Queerness in AAA: E3 2018

Another year, another E3, and this one was particularly amazing. Lots of games were revealed and shown off, and the hype train certainly took off. However, there was one thing that made this E3 stand out from previous years, which is how absolutely and unabashedly gay it was.

For starters, games featuring queer characters is nothing new. Queerness in games is not unusual in the indie game scene, with games such as Dream Daddy or Gone Home, but the AAA industry had fallen a little behind. Some games, like the Mass Effect series, for example, would prominently feature queer characters, and other games would hint at characters being queer, but it was nowhere near to the same calibre as indie games. Considering how many AAA games come out every year, few actually had any representation of any kind, and if there was, you’d have to look hard enough. But not this time.

 Dream Daddy

Dream Daddy

 Gone Home

Gone Home

The two big games that featured queer characters was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us II.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey came as a bit of a surprise. The series is no stranger to having queer characters per se. In Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Jacob Frye was confirmed bisexual, and there was a transgender character by the name of Ned Wynert, but their queerness isn’t brought up at all. In fact, you’d likely never know if it hadn’t been confirmed outside of the game.

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The AC series has recently been undergoing a lot of changes, and adding romances was unexpected but well welcomed, perhaps even more so since BioWare’s new IP, Anthem, does not feature any kind of romance. Not only can you choose the gender of the playable character, you are able to romance whomever you want, regardless of the gender of the romanceable characters. This is not only a great change that’ll lead to more representation, (though fortunately, they’re not keeping the pedophilia). Coming from a long time fan of the series, to say that I’m beyond happy with the ability to play as a queer character is an understatement. The Assassin’s Creed games were the first I ever played, and I’ve been a huge fan of the series for a very long time. Being able to finally play a queer woman means so much to me, as I’ll finally be able to see myself reflected and represented in the games.

Speaking of statements, The Last of Us II’s gameplay trailer could’ve just have been a giant sign that said “It’s gay!” and it would’ve had the same impact. Okay, probably not. Now it’s no secret that Ellie, the protagonist of the game, is a lesbian. It was confirmed in the DLC for the first game. What was unexpected with the gameplay shown at the Sony conference was how overt they showed Ellie’s queerness. It took me by surprise to say the least, so much so that I was barely focusing on violent gameplay that juxtaposed the sweet scene that left me screaming for joy at my computer screen. I honestly never thought I’d ever see two female characters kiss on a giant screen during a major conference at the biggest consumer-centric video game event of the year, but I was definitely glad to be wrong.  

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This year’s E3 without a doubt has been the gayest it has ever been, and the increased representation of queer people in AAA games is cause for celebration, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more room for improvement. This E3 mostly seemed to feature queer women-loving-women or wlw, and they were all white. While it’s a great step forward, we need to have more representation that shows queer POC, trans characters,  as well as queer men-loving-men. We need more variety of queer relationships because there is a large variety of real-life queer people that all have different likes and tastes.

Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more AAA games explore queerness more, and hire more queer developers to help make those games and tell those stories, and it’ll all go up from here.