Let Queer Characters Be Happy

Let Queer Characters Be Happy

When The Last Of Us Part II‘s new trailer debuted at this year’s E3, protagonist Ellie enjoyed a slow dance and kiss with another woman. My queer friends and I confessed to one another that we were assuming the worst.

That happy girl will probably die, because while games allow us to be many things — space marines, mages, and tenacious heroes — they rarely allow queer people to be happy.

Queer people struggle, as do our intersectional allies. The news is full of horrible daily reminders to all marginalised people that their lives and comfort exist largely at the whim of the privileged. That means bakeries refusing to make your wedding cake or laws meant to keep you out of restrooms.

That struggle has been fetishised by media and is one of the defining traits for queer characters in media. Video games have included more queer characters in recent years — Dorian in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Ellie in The Last of Us, Veronica Santangelo in Fallout: New Vegas and countless others — but all of their stories are tragic. Their partners and lovers are killed. Their families disown or shun them. They seem to be magnets for catastrophe.

Rarely do their stories end in comfort, either from others or the larger world in which they live. We have more gays, trans-people, bisexuals, and others games than ever before. Yet we, comparatively, also have more of their corpses.

BioWare games often include queer characters; the studio took early strides to include gay romance options and trans-people in their works, with games like Jade Empire and Mass Effect offering bisexual romances. Since then, BioWare has expanded to include bisexual mage revolutionaries, queer princesses, and gay soldiers in their games.

These characters are, largely, defined by a pain that their straight counterparts do not share. That pain does not stem from queer marginalisation, but rather, fantastical metaphors that serve as an in-world analogy for anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

Consider Dragon Age 2‘s rebellious mage Anders. A runaway from the church’s oppressive policy of mage isolation, he seeks to free his comrades and usher in a new age for his people. Anders’ struggle comes to a head when he tries to save his ex-lover Karl Thekla from the iron grip of the Templar Order. To Anders’ dismay, Karl has been made Tranquil, a condition where his mind is magically lobotomised.

Karl asks the player to kill him, and if they do not comply, Anders will do it himself. The narrative demands that Anders follow a road to violent revolution; Karl is a sacrifice on that road. The story illustrates the way the in-game society treats mages, and there is a clear parallel here to queer experiences.

Furthermore, it speaks volumes that Anders’ struggle, which borrows heavily from real world queer suffering to pack its emotional punch, requires that his gay lover die — perhaps even by Anders’ own hand.


Few, if any, of BioWare’s queer characters proceed in their storylines without losing their partners; some arrive with these scars at the outset. Mass Effect 3‘s Steve Cortez has two traits: he is an excellent pilot and he is mourning the death of his partner Robert. He is one of the only explicitly gay romance options in the game, and his story revolves around his grief. Jade Empire‘s bisexual pirate Sky mourns the death of his wife and child.

Dragon Age‘s bixsexual assassin Leliana gets sent on a potentially violent crash course with her ex-lover Marjolaine. The most contented queer character that BioWare gives us is Dragon Age: Inquisition’s transgender Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi, whom the player can interrogate, rudely if they want, asking personal questions such as whether or not Krem’s considered the magical equivalent of sex reassignment surgery.

Krem’s happiness is so rare that it is considered a curiosity.

Tragedy often serves as a backstory for straight characters in role playing games, too. Party members of all backgrounds hide hidden pasts and personal struggles that the player can learn about and solve.

But where the mighty Krogan warrior Wrex might rise to lead his species, and the dwarf Varric Thetras ascend to nobility, queer characters’ happy endings often end up being as romance options for the player. We are, more often than not, unsaveable unless we are fuckable, and even that is up to the player.

Games that include queer romance sometimes even place the success of that romance in competition with the success of society as a whole. In Life is Strange, teenager Max Caulfield saves her childhood friend Chloe after unlocking the ability to manipulate time.

Throughout the rest of the game’s episodes, the two women get closer and closer, and the budding seeds of romance bloom between them. But Chloe already has lost one lover before the game even begins. Life Is Strange revolves around the search for Chloe’s missing girlfriend Rachel Amber. That search uncovers a string of sexual abuse and murder in the town of Arcadia Bay, with Rachel as one of the victims.

After uncovering her body, Chloe gets killed by the culprit. That’s two dead gays for the price of one.

Yet, even when Max alters reality to save her friend or bring her happiness, Chloe suffers. In an alternate timeline where Max prevents Chloe’s father from dying, Chloe ends up in a car crash and is paraplegic. In this timeline, Chloe begs Max to euthanise her; the story shuts down both disabled and queer people’s right to happiness in one fell swoop.

In a timeline in which Max prevents Chloe’s murder, a massive hurricane barrels down on Arcadia Bay instead. The pair conclude that the storm is an anomaly created in response to Max’s time-travelling. The final choice is to either sacrifice the town or to travel back in time and allow Chloe to die.

Narratively, the choice feels empty. Max’s personal growth up to this point revolved around a growing understanding of her place in society and learning to accept consequences for her actions. Chloe begs her friend to go back and let her die.

If the player chooses this, the ending sequence is detailed and moving. We see Max’s horror and pained acceptance that the girl she fell in love with is gone forever. This culminates in a scene at Chloe’s funeral. If the player sacrifices Arcadia Bay, a perfunctory cutscene plays during which the pair drives through the wreckage.

That scene is scored with music previously used in an earlier episode. It is rushed and not up to par with the other ending.

This juxtaposition makes Life is Strange‘s ending perplexing and disappointing. The player must choose between queer love and the literal survival of a small town. With the deck stacked like that, the only unselfish action for Max would be to give up her love for the betterment of society.

Chloe can’t survive. No matter how Max fights and no matter what magic she wields, she also has the misfortune of being a queer protagonist in a video game. Her happiness, as well as her partner’s life, were always on the chopping block.


Because I have seen this story so many times, I cannot help but worry that the kiss Ellie shared in The Last of Us Part II‘s trailer is a kiss of death. The post-apocalyptic genre is teeming with corpses already, and moments of respite are often shattered by loss and tragedy. We’ve seen it in The Last of Us multiple times already, including with queer characters.

