by Rowen Rennie
Despite recent setbacks in video games regarding LGBTQ representation (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey retconning your character to being straight regardless if for the rest of the story you played them as gay, lesbian or asexual) there are some shining examples of characters in games. While some come from titles just a few years old, others have been around for decades and become assimilated into the collective consciousness of video games.
Tracer and Soldier 76 – Overwatch
Overwatch is arguably one of the biggest games of the last few years, with the number of players reaching heights of 40 million in 2018. Because of this, its characters are some of the most recognisable in all of pop culture. Two of the characters available to play, Tracer and Soldier 76, have been confirmed to be LGBTQ in comics and short stories admittedly separate from the game itself.
Tracer is the game’s mascot and features heavily on the box art and marketing materials, and in 2016, the comic Tracer: Reflections showed her spending Christmas with her girlfriend Emily. Soldier 76 is the character that most people start the game playing as he stars in the tutorial. The 2018 short story Bastet touched on his backstory and a past relationship with a man named Vincent.
Sadly enough, despite that fact neither of these two characters are changed in the game by their sexuality, many fans of the series complained and accused the game’s publishers of pandering to the LGBTQ community. Some even went as far to swear off the game until the two characters had their sexualities straight-washed.
Dorian and Sera – Dragon Age: Inquisition
RPG giant Bioware have long been known for a dedication to storytelling and attention to giving their companion characters depth. While Effects sprawling space opera had its fair share of LGBTQ characters, the Dragon Age series has had LGBTQ characters since its beginning in 2009.
A staple of the Bioware style of RPG is the romanceable companions, and while in previous iterations, the companions have been either straight or bisexual, Inquisition marked the first title for the series where romanceable characters were either gay or lesbian. Dorian, who seems to have all the wit, charm and dashing good looks of his namesake Dorian Grey, is a mage who’s father attempted to use the magical equivalent of conversion therapy to turn his son straight.
Sera meanwhile is an elf rogue, described as “tequila and skittles” by one of the game’s writers. Mischievous and rebellious, she represents an organisation that looks out for the downtrodden in society and takes a stance against tyrannical leaders.
While both of these characters are only available to romance if the player’s character is the same gender, they both politely rebuff flirtatious advances from characters interested in heterosexual relationships.
Crem – Dragon Age: Inquisition
Despite releasing in 2014, Dragon Age: Inquisition contains one of the first representations of a trans man as a major character in a video game according to the LGBTQ Video Game Archive. A member of the “Bull’s Chargers”, a mercenary band that assist the main character, Crem is a lieutenant for Iron Bull, a horned bisexual warrior voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. (Fred from the live action Scooby Doo films).
In previous games by the same company, trans and gender non-binary characters were handled poorly and written worse. Crem represents a new attitude in terms of writing trans characters; with a breadth and depth previously unseen in the representation of trans characters in video games.
However, the game’s makers made the same mistakes they had in the past with bringing Crem to life. His voice actor is a cisgender woman. This shows that the problems with casting cisgender actors in transgender roles aren’t limited only to television and film.
Poison – Final Fight and the Street Fighter series
Appearing way back in 1989, Poison is one of the earliest depictions of a trans woman, and furthermore one of the earliest depictions of an LGBTQ character, in video games. When her first game Final Fight was released to western audiences, she was removed over concerns of depicting violence against women, although she still appears in the Japanese release.
While she is arguabl more famous for her appearances in the Street Fighter games, along with cameos in other games such as Marvel vs Capcom. Despite debuting as a villain for the heroes to fight, she eventually became a playable character in Street Fighter x Tekken.
While the games themselves do not acknowledge her gender identity, and some of the game’s designers refuse to take a stance either way, some involved with the video game’s development has come out to confirm that she is not a cisgender woman.