Even If Yoshi Is Gay, Where Are The Other Gay Video Game Heroes?

Even If Yoshi Is Gay, Where Are The Other Gay Video Game Heroes?

Can an egg-laying dinosaur without sex organs be gay? IGN’s Jack DeVries makes the case that Mario‘s green dinosaur steed with the prehensile tongue is “dating”-in the strange, largely irrelevant backstory that frames the series-Birdo, the pink, bow-wearing dinosaur first seen in Super Mario Bros. 2.

Birdo, according to official Nintendo lore, is male.

The reception to the article has been largely negative. (I’ll spare you the tweets, but it’s broadly variations on “Really?”) I think people are overreacting a bit, but that the overreaction comes largely from the right place: gamers don’t really want to deal with gross characterizations of gay culture. (DeVries’ comment about gay folk not getting sports references particularly grates.)

Yet a larger question looms: Why aren’t there more gay video game heroes?

I wracked my brain to think of openly gay heroes. Not just gay characters-which while not uncommon, seem to be predominately flamboyant, evil, or giggling lesbian stereotypes—but central protagonists. The only characters that sprang to mind are the heroes of BioWare’s role—playing games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, who can be gay depending on what choices the player makes. Better than nothing, certainly, but not the same as a character who is simply gay, no player interaction required. (The case is a little better with supporting characters.)

The explanation could be as simple as why there are few unassailably gay heroes in Hollywood movies: more commercial endeavours than artistic ones, any deviation from the perceived norm that would keep people from spending their money on a game gets sanded away.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to ignore the discovery that DeVries has made about Yoshi and Birdo just because it was presented in such a ham-fisted, lazy way. (Although he’s hardly the first to notice that Birdo is queer.)

That one of Nintendo’s major characters has openly dated a transgendered character is a hilariously small step, but at least it’s in the right direction, especially if Nintendo confirms the official 2003 reference to Birdo (“Catherine” in the Japanese version, but still male) as Yoshi’s “boyfriend”.


  • The better question is: why is Kotaku giving rise to IGN’s incendiary bullshit by following them into the minefield?

    • Bullshit?? I happen to be a gay gamer and you are not the only person who reads Kotaku. Stop being such an elitist! If it’s a current issue under discussion then anyone in the media can report it.

      • Why the hell are homosexuals so obssessed about their representation in games?

        -I don’t pay attention to it, until someone brings it up and forces it to become a topical issue.
        -As a heterosexual, I don’t care about straights being represented or not.
        -I don’t care for the characters until they’re well-written and that also applies to gay ones.

        Why can’t people just live and let live, allowing games and their plots to progress naturally. Being gay in real life doesn’t automatically mean it’s your singular defining characteristic, just as a character who’s gay in a game shouldn’t be designated ‘The Gay One’.

        So why the hell are people like you getting on a soapbox about it. No-one gives a hoot what Birdo is. Gay or not, it doesn’t change the character. Did your perception of Dumbledore change after it was revealed he was gay? Should it?

        Oftentimes, it’s the self-proclaimed ‘gaymers’ who are the most obnoxious, making mountains out of molehills. To steal a quote from Little Britain

        “Ah’m the only gay in deh village!”

        • “… beware of majority privilege. It’s very easy for people who don’t have an issue that the minority feel (and this applies to race and gender– in gaming, particularly– as well as to sexual orientation) to believe that something is “not a problem”. “I don’t see why you’re so uptight about it!” Realize when you make these sorts of comments that you have no idea what you’re talking about, for all our sakes. You don’t know what it feels like to be marginalized, and it behooves those in the majority to use at least a modicum of sensitivity when it comes to addressing such issues. No, games aren’t a platform for social change, but that doesn’t mean we are also absent of responsibility when we include content in our games where such issues can arise. If we were to claim “majority privilege” as our only guide, we do nothing but add to the problem. That said, we do face other limitations– not least of which, as I said, is that this isn’t the point of the game and thus is only ever going to get limited resources.”

          – David Gaider, lead writer for Bioware.

        • @Steve0410 I am an openly gay gamer.

          And you are spot on. Who really gives a fuck what the sexual orientation of a video game character is? People who get hung up on being “gaymers” should get the fuck over themselves, and go back to writing creepy fan fiction between master chief and who ever the hero from the gears of war series was.

          Get over yourselves.

          • whaa? then why do you care? this is a generalization but I feel like gay men can be competitive with who is more “over” being gay. like whos more “chill” with straight guys.

            well if all video games were chill and cool with everyone then lgbt things wouldn’t be campy and/or totally NOT THERE.

            and yeah, straight guy representation = duke nukem which is NOT what most straight guys look like but gaymers just want a not campy, over the top BADASS representation like Vamp.

            gugugugoo fuck yo’self nd stop trying to be the gay dude thats just “a person like everyone else.” some prick out there wants you in hell and you’d get killed in some countries.

  • I for one love it! More gay characters please! Makes for more interesting games.

