With 2020 being the equivalent of a colonoscopy being performed by a rusted Edward Scissorhands with one eye, we have now entered the summer stages of the year, meaning that we have passed the halfway stage, and it will just be a bad dream, or a fond memory if the universe decides to be dick about 2021. In honour of Pride month this year, where we can still celebrate people being equal to one another regardless of their romantic preferences, and to play our part, I have compiled a small list of games that should be mentioned for being inclusive of the wider social groups in society. With there being a greater acceptance of people for being who they are, it is important to note those digital delights of ours that allow us to be who we want to be, in our screen lives.(I really want a packet of skittles now.)
The Dragon Age Series
This is probably one of the most obvious set of games anyone would immediately think of when it comes to romance, not that the game is based around it so much. Bioware’s epic tales of heroism, camaraderie, good versus evil and fantasy allow quite a lot of choice when it comes to gender and sexuality. Although your character choice of male or female is set, unless you create another, your choice of who you love, whether or not you even want to, is entirely up to you. After traveling with a diverse bunch of companions, fighting beside them, talking to them around the campfire and ultimately becoming closer, it’s only natural that some sort of attraction would develop.
It’s not strange at all that when fictional characters in a game become intimate, we suddenly get the urge to get them together. Or, perhaps that’s just me. But what I truly thought was great with Dragon Age was that the romances felt very organic, they were never forced and the stories didn’t necessarily force you into a commitment. I think the first Dragon Age, Origins, captured this very well. Despite your race and gender, you can develop a relationship with a few characters, and your choices throughout the game will shape those relationships. It doesn’t matter if you are a man, woman, wizard or a hairy dwarf, you can find love with one of your battle mates. Or you can be a right gigolo/man-eater and sleep with more than one person. Your relationship can be nothing more than a chance to get some booty, but your companions do talk, so don’t expect the chatter to die down. It’s not like you can’t be seen when the cutscenes happen (they always keep their undergarments on for that reason, so thoughtful).
The Sims 4
Yes, another obvious choice. Since you are basically God in your little makeshift Sims universe you have total control over pretty much everything, and when you create your denizens of your world-space you can design in whatever fashion you desire. It’s probably one of the least restrictive games around, because there is no real campaign or narrative you are tied to. Although there are some pre-existing Sims in whichever area you open up, you can still add a dash of rainbow magic into the mix and have an entire village of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, vampires, mermaids, wizards and even frickin’ aliens. Yes, you can create the perfect utopia of inclusiveness and harmony, or just let them all do their own thing and watch from above, taking out the magnifying glass every now and then. With the variety of choices at hand you can allow anyone to marry, raise children and live together without discrimination. It’s your world, so you can shape it how you see fit. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t ensure that there is a flamboyant queen owning it on every street?(“Would you like to taste the rainbow?”)
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
It’s strange to think that two and a half millennia ago people were probably a lot more accepting of same-sex relationships than some people are today. Taking place in Ancient Greece, and having the choice of being one of two characters, your love interests are really no more than hook ups. Despite having some dialogue options, which don’t always put you in a position of making decisions, you will usually come across a character that you will interact with and/or help in some way, and as long as you agree with that person you might get a chance to get a little naughty. There is sometimes more to it than that, but you could easily make your way through the entire game without ever once taking your clothes off. I like that the option is there but it feels somewhat hollow that it never goes beyond a “yeah, let’s have some snoo snoo”, after some mild flirting. However, if you wanted Alexios to do the no pants dance with every guy that you can do it with, well…you can. I suppose the upside to it all is not having to be tied down, especially in such a large and open world filled with all kinds of dangers.(“Ha ha, you blinked, I win!”)
Knights of the Old Republic:
Released way back in 2003, and still one of the best Star Wars games ever made, it has a similar playstyle to the Dragon Age series. Within this specific game, the first lesbian character in this universe was revealed. Juhani, the female Cathar Jedi, is available to romance when playing as a female Jedi yourself and it was revealed that she had already been in somewhat of a relationship with another Jedi.
(“I miss the Darkside…. and leather!”)
Now this is where you get to fuck around, literally, with almost any NPC in a town, and you can flirt, marry, divorce and break many hearts. Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you can learn about the interests of each civilian and begin your flirting antics, boasting, showboating and farting to appeal your future love interest. You will notice how many people find you attractive when you see hearts appearing above their heads, an indicator of who you can get engaged with if they accept your proposal. Still, you need to be careful, because having sexual relations without using protection can result in contracting an STD. It’s possible to live together, share wealth with your spouse, and even get divorced. If your spouse gets to be too much you can always end things violently, but that’s never advised. So, you can be a sexual deviant and plough through the fields of men and women, civilians, prostitutes and even some unique NPCs.(“Don’t mind if I do!”)
The Mass Effect Series
Bioware traded swords and shields for space travel and lasers, dwarves and elves for Quarians and Turians, and it also allows the same set ups for developing relationships with your team mates. Unlike DA, Mass Effect is a trilogy in which you play as Commander Shephard, so if you happen to get really close to someone, that romance can be carried on in the next game, depending on your choices. Actions such as infidelity will ruin that relationship, but if you make the wrong choices it can also cause their death. Mass Effect leaves some massive repercussions from your choices in almost all things, but devoting yourself to someone throughout an entire game can make you worried, and when you see them falling in love, having their moments together, it can be devastating when you see that person slipping away, never to come back. Unless you save your game of course, so you know what obstacles to avoid. There are gay, hetero and bisexual characters, so it’s not difficult to find someone to bond with, and even if you’re a different race you will still find that there isn’t much standing in your way of being who you want to be or loving who you want to love.(“Is that an M-5 Phalanx Pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”)
There are plenty of other games out there without barriers, and as time goes on their numbers will surely grow. Of course, there is always the “SJW agenda” narrative that is shared online, everyone suspecting some political statement being made. Personally, I don’t give a crap; I just see it as a growing industry with more people getting into gaming. There is plenty enough out there for us all to take a break from reality and all of the drama that comes with it, but that means everyone needs an outlet. With open-world RPGs and the like it’s not a stretch to follow in the examples above, and considering how popular they are in their own right they still sell quite well, so it’s a win-win. Even if you can’t go out to a parade, or meet up with too many friends to celebrate this month, you can at least use it as a great excuse to sit on your arse, or your favourite toy, whatever gets your motor running, and shut your mind off for a few hours. Love who you want, regardless of what’s underneath your clothes.