The reclusive survivor Bill, guiding Joel and Ellie through his booby-trapped town, stumbles across the corpse of his partner Frank. In the DLC campaign Left Behind, a younger Ellie sneaks into a ruined mall with her friend Riley. The pair dance and kiss before before the Infected horde bite them.

Ellie avoids infection — a key plot point in the main game — but Riley, we know, does not survive. She suggests the two of them commit suicide together.

The Last of Us focuses on the frailty of society and individuals, both morally and in the flesh. It makes sense that the characters would endure loss. Joel copes with the death of his daughter and his grief over his inability to protect her; he gravitates to Ellie, who serves as a surrogate child and a bittersweet balm for his prior loss.

In the end, he gets what he wants — to serve the Hero Dad role — although it comes at the expense of many lives and lies.

Ellie seems to have found some of what she’s lost at the outset of The Last of Us Part II, based on the promotional materials released so far. She has found romance again, although it remains to be seen how that relationship will go.

Given the series’ tone and track record, and considering the pile of queer corpses in media as a whole, I cannot imagine a scenario where she gets to keep what she has found.

I want these queer characters to have happy endings, or at least different ones, but I still love the stories that I have, imperfect though they may be. BioWare’s cast of heroes provide examples of bravery and humility that I strive to emulate. Life is Strange‘s tender romance captures a sense of early sexual awakening. The Last of Us‘ Ellie is a goddamn survivor.

All of that is fantastic, but it comes at a price. That price, often, is the agency and happiness of queer characters.

But why do we have to pay that price, and so often? I’m not suggesting that the queers should always get to dance in a field of gumdrops at the end of every game in which they appears, but considering the real world’s continued eagerness to trample the marginalised, one of the most radical things art could do right now would be to show us a world in which we are more than our suffering.


  • Hey! It’s almost as if these Queer characters you’re talking about are people who live in a universe where bad things happen to everyone.
    Why does the fact that these characters are Queer or Trans or Gay or whatever they define as make them any different than say Marcus Fenix when his brother in arms and long time friend Dom sacrifices himself to save everyone? Or when Alloy loses her father and only companion in life when he saves her? Its almost as if loss and grief are a universally relate-able trait that anyone anywhere can recognize and empathize with.

    Stop separating people.

    • They are not people who live in a universe where bad things happen to everyone. They are fictional. Pointing out the setting of the fiction is sad doesn’t address the question of why the story is sad, it just repeats that the story is sad. These are not documentaries, they are able to be positive as much as they are negative.

    • Honestly this. The “happy girl” may die in the game, but it will have zip to do with how she swings. Zip. Nadda. She dies because the roll of the dice just dont go her way in that nasty god-aweful world they live in nothing, at all, to do with her sexuality.

    • It’s almost as if these Queer characters you’re talking about are people who live in a universe where bad things happen to everyone.I’m not suggesting that the queers should always get to dance in a field of gumdrops at the end of every game in which they appear, but considering the real world’s continued eagerness to trample the marginalised, one of the most radical things art could do right now would be to show us a world in which we are more than our suffering.

      • It’s almost as if these marginalised people you’re talking about are people who live in a universe where bad things happen to everyone.

        • Do you get how shitty that feels? LGBT+ are still not treated great in the REAL world, so video games are a great escape, but then 90% of the time, LGBT+ in world where there are floating islands, fireballs and dragons or, we have the EXACT SAME persecution.

          It is not often we can go a day let alone a week without seeing horrific news articles or comments sections on just what awful people we are for existing, or “wanting too much” and so when we FINALLY get a game with LGBT+ representation, its just…its just so tiresome to have to wait for the “oh yes, in this magical made up world, we decided no one likes the gays here either”

          Yes there is lots of suffering and misery by straights in games too, but also plenty of fun and happiness because most of the games are for and about straight people. I don’t think asking for a few more LGBT+ characters and to ask for a few more positive worlds and backstories is too much to ask for.

          • most of the games are for and about straight people

            Most games do not bring up the main characters sexuality, so most games are not relevant to this conversation
            Because that Dumbledore/Lando lip service doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t actually shown.

          • Well don’t play a game where 99% of the population are already dead and the few that are left are fighting against mutants and other survivors turned feral by circumstance. Jeez, the fact that she even finds someone *at all* is a spark of hope in a horrible world.

            I’d agree with you if we were talking about a world where if you choose a straight character you get a happy ending but if you choose a gay one you get an unhappy ending. But lets be honest, that’s not what this is about.

            I honestly, feel like game producers (and movie ones) can’t win. Don’t include a gay character and get yelled at for not being inclusive, include a gay character and get accused of adding them just to kill them off. Or if they do survive “their role was too minor”.

          • You need to change your username.

            You want to believe that your suffering is unique but it’s not. You think nobody has ever felt misunderstood, misrepresented, treated with suspicion and hate and disrespect except the self-designated “marginalised”? These are not experiences unique to a single group of people.

            The world is not your lived experience.

        • On one hand, we inhabit an unjust world to which we must divine some level or morality or order. A bland acknowledgement of our situation isn’t the endpoint. We recognise it and then push for change – in this case, to stop treating marginalised people as a subclass of human.

          On the other hand, linked as it is to the first, we control the narratives of the media we create. Stories aren’t locked to being about bad things happening to everyone always. It’s possible to not be a zealot for the grimdark.

          My take on the two quotes is that the first is a poor attempt to rationalise a person’s discomfort with a real-world problem by appealing to a fictitious in-universe explanation; the second acknowledges the link between the two and speaks to the possibility of not reiterating the same, safe narratives that have been endlessly exploited ad infinitum. Really, the latter answers the former simply and shouldn’t require exegesis.

    • For anyone reading this I would also like to point out that this is a thing that happens so much to queer characters that there’s a trope specifically for this situation. It’s happened that much it’s become a stereotype. Bury Your Gays.

      We’re getting real sick of it and we’re allowed to vent our frustrations on the matter.