    And too all the homophobes out there who complain they are just jealous they aren’t getting any. (And are usually gay on the inside).

  • Well like how there’s more Yoshis, Birdo from what’s seen in recent titles has expanded to Birdos. Mainly in the sports games you can see in the audience Blue, Green and Yellow Birdos has shown that it’s expanded into a race so making it possible that there could be both male and female and just maybe that the Birdo who partners up with Yoshi is female. Or something never thought, is it possible that that Yoshi you see is really female!?

  • …Super Mario Bros. 2 isnt even cannon

    It’s not a real game!

    Has mario ever climbed through giant eagle heads since? No.

    Was Yoshi even IN SMB2? no.

    Majo Shinpan wrong.

    • Birdo however IS canon and all the “lore” is made up throughout the kart/sports/party games.

      The reference to Birdo and Yoshi dating was from the official Nintendo Mario Kart site in 2003 and it even says that Birdo might even be a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend.

      It has nothing to do with SMB2.

  • There’s a character in Enchanted Arms who is fuh-laming – not the main character, though so I don’t know if that counts.

    • lol, ‘fuh-laming’.

      Yeah I remember the guy, camp as a row of tents, didn’t he use a saxophone or something?

  • How is Yoshi gay? Yoshi is FEMALE. I don’t care what the instruction manuals say: Yoshi can lay eggs therefore she’s a girl. Either that, or it’s just a game and Yoshi’s sexuality was never considered…

    • Dude remember in brawl, during one of snakes calls. Otacon said its a guy. So its not female. Birdo i dont give a hell about

  • Can we really call characters from a CLEARLY non-human species with CLEARLY not-even-remotely-similar-to-human-reproductive-and-sexual-systems “gay” in the first place? After all, our concepts of sexual preference are based on the context of human beings.

    As for why there aren’t so many gay protagonists in video games, its because players like player-characters they can identify with (or at least aspire towards doing so). The majority of players aren’t gay and therefore making the player character gay would make it more difficult for the player to identify with said character.

    However, I think the best system is where the Player Character’s sexuality is decided by the actual player. This allows everyone to project their own sexual preference/s into the player character.

  • Main characters? As far as I know, none – apart from those where the player can choose a la DA2 or Mass Effect. There will probably never be one, except in niche games in the same way that there are niche film festivals and novels.

    Or maybe I’m just pessimistic? Bioware’s Hawke (and Shepard, but only for the ladies) do have the opportunity to be exclusively gay or lesbian based on player choice; and for the most part it’s been handled incredibly well.

  • Not all games have a ‘romantic’ component though so I think the heterosexuality of the hero is often just assumed (by the player) rather than affirmed by any heterosexual romance action in the the game.

  • Ever though that it’s because most game characters are basically asexual? Very few make mention of their personal lives. You just assume they are straight by default.

    • Agreed. It’s the same way that Dumbledore is gay – his sexuality has nothing to do with the Harry Potter story, so it’s not brought up. Just because a character is gay, it doesn’t mean that’s part of the story; Many games don’t have any romantic/sexual encounters, so there’s no reason to even mention the characters sexuality.

      I like the way Liz Feldman says:

      “It’s very dear to me, the issue of Gay Marriage. Or, as I like to call it: Marriage. You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.”

  • Agreeing with Jordaan and Puck here.
    If we pressed into the lore and universe of many games, I’m sure we’d find that many would be gay or bisexual, but they were too busy saving the world or trying to not die to talk about their sexuality.

    Also agreeing with StudiodeKadent.
    Many times the protagonists is not discussed because they’re left open (along with their personality and voice) so that players can immerse themselves. For all we know, to one player, Master Chief may get all the ladies. To another, MC may prefer all the men. (Apologies if there is some Halo media that makes MC’s sexuality clear)

    And for those that are agreeing with Alex:
    Surely, we can take issues they’re covering and use it for mature discussions, because this is an issue within gaming, especially now that more and more games are dealing with relationships and allow players to pursue romances.

  • I think the REAL question we should be asking here, is…is Yoshi male or female then?

    Apparently in Nintendo canon, male Yoshis cannot lay eggs, which suggests that Yoshi is female.

    But all of this raises a good point. Why the hell do we care? This is incredibly stupid, and if we lived in a tolerant society then we shouldn’t care whether an outdated, ancient, and (recently scrapped) Birdo is dating Yoshi.

    • But when I’m playing MK Double Dash and use the Yoshi/Birdo combo, I want to see how in love they are – it makes my kart go faster.

  • well considering the Mario universe is about a plumber (who doest even fix leaks btw) runs around jumping on enemies, travellig down pipes, collecting coins and eating mushrooms, does it really mater if Yoshi is a dude/chick and if they are straight or gay?

  • Just to provide Yet Another Viewpoint, I point out Birdo is transsexual, not gay, and dating a male would actually be heterosexual for them.

    I say that as a transsexual lesbian.

    Gender and sexuality are not intertwined, regardless that transgender and intersex are part of a grouping that also includes gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

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