Would/Should Games Be Any Different with a Gay/Queer Protagonist?
Gay characters are important. I've droned on, and on, and on, and on about it since I started writing this column.
Queer gamers exist and they should be represented, and not just by side characters, but by real protagonists. Anybody knows how powerful it is to see yourself in a character - and that's really hard when you're gay or trans and you just see a cishet person up there.
So, I wondered, how different would major video games be if they had queer protagonists instead of straight ones? It all started with a conversation that I had with my little brother. We talked about Final Fantasy X-2, and how it was genuinely a mess. The characters were flat - and they weren't super-memorable - and how the secret ending was really worth all the work. It's a bad game, and some would even say it's an insulting sequel to otherwise really good installment to the Final Fantasy series.
In Final Fantasy X-2, you play as Yuna and her two friends, Rikku and Payne, as they travel across Spira (the mythical world in which the game takes place) in search of garment grids. In the end of the previous game, FFX, Yuna's love interest Tidus, disappeared into little spirit balls for a very convoluted reason. But after seeing someone that looks just like him in a sphere, she decides she must go out and find him.
The game is buck wild and definitely doesn't have the emotional intensity of the original, but it had it's moments. Plus, when you do eventually get Tidus back, it's a nice bit of closure that the original game never gave you. But, what if the game was about something totally different? What if, instead, the game was about Yuna getting over Tidus - her first love - and finding solace in Payne, one of her newest friends who has dealt with a dark past?
The game is still about Yuna's relationship with Tidus, but instead, of bringing him back in the end. Not only does she let go of him, but she moves on from him in a totally new relationship. This would have added a ton of layers to Yuna as a character, but it would have also given Payne an actual storyline.
We would start the game like it started before, but instead of this weird plot line where Yuna is trying to be reunited with a LITERAL MAN MADE OUT OF DREAMS, she is traveling around the world to find herself. During this time, she deals with the heartache of losing her first love, and not knowing what her purpose is outside of summoning. During this time, she has met a new person named Payne - who is also dealing with her own shit.
She and Payne grow to understand each other, and have a very typical love story. And throughout the rest of the game, leading up to the final boss fight, we have Yuna growing more and more. Until the end, when we finally see Yuna overcoming her grief and realizing she can move on and be with Payne!
Doesn't it sound so interesting? And all it needed was a dash of queerness to help the plot points go down! I'm not saying that queerness with change every game, but it definitely opens up more opportunities for character development. Plus, it adds an extra layer to the character, especially a character who was "straight" in the previous game.
Why don't you tell me what games you think would be better with queer protagonists in the comments below?
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and writer of plays and screenplays, based in NYC. Do you guys have a game that you think is significant to the LGBTQ+ community? Email me, and I'll give it a look!