COG Considers: Where Are All the LGBT+ Characters?
Romanceable options have become a big thing over the last couple of years. As games have become bigger and more ambitious, we’ve seen more and more of them stray away from the traditional set-in-stone relationships and give players the chance to pick their own romances. It makes sense, in a way. Sure, some games are as much about romance as anything else. Look at Final Fantasy X: some flirting here and there is fine, sure, but the game’s entire narrative would be very different if Tidus could end up with, say, Lulu or Wakka instead of Yuna. But what about Fallout 4, or Persona 5 Royal, or Life is Strange 2? None of those games have plots devoted to your love life, so you get to choose who you want to end up with.
So why the hell do we not have more same-sex options?
I mean, it’s the 21st century. Gay people are (supposedly) everywhere, but video games are seemingly a couple of steps behind, and it showcases itself in some really obvious ways.
First, let’s look at Mass Effect – which is insulting for its attempts to be inclusive, more than anything. True, the first game had a same-sex option, and the second had four… if your Shepherd was a woman. If you’re playing as a guy and want to get with Kaidan or Jacob? Well, you’re out of luck – at least until the third game. Such a basic exclusion feels like it falls back on the tired old “Girl-on-girl is hot” trope, working on the assumption that gamers are comfortable with lesbian romance in a way they aren’t with gay male options, presumably because… well, they think it’s hot. Sure, women who love women get options, but the oversight paints it as an attempt to titillate the straight guys in the audience – Queer women’s enjoyment is purely circumstantial.
And that’s not even the most egregious example. Hell, it’s not even the most egregious example in an RPG game.
Brace yourself because I’m about to say what about Persona 5: What about Persona 5?
I’m not going to say that the game isn’t an absolute masterpiece of the genre, but one area where it does mess up (pretty badly) is the romanceable options. Joker has the option of dating multiple (including, potentially, all at once) female characters throughout the game – 9 in the base game, 10 in Persona 5 Royal. For most of them there’s no issue – they’re all high school girls. If we left it there it’d be… well, not fine, but understandable. It’s the other four relationships that are tricky.
The other four relationships are all with adult women.
I get it. A lot of people have crushes on their teachers, but there’s a reason that it always hits the news when a teacher dates a student, and that reason is it’s illegal. Sure, laws are different in Japan, but considering Persona 4 reportedly deleted the option to have a gay romance, and Persona 5’s original release had two gay characters who were edited heavily in Royal due to being offensive, it’s a bit glaring that there are no gay options despite the fact that there are no less than four adult women, two of whom are in positions of power over the protagonist (teacher and doctor) who you can choose to romance, and nobody seems to care.
What does it say about society that we’ll look past this issue entirely, but review-bomb a game to hell for having LGBT characters? It’s the 21st century, why is the gaming industry still caught up in such tired – and outright harmful – ideas? Why is statutory rape more palatable to so many people than a gay relationship?
Hell, if you look at it purely from a narrative standpoint, the character that Joker makes the most sense with is Goro – he’s the characters foil, their relationship is one of the most important, and they’re explicitly counterparts – and the rub of it is that if one of them was a girl, nobody would question their relationship.
Sure, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. People will accuse me of seeing things that aren’t there, or pushing an agenda, but if “same-sex romance is more acceptable than a teacher dating a student” is somehow a hot take, so be it.