      • On the other side of the coin, people are also allowed to vent their frustrations on the stereotype of the Gays are always the Victims framing device.

        I don’t have a side in this btw, just want the discussion to be one of mutual understanding.

        (Mods, this is literally the same comment as above, but referring to a different stereotype. Not to mention one with a much less incendiary name)

      • I’m actually curious because the first time I encountered people talking about this “bury your gays” trope was at the start of this year in Star Trek Discovery. (Full disclosure there’s too much peak TV for me to keep up with everything) What else has contributed to this being a trope?

        As I finished typing that I did remember Tara and Willow – maybe that was the first

        • im pretty sure people were complaining about Vikings doing it at one point, again missing the point that heaps of characters do not have happy ends in that show.

  • Replace the girl with a guy and it would still seem obvious that the character is going to die. It makes sense for dramatic impact, especially in a world filled with death. Why do we need to make everything about gender or sexuality when clearly the mortality of this person has nothing to do with it?

    • For the hets, you get misery AND happiness. For the gays, just the misery. We are asking for a little happiness on occasion.

      • They kissed and they were both smiling after it. That looks like about as much happiness as anyone is going to get in this story line. If you want sunshine and roses, go play a happier game.

          • Then go and make one

            You cant make one? Go and write and brief and pitch the idea

            If the world isnt the way you want it, make an effort to change it yourself. Everyone has the power to do that. No excuses

          • aren’t any

            There’s lots. Overwatch, one of the most popular games of the last few years has at least one gay character in it, along with characters of different race and disability (autism for one). Which for the record, I think this representation is awesome. Several games and characters have been mentioned in comments here as well. And we haven’t even touched on indie games! You’re not looking hard enough. Trying to shoehorn queer happiness into a game where any happiness is rare is not equality, it’s entitlement.

          • Just going through https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_games_with_LGBT_characters
            * Assassins Creed Brotherhood
            * Assassins Creed Syndicate
            * Borderlands
            * Borderlands 2
            * Borderlands the pre sequel
            * Tales from the Borderlands
            * Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
            * Divinity: Original Sin 2
            * Dragon Age: Origins (Multiple characters, some tragic, some not)
            * Dragon Age II (Multiple characters, some tragic, some not)
            * All the Fables
            * Fallout (2-4)
            Got tired of it at F.

  • But I’m sure if The Last of Us 2 ends with Joel getting killed, no one will bat an eye.

  • Odd that the author mentions Steve Cortez from Mass Effect 3 but forgets about Samantha Traynor, the happy go lucky Lesbian Character who is actually happy (despite being overwhelmed by the events of the game) and has a rather good role in the Citidel DLC.

  • On the one hand, I can appreciate that the author wants a ‘marginalised’ relationship to have a happy ending.

    On the other hand, killing characters to exploit emotional attachment for dramatic effect is applied to pretty much every relationship, and I think the author attempting to link this with marginalisation is a long bow to draw. There’s a reason most of the characters mentioned have sad backstories – because the worlds they inhabit are awful. The world of The Last of Us is particularly nasty with very little joy. A love interest dying seems pretty realistic.

    On a more cynical note – they include a gay relationship and try to illustrate it as slightly more than a token gesture, and now we’ve got an article complaining that the character might die. Maybe we should hold the pitchforks until it actually happens?

    • Agreed. A love interest dying for narrative purposes in a fictitious environment is the realism to which all games should aspire.

      • Compared to the plot armour love interests have previously enjoyed, it kind of is more realistic.

    • I’m gonna guess and say her and everyone at that camp will die, acting a a narrative vehicle to give Ellie the rage and purpose she needs to drive forward.

      Max Payne had his wife and baby murdered in its crib as a narrative line to give the character rage and drive. The same is probably gonna happen here and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Let Naughty Dog tell there story.

  • The whole “bury your gays” trope is worn out, and it’s easy to see why people overuse that emotional well. For many, queer romance is seen as a triumph against adversity in this day and age, despite the progress that has been made, there’s still a reluctance to show and public affection to avoid the ire of someone watching them (either verbal or physical). So to take the goodwill people have for these characters and use it to heighten a tragic scene sounds like a slam dunk.

    The problem is, it’s been used so much, the character might as well say “I’ve got one week left till retirement”, it’s not a given that the character will die, but it’s now hardwired into brains to watch out for how their queerness can be used against us emotionally later on.

    I find it weird to see all the comments of “but this straight character died in the game I played, it’s not just queer characters that die” or “look at this character that didn’t die”, because they are clearly not getting the point. It’s not that every queer character dies, nor is it that they should be invincible, it’s that there ratio of queer character to death is so high, you can’t help but watch a trailer like Last of Us 2 and have that thought in your head. That’s a problem.

    • it’s that there ratio of queer character to death is so high, you can’t help but watch a trailer like Last of Us 2 and have that thought in your head.
      Actually if it wasn’t a queer relationship I’d probably think the same thing – because it’s a trope for any close relationship, not specifically queer ones.

      • For comparison, I was never worried that Elana was going to be bumped off in Uncharted 4, despite the dark tone that game set up. To put it bluntly, in media in general to expectation is the guy will get the girl, and the girl will lose the girl.

        • There is a dramatic difference between the tone of The Uncharted series and The Last Of Us. One is driven by conflicting, tragedy, loss and Despair. The other is, even at its darkest, a rollicking action adventure.

          • But that just goes back to my original (and the article’s) point. Queer characters’ stories are more often “driven by conflicting, tragedy, loss and Despair” and very seldom “rollicking action adventure” tales. Straight characters get a much more rounded selection of stories. For reference, I only chose Uncharted 4 as it was Naughty Dog’s last full game.

          • Yes and no. There are games out there such as AC Syndicate with queer characters such as Jacob Frye that were moreso action adventure than about loss. Not saying you’re wrong just saying it isn’t the ultra bleak landscape it’s being made out to be.

          • Jacob was gay? I played this last year, saw nothing of it? Is this one of those “alluded to, but not shown” representations? Because that Dumbledore/Lando lip service doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t actually shown.

