You are on page 1of 15

Absence of Character Diversity Reports in the Gaming Industry

Justin Gross
Red Group

In order to call to attention the video game industry’s lack of positive and realistic
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender representation, discourage the heavy reliance on harmful,

said character must follow three basic rules. The Vito Russo Test states that. and encourage the gaming community as a whole to accept these representations. the LGBT community’s equivalent to the Bechdel Test. Though this test is very new. and could serve to benefit the medium with its particular form of advocacy and involvement. it is evident that due to the test’s broad nature.000 person protest outside the New York Post against sensationalist coverage of the AIDs epidemic (GLAAD organization). 1 .Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group lazy. have character traits and values that go beyond their sexuality or gender identity. LGBT advocacy organizations such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) must research the medium and establish a yearly report on the presence of LGBT characters in the gaming industry. Since their initial protest. the character must be identifiably part of the LGBT community. Though GLAAD prides itself on its strong presence in the scriptwriting process of the TV and film industry (GLAAD organization) the organization has a very distinct lack of coverage in the video game industry. and offensive stereotypes and tropes. in order for either a film or a movie to be counted as including a positive LGBT character. 1985 in New York. this test could easily be applied to the dozens of recent narrative based video games. The GLAAD organization provides its own definition of a positive LGBT character in its description of the “Vito Russo Test”. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was founded on November 14th. as it was established in 2011. beginning its long career of media-related advocacy with a 1. GLAAD has continued to be involved with the portrayal of LGBT people in media such as film and television. and not be easily replaced by a straight or cisgender character within the plot (GLAAD Organization).

with a single text line implying a lesbian relationship (“The Complete History of LGBT Video Game Characters”). and one of gaming’s first transgender characters. In the case of the game Chrono Trigger.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group The video game industry has had an abysmal track record when it comes to positive portrayals. as both the 1995 game Chrono Trigger and 2006’s cult hit Mother 3 suggest (Game Theory: Are Video Games Anti-LGBT?). as the first game to feature LGBT people in any capacity. in the game’s instruction manual the book claims that “He thinks he's a girl. The writers of Nintendo games in particular seem to have an issue when dealing with LGBT characters. the sole transgender character serves a minor role as a secret boss fight. if any portrayals. of LGBT people.. here one minute and gone the next” (Mother 3). originally released a full decade and a half after the genesis of the video game industry.who is a purple dinosaur sporting a red bow. 1988 brought the somewhat controversial release of Super Mario Bros. Many people cite the 1986 game Moonmist. When reading about the in-game enemy named Birdo.2. depraved. it does portray this group of characters as inhuman entities with little regard for human life.he'd rather be called Birdetta” (Nintendo of America).. many games in this newly popularized industry took advantage of harmful and damaging stereotypes when writing LGBT characters. Many transgender characters in past games have been written as villainous and. in many cases. Though Birdo has since had her status erased as both a coded transgender character and villain. even mentally challenged. Since 1988. or even inhuman. and is written as power-thirsty and ruthless (“Flea”). as one of the characters states: “we couldn’t care less about you humans. 2 . While Mother 3 does not paint its small group transgender characters in any particularly villainous way. LGBT characters manifested themselves in video games most commonly as villainous. her original role as an in-game enemy seemed to be the beginning of a trend in the gaming world.

Taking it a step further. with such lines of dialogue as “a lot of young boys will sleep safer in their beds tonight. as both characters are depicted as very blunt. While 1996’s Phantasmagoria 2 does feature what many consider to be the first non-heterosexual character in a video game. The two games featured a gay route for a male and female player respectively. this is not entirely true. featured an event in which the player’s character had to kill the game’s only identifiable LGBT character. Instances of villainizing LGBT people have even occurred as recently as February 2016.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group Many more instances of poorly depicted LGBT characters exist beyond mainstream companies like Nintendo. and even sadistic (“Shara And Zero Are The Two Bisexual Characters In Fire Emblem Fates”). The game. however. This is not to say that the games industry has not made tremendous steps when it comes to positive portrayals of LGBT characters. with Nintendo’s release of Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest/Birthright. and even an implied child molester.” being spoken upon his death (Red Dead Redemption. The said character also happened to be a criminal. 2010 to critical acclaim. it was also two steps back. the game World Heroes Perfect features a gay character who appeals to the stereotype of effeminance and even can be seen committing rape (Game Theory: Are Video Games Anti-LGBT?). and Nintendo of America highly publicized this fact after receiving backlash for removing the option of same-sex marriage from their game Tomodachi Life just two years earlier (McWhertor). Though many wish to believe that the industry as a whole has moved on from its reliance on such damaging stereotypes. Rockstar Games). Many of the industry’s most popular and acclaimed 3 . Video game developer Rockstar Games released Red Dead Redemption on May 18th. promiscuous. Though this was a step forward for the conservative company. the bisexual man can be seen participating in sexual acts meant to further remind the player of his perceived depravity.

