TLOU2 is far from the first video game to feature a lesbian protagonist.
The Last of Us Part II is one of the first large, mainstream video games to feature an LGBTQ+ protagonist.
Reviews are mixed on whether the LGBTQ+ representation in TLOU2 is inspiring or harmful, specifically when it comes to how the game portrays trans characters. Predictably, the game has also received a lot of homophobic backlash from straight gamers for simply including LGBTQ+ characters in the first place, perhaps showcasing why it's taken so long to get this kind of representation in AAA games.
But TLOU2 is far from the first video game to feature a lesbian protagonist. LGBTQ video games have thrived in the indie scene for a long time. Oftentimes these shorter games feel more personal and have smaller development teams, some consisting of only one or two people! In fact, the first ever LGBTQ+ game was created by one person.
Caper in the Castro was created in 1989 by C.M. Ralph as "CharityWare." The game came with a message from Ralph asking the user to donate to an AIDS charity. It was a noir point and click adventure game starring lesbian detective, Tracker McDyke, as she looks for the missing Tessy LaFemme. It's a classic campy detective story that can still be played today on the Internet Archive.
So as we look at the history of LGBTQ+ games, we should recognize how important indie games are to telling our stories. If the controversy over LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream games is putting you off, then I recommend checking out some gay indie games instead:
LIONKILLER is a queer retelling of Mulan set during the Opium Wars. In this choose-your-own adventure game available on PC and Mobile, you are put in lesbian Hua Mulan's shoes as she is drafted to fight against the British Empire. The story is rich and full of color, earning it a nomination for Excellence in Narrative by the Independent Games Festival.
There's romance, war, and conspiracy all wrapped within the influence of Chinese history and literature. Plus, there are four different endings, giving the game a lot of replayability. I love LIONKILLER for being a game that seamlessly touches on gender, imperialism, and violence within a single two-hour playthrough.
Secret Little Haven
Secret Little Haven is a PC game about growing up in the early Internet era and learning about your gender. You play as Alex, a trans girl who loves magical girl anime and spends most of her time chatting with her friends online. Visually, the game is absolutely adorable with its 2000s era computer setup. The story is sweet and nostalgic while also hitting on the harder points of discovering your identity.
Secret Little Haven shows the importance of community, acceptance, and a little bit of hacking. While it is a heartwarming game, there's also a content warning for parental conflict, gaslighting, and flashing visuals. The flashing visuals can be turned off in the settings.
Interactive Portraits: Trans People in Japan
Interactive Portraits: Trans People in Japan is more of an interactive dialogue than a traditional PC game, revolving around you participating in interviews that actually took place in Tokyo in 2018. The game allows you to choose questions to ask the digital subject, and they reply in turn, simulating a real interview.
It's a short game that actually gives a good look into what trans people are facing within this specific culture. I would recommend giving it a read, since it is both cute and informative.
Gone Home is the first game I had ever seen that had a prominent LGBTQ+ character in it. Notably, it's also the first "walking simulator," which is a first-person adventure game with a focus on exploration as opposed to action. Walking simulators have become pretty popular since, including popular titles like What Remains of Edith Finch and Firewatch. If you like either of those games, then you'll probably like Gone Home as well. Better yet, it's available across a ton of platforms including PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
The story follows a young woman coming home from college, only to find her house mysteriously empty. You spend the game exploring, trying to figure out what happened while you were gone.
These are just a few of the many LGBTQ+ indie games out there. There are so many more that span tons of genres, including dating sims, visual novels, platformers, and more. If you're interested in looking into more games like these, check out the "LGBT" tag on itch.io to find even more.
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