            There are so few LGBT characters in games that when we finally get one, the misery is much more pronounced than for straight people, that we do notice it.

          • Which doesn’t really go against what I said. I simply said she’s not wrong, but it’s not the apocalyptic landscape it’s being made out to be. Which still, isn’t wrong.

          • I mentioned this before, but a vast number of games make zero mention of the characters sexuality. Do you assume those characters are all straight? Or do you think they’re all gay or somewhere in between?

            Maybe I don’t play enough games with character development but I honestly don’t see a trend towards “killing the gay characters and letting the straight ones live”. Frankly, they seem pretty balanced to me. Games were gay characters suffer usually have straight characters that suffer just the same.

            I can’t help but wonder whether there’s a feeling of persecution that the players feel from the real world that they’re transferring to the games.

  • “We want representation in video games”
    *video games give them representation*
    “we dont want token representation we want real characters”
    *video games give them real characters who just happen to be gay/lesbian/bisexual*
    “We dont want them to be used as a plot device, how dare you kill off gay/lesbian/bisexual characters in your media”

    Funny how so many characters in her examples come from games which alot of straight characters also have dark and upsetting backstories because that is the world these games are set in, but tries to play it off like its a sexual orientation thing.

    • So many straight characters also have dark and upsetting backstories. And yet… and yet… a disproportionate number of LGBTQ characters have those same backstories.

      In a way, you could that say videogames are just imitating life. That’d be a pretty pissweak excuse though.

      • Its almost like sexuality doesnt matter in these worlds and everyone has dark and upsetting backstories. But thats not going to change your opinion because you so desperately want to believe its about sexual identity.

        • It’s not like that at all, unless you believe these stories manifest themselves to existence without the influence of an author and/or the real world has no effect on the creation of fiction. It’s also not like that just because you think analysis ends with a curt statement on diagesis.

          My opinion is unlikely to be changed by what you said because it’s simplistic and doesn’t say anything beyond “marginalisation is cool so long as there’s an in-universe explanation”, which doesn’t speak to the thesis of this piece. It’s nothing more than a handly rhetorical wedge, much like your subtle shift from sexuality to sexual identity when you’re attempting to throw a barb.

          It all comes back around to the exultation of lazy storytelling by a community starved of literary influence and desperate for legitimacy. There are more constructive ways of getting there than getting flustered anytime the weak areas of the medium are discussed.

          • Yep. You want to see sexual identity over all. Figured as much with alot of the stuff youve said in here.
            So very sad.

    • She’s just talking about tropes regarding Lgbt characters & to some degree, She’s right, There’s a gay character in Fallout 4’s Far Harbour dlc who’s dying unless you save him via medical skills & then via high charisma convince him to not go out ( & die most likely) into the fog to avenge his gay lover who died. Gay relationships in games are very tokenistic regardless of the game world they inhabit.

  • Before I start this I want to say that I am, a white, cis-male, openly Gay, and an avid LGBT+ rights activist (in the construction industry where I work… try talking about your boyfriend in a group of burly construction workers who still use poof and gay derogatorily). I’m also a proud PS4 gaymer who loves JRPGs.

    I see the (possible) death of Ellie’s lover a good thing, games are mostly built on a hero’s journey, part of which is loss of someone they love. Replace Ellie with a male and the same will happen.

    I get the trope that you want Queer people to be happy, but the simple fact that the relationship is normalised enough so that it fits normal video game tropes of the death of a loved one is the main driver, is amazing.

    The fact that Ellie is a lesbian, and there is no choice in the matter (ahem Bioware – I see your romance options) is something to celebrate. Same as Life is Strange, although you start of with Max exploring her sexuality (as you normally do in high school).

    There is a separate article here on another topic about representation that is often overlooked in Video Games. Why are lesbian couples more acceptable than the other marginalised sexualities? (There are plenty of reasons why that is and many think pieces can be written on the hypersexualised fantasies of straight men)

    Where is the openly gay lead in a triple A game? One that isn’t an option but a defined outcome? Where is the openly trans lead? Where is the openly bisexual lead?

    • Bisexual is Mass Effect I guess? But we’d have to converse actual bisexuality rather than token bisexuality.

      • On this note, can we please have a discussion on the state of inequality of alien partnering in Mass Effect? Why does my FemShep get to enjoy the voluptuous curves of Liara’s blue ass but my DudeShep doesn’t get to find out of Wrex’s plates go all the way down? I’m glad that we got to enjoy some after-hours calibrating with Garrus but – hot damn! – make mine Clan Urdnot!

  • Firstly, there probably should be a spoiler warning for some of those things.
    Secondly “Tragedy often serves as a backstory for straight characters in role playing games, too.” If you consider the amount of LGBTQI+(sorry if i forgot one of the many letters) characters in games to say straight male/ female, the LGBTQI characters probably have done it easier on average with more of the straights dying than the others.
    you cant ask for equality then complain when the equality you wanted (just the good stuff) gets you the bad stuff. take it all or none.

    Also the main reason for most games IS a bad back story, i dont know any characters that just decided “oh hey im fully content with my life, here i go killing” aside from ‘The Dude’.
    wheres the logic?

    • If you want to avoid spoilers don’t read articles that are self evidently game criticism. Good arguments need good evidence.

      • Good articles and good journalists always start an article that’s spoiler heavy with a warning about the article having spoilers… Seen it countless times, dont know why you think this one is exempt?

  • I’m not suggesting that the queers should always get to dance in a field of gumdrops at the end of every game in which they appears…
    Judging by your article history, I’d bet big even if someone actually did that there’d be an article from you about how condescending or such it is.

    Meanwhile you’ll complain that queer characters having traumatic/dark backstories is somehow different to all the straight characters with such backstories, like all the ones that you conveniently forgot about when writing this article even though you refer to games they exist in.

    • It’s important when we discuss LGBTI characters in videogames to, at all times, bring the discussion around to the suffering of straight characters, no matter how irrelevant or with disregard to the inequity of LGBTI characters it may be to the discussion.