writer Jennifer Hepler was forced to leave development studio BioWare after facing harassment for her work on the game Dragon Age II (Robert Purchese). they were more than enough to set the gaming community on a vitriolic warpath. In reality. interactive medium.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group games of the past few years have predominantly featured characters on the LGBT spectrum. This includes the game’s protagonist. Though the industry has no doubt improved between now and 1986. it is evident that it still has a long way to go when it comes to the issue of LGBT characters in the medium. Hepler’s harassment escalated. Though both Quinn and Kotaku proved these allegations false. the fact stands that the community as a whole is one of the most toxic. Sarkeesian’s YouTube show Feminist Frequency. Though the gaming community prides itself on being pioneers of a modern. who falls outside of the binary male or female pronouns and is not identified as either (Rantasmo). Just a year later. was taken as a direct attack by the gaming community. One need look no further than the recent #GamerGate debacle that erupted on Twitter in mid 2014. not the point where the lives of 4 . The movement initially began with many accusing developer Zoe Quinn of cheating on her then boyfriend with a journalist from the website Kotaku in order to receive good reviews for her game Depression Quest. which critiqued many forms of media from a feminist perspective. and thus warranted harassment and personal attacks on a massive scale. and unwelcoming groups on the internet. Anita Sarkeesian is another primary example of such harassment. Bigger games like Square Enix’s Life is Strange features a bisexual protagonist. and many games produced by developers such as BioWare and Bethesda consistently include LGBT characters (Rantasmo). Sarkeesian merely wished to call to attention issues of sexism in the games medium (TEDx Talks). The independently developed Undertale has a cast comprised of primarily LGBT characters. (Caitlin Dewey).

Though the gaming community has. and the presence of LGBT characters in media not only benefits LGBT consumers of media. in recent years. he simply is trans (Jessica Lachenal). the gaming community is still largely a boy’s club. Though many claim that statements she made in an interview which occurred five years prior to the event were the driving force. white man (feministfrequency). As many critics of the gaming industry and community have observed. and the still prevalent ideal of an average gamer is that of a straight. in the past few years some gamers have grown to become more comfortable with the presence of LGBT characters. Representation of the LGBT community is an important issue in any form of modern media.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group her and her family members were threatened. grown to better accept the presence of minority groups in both games and community spaces. and reaffirms how desperately it needs to change its ways. many gamers joined in on the harassment due to their dissatisfaction over the inclusion of gay characters in the game (Susana Polo). The “GamerGate” issue and the harassment faced by both Sarkeesian and Hepler help to highlight the undeniable fact that a large number of the gaming community is incredibly unwilling to accept depictions of any group that they see is not themselves. BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition also featured a prominent trans male character who was met by the gaming community with open arms (Rantasmo). The recent installment of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate gave gamers a transgender male character whose gender plays no big role in his storyline. While the community has had a miserable streak in terms of accepting change. seeing oneself in an actor or character can help to build a 5 . For those within any minority community. but also positively affects people who identify as heterosexual (Parker Molloy). it has just recently shown its intolerance to these groups.

