From Kurt in Glee to Captain Jack in Torchwood, from Thirteen in House to Naomi in Skins, recent years have given us a glut of gay and bisexual characters on TV.
Surprisingly, given its macho image, the same has also been true in videogaming. The 2010 game Mass Effect 2 gave the option of a lesbian relationship for those who played the main character as a woman (though not a gay relationship if they played the character as a man). Grand Theft Auto IV produced the downloadable content The Ballad of Gay Tony. And while Hollywood still seems to have a problem hiring gay actors to play gay characters, British-made hit game series Fable has cast Stephen Fry as the louche bisexual character Reaver in all three games.
Now, BioWare, creator of Mass Effect, has robustly defended its decision to include gay relationships in its new role-playing game Dragon Age II.
Players who choose to be a man will be flirted with by another male character, as well as by several female characters. But receiving a male flirt, as well as the lack of “exotic” heterosexual romance choices, disturbed one player who posted angrily on a forum that BioWare was neglecting its “main demographic: the straight male gamer”.
“It makes things very awkward,” said this “straight male gamer”, “when your male companions keep making passes at you,” before calling for the implementation of a “No Homosexuality” option, to remove this distressing gayness from the game. He resents the fact that, although in previous BioWare games “almost every companion in the game was designed for the male gamer”, this is no longer the case. Plus, of course, he personally finds homosexuality “digusting”.
The response of David Gaider, senior writer at BioWare, was masterly: “Privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance . . . And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least.”
Hollywood may still have trouble making gay movies or casting gay actors, but the gaming industry is already far more grown up.