Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sexuality & Games (Old)

"On Saturday, July 18th, GLAAD held its first ever Digital Media event as part of our newly launched Project on Homophobia & Virtual Communities. The event, a panel discussion hosted by Electronic Arts on their private campus in Redwood City, CA, brought out some of the industry’s foremost companies, organizations, gamers and media as both panelists and audience members."

I've always had a huge interest in sexuality as a topic, particularly in sexuality in society. My intrigue in sexuality, it's effects in society, and how it shapes people and perceptions, is most-likely due to the fact that my Mum used to be a sex education teacher in our local schools. My early acceptance into a mature and open world of sexuality has all but evaporated any sense of repression or confusion, thus my analysis of other people and the societies they've helped create began quickly and without confusion. I credit my untainted view to an early, honest and mature relationship with this particular taboo.

Even as I type the word "taboo", it baffles me that this still exists. In a world with telecommunication, flight, a space program and Jeremy Paxman, it is truly disheartening that we have come so far in furthering our society and the shaping of our world, and yet we've managed to suppress a key experience that releases the right chemicals into our brains that make us happy?

All in all, I'm very interested in sexuality. I'm also pretty interested in games. I'm studying to be a Games Designer, that was a good decision on my part. Yay me. +1 Perception. So with these two interests at my disposal, I'm more than happy to delve into the much un-archived world of sex & games. Now to tackle this combination of two heaving topics, I'll spill these thoughts out into two piles. First, Sex in Games. Then, Sexuality in Gaming.

Bioware release "Mass Effect", and it's really, really popular. It sells a tonne of copies, creates a very convincing in-game world with great dialogue and some pretty interesting game mechanics in it's delivery of in-game conversations. Bioware clearly wanted to make a mature game with mature themes in a fully customisable experience to give the player a much more rich and immersive experience, they give you the option to have your character begin a relationship with NPC's in the game. Being a fantastic idea with near perfect delivery,

I was very happy with this decision and fully agree with its sentiments. It even includes a sex scene if the player completes the "Paragon" relationship side of the game, fantastic! Very mature choice Bioware! The problem came, however, from the options they gave the player for their character. If you choose a female character, you are given the choice of Kaiden (male) or Liara (female), but if you choose a male character you can choose between Ashley (female) or Liara (female). So Bioware are basically saying, "We want to give the player a rich and immersive experience, custom to their own decisions that shape the world and your character as you see fit. But no gay sex. Nope. We're having none of those shenanigans!"

This is a direct quote from Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Co Founder of Bioware, on defending the sex scenes from Mass Effect;

"I think from our perspective we want to reflect real human relationships. If you're trying to have a relationship with a character we want to reflect that and the impact of the connection with that character. And if that involves some sort of intimate scenes, we want to provide those for the player. It's based on the fact that this is a sophisticated, mature experience."

I would challenge that this is a sophisticated, mature experience, Dr. Zeschuk. Needless to say, I was disappointed in both Dr Zeschuk, and in Bioware.

Straight or Lesbian, you are free to play the game as is it's concept intended (and delivered). But god forbid you're a homosexual who wants to play your character as promised in the Mass Effect design document. Not only is it quite childish and near-spineless to not include simulated male/male relationships, whilst stating that you want your players to have a mature and personal experience, it is also a sure sign of the way homosexuality as a concept is treated within mainstream media.

Next, Sexuality in Gaming. With the way that language and words have been corrupt by modern ignorance, we have seen words change meaning, effect and status with each passing day. Where a lot of originally hate-fuelled racist words have flip-flopped between the way they are used and perceived, so too has words that identify sexual orientation.

Thanks to the slow evolution of our society, some of it's progression haa lifted a lot of injustices towards gay people, aspects like gay marriage's legality for instance. But with the unmoving goliath that is the internet hate-machine, words like "gay", "fag", "faggot" and "homo" have made a rousing comeback into the insult dictionary. Once again, referring to a peer as "gay" is now seen as an inflammatory insult, and the word "faggot" has taken place atop the throne of evil buzzwords.

Now to bring this round to some kind of relevant topical point, the recent meetings of the aforementioned GLAAD have had some very interesting points brought up that were discussed with a great panel. One of the points was that people who define themselves by their sexuality in online games are separating themselves from the community by branding themselves based on their own sexual preferences. I would say to this that the worst culprits who are dividing the community are the ones that spout this mindless, ignorant bullshit across their microphones, tucked-up and snug in the knowledge their anonymity will keep them safe and guilt-free, because that's the way 4chan taught them.

I personally lost a lot of faith in the online community a few years ago; I played Xbox Live online with a huge number of people, and the percentage of trash-talking ignorant spoutings of intolerable haters was so astounding I found that playing online games became an insufferable experience if not with friends.

I only recently picked up Xbox Live again and after just a few hours of playing online I had already begun to meet these people again. I was called a "Faggot" because I used female avatars for my Rock Band characters. This level of homophobia has become so ingrained into so many aspects of these modern societies, that it's spilling out into what should be people's leisure time.

So we have homophobia in gamers, and a serious lack of LGBT representation in games. Big deal. It's everywhere! It's in all media formats. So while games and gaming has a long way to go to become a complete haven of equality (as does film, music and tv); as with most topics in the evolution of our society, it needs to start with the nurturing of the young'in's.

Creating a mature, open environment for your children immediately decreases the chances of that child becoming confused about sex and, in turn, sexuality as part of their living experience. Now while I do appreciate this may clash with some religious beliefs, those parents should at least invite the key set of morals that comes with the knowledge of how the human body works; acceptance, tolerance and not-making-fun-of-my-Rock-Band-characters.

And to everyone else that isn't a parent, I invite you to consider the words you may have become used to. By all means throw up some friendly trash-talk to your enemies as you careen through their defences in a reinforced tank, blowing their carcasses half-way across the map, but please don't chainsaw through the bonds of compassion! (That stuff gets everywhere...)

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