gay. With its already strong resources and strategies. due to gaming’s status as the fastest growing form of entertainment media in addition to the industry’s increased tendency to produce character-driven narratives. and transgender gamers. bisexual.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group positive sense of identity (Olivia Heusinkveld). as those individuals within the community have made their identities known. Though it is not clear what percentage of gamers identify within the LGBT spectrum. as well as the Vito Russo Test to judge if a character falling under the LGBT spectrum is a strong. it is evident that there is no shortage of lesbian. It is undeniable that the GLAAD organization has a strong influence over the representation of LGBT people in television and movies. it is no surprise that these ideas can easily be applied to the medium. and transgender characters in film. and this is no different for young people within the LGBT spectrum. The only way to 6 . bisexual. and is simply dragging its feet on the matter. The issue of poor representation of LGBT people in the gaming industry and community is clearly not one that will simply fade over the next few years if left ignored. as they are more homogenous in modern culture. it is shocking to know that the GLAAD organization has devoted none of its time the video game world. Though these ideas apply primarily to television and film. the advocacy group has forced film and TV studios to take responsibility for their poor or lacking representation (GLAAD Organization). the use of the “Studio Responsibility Index” to gauge the presence of gay. Through its advocacy within the TV and film industry. positive representation. It is clear that the GLAAD organization has no reason not to invest its time within the gaming industry. LGBT representation in mass media also builds a sense of tolerance in those outside of the community (“LGBT MEDIA’S POSITIVE EFFECT ON SOCIETY”).

GLAAD boasts of its involvement in the filmmaking process.. 2014. Provides evidence of harassment committed in the name of GamerGate. 2016. 2014. Caitlin. It is imperative that organizations like GLAAD invest time and research into the medium. They’re a Hate Group.p.” The Daily Dot. Dewey. 10 Oct. N. 20 Mar. Annotated Bibliography Allaway. Web. Jennifer. 2016. “The Only Guide To GamerGate You Will Ever Need. It is evident that GLAAD has the power to cause great change in the gaming industry. 14 Oct. without a doubt. Provided details on the GamerGate debacle 7 . 20 Mar.” Jezebel. Web.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group end the problem is by calling to attention those responsible for it. “#Gamergate Trolls Aren’t Ethics Crusaders. Gawker Media. and its influence over the writing and inclusion of LGBT characters in television and film (GLAAD organization). but its outright neglect of the medium is. failure to act on its responsibility.

20 Mar. Jack. 2016.” Chrono Trigger. Jessica. Backs up the claim that GLAAD deals directly with the TV and film industry.” The Daily Dot. 2016. provides description of the Studio Responsibility Index and the Vito Russo Test Heusinkveld. 23 Mar. Provides information on the transgender character in Assassin’s Creed 8 . “The Vito Russo Test. .d. n. n. 2016. Provided a starting point for research on the history and portrayal of LGBT characters in games. Web. 2015.” GLAAD. 20 Mar.. 19 Mar. 2016. 2015. Web. n.d.. “WHY DOES MEDIA REPRESENTATION MATTER?” The Wake.-.. 19 Mar. “Ned Wynert: Assassin’s Creed‘s First Transgender Character. Web. GLAAD 2016. Wikia. Provides a definition of what counts as a positive LGBT character in film or tv GLAAD Organization. 2016. Provides descriptions of the negative effects of poor representation of minorities in media Lachenal. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. 2016.” GLAAD. “About GLAAD.p. 25 Sept. GLAAD Organization. GLAAD Organization.d.” GLAAD.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group Flanagan. “The Complete History of LGBT Video Game Characters. Web. “Flea. 18 Mar. N. Web. 16 May 2014.” The Mary Sue. N. Provided information on the transgender character in Nintendo’s Chrono Trigger GLAAD’ Report on LGBT Images in Films Released by ‘Big Six’ Studios. Web. Olivia. “’GLAAD Introduces ‘Studio Responsibility Index. The Daily Dot. 18 20 Mar. Web. 2014.

