Homophobia and online games

Kotaku today put up an interesting post regarding homosexuality in games. Seeing as I am a gay man and also part of the games industry I thought I should put up some of my thoughts in the comments section. My comment turned out to be quite long so I though I should also post it here for those who are interested.

The original Kotaku article is here. Read on for my thoughts on the subject.

As a gay man and ceo/creative director of a game company I thought I’d weigh in with my opinion/thoughts.

I find when playing online that there are people who use the word ‘gay’ as “that is bad” or “I don’t like that”. In those instances I ignore it and don’t really think about it as an insult or ignorance. Sure there are better choices of words however it is not being directed at anyone.

Then there are the people who use words like ‘gay’, ‘nigger’ jew’ and so forth directed at other players. This I find offensive and not because I am gay. I find it offensive because those people are deliberately using those words as an insult and one can directly infer that the user views those groups as inferior to him/herself. You don’t use those sorts of slurs if you don’t think those you are slurring are bad in someway.

What is hard is that the former use of ‘gay’ is fairly unique to homosexuality in that I cannot think of any other negative words we use to describe objects or situations which come from a minority slur. We don’t say that is so ‘nigger’ or that is so ‘jew’. However because I have become accustom to it and because it is directed at a situation rather than an individual I am ok with ignoring it (ok meaning indifferent not over the moon).

I am not ok with ignoring direct personal attacks on other players regardless of the words used. Calling someone a ‘nigger’, ‘jew’ or ‘fag/gay’ can only be construed as an insult and is being used to incite hate, to bully and to assert control over the situation. This has to be stopped.

I’m not saying that we should all hold hands and sing songs round a camp fire. Great online gaming should raise our passion and ire. Let’s just try to keep the insults out of it!

Just because you owned me in Halo doesn’t mean that I’m a ‘nigger’, or because your rogue ganked me in PVP doesn’t mean I’m a ‘jew’, neither does me repeatedly coming last in PGR make me ‘gay’.

In terms of identity on and offline that is a harder subject. Both on and offline being gay is often an invisible aspect to ones being while being black, hispanic etc is not (well offline it isn’t). This is a double edged sword. Firstly minorites who can be identified by looks e.g. a chinese person a) don’t have to come out as being chinese and b) can therefore be targeted more easily by those who hate them. Gay people on the other hand are not, always, so easily identifiable. This then leads to the situation where there is, at some point, a need to ‘come out’

My personal way of tackling this is to speak about my relationships in the same way straight people do. I call my partner ‘my other half’ and also say ‘X and I went to the cinema last night…’ by doing this people often infer the situation and we move on or ask directly oh what is your girlfriends name (to which I reply with his name and then they go ‘Oh’ laugh and we move on). I find that most people react better when they feel you are not politicising your beliefs/gender/sexuality/race, so I try not to.

Online I do the same. I am not rushing out to shout about who I am and at the same time I am not hiding it. However if someone online calls me a ‘fag’ at the end of a game of Halo I will say that I am. More often than not there is stunned silence, a giggle and they log off.

Finally, more and more,  I am finding myself in a dilemma. This being that there are few positive gay role models in the public eye (due to our minority being more invisible). This leads to a difficult situation. Anyone, regardless or race/gender etc, can look up to a great actor such as Samuel L Jackson for how great he is, however it is also important for black people to have positive role models. To see someone of your own race up their doing well suggests, as a child, that you too can go onto great things.

We need, in my opinion, the same thing for gay role models. Currently being gay on TV and Film is relegated to being ‘fey’ and ‘camp’ and reinforces to young gay people that that is what is expected of us. If would be nice if actors such as Vin Diesel, Tom Cruise and so forth, if they are actually gay (and they may well not be) to use their status as positive role models.

If we had more positive role models for gay people in normal situations doing normal things then gay as a negative concept would diminish and the need to politicise it, in my opinion, would also diminish.

Why can Bruce Willis in Die Hard not be a gay man? Would it change the film that much if instead of saving his wife, and co-captives, he was saving his husband/boyfriend? His wife has little or no bearing on the plot, however we are reminded that he is straight right from the start. Or should gay people only be the camp/confused best friend of the lead character in a day-time soap?

Could Mario one day be saving the Prince from the tower? Would that really change much of the game for your? Is it gay to be sometimes saving Luigi, Mario’s ‘brother’, whom Mario lives with (see the Paper Mario series for the saving of Luigi, I think)?

I agree that putting gay themes into a game for the sake of it is not required. However you cannot say that Solid Snake chatting up women, or Bruce Willis trying to save his wife, or Mario saving a Princess is no less ‘flaunting’ heterosexuality than having lead character who mentions he is gay or possibly is motivated to save his lover guns blazing is ‘flaunting’ homosexuality.

Anyway as a gay man and someone who has set up their own games company I’d like to sign off by saying that being gay in the games industry is possible and you can achieve your dreams. I look forward to reading the rest of this discussion here or at nnooo.com



CEO/Creative Director Nnooo

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