I'm not even going to pretend to have the most enlightened view on the subject of sexuality. I'm pretty sure someone who neither cares nor is curious about exploring their own lack of romantic and/or sexual urges isn't in a good position to judge. And if anyone from my past ever found out about this site, I'm sure they would have a great time regaling you all with my 'jokes'. However, there is no denying that the EVN community, at least in comparison to other gaming communities, is very progressive. I know that because, again, I FOLLOW ALL OF YOU ON TWITTER. The lack of representation in the mass gaming market, and even some of the more unsightly elements of misanthropy and homophobia, are usually given a full hearing on my feed even if I say nothing. However, in the larger gaming market I can honestly understand the hesitancy to include gay characters or combat homophobic actions.
Despite it's growth, gaming's fortune doesn't come from taking the high road. Because many of its critics aren't active gamers, the developers decides to glorify in what their critics hate and focus on the money spot: the young male machismo. Yes my friends: even in 2013 there is a very definite idea of what is masculine...which would explain a great deal of the outrage last year over the male Commander Shepard's romance options.
So do I suddenly expect a character to be built up like Nathan Drake only with a male version of Chloe Frazier (no you cannot draw this, so shaddup) to reenact some of the scenes in Uncharted 2? Not anytime soon. But in the English Visual Novel world, the rules are different. Here the powerhouses of the community not only sympathize with those who are underrepresented in mainstream gaming but often champion their cause! So surely when given a chance they will gladly show the big boys how it can be done right?
Because I know people who have never read this site before will be the first to take that entire opening sequence out of context to make whatever I say next sound like I just left the Georgia swamp. But walk with me, if you will, through our short time together. Let's see just how many LGBTQ characters have been in the games I've covered. And to make it fun, let's apply a little test: NONE of the characters can come from a romance game or be a romantic route for the main character. Why? Well that revelation has yet to be revealed. So who qualifies?
- The majority of the cast of Gle-I MEAN Don't Take It Personally Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story
- Jacqueline Brown and other cast members of Locked In
- Aaron in Yousei
- Cadfiel and Walter from Duael
- Princess Cassidy from The Royal Trap
- Shuuki from Break Chance Memento
And to be honest that last one shouldn't even count because BCM isn't finished yet, but I am a fair jackass so I'll let the preening twit onto the list. And this is all out of the roughly thirty EVNs I've covered on this site so either I'm monstrously unfair to games with a majority homosexual cast OR something else is going on here.
But I know what many of you are thinking and I will address that concern now. There is a reason I didn't include romance games in this equation: wish fulfillment. One of the longtime arguments I used against the BL genre as a whole is that many homosexuals weren't fans because it didn't portray homosexuals realistically. Of course what I got shot back at me was often the truth for those who were honest was that it wasn't about realism; it was about the fantasy of the scenario AKA wish fulfillment. And I've got this insane theory that if you're going to write a story, it should have a bigger point that a couple of guys (or girls as the case may be) having a quickie in a public storeroom....old M-A-3 reference but I think it works.
So what's the deal? Well if you remove the wish-fulfillment side of the atypical equation, that leaves an intrepid author with two routes when it comes to fictional homosexuals. A: Go for the Anvils or B: Minimize their sexuality. One of my major complaints about DTIP was just how ridiculously anvilicious its themes could be; especially concerning the two male characters whose names escape me. As much as you may want to care about whatever-their-faces-are, at the end of the day it was the same, tired 'homophobia in any form is wrong' and 'there is no excuse for it' and that doesn't grow a character. It's just a sixteen ton weight smashing your skull in until you scream for the idiocy of Ferngully. That leaves B: the hardest route and the one I prefer.
Most people who make EVNs are passionate about this issue and use the medium to display their passion. That has its place and I won't deny it, but in the present day there is little Earth left to till there and it either comes off as pandering or grating. On the other hand, on the outside looking in minimizing a character's homosexuality almost seems like an anathema. After all, if the point of this entire feature is to question why certain groups AREN'T more widely represented in EVNs, why would I suggest a path that would nearly ignore what makes them a part of that group?
I don't deny that this train of thought can be considered two-faced or patronizing, but for those of you who played Yousei: back me up on this one. Aaron was a fully realized character through the bulk of the game. He was pretty annoying sure, but he was also the human connection that we had to a bunch of kids who are used to seeing death and misery all around them. In a lot of ways, he is what any of us would be in this situation in this universe...and then he explains why he goes to University of Edgewater when he clearly prefers another university.
I'm not sure of your reaction...MY reaction was that he is a certifiable idiot. Love is love: sure. But still, if you love that one place so much how is some BOY worth moving to somewhere you consider sub-par? Again, don't know your reaction, mine was to try and break his scrawny neck for his abject stupidity...and I never would have that reaction if I knew upfront that Aaron was gay. But let's stretch this out a bit to include another example of minimization: Jackie Brown.
No not the one you're probably thinking I'll use as a pun here. Let's just stick to the Locked In one. The fact that the main character had a wife wasn't used to set her apart, rather it was used as a dramatic device to not only create a potential suspect but also to expand on Jacqueline's character.Not only was she a ruthless, miserable person, she clearly surrounded herself with like-minds. It was a great way to include that bit of characterization without making it seem appealing, patronizing to any one audience OR making her a fantasy insert...because seriously who would want to be her in that story?
But this takes a lot of investment in a story that doesn't require your opinion on the current state of the world...something which even mainstream, AAA writers have a hard time grasping. I sympathize: really I do. Criticisms of characters not fitting into certain groups without becoming stereotypes of said groups is nearly impossible to avoid when writing something other than a straight male. People will often unfairly demand the writer make certain sacrifices to appease the group rather than create something unique and entertaining and in those cases it's easier just to not include different characters than risk a backlash. So I get it: I do...but I cannot excuse it.
As weird as it's going to sound from someone with my previously stated profile, I would be interested to see more homosexual characters and characters of color. Not because it speaks to any one issue I champion, but rather it opens new possibilities for different kinds of stories: which is right up my alley. This has just been me thinking aloud as to why, in such an opinionated group of people, so few visual novels treat their homosexual characters as something more than a target, a fill-in or a soapbox. I'm sure it'll get more interesting as time goes on as all things do, but can anyone among us say with that they are fine with how this particular community stands on this issue RIGHT NOW instead of bashing the entire gaming world as a whole over the sentiments of some?
Anyway, that's my two cents. So, if the entire story was about homosexual characters in EVNs, why is the only picture in this feature a still of Chloe sitting in Nathan's lap? Good question....JP3: OUT!