” Elijah’s Blog. Alec. Provided evidence of the heavily straight male dominated gaming industry McWhertor. Nintendo Confrims.” Polygon. 9 . 2014. 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male. States that Nintendo wished to remedy bad press gained from the Tomodachi Life incident. Michael. 2016. 20 Mar.” Hello Giggles. Provides descriptions on the positive effects of LGBT representation in media. 14 Sept. Google. Feministfrequency. N. 2016. 2015. 25 Sept. 27 Apr. “’Fire Emblem Fates Will Include Same-Sex Marriage. 2 Dec. “Why Media Matters in the Fight for LGBT Rights. 23 June 2015. 20 Mar. RAM PAGES. Mother 3. “Assassin’s Creed Has Trans Character. 19 Mar. Provides descriptions of the positive effects of LGBT representation in media McIntosh. Jonathan. 2015.. Video Game Provided evidence for the game’s transgender characters being callous towards human life. Parker.p.p. Unofficial Translation by Clyde Mandeline. 2006.. Meer. Vox Media. 2014. Web. N. Nintendo of Japan. Web. YouTube. 20 Mar.” Rock Paper Shot Gun.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group “LGBT MEDIA’S POSITIVE EFFECT ON SOCIETY. Web. Provides information on Assassin’s Creed’s transgender character. Molloy. Web. 20 Mar. 2016. Prod. 2016. Web. Provides evidence that Nintendo included gay characters in its release of Fire Emblem Fates. 2016.

d. YouTube. Rantasmo. Provided details on the Hepler incident. 2014.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group Mullis. Pattrick. BioWare Needs More Gay. 2016. N.” Media Smarts. 20 Mar... et al. Provided descriptions of treatment of LGBT people in the gaming industry. 20 Mar. Backed the claim of Birdo being the first transgender character in a Video game. 1988. 20 Mar. Google. Youtube. 5 May 2014. 2013. Provided information on the opinion piece “25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male.-. Provides evidence of the LGBT characters in the game Undertale. NPR. 20 Feb. 2012. 19 Mar. Web. Google. Web. “Gaming While Male: A ‘Privilege’ Few Men Recognize.” All Tech Considered.” Nintendo of America. Google. LGBT Stereotypes in Media: Midwest Media Expo Panel. Steve. 2016.” EuroGamer. Provides an overview of damaging and 10 . Matthew.p. 2016. 2: Instruction Booklet: Japan: Nintendo of America. 5 July 2015. 28 Jan. 2015. “Fan-harassed writer Jennifer Hepler leaves BioWare. Print.p. Web. Robert.” The Mary Sue. TheGameTheorists. 20 Mar. Provided evidence of the gaming industry’s streak of poor depictions of LGBT characters. 2016. Web. 2016. 2016. N. n. “Inclusion: What Jennifer Hepler’s Story is All About. Super Mario Bros. 16 Aug. Web. 2016. Game Theory: Are Video Games Anti-LGBT? Prod.p. 20 Mar. 2016. Purchese. Described the presence of LGBT characters in BioWare games.. 20 Mar. Google. as well as previous instances of LGBT representation. YouTube. N. Undertale Needs More Gay.. Provided details on the Hepler incident “Queer People in Other Media. 8 Dec. Web. . Susana. Web. YouTube. Web. Rantasmo. 27 Apr. Polo. 19 Mar.

Rockstar Games. 2013. Escapist Magazine. 16 Aug.p. as well as describing the toxicity of the gaming community. death threats leaves job. Web. 2016. 2010. Sampson.-. 2016. 2 July 2015. Oh What A Lovely Conspiracy (Jimquisition). Provides evidence for the characterization of the two gay options in Fire Emblem fates Sterling. Prod. Provided evidence of harassment faced by Anita Sarkeesian as a primary source “’Shara and Zero are the Two Bisexual Characters in Fire Emblem Fates. 8 Sept. Social Justice Warriors. Tim. N. Provided information on the Hepler incident. 15 Sept. Prod. 2016. 2016. YouTube. Provided evidence of the game’s sole LGBT character being a criminal. 20 Mar..” MyNintendoNews. Jim. 20 Mar. 26 Aug. 11 . N. 2014. Google. Provided information on the Jennifer Hepler incident. Google. Web.. Web.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group negative stereotypes and tropes of LGBT people. YouTube.. Google. Anita Sarkeesian at TEDxWomen 2012. 4 Dec. .. 20 Mar. Provides information on occurrences during the GamerGate incident . and Ganondorf (Jimquisition). “BioWare writer targeted with harassment. Web. Web. 2016. 19 Mar. Red Dead Redemption. 2010. 2014.. I’M GOING TO MURDER YOUR CHILDREN (Jimquisition). Sarkeesian. 20 Mar. TEDx. Google.p..” The Daily Dot. YouTube. Prod. Web. Escapist Magazine. Video Game. 2013. Provided evidence of the gaming community’s toxic nature.-. and details on her harassment. Escapist Magazine. Prod. Anita. YouTube. 20 Mar. 2016.