      Perhaps if a game was released where an LGBTI character dances in a field of gumdrops the author would maintain the prerogative to comment on how LGBTI matters are presented in the media. And that wouldn’t really be a bad thing.

      • Bringing up straight characters is relevant to the claimed inequity of LGBTI characters, otherwise they have nothing to be unequal to.

        • To substantiate the inequity, yes; to erase the inequity, no.

          That, however, is removed from the point you missed.

          • The post you replied to was about questioning the inequity described, not about erasing it, which would be the next step after showing it exists and is something which should be erased.

    • Reading your comment, Seems like you’d take issue with anything regarding a Lgbt character in any medium. You can’t fault someone for wanting better representation of their sexuality, If your not able to see her point or atleast read her point without feeling like straight white dudes are somehow losing something.. She refers to these games maybe because there’s a limited amount of games with gay relationships from which to draw reference, Do characters die in games, You bet, But it’s the go to theme result of most gay relationships in games, Just imagine being Lgbt & every game you play that has a Lgbt character, Has something awful happen too them, The fact that there’s a disproportionate amount of games with gay characters & something awful happens to them is evidence that Heather is right.

      • The disproportionate part is a difficult one to find data for. Assuming we are only talking about openly straight/gay relationships in games.
        It does, however, seem reasonable on the grounds that gay love is shown in games as a more stronger bond than straight love, so the opportunity for tragedy is greater.

        • Not to mention the fact, that statistically speaking, gay and bisexual relationships in real life are less common than straight relationships. This doesn’t invalidate them however, what I am saying, is that when we observe them in games, they’re depicted as rarer as well, not as the dominating sort of relationship. So when something happens to a gay man or woman in a relationship in a game, we have far less examples to pick from and it seems far more impacting. But, the alternate point others have brought up is true, by excluding these characters from fates that can befall straight characters and giving them a ‘shield of plot invulnerability’, is that potentially a form of discrimination as well, coddling them, treating them in an unequal way? It’s definitely an interesting area to explore. I do love that games are far more open and diverse now, gay, interracial, straight, different cultures, everyone gets a look in more and more these days rather than the standard form we had ten years back. I don’t think it’ll be solved here obviously, but it’s definitely led to some interesting thoughts for me at least so far to contemplate.

  • Happy characters rarely make good protagonists. The drama of death to drive the story is one of the easiest stories to write. Going by what Heather is saying, we should make all LGBT characters immortal and immune to story tropes

    • *Except for the trillions and trillions and trillions of games, books and movies where the straight-man protag and his love interest are never at any risk of dying.

      LGBT gamers just want things to be balanced, and they aren’t. This has been a constant complaint for as long as I’ve been participating in the video game community.

      • Care to provide some examples? I mean if there are trillions then you should easily be able to provide a few hundred examples of major games.

        And bear in mind we’re talking games, not books and movies. So trillions is pretty hyperbolic.

        Being a little more focused, pretty much any game where the protagonist or their love interest isn’t in danger are kids games or outright romance games. Can you name even one major game where there is a straight relationship where there isn’t threat to the hero or their partner?

        • When I say there is “no threat”, I mean the tone of the game is such that it’s clear from the outset that the characters are going to be fine at the end. In every Uncharted game, you know Nathen and Elena are going to be fine. In any JRPG (with very rare exception), you know the main party are all going to be fine. Gay characters never get to be in fun, upbeat adventure stories, they only get to be in grim-dark post-apocalypse narratives where they will inevitably die.

          Saying “that only happens in kids games/romance games” just kind of proves my point: there should be LGBT rep in those kinds of games, and not JUST in games like The Last of Us, where we already know from the opening credits that they’re gonna get torn apart by Clickers.

          • I’m sorry but that still doesn’t really hold up. I can think of quite a few books and movies where characters loved ones die. In fact it’s a regular trope that is used all the time, heroes wife/brother/kid/cousin/dentist is kidnapped/raped/killed/beaten up and they seek revenge. And the same trope has carried over to video games. Max Payne is the most prominent example I can think of just off the top of my head. And I’m pretty sure a couple of the D&D based RPGs killed off members of your party.

            I’d also argue that you don’t know whether Nathan and Elena are going to be fine, you’re making the assumption that they are (and obviously other characters in other games). I didn’t play Uncharted (console only dammit) but I believe you play Nathan. So if you screw up and he dies doesn’t that literally invalidate your point?

            As for examples, Borderlands has a number of gay and trans characters and you don’t immediately assume they’re gonna die. There are a bunch in the Dragon Age games. Also the Fable games. There are a ton of other characters if you do a bit of a search but I can’t really comment on them because they’re in games I haven’t played.

    • I’m not suggesting that the queers should always get to dance in a field of gumdrops at the end of every game in which they appear, but considering the real world’s continued eagerness to trample the marginalised, one of the most radical things art could do right now would be to show us a world in which we are more than our suffering.

  • There’s literally millions of video games where heteros get happy endings. The fact that LGBT people almost invariably only get to appear in grim-dark stories where one or both of them die is extremely telling, and it’s honestly mind-boggling that straight people do not see this.

    • Because i for one am not sure if it’s true. What’s your source for these millions of stories that do this? Is it a fact, or is it just what you think? Because of the stuff i read and watch, anyone can die. A lot of popular media these days is like this.

      Edit – Ok. So I was thinking about this in the shower. You know, more than 15-20 years ago I don’t think there were almost ANY gay characters in any show. So this is all pretty new.

      Now. If you’re a screenwriter, you need to inject drama. And you might have 7 or 8 thinly drawn characters to choose from. But one or two are gay. And what’s the easiest way to add drama to their arc?

      You make them suffer. By killing their significant other. This is irrelative of their orientation. This has been happening in stories for thousands of years. Wanna spice up a character? Kill who they love.

      So in a way (and I might be totally wrong, this is literally off the cuff so sorry if I’m offending), the fact that you’re seeing these stories happen about gay characters, is a sign of progress. Not saying it’s cool though. I mean in the last star trek series? They killed the gay Dr. Totally uncool. But there was a lot wrong with that series. But I really think they were just trying to develop the science officers character, by killing the one he loved. Just a thought.

