With well-portrayed gay characters becoming more and more prevalent in today’s media, I thought I’d take a look at the state of games, a media that is becoming used more and more to tell strong provocative stories, and has always been embroiled in controversy. So cuddle up to your favourite pet/person/pillow, and join me for a trip down the rainbow covered digital highways, as we take a look at my 5 top LGBT characters.
5. Vilkas, The Elder Scrolls V:(Five) Skyrim, Bethesda Softworks
Skyrim, land of the Bears!…..I mean Nords. You play as the Dragonborne, the hero of the hour, the only one who can save Skyrim from the Dragons, you spend most of your time away from home, questing in caves, or castles. Doing valiant battle with the plethora of monsters and minions that populate the vast frozen wastes of the land…..or you could be climbing mountains and valleys picking the various flowers for potions (I wish I hadn’t spent as much time as I have doing this)
So what do you need when you do come home? You need a nicely furnished house, a hot meal, and a doting lover right? Well Vilkas provides all of the above! He also runs a shop which will add to your ingame income, what more could you ask for.
Vilkas is one of the NPCs in the game that you can marry, and you can marry him regardless of gender. He is one of the two brothers within the companions, a guild of noble warriors and defenders that operate within Skyrim. He is an intelligent, well-spoken man, who knows what he likes and is not easily impressed. When the player first meets him Vilkas feels that you are not worthy of entry into the companions, but he eventually grows to like you, making the eventual blossoming love all the more sweeter, sure he’s part Werewolf, but he cooks a mean meal!
4. Reaver, Fable 2 and 3 (Lionhead Studios)
Ahh the Dorian Grey of the Fable world! Blessed with eternal youth thanks to an annual sacrificial ritual, the perfect silver tongued marksman of Oakvale is impossibly charming, wickedly handsome, devilishly intelligent, and to top it off, voiced by Stephen Fry, what’s not to love! Much like Dorian, Reaver has grown more and more debauched as the ages have passed, sampling all the fruits of life, and often becoming intertwined with the powerful figures, and plots at the time. He is also rather rich, as one would expect when you have an eternity to amass a fortune, spending money on whimsical inventions (Reaver is seen shooting a photographer, when testing the first camera to be invented in the Fable-verse, when it is revealed it will take several months for the image to develop) works of art, parities, or anything, or anyone that may take his fancy. There are several moments in the game where Reaver has fantastic dialogue, which is delivered beautifully by Mr Fry’s voice acting, which makes the character a joy to be around, with an eternal life, he has many anecdotes and stories to tell, but one thing is certain, he is a man that enjoys all the finer things life has to offer, no matter the cost.
3. Trevor Phillips, Grand Theft Auto V (Five), (Rockstar Games.)
Right off the bat, I want to state that Trevor, may or may not be Bisexual. His sexuality is left ambiguous, Trevor often talks about commuting sexual acts on both males and females, which could be because he has attractions to both, or it could be connected to his mental disorder. Although there is a scene in the game where Trevor asks a male friend to marry him so that he has somewhere to live. Rockstar themselves have been rather mum on the subject declining to make any kind of comment. That to me is perfect, many people exist in the world who do not fit moulds, norms or stereotypes and Los Santos’ resident socio/psychopath does this perfectly, at one moment menacingly threatening people at knife point, with his crazy eyes, the next waking up drunk, on the beach, in a dress.
Personally I love Trevor, and it has nothing to do with apparently looking like him. He’s unhinged and a little over the top, and while he might be a little scruffy and dirty, and so rough that I’m not even sure where his edges are. He works perfectly in the game alongside Michael’s cleaner façade and quest for redemption, or Franklin looking for a quick fix, and a place in the world. Add to that his unpredictability and crazy antics, coupled with his sarcastic humour means he is often the conduit for levity in the game, and you have a character that might not make the best bedfellow, certainly is fun to play.
2. Birdo, Super Mario Bros 2 (Nintendo)
Originally, despite the pink, feminine appearance, the large bow and mascara…or the vagina mouth that shot fiery eggs at his unsuspecting victims, Birdo was in fact a male character. Indeed the original manual for Super Mario Bro’s 2 listed that Birdo was a male, who wanted to be female, and preferred to go by the name of “Birdetta.” This made Birdo the first transsexual video game character. However, eventually a re-print of the manual made no mention of the poor confused dinosaur’s sexuality. But come “Mario Tennis” the he was now a she, and was featured as the girlfriend of everyone’s other favourite dinosaur. Yoshi.
Nintendo have continued to blur gender lines with Birdo, having the trophy featuring Birdo being labelled as “gender indiscriminate,” and having characters hesitate before addressing her as dame. Personally I have to call this a triumph on Nintendo’s part, for a company who mostly focus around family friendly entertainment. It’s great to see a company have a character with genuine gender confusion, a character that could go some way to highlight gender issues, and to do all this in a none pushy, none judgemental way, who perhaps will not have received a second glance from most gamers unaware of the history of the character.
1. Jimmy Hopkins, Bully (Rockstar Games)
Ok, so I admit, Vilkas was 5th because he is a character that you the player can chose the sexuality of, rather than a character that the designers have chosen to design with specific sexual orientations, this could arguably be less important right? While normally Id agree with that argument, on this occasion I would have to disagree, and here is why!
Bully is set at Bullworth Academy, it’s an open world game, much in the kin of Rockstar favourites Red Dead Redemption, and Grand Theft Auto and sets the player, as Jimmy in the sandbox of a school where the interactions of the game take place. The character Jimmy, is a rather run of the mill average student, and often finds himself rebelling against the school system, and his parents, it’s fair to say that at the beginning of the game, snotty nosed Jimmy finds himself a bit of a misfit, though can become a member of the various cliques thanks to the actions of the player. It’s this setting that makes the ability to choose Jimmy’s orientation such an important one, when that choice to make a character gay or bisexual is played out through a 15 year old boy, the choice takes on so much more weight and mirrors so many experiences of people that age, who struggle to fit in, or come to terms with who they are, or even if such a choice changes who they are. I came into this game at around 19, and while jimmy was 4 years younger than me, I had only been out 2 years, and it was encouraging playing a game that reflected many of the issues I had faced.
The game certainly touched a lot of people, and not always in a positive way. Action was taken against the game in Brazil, leading to it being banned, and anyone who was found to be in possession of it were given a daily fine. However, the controversies were not just limited to counties, or governments. Youtuber, game reviewer, and general nerd commentator “Nerd³” covers the complaints that he got while documenting the completion of the game in the beginning of this video.
If a game can elicit such a response, just from one small player choice, albeit an emotional one then that player choice, and the character it affects certainly deserve to be at the top of this list. Rock on Jimmy.