“The Only Guide To GamerGate You Will Ever Need. “Flea. 2016. Works Cited Dewey. n. 2014. 19 Mar. 20 Mar. Caitlin. The Daily Dot.” The Daily Dot. 16 May 2014. Web.-.” Chrono Trigger. Flanagan.p. 2016. 2016. Escapist Magazine. Provides information on the toxic nature of the gaming community.d. 14 Oct. Wikia. Web.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group . Web. 12 . 19 Mar. 2014. “The Complete History of LGBT Video Game Characters.” The Daily Dot.. YouTube. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. TOXIC (Jimquisition). Prod. 20 Mar. N. 21 Oct. Web. 2016.. Jack. Google.

Web. N.” GLAAD. N.. Vox Media. Lachenal.. n. 2016. 18 Mar. n.’ Report on LGBT Images in Films Released by ‘Big Six’ Studios. GLAAD Organization. 20 Mar. Parker. “’GLAAD Introduces ‘Studio Responsibility Index. 2015.d. “Ned Wynert: Assassin’s Creed‘s First Transgender Character. Mother 3.” Hello Giggles. Google.p.” GLAAD. “About GLAAD.-. YouTube. 27 Apr. “Why Media Matters in the Fight for LGBT Rights. “’Fire Emblem Fates Will Include Same-Sex Marriage. 2016.p. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. N. 18 Mar. Nintendo Confrims. Heusinkveld. 2016. 25 Sept.” Elijah’s Blog. 2006. 2016. Web. Web. RAM PAGES. GLAAD Organization. Web. Unofficial Translation by Clyde Mandeline. 2: Instruction Booklet: Japan: Nintendo of America. Web. GLAAD Organization.d.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group GLAAD Organization. “LGBT MEDIA’S POSITIVE EFFECT ON SOCIETY. McIntosh. 13 . Web. 2014. 2016. Prod. 23 Mar. GLAAD Organization. Feministfrequency. 2016. ... Nintendo of America. Jessica. 2 Dec. 2014. Super Mario Bros. “WHY DOES MEDIA REPRESENTATION MATTER?” The Wake.” Polygon.p. Nintendo of Japan. 2014. Video Game. 23 June” McWhertor. Web. 2016. 14 Sept. Web. 2016. 2o Mar. 2016. 20 Mar. 2015. “The Vito Russo Test. 20 Mar.” The Mary Sue. Olivia. 20 Mar. Michael. 19 Mar. Jonathan. 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male.

2015. 2 July 2015. BioWare Needs More Gay. Youtube. “’Shara and Zero are the Two Bisexual Characters in Fire Emblem Fates.” MyNintendoNews. N.” EuroGamer. Google.Justin Gross 3/21/2016 Red Group 1988. 16 Aug. 2010. Web. 2016. 14 . 2016. YouTube. Anita. 19 Mar. Web. LGBT Stereotypes in Media: Midwest Media Expo Panel. Pattrick. 2013. Print. Susana. Web. 2016. 2010. 28 Jan.-. Prod. Video Game Sarkeesian. TEDx. Web. Anita Sarkeesian at TEDxWomen 2012. 4 Dec.. “Fan-harassed writer Jennifer Hepler leaves BioWare. Web.. Purchese. Rockstar Games. Rantasmo. 5 July 2015. “Inclusion: What Jennifer Hepler’s Story is All About. 20 Mar..p. 2016. et al. Polo. Matthew. Web. Web. 20 Feb. Google. Google. 2012. YouTube. 2016. Google. 20 Mar. 2016. Robert. 19 Mar. 19 Mar. 2016. 20 Mar. 2016. Game Theory: Are Video Games Anti-LGBT? Prod. Undertale Needs More Gay. N. 5 May 2014. N. TheGameTheorists. 20 Mar. . Google. YouTube. 8 Dec..p. Red Dead Redemption. Web. 2016. YouTube.” The Mary Sue. 20 Mar.