Why do I fawn over GBLT computer games characters?

I am a gamer, I looove my computer games. I can merrily sink several wasted hours into my lovely shiny pixels, especially story-based RPG type games. Yes it’s the official seal on my geekery.Sometimes my slightly obsessive nature can require Beloved to physically pull me from my computer so I do things like eat and go to work.

And you know one thing that can nearly guarantee my leaping to the games shops (well Steam) with my money? Gay characters. Let me see a gay character inb that game and my wallet’s already in my hands. Yes, I’m thrusting my gay agenda into your games! Nothing is sacred, straighties.

See, I’ve actually bought games purely because they’ve had a gay character. That’s been enough for me. Does that sound pretty damn desperate? Probably – but it’s so damn rare to pick up any game that isn’t wall-to-wall straight folks that just once, just for a second, being able to escape into a world where I actually get to be me is precious.

And I know right now that there are people running to say how many computer games there are that don’t include any sexuality at all! That is has no straightness! That sexuality is just irrelevant! Or that xyz character could be GBLT.

Don’t. Really, don’t. That excuse is a poor one unless you come from a la-la land that doesn’t have heterornormativity. And you don’t. And heteronormativity bites us on the arse twice here.

First of all – if that character shows no inclination for any sexuality whatsoever? Congratulations – heteronormativity will render them straight. Because of the myriad joys of privilege, straight is the assumed, the default.  If you see someone with no indication of sexuality at all, they will be taken as straight. Unless there is an overt indication that someone is not heterosexual then that is what they will be assumed to be. And don’t tell me that the game designers and distributers and 99.9% of the game players won’t see it through exactly the same lens. And yes it’s annoying and no, we shouldn’t assume straightness all the damn time – but we do and that’s not likely to change any time soon – if ever, given how much straight folks outnumber us. This is why I’m less than amused by the *hint hint wink put on your slash goggles* pretend-inclusion people expect us to buy.

When “no sexuality until shown otherwise” is considered default then I’ll concede that a game/book/TV series has no sexuality (and even then, I doubt it) until then, let’s not fool ourselves or pretend we’re looking at something that is anything but straight.

Secondly, I can nearly guarantee that I can look at your “completely-sexuality free” game/book/programme and see straight sexuality somewhere. We don’t see straight sexuality because our heterosexist society presents it overwhelmingly as the norm. We are so bombarded with heterosexuality from the very moment we open our eyes that it becomes background noise. This is why the sight of 2 men holding hands is ramming our sexuality down your throat and worthy of someone throwing a bottle at us, while my having to watch endless hours of straight folk all but having sex on TV advertising everything from perfume to cooking utensils is considered quite normal. I can’t even watch them hock loans to me without seeing a happy straight couple.

So, there probably is straight sexuality in that “sexuality-less” game of yours. A family, a couple, a love interest, a crush, something – something that, were it a gay or lesbian relationship, would leap out from the screen, doubtlessly yelling “PC” “gay agenda” and whatever other whining I’ll have to hear from disgruntled straight gamers who have been traumatised by the dreaded gay.

So, why does this matter so much to me? Why would I buy a game I know nothing about just because it has a gay character, regardless of its other flaws? Well, I’ve said before again and again why it matters.

Gaming is escapism, in some ways even more so than reading – especially the story-based games I prefer. It annoys me to read a book and be expected to identify yet again with a character who is nothing like me and be transported yet again to a world where I don’t exist. But it annoys me far more to actually participate, to play a part in this story and have my role represented by a straight person as well! I’m not just supposed to identify with a straight person, but I have to play one as well.

I loved Mass Effect 2, I really did, I had to be physically dragged away from the computer.  But it annoyed the hell out of me that there I was, Sparky Shepherd, saviour of the galaxy, having to dodge Miranda and Tali’s constant romance hints (there’s no “actually I’m gay, stop asking” option) while at the same time Jacob and Garrus and Thane were there WITH romance scripts but for some reason they weren’t an option – unless I played a female Shepherd. And if I played a female character, I’d have a choice of aliens who don’t have a male gender at all – or one potential fling that doesn’t even count as a romance option. And those not-as-equal-as-straight-relationship-straight-gaze-lesbian-relationships still make this game more inclusive than 99% of what’s out there

And is it really that much to ask? Is it really so much to ask that I get my geeky escapism going as well? Is it that hard to have a gay man as the hero? Do I have to play it straight every time – I did enough of that in real life, I don’t need to do it in fiction as well.