Have you ever found yourself pondering the sexuality of Nathan Drake in Uncharted or Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Assassins Creed?
No? This isn’t surprising.
For so long now the orientation of protagonists in AAA Games has been on auto-select.
It came as a surprise to most when Metroid star Samus Aran revealed herself as a fully-fledged woman underneath her suit of power armor. Nintendo went outside the box with this ‘bait-and-switch’ type reveal but AAA game developers don’t appear to be following suit just yet and it begs the question, why?
Recently you may have seen the furor surrounding the comments of Ubisoft lead writer, Lucien Soulban (an openly gay man himself) who voiced his opinions on the matter saying “So when are we going to see that gay protagonist in a AAA game? Not for a while, I suspect, because of fears that it’ll impact sales.”
“Either we’ll see a bait-and-switch like the original Metroid with Samus Aran where we’ll find out damn near after the fact, or it’ll come out of left field with Rockstar, Valve, Naughty Dog or Telltale, perhaps.”
Now not to be completely ignorant – AAA games have experimented with gay protagonists in the past (e.g. Mass Effect series) but it’s pretty clear that this is still something of a rarity.
Selling games with gay protagonists may be a cause for concern in the games industry and perhaps this why the few gay characters we are seeing being slowly introduced still remain on the outskirts of the narrative.
“We’ll definitely see more gay characters on the periphery, continued Soulban. It just won’t be obvious.
“I think it’s happening quietly. Look at the choices offered in Mass Effect 2 & 3, or Fable 3, or Dragon Age 2 or Skyrim, the gay characters in Borderlands 2 who mention it without much fanfare, etc. Videogames have stopped ‘announcing’ gay characters. They’re introducing them without much fanfare in an effort to say, Yeah, it’s there and pretty normal. Call it: We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re busy working.”
So if marketing is the issue here you have to stand back and think are capitalism and gay liberation really mortal enemies?
If big AAA games companies like Ubisoft decide upon their characters orientations and whatnot based on cold hard market research that doesn’t really disqualify bringing homosexual characters to the fore.
Facebook famously expanded its gender identification options and some cynics saw this as a ploy by the $100 billion dollar empire to revel in even more advertising revenue.
In a recent interview Matt Conn, CEO of Midboss and the creative director of the LGBT-focused games convention GaymerX , said the commercial defense against LGBT protagonists is “an awful copout thing to say.”
He bases this logic on 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.”
“And to that I say: that is bullshit”
“You see Fox Searchlight putting out queer movies, you see Modern Family on ABC. And people still go and watch those action movies.”
So…many games companies may “continue to let fear reign over their business decisions” it seems inevitable that pretty soon somebody is going to take the ‘risk’ and possibly reap the rewards for doing so.
After all who dispelled Harry Potter when they found out Dumbledore was gay?
Maybe a few… but with a franchise worth approximately $24,751,000,000 (1.1.14) I think J.K Rowling had the right idea.
On your marks…
Writer: Amanda Connolly