In a world where LGBT characters and personalities are becoming far more common, with shows like Shameless, Orange is the New Black and Rupaul’s Drag Race providing mainstream entertainment with queer people from all types of backgrounds. But as TV and film diversifies, gaming is a often a medium left behind.
It’s far more rare for a mainstream game to feature a female character let alone a gay one, though things are getting better and LGBT characters are beginning to worm their way into games providing diverse tales with the interactive and immersive storytelling that only videogames can muster.
So I have gone through videogames past and present to find my Top 10 LGBT characters in games, we’re sticking to games from Western developers as the Japenese could probably have a list all their own.
10. Trevor Phillips from Grand Theft Auto 5
Grand Theft Auto is often lambasted by critics for it’s incredibly graphic violence and glamorisation of guns and gang culture, but many miss the nuances and subtext of the world and diversity of the characters within the games. There have been a few LGBT characters in GTA, but Trevor Phillips is the first time you take control of an (unconfirmed) pan-sexual character.
Trevor is a violent sociopath, killing without remorse, but he is also fiercely loyal to those close to him – a complicated and well written multi-layered person which is equally important for LGBT representation in gaming. He is certainly not a positive influence to the LGBT movement but having characters of all backgrounds is important especially with GTA being such a massive franchise played by millions of gamers. Evidence for his pan-sexuality come from him openly and joyously admitting to raping men in prison, his “any holes a goal” mentality is refreshing in the heavily heterosexual gaming landscape, as well flirting with anything that moves.
Special mention to GTA 4 and the Ballad of Gay Tony. Rockstar are one of the few developers that are never afraid to diversify their character rosters and long may in continue, hopefully with more positive characters in the future for both women and the LGBT community.
9. Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect Series
Mass effect gives the player the option to romance certain characters regardless of their gender. Bioware are pioneers of choice making games and their RPG’s set a template that all other western RPG’s have followed. As the male Commander Shepard players can even sleep with another male character if romanced properly. In Mass Effect 3 the player can flirt with Cortez to the point where they wake up in bed together, ding dong!
The Mass Effect fanbase has largely accepted these options, however the games have received some ire from gamers on the political right with many expressing displeasure at the time of Mass Effect 3’s release, this hasn’t stopped Bioware continuing with choice regarding sexuality in their other games though. On the other hand others have complained about the lack of options when playing the game as a gay man with very few romantic options for gay men compared to both gay women and heterosexual characters.
After Mass Effect Andromeda’s disappointing reception and Anthem being… well terrible – it might be a while before Bioware get another chance to represent the LGBT community. But we are hoping for even more depth and breadth for role playing as whoever you want to be in their next installment.
8. The Hero (Chicken Chaser) from The Fable Series
The Fable games are a one of a kind RPG, a dark and comedic fantasy world where forming relationships are just as important as slaughtering your enemies. The 2004 original game was well ahead of its time in terms of representation, with the role playing elements of the game meaning you can fall in love and marry almost any NPC in the game man or woman.
For the games sequel things were expanded further with the player choosing whether play as a female or male, the ability to cross dress and marry someone of the same sex – so you could live out your life as lesbian, gay man or a bisexual. It features on this list as the Fable Universe had gay marriage even before the UK or the USA did, which in my book is mighty impressive!
Fable 2 also features a side quest whereby you must find a suitable partner for a farmers son, who hints at being gay, with the father accepting the sons sexuality after only presenting him with female suitors. Very progressive indeed. Maybe we’ll see more of this in the rumoured Fable reboot?
7. Jim Miller from Deus Ex Mankind Divided
Many games either shy away from introducing gay character or will have them as comic relief flamboyant characters that serve little purpose to the story. Jim Miller bucks this trend featuring heavily in Mankind Divided as the stern and commanding leader whose goal is to keep people safe, a gay man that doesn’t follow any stereotypes and his main notable trait is being good at his job.
His sexuality is discovered gradually through the game and his complicated relationship with his husband and adopted children is a convincing, a rarity in all forms of media and especially a videogame.
Despite him being a supporting player in the game, Miller is a complicated and layered character, he’s someone with an interesting past that could easily be explored further. The Deus Ex world has many potential stories at it’s disposal, it would be great to see Jim explored further if the series ever continues.
6. Parvarti from The Outer Worlds
2019’s Outer Worlds released to a warm reception, the game harkened back to a simpler time of RPG’s that didn’t just constantly expand the physical world, but concentrated on the characters that lived within it. Parvati is a character you discover early on and she instantly became the most popular character in the game.
Parvati is incredibly endearing; she’s sweet, caring and shy but also a capable mechanic and fantastic friend, who prefers to avoid violence, a great ally if you play through the game in non-violent manner. An early mission sees the playable character playing cupid with Parvati and Junlei, you can offer advice on their relationship and learn of their blossoming romance and the difficulties the characters have connecting physically due to Junlei being asexual.
