The GLAAD Media Awards, which “recognise and honour media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and the issues that affect their lives” are of their 30th annual iteration. This 12 months, they’ve added a brand new class, for “Outstanding Video Game.”
Included among the many nominees is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, whose newest DLC contains an (edited) compelled heterosexual romance. GLAAD themselves admit it will “surely raise eyebrows,” however their justification brings up broader questions on how we have fun queer illustration.
“LGBTQ identities were an intrinsic part of the game’s world set in fictional ancient Greece, and for many players, Kassandra and Alexios became beloved examples of authentic LGBTQ representation,” write GLAAD (previously often called Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), which is true sufficient.
However, they clarify that “this nomination should not be taken as an endorsement of the DLC” which “unavoidably places Kassandra/Alexios into a heterosexual relationship. At worst, this sends the harmful message that sexual orientation can be changed at will and that LGBTQ people can choose to conform to heteronormative expectations in spite of their identities.”
The organisation talks about Ubisoft’s public apology, and the way they’ve been in direct contact to enhance the DLC and be sure that future releases don’t make the identical errors. It’s all nicely and good however requiring a disclaimer like this within the first place type of means that Odyssey wasn’t, in truth, “outstanding.”
GLAAD’s justification additionally doesn’t contact on some points from the bottom game. Don’t get me incorrect, gallavanting round as Kassandra and hooking up with everybody in my path, no matter gender, was quite a lot of enjoyable. But ‘playersexual’ characters – those that will all the time sleep with the primary character however in any other case make no reference to their sexuality – solely go up to now.
If you’re enjoying as Alexios, which about two-thirds of players did, nearly your entire romance choices are ladies, and you may primarily utterly ignore that they’re something however straight. And having so many feminine romance choices is nice if you wish to play as a queer Kassandra, however not a lot in the event you wished your Alexios to be homosexual.
GLAAD’s nomination text additionally attracts consideration to the historic references to LGBTQ+ figures, specifically Sappho and Alkibiades. Sappho does get name-dropped, however she’s lengthy useless by the point the game takes place. And Alkibiades, one of many few characters who’s indisputably queer, even in the event you select to not romance him, is closely implied to be into bestiality on his first look. Even with out digging into the lengthy historical past of utilizing this accusation for homophobic causes, “bisexual man who will sleep with anything including animals” just isn’t an particularly “fair, accurate and inclusive representation.”
I are typically fairly forgiving of individuals – together with myself – who get enthusiastic about illustration in blockbuster games, even when it’s a lot lower than excellent. We all wish to see ourselves within the media that everybody’s speaking about, not simply the smaller stuff. So it’s not completely unreasonable for GLAAD to name consideration to Ubisoft’s “progress,” (although it is likely to be a bit a lot to name together with and defending primary same-gender relationships “courageous”).
But additionally, EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER, a game explicitly about “four gay disasters,” may be very, excellent. So is Heaven Will Be Mine, a game about mech battles and the way forward for humanity and in addition ladies making out. Where GLAAD nominated The Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset growth for a single questline a couple of trans lady, they may have celebrated One Night Hot Springs or Secret Little Haven or Hardcoded.
I may go on, however crucially, these are games made by LGBTQ+ folks. While a crew as giant as Ubisoft’s will undoubtedly have some queer members, they’re additionally more likely to largely encompass cis and heterosexual of us. Yet they obtain all of the accolades for his or her illustration whereas these different creators, and their games that don’t undermine themselves in the way in which that Odyssey does, are ignored.
In a perfect world, not solely would these games get the popularity they deserve, we’d additionally be capable to speak about illustration in games like Assassin’s Creed while not having a giant explanatory caveat. Until then, nicely, have you ever performed Butterfly Soup?