      • And that would be fine, if I could point to a significant proportion of LGBT stories where the characters get happy endings. In media generally, tragic endings are way, way rarer than happy endings. For every “Infinity War Part 1”, there’s nearly all the Marvel movies leading up to that, that ended happily, with the good guys being the indisputable victors, and nobody important dying.

        By contrast, on the rare occasion that an LGBT character even shows up, they are likely to come to a tragic end. All the most famous stories about LGBT people end tragically. I have no sympathy for the plight of writers; if they have to exploit the suffering of LGBT people in order to give their work emotional impact, or to win awards, then maybe they aren’t very good writers.

    • Little bit yeah. It’s really changed in the last few months. So many opinion editorials!

      • More so over the last few years. Early days Kotaku it was all games news. The. Over time, particularly after Stephen Totilo became editor it’s become more opinion pieces with authors seemingly ripped straight from the Tumblr blogs.

        I do remember reading that more Kotaku writers and the US outlet had been blackballed by more publishers, because of confected controversies and Kotaku in some instances publishing info about unannounced games. So it’s part punishment for the US websites opinion pieces, as well as retribution for ruining a few announcements and generating unnecessary bad PR for some Devs.

      • I wonder whether some of it is because these debates no longer happen at Gizmodo…

    • Because the Australian articles are good and written by people who don’t thrive on being offended and stirring controversy.

      These US opinion pieces are getting worse and rarely have anything insightful to say.

  • Heather needs to leave gay people ALONE everything you write about the topic is harmful and bullshit! Just leave it alone!!! Yes some people get pissed off about inclusion and equality but the world is improving rapidly, you’re stymieing that growth by writing trivial bullshit!

    • Calling this topic trivial bullshit shows that Kotaku are doing the right thing by posting articles like this. Saying that they should just leave it alone is LGBT+ issue erasure. The world is not improving rapidly if you actually care to look outside the box you seem to be living in. It is currently getting worse for LGBT+ people around the world, just because Australia got the gay marriage vote through doesn’t mean it is enough and we should quiet down on the topic.

      Let me ask you, how is everything the author write harmful and bullshit?

      I may not agree with some of the topics raised in the article but I am happy that it is on this site! Thank you Kotaku for including LGBT stories on your site. Thank you Heather for a topic that has resulted in (I wouldn’t call some of the comments this) healthy discussion.

      • But Ellie is gay and will survive so who cares if her sweaty lover dies! Trivial bullshit! The game is meant to be about hatred, literally. Should naughty dog change their whole narrative plan to avoid the bury your gays trope? The main character is gay, she doesn’t get buried.

        The world is always improving rapidly in almost every way shape or form even when it appears to not be. Some exemptions would be 3rd world dictatorships. Please tell me that LGBT were better off 10 years ago. Things could always be better, but they are better than they were 10 years ago.. or even 5 years ago. Get out of your echo chamber yourself. You don’t live in Russia or China where it actually has gotten worse. You live in the west.

        • I was actually talking about the West, just look to the US. States are in the process of overturning gay marriage and they have a President that won’t condemn gay conversion therapy and a Vice President who actually supports it! As well as a government that supports russia and it’s LGBT+ genocide

          The Supreme Court justice who was the only bastion of keeping LGBT+ protections alive has just retired allowing Republicans full control over the court. Watch this space it’s going to get worse in the next few years.

          Australia’s no better. Just step one foot out of the CBDs of major cities at night and youll see….

          But thank you for clarifying why you thought the article was bullshit, I still don’t agree with your reasoning that just because you think the world is getting better that articles like these should not be written

  • I just wanna say bravo AU comments section for not taking this bullshit bait and for responding with more thought and maturity than the original article. I wish KotakuAU would filter out all this divisive opinion piece handwringing bullshit from the American authors.

      • I’m going through the comments every day, as well as contributing local content along with Hayley and Amanda (when they have time).

        • in that case, I’d like to make it known that I love that we are getting interesting pieces written by people with different perspectives to mine. Even the ones I don’t necessarily agree with. I’m happy to come here even though the comments section is invariably going to be a cesspit of the same dozen people calling everything they don’t like hand wringing, confected, queer propaganda.

          • Agree with everything, including the content of the cesspit.
            Would also like to throw into that cess pit another dozen people calling everyone they disagree with sexist, racist or homophobic.

            For what it’s worth though, there are some honest conversations if you dig deep enough 😛

        • I’d like to add in addition to pokedad’s sentiment that it would be a shame to lose diverse pieces – not just of voice but also of theme and purpose – because a small group of 10-20 commenters loudly and frequently object to their presence. That swings both ways, but I’m mainly thinking of the myriad pieces that touch on sexuality, gender and women, and raise focused, vocal dissent.

          • Thanks to you and pokedad for your comments. Despite the comments I sometimes have to trawl through I’m super proud to be able to contribute to a site that publishes such a diverse range of voices in an industry traditionally dominated by a certain demographic, and I’m glad you guys appreciate it too 🙂

          • I’m a 30-something, straight, white guy. I’m smack in the middle of that demographic. If I wanted opinions and thoughts identical to mine, I’d listen to me. It really is appreciated.

        • Alex, I have to agree with Pokedad as well.
          I usually don’t comment a great deal and I imagine (well hope) there are many more people like me who might not be too keen to wade into the muck that ensues every time a piece like this appears, bit would be very disappointed to see pieces like this disappear.
          I feel that it would be a great shame to see the content here cut in any way due to narrow minded people demanding that nothing outside of their circle of comfort cross their field of vision.

          • It’s our job to publish a wide range of opinion, perspective and voices where we can. And while I appreciate not everything will stick, and sometimes we’ll even be wrong, it’s our responsibility to provide a place where people can get their news, get a laugh, but also get something they might not have seen elsewhere, and even be challenged sometimes.

            That’s a tricky balance, but we tackle it every day in good faith.

    • All this comment section has done has shown just homophobic the rest of the world knows that australia is, and why you had to have a referendum instead of just doing the right thing.

