacking some characteristics such as
career mode for women and letting the women’s teams play against the male teams
(Yang, 2017). On the other
hand, some games are still showing women through negative stereotypes in games.
The stereotypes usually include the general ‘damsel in distress’ or the ‘slut’.
The Grand Theft Auto series has been negatively portraying women since its
first release. Most female character are shown dressed in skimpy clothing
(bikinis, lingerie, mini-skirts or shorts). These women can be seen walking on
the streets begging men to give them money and/or have sexual intercourse with
them. Then, there are the various strip club locations where the strippers are shown
in most cases; topless and in extremely tiny swimwear, heels, lacy or fishnet
tights and excessive makeup. The women are paid to dance on stripper poles and
give lap dances to the male customers and sometimes, they women go home with
the men to sleep with them. While GTA IV is starting
up, it does show a blonde woman in a bikini who bears resemblance to Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton. There are also other action or
fighter games such as WWE, Marvel and DC games which depict women with overly
enhanced body parts and small skimpy clothes to fight with. Their breasts are
usually enlarged, as well as their bum, their waist is made to look super thin
and their whole appearance is created to please male players, regardless of
what female players may think. Then there is the ‘damsel in distress’
stereotype which according to Perry (2012): “… constitutes
either cute or sexy female characters, helpless without the aid of a male
counterpart. When not crying out for help, they function simply as eye-candy or
shoulder-decorations for the male characters in the game’s story”. An example
would be the very popular Mario series
character Princess Peach gets captured by a gorilla in the game and is kept
locked away until Mario comes and saves her. Other examples are Ms. Pac-Man from
the Pac-Man games, Sherry Birkin from
the Resident Evil series, Pauline from
the Donkey Kong series and Princess
Zelda from The Legend of Zelda series.
These games have been well-known over the years, they may have some female
protagonists but they were still stereotypically made for male gamers. Only a
select few of video games which I know and have played managed to portray women
positively. Chun Li from the Street Fighter
series and Kasumi from the DOA: Dead or
Alive series were both known for their advanced fighting skills, in-depth
backstory and lead roles in their games. In comparison to male characters in
all video games, they are “portrayed in normal or masculinized way”
& Peng, 2009). For example, in most fighter games such as Injustice and Final Fantasy series, the male characters are always well-built in
shape and have enormous muscular features. Take the Hulk for example, when he
is angered in human form, he quickly morphs into a giant, green and muscular
version of his human self, Bruce Banner. He then has the power to destroy whatever
is in his path until he calms down and morphs back to human form. Even with female protagonists being featured in games, it
does not still answer the question as to why women are being depicted as they
are in games. Perry (2012) states that: “video game companies function like any
other entertainment industry, and create characters like this not because they
wish to perpetuate misogyny or sexism, but rather because no one can deny that
it makes profits. The supplier does not perpetuate misogyny; the demander does,
and as long as the demand remains, the supply is economically obliged to remain
as long as profits are the primary interest”. Although there are female staff
working in the gaming industry, the misogyny and sexism in games would not
change overnight or even for a while. Even with the creating of more relatable characters
and in-depth storyline, it still does not mean the male consumers would stop demanding
for sexy female characters. Aside from that, gaming companies still do not wish
to make more in-depth female characters as according to several gaming blogs
and interviews I have encountered over the years, the same answer is being said
repeatedly and that is the cost of adding female protagonists to a game is more
costly and laborious compared to that of a male lead character.

In conclusion to both points being made about LGBTQ and
female characters in games, the right illustration of LGBTQ community and women
in all forms of media is crucial.  The
media is an excellent device for growing understanding and acknowledgement with
one’s self and others around. It is key for women and LGBTQ people being represented,
as we regularly follow what is out in the world to help us apprehend the different
components of our identification that we do not seem to recognize or have difficulties
tolerating. it is also vital to others as a way of viewing the way some cultures
live without assuming through stereotypical portrayals. Whilst gaming has made
terrific improvements with the way it depicts both women and LGBTQ community,
that window continues to be uncertain and misrepresented in relation to gay men
and the sexualisation of women. Shaw (2009) concludes that “inclusion for the
sake of inclusion would result in tokenism and poor video game”. This means
that having LGBTQ or female characters in games just for the sake of trying to
please gamers who request it would be a waste. There should be in-depth content
and not just stereotypes. Gamers such as myself want to be able to identify and
relate with our favourite characters and be taken seriously.

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