This post is guest-authored by Libraries Collections & Research Strategy temporary worker, Ash. Thanks, Ash!
Looking for a new video game to play this summer? Among The Libraries’ large collection of video games are several that feature LGBTQ representation. This Pride Month we’ve compiled a list of some of these games to highlight.
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a game with significant and positive LGBTQ representation versus a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment. For this reason, the games featured here are split into three categories: games with canonically queer player characters, games with customizable player characters that may feature LGBTQ romance options and side characters but may be incidental, and games with queer side characters that also may be incidental.
In The Last of Us series you play as Ellie, a character whose relationships are explored and developed through the story. Ellie is considered to be the first protagonist in a blockbuster game who is a lesbian, and this representation alongside other queer side characters throughout the series has made The Last of Us series one of the first mentioned when looking for video games with LGBTQ representation
Life is Strange is another series often highlighted for its queer representation. The game includes lesbian and bisexual characters, and many fans appreciate that they feel these games portray realistic relationships in an organic way.
While the main character Aloy was only confirmed to be queer in the Horizon Forbidden West downloadable content (DLC) “Burning Shores,” many had considered her heavily queer-code in the main games. In addition to Aloy, the games include queer side characters, and many players appreciate that these characters are treated no differently based on their queerness.
While this game does have optional LGBTQ romance options, many consider the queer characters in this game to be far more openly discussed and explored. The main character Zagreus not only has the option to romance a character of the same gender, but also explores polyamory with the option to be in a relationship with two characters at once. There are also many queer side characters, from the nonbinary character Chaos to the asexual character Dusa, and this game has been appreciated by many for the range of LGBTQ representation.
All three games of this section feature the ability to customize the player character at the beginning of the game, including appearance and gender (though it should be noted you are still limited to binary options.) These series have evolved over the years to allow for queer representation with the player character, having options to romance characters of the same gender as the player character. Depending on which game in the series you play and what choices you make during gameplay, representation may be nonexistent, incidental, or openly discussed and explored.
The Mass Effect series has been met with mixed reception for its LGBTQ representation. While some applaud it and greatly appreciate the inclusion they’ve found, others have called out its problematic aspects and reliance on tropes. One example is the Asari race, an agender alien species who are portrayed as sexualized, feminine characters; many have found these characters to be problematic and not representative of many in the agender community. Regardless, the series has had many LGBTQ side characters through its run, and a customizable player character that allows for same-gender relationships.
While early Fallout games allowed for flirting with characters of the same-gender, there were no romance options available for players. The games were also criticized for these interactions often being limited to female sex workers within the games. This has changed over the run of the series, as the games began to feature characters who will flirt with and pursue the player character regardless of the player character’s gender.
Unlike the other two series in this section, from Dragon Age’s first game, Origins, the player character could pursue romance arcs with characters of the same gender. There are also characters whose sexualities are not dependent on the gender of the player character; for example, the character Dorian in Dragon Age: Inquisition only shows romantic interest in men and is only romanceable if the player character is a man. There have also been many other LGBTQ side characters throughout the series.
This game explores the lives and deaths of its characters as you guide them into the afterlife. One of these characters is Summer, and while her story doesn’t revolve around her being queer, you hear about her wife as you learn more about her.
This game has been highlighted for its inclusivity, from a wide cast of POC characters, deaf characters and the use of ASL, and a few LGBTQ characters. These characters aren’t defined by their race, deafness, or queerness, and many appreciate the diversity found in Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
In this game there are two canonical same-gender relationships. It should be noted that these are optional questlines, and could be missed. But, with the open nature of the game many players still have come to appreciate the inclusion of LGBTQ characters that exist within the world, whose sexuality are not treated any differently than the rest of the characters.
Video games are making strides in giving players more options to create and see characters that represent them. By exploring LGBTQ romance routes for player characters, providing options in character creation to reflect more nuanced gender expression, and including LGBTQ side characters who are a part of the world, video games are creating virtual spaces for gamers to safely reflect and explore their queerness.
Want to learn more about video games and other media? The Libraries recently acquired a primary source database of video game magazines. Check out the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive for articles on the games featured here:
If there's a game you didn’t notice on this list or in the catalog, feel free to suggest a purchase!