      • Actually most of the comments don’t care about the characters sexual orientation. Also most of Australia would have preferred our politicians to have voted it through themselves.

        • I think a lot of Aussies are happy to have had a referendum. I don’t trust our politicians to get it right, they fuck up so many things because they’re pandering to interest groups. So a referendum where the public says “screw you guys this is what WE want” makes better sense. Side note: I voted Yes to legalising gay marriage.

      • I’m really not seeing the homophobia here. Noone’s sharpening a pitchfork. It’s not homophobia just because everyone’s not agreeing with you.

        • Oh but you see if you don’t agree on a topic here then you basically are sharpening that pitchfork. This is what society is becoming.

      • Wow really? Nobody i know gives a damn who is shacking up with who. All this noise, for me, detracts from the real social issues Australia is facing, being: Treatment of refugees/asylum seekers, and Indigenous reconciliation. I understand non-straight people still deal with discimination and that sucks, but i feel like society is tackling that issue at a greater rate than other equally important issues.

  • I guess it’s been a little while since our last 100 comment politics article.

    • Wasn’t that only two weeks ago? Apparently nothing attracts commenters quite like the opportunity to punch down.

      • I don’t see anyone punching down. Everyone has been civil and said a lot of well thought out comments.

        • Hand-wringing. Confected. Bait.

          Nobody seems to have called anyone a cuck yet, but there’s still time.

        • The opportunity exists, and a bunch of folk have rushed to get their hands into the blind spot not covered by your relative idea of civility.

          Responding to the idea of a marginalised population by comparing their experiences to a non-marginalised population, or telling them that it’s not that bad and they should just deal, is well thought out in sense that someone thought well of saying something terribly shallow.

  • Remember back in 2010 when seeing a gay character in a game or finding that you could have a same sex relationship with an npc just made you go, “huh, neat,” and then you just continued enjoying the game because it didn’t make a big deal about it? It was Fallout: New Vegas for me. On that note, remember when is was ok to enjoy games without reading things into it?

    • I remember when I played Dragon Age 2 and I asked Anders how he was going and he basically replied by trying to hit on me. My reaction was whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa…. whoa… Then I just continued to play the game and complain about enemies literally dropping from the sky. I actually found the Anders interaction funny because I didn’t expect that from him given how different he was in the first game.

    • It’s still okay to enjoy games without reading into them. Just as it’s perfectly okay to enjoy games by reading into them.

      You have no obligation to participate in the discussion. It’s okay.

      • Nor are you but you don’t see me attempting to dissuade you from participating.

        I, and others, think my point is perfectly legitimate in this discussion. I’m sorry you don’t feel that my view contributes. Games really do tend to be more enjoyable when you enjoy them for what they are and the story that they tell rather than worry about the characters’ sexual orientation, especially if it is completely irrelevant to the game itself. However, sometimes it is, to a degree. Sometimes a character’s orientation allows for more options in the game, such as the intimate relationships seen in Mass Effect. This allows the player the opportunity to explore a more diverse range of possibilities, as well form a bond with that character, which, by design, tugs at the heartstrings when something terrible happens to them. Similarly, often, sexuality isn’t really one of those character aspects that are just thrown out at the drop of a hat; most games that actually make a point of identifying a character’s sexuality in detail (ie. through shows of affection with another or the player or exposition) have already taken other steps to get the player invested in that character at an emotional level and identifying their sexuality is just another step on that path. The point is to make the player feel for and care about the character so, when something happens to them, the player feels a genuine loss. At this point, the character’s sexuality, whether straight, gay, bi, queer, etc., is not relevant in the grand scheme; something bad was going to happen to them regardless as a means to make the player feels something, not because of how they were written to identify.

        If you allow yourself to get hung up on that one aspect of the characters, you’re probably going to miss the rest of the story or message in the game and you’re not going to enjoy it as much as you could.

        • You have no obligation to participate in the discussion, nor do I, and yet you choose to participate by calling into question the discourse, which is dismissive but also an attempt to dissuade continuation of the discussion, and therefore an attempt to dissuade participation. Can’t have it both ways.

          I do feel that your view contributes, and I disagree with what it contributes. We ought to be able to reach the point where we can acknowledge that whatever our feelings on any kind of analysis – some people enjoy it. So when you’re saying you just want to enjoy something without other people doing something that you don’t enjoy, to which you don’t have to pay attention and absolutely do not have to participate, there’s a crucial thing that’s being missed. That thing is heeding your own request or advice.

          Thanks for explaining your position further. I can certainly appreciate that many people want to experience media at face value – it’s a desire present across all formats – and I can also recognise that many people want to experience media by looking at the details, their interplay, how the media sits within the context of our world and in relation to other media, and devouring all the subtext they can. Neither is wrong and both have incredibly good cases for why they’re great, and it is very much a case of horses for courses. But there’s no need to try and shut down a conversation about one of them because you prefer the other.

          Again, thanks for expanding on your thoughts..

  • This article is dreadful. I’ve passed it onto my queer friends for a look/feedback and they are just as appalled as I am. Honestly, their comment “dude it’s 2018, no one cares we are gay anymore”.

    Heather is doing no favours for anyone other than herself by printing shit like this.

    • I’m sorry you have basic gay friends. They will hopefully grow out of it. We spend years, YEARS drinking the straight kool-aid and it is hard to shake the apologising and deferrence to realise that yeah we do deserve better.

      • You don’t deserve better you deserve equality. There should be no different treatment regardless of whether a person is gay or straight, man or woman, black or white. In both the real world and in games.

        Insulting someone’s friends because their opinions don’t align with yours and calling them basic is every bit as condescending and insulting as you seem to think straight people are, possibly more so.

      • I’m sorry you have basic gay friends.

        I call troll. That first sentence has to be one of the most offensive ever. The “kool-aid” reference a totally f’d up non-reference to gay culture if there ever was one.

      • So a gay person is attacking a gay person because they are what? Not gay enough for you?
        Sounds like sexual preference has nothing to do with your arguments and you’re just a plain old everyday asshole.