It’s a genuinely sweet mission, and something of a rarity in modern games. Parvati is a loveable character that is certain to feature in the next Outer Worlds game and I can’t wait to see it.
5. Kung Jin from The Mortal Kombat Series
Kung Jin was the first homosexual character to be entered into the Mortal Kombat series, Jin was trained under The White Lotus Society – being gay he believed he would be rejected.
He is the nephew of franchise mainstay Kung Lao and like his uncle is a master of projectiles, coming equipped with his trusty bow and arrow. Kung Jin is unique in that he possesses two types of fatalities which includes decapitation with a round house kick and an impaling arrow move. As in all Mortal Kombat games it’s over-the-top, barbaric and strangely amusing.
Despite Kung Jin being one of the only confirmed LGBT characters in any fighting game, his sexuality is barely mentioned with only this quote “They care only of what is in your heart, not whom your heart desires.” alluding to his homosexuality in the actual game. With such a large roster we’d like to see more from all the fighting game franchises in the future, maybe Kung Jin could have a boyfriend in a future instalment.
4. Cremisius Aclassi from Dragon Age Inquisition
As this lists demonstrates, LGBT characters are usually side characters or are only gay when the player chooses so, it’s a typical attribute of an RPG. This is not to be sniffed at as all forms of representation are important and the community is slowly working its way into mainstream games. Though gay and lesbian characters are becoming more prevalent as time goes on trans representation is still very low.
Bioware feature heavily on this list and their character work is some of the best of all RPG developers, it’s was truly remarkable when they included Krem in Dragon Age Inquisition. Born as a girl, Krem realised he was different from the girls, later in life he concealed his gender status to enlist in the army, which almost lead to his execution for falsifying military documents. After running away he joins Bull Mercenary Company and rises to be second in command.
Interesting storytelling for a character in a fantasy world and handled well by the developers. Krem’s inclusion would be even better had a trans actor played the part. Hopefully in the future Dragon Age games Krem may return for his story to be expanded further.
3. Chloe Price from the Life is Strange Series
This punk rocker from the Hipster minds at Dontnod Entertainment, Chloe is a remarkably deep character whose journey is not only compelling, but is the catalyst for the entire game. Chloe and Max play estranged friends that rekindle their friendship as Max uncovers a mystery regarding Chloe’s lover Rachel.
The game weaves a tight story about friendship and love, in an engaging fantasy coming-of-age story. Chloe is a stubborn young woman with trust issues, she suffers with depression and has had suicidal thoughts – it’s a realistic interpretation of LGBT youth and a daring insight into the mind of a young member of the LGBT community.
The big draw of Chloe is that she features heavily in the first season of Life is Strange and was the leading playable character in the spin-off Life is Strange : Before the Storm. Dontnod’s next title “Tell me Why” will feature a playable trans character, it’s an exciting prospect from a developer with a skill for deep character work and a entertaining stories.
2. Makoa Gibraltar from Apex Legends
It’s rare to find gay men as playable characters in any games, especially those where it’s not the choice of the player . What a surprise it is to see a western developer who are known for creating “dude bro” shooters create a character with surprising depth as well as representing the gay community in a battle royale shooter.
Gibraltar is described as being a “gentle giant” standing in at 6 foot 4, despite the fact he has the ability to crush skulls with his bare hands. Gibraltar’s sexuality is not shied away from with his boyfriend Nikolas playing heavily in his backstory, as well as a complicated history with his father.
He is also notable for being Polynesian as well as gay, Respawn deserve a lot of credit for including Gibraltar in their game and here’s hoping there’s more to come!
1. Ellie from The Last of Us Series
Coming in at number 1 could only be Ellie from The Last of Us. As mentioned previously most of the people on the list are side-characters, though Ellie played a supporting role in the first game, she takes centre stage for the games recently released sequel.
Naughty Dog are masters of story-telling with unprecedented skill in writing deeply flawed and engaging characters. Ellie is no different, in the first game a young woman coming to terms with herself. Growing up in this violent world has a serious impact on Ellie’s mental health, which goes far deeper in the sequel. Ellie’s first coming-out moment featured in the DLC for the first game, with a deeper and more adult orientated relationship blossoming in part 2 with bi-sexual character Dina. We even see both women raise a child together, showing how motherhood can change a characters outlook on life, it’s a sweet and heart warming relationship that’s treated with the utmost respect.
The Last of Us represents Ellie as a lesbian but doesn’t dwell on it, it isn’t the driving force for the story which is commendable in this landscape, especially a AAA mainstream game. All of Ellie’s relationships are relatable and her thirst for vengeance in Part 2 takes the player on a unique journey of an LGBT character that has never been attempted before – it’s a game that deserves the highest praise for its character work.
Special mention must also be made for also introducing other LGBT characters in the Last of Us games such as Bill and trans character Lev, bravo Naughty Dog – you deserve the top spot on this list!