  • not really interested in game developers pushing their personal opinions into their games.

    I mean, its great they support same sexes but i dont really care for it in gaming as seems contrived. Like say you finish mario and then find out “hey, Mario is actually a great chess player!” “Like really? wow.. i guess.”

    • It’s what movies, books, radio plays, stage plays, paintings, sculptures, poems, and songs have done since they were invented.

      That’s because art is an expression of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Games are personal and political. You can’t change it.

      • I agree with you to an extent. I mean if it’s a focus of the game then sure no problem. But if you play a game where there is nothing about relationships but the developer or publisher makes an arbitrary comment that a character is gay it comes across as pandering. If people want to imagine the beefy space marine they’re playing is gay while he’s running around shooting aliens then ok. But unless the game actually deals with sexuality and relationships why mention it?

        • Because it matters to the author, I guess. You as a consumer don’t have to subscribe to it, if you don’t want. I mean, we start getting into “death of the author” territory from here on in, but essentially, a thing ceases to be what the author intended to be once they release it to the world.
          I don’t think Venture Brothers was ever meant to be a damning but sympathetic critique of toxic masculinity and the failure of traditional gender roles (particularly in regard to fatherhood), but it is. And it works both ways. You can use a text to be something that was never intended by the author and you can hear what the author wants you to think and say “Nope. To me, it’s just manly men doing manly things”.

          • I am enjoying the surge of more diverse games, myself, it adds more texture and some new sorts of stories in gaming. But there is a part of me concerned somewhat that this is not simply down to autership or something that matters to the author. Rather it may simply be down to the criticism that the games industry has come under from some political groups, leading to (what may sometimes even be well masked) tokenisation.

          • The faceless media conglomerates that run the whole thing are going to do whatever drives profit. So realistically, it’s all tokenism. The biggest companies will apply the formula and reap the reward no matter what. So if they can do that while also giving artists the chance to tell better stories that influence people in new ways, then why the hell not? You can’t beat the system. So work the system.
            If enough diversity in representation occurs for long enough, the people making the stuff will become more diverse and the audiences will become wider. At some point you hit critical mass and it becomes both self perpetuating and naturally diverse.

            It’s like Melbourne. The Victorian government wanted Melbourne to be an art and culture hub. So cynically they threw money at the arts for decades. A whole lot of stuff was made specifically to take advantage of that money instead of creating art for “pure” reasons. But it worked. Enough people had access to enough art and funding for art that the city became a legit centre for it.

          • That’s ok when you get someone who cares producing the game, because like you say they can exploit what the company wants and put in interesting and different content. However, if the developer/author never had that intention and the company forces them to put it in for arbitrary reasons that’s when you wind up with tokenism and content that doesn’t ring true. Or worse, actually fits the “bury the gay” trope.

            Which, as this whole thread indicates sets the cause back.

          • Ditto, I mean the whole idea of a game is “playing pretend”. I’m not really a space marine or a rally driver or an Italian plumber but I can pretend to be, to experience something like they do. So I have no problems with playing a game where I’m a gay male, or a woman, or whatever other wonderful ideas people come up with. As long as the game is good.

          • I probably didn’t convey what I was trying to say quite right. If it matters to the author and they want to put it in that’s cool. But if that’s the case it’s likely to be more than a little throwaway line. What I was thinking was more a game that’s basically been completed with no reference at all to sexuality anywhere and some marketing person says “hey how about we…”

            That’s when you end up with something that feels like pandering.

            And I was also thinking of games where you almost don’t have a protagonist – like a lot of the strategy games, or driving games or puzzle games. Trying to force sexuality into them serves no purpose.

          • The thing is that people assume to know what a developer’s intention was, or that a thing was inserted by a marketing department later on. Usually, it’s the other way around. Developers have been trying to do interesting stuff in games for a long time, but the marketing department comes back and says “Bioshock needs to have a handsome white man with a 5 o’clock shadow holding a gun and standing in front of a burning American flag.” Naughty Dog had to threaten everything they had just to get Ellie to appear on the front cover of The Last of Us.

            I totally get that hollow representation isn’t what people want, but even a half-arsed attempt is better than none. And this stuff has an aggregate effect. Over time, you normalise ideas by repeating them. Shitty people have been using that technique to normalise all kinds of terrible stuff, why not use it to do some good?

  • Its so common it even has its own trope name on tv tropes

    Bury your gays

    Like come on, stop defending LAZY writing, because it is, just falling back on lazy tropes for cheap emotional jabs that everyone and their mom uses

    Do something new games, stop being fucking lazy and doing the sad dead gay character over and over, let gay characters NOT BE SAD OR DEAD LIKE IN EVERY OTHER SHOW EVER

    Overuse of tropes becomes boring

  • I’m a gay white guy and I don’t have a problem with it.
    As long as the game in entertaining that’s all I care about.
    I can’t wait for The Last Of Us 2, whether the love interest dies or not.

    • Watch out, you may get called “Basic” because you dont have a problem with it.

      • All you basic gays ruining it for the complex gays.
        You’re as bad as the white middle class males

  • A little bit silly to be making assumptions like this.
    It’s a narrative. People die in stories like The Last Of Us.

    Whether someone is gay or not has nothing to do with this. Let the story tell what it needs to tell. Do not censor it.

  • The author has a history of posting articles that deal purely with “isms”, typically in my opinion, perceived rather than genuine.

    She started off with her diatribe against the Cage games like Beyond Two Souls, as they seemed to be anti-women.

    Then she moved onto The Division, which despite the creators specifically saying they didn’t create it with political motivation in mind, yes they did, they just don’t know they did.

    And now, games are anti-gay characters because they suffer. The fact that most of the characters suffer (and it can be argued in The Last of Us that EVERYBODY suffers) in a harsh environment seems to pass her by.

    I can’t quite make up my mind about Heather. Either she is the militant white hetero man-hater with a chip on her shoulder, or she writes provocative articles because she knows they stir a reaction, which is Kotaku’s lifeblood.

    If it is the latter, I doff my hat to you, Madam. Well played.

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