It’s almost the end of Pride Month… Whilst I’m a bit unsure about a ‘special month’ dedicated to people like me, I appreciate the core idea: Wanting to make LGBT+ people visible, and promote general tolerance and acceptance. So in that spirit, I’m going to suggest some good games with an LGBT+ aspect of some kind.
This aspect may be anything from explored themes, romance-able ‘gay options’, or side characters who happen to be gay. The only other requirement is that they are good games – Whilst, say, Life is Strange is decent, it is by no means amazing, and Gone Home is more of a walking simulator than a gaming experience. Each title I pick will reflect one of the core ideals of the Rainbow Pride Flag – each colour represents something, and I’ll match it with a title that feels best appropriate to me.
Red – Life
What can better represent the idea of ‘life’ than a life sim? The original Sims by Maxis, which helped popularise the life simulation genre, released back in 2001. It was a pretty awesome game, with a lot of potential – it had advanced building, allowing players to design elaborate houses, and pretty in-depth simulation, allowing players to take control of members of a family of their own creation and guide them through challenges both real and absurd. Balancing stats, making money, and forging friendships were challenging, but not impossible tasks. The Sims was a great game to sink a few hours into every now and then, made all the better with a slew of expansion packs.
The title is also well known for being LGBT+ friendly. Whilst the game originally had same-sex dating, it was perceived to be a bug, and patched out – but when the developers realised its potential as a feature, they re-introduced it in future patches, starting from the release of the Hot Date expansion two years post-launch. Infact, the advertising for Hot Date is considered one of the first LGBT+ positive commercials for a video game. Future titles allowed for same-sex marriage, opening wardrobe and hairstyles for everyone, and stating one’s gender identity.
Out of all the Sims games, your best bet would be playing The Sims 3. The Sims 3 simply has the greatest amount of content on offer; large, open-world towns your Sims can explore freely, and if you choose to buy expansion packs, you can get pets, mythological creatures, foreign locations, university, and more! Not to mention that the community has created, and continues to create, a large amount of mods for the game. And the best part is that, because it’s an older title, it’s reasonably cheap, too!
(Just whatever you do, don’t invest in Sims 4. It’s clear EA didn’t.)
Orange – Healing
Alright, Overwatch might seem a little bit of a stretch seeing that Tracer and Emily are the only canonical LGBT+ characters (With Lynx Seventeen identifying as genderless), and none of them are healers… Buuuuuuut with all the ‘Need Healing’ and Pharmercy stuff in the community, it made sense to put that here. And, well, Overwatch really is a game worth checking out if you haven’t done so already!
Overwatch is a hero shooter carefully developed by game industry legend Blizzard. Set in the near future, you and your team of misfits try to capture and hold areas and objectives in order to win. It sounds simple, but there’s an amazing amount of lore to the title, both in game, and via cinematic shorts and free comics. Every hero also feels different, both mechanically, and personality wise – and every member of the international cast has something you’ll love them for (Eg. The rage you’ll get for playing a Mei successfully).
The community isn’t super toxic (well, compared to some games), but I’d recommend new players go with the arcade modes to start with, especially Mystery Heroes. Getting decent with everyone ensures you never find yourself caught out, and that you’ll always have a good chance for victory! The fan base absolutely adores its non-canon shippings too, with gay ones like Tracer x Widow, Mercy x Pharah, and Hanzo x McCree being some of the most represented, and often in a cute, genuine manner, too. It’s all pretty LGBT+ friendly, occasional lost CoD fan aside.
Give this one a look next time a free weekend rolls around.
Yellow – Sunlight
Whilst ‘sunlight’ seems a bit strange of a concept to represent in a flag, it refers to the behaviour of light in general: Specifically, how it illuminates and shows who we are. And 2064: Read Only Memories is a perfect fit in that regard.
The future of San Francisco is very open and diverse from the get go: Midboss is a studio primarily made of LGBT+ developers and the cast follows suit, with over half being openly gay or trans. You can even pick what pronouns you are referred to near the beginning of the game, and attempt to woo whoever in one section.
But whilst that openness is a refreshing aspect, that isn’t why I chose the game for this category. A game has to have more than that for this sort of list, and this one really is. Read Only Memories is, at its core, a mystery, with a tone similar to that of classic Ace Attorney games – parts can be lighthearted and goofy, and other parts can be serious and heart wrenching. You explore the city’s beautifully rendered pixel art backgrounds through point and click, investigating, talking, and puzzle solving as you go.
You begin the game as a freelance journalist, awakened one morning to find Turing, a ROM – a personal robot assistant – in your house. He explains his creator, your old friend Hayden, sent him here after people broke into his home and took him. You discover Turing is actually a sapient A.I., something previously thought to be science fiction, and you help him to discover what’s happened to his creator, and ultimately work to uncover a conspiracy that could change the future of technology forever.
The game explores a variety of themes, from the ethics regarding artificial life to what it means to be human. So this game is here not only because of freely showing loads of LGBT+ people, but for illuminating important themes, too. 2064: Read Only Memories is a charming title that’s well worth looking into.
Green – Nature
Simulation titles have always called to me; they offer a unique experience other genres simply don’t, by providing you a vast degree of control, or a way of existing, that you normally couldn’t access. And farming sims are the cream of the crop – they’re so relaxing, and fun; It’s great to find a balance with nature in these titles. And Stardew Valley is, to date, the best farming sims I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
It’s hard to believe a masterpiece like this was made entirely by one man, but that is indeed the case here; ConcernedApe (AKA Eric Barone) spent four years refining his work before releasing it in 2016, and even now still updates the game (The title is currently in beta for it’s 1.3 patch, which will introduce multiplayer and new events).
Players take the role of a corporate drone who flees the city after discovering they’ve inherited a farm from their late grandfather, opting to try for a simpler life outside a small town. From there, the player is free to do as they wish: Farm one of the variety of different crops per season, explore the vast world of Stardew Valley, delve into the mines and fight monsters, befriend the charming townspeople…there’s a lot to do in this game, and you have time to experience all of it: Although your grandfather’s ghost will rate your time at the start of Year 3, there is no real end goal, and you can always ask for a re-evaluation.
As you upgrade your house and befriend the town, you will eventually have the option to romance one of the available bachelors or bachelorettes and marry them, regardless of your gender; doesn’t seem like much, but being able to woo who you actually like is always a major plus in these sorts of titles as it makes them feel more open to you.
Honestly, this game is just such a blast, and a great way to pass a few hours, or even a lunch break – A single day in game will only take you 14 minutes to pass, after all. Check this one out.
Blue – Art/Serenity
The following game is not about art, so much it is a work of art; a classic RPG tale that slides comfortably alongside the greats like Baldur’s Gate and Final Fantasy 7 in it’s legacy, and it should be on everyone’s ‘Play before they die’ list. Considering how it is viewed these days, it is perhaps a bit curious that Dragon Age: Origins was released in 2009 with only a little fanfare; publisher EA only gave it a little bit of screentime at E3 and some interviews about the game before ultimately pushing it out into the world, seemingly uncertain if Bioware, the developer of 2007’s Mass Effect and once gaming’s champion of old, could find success once again.
But the feedback was instantaneous: they had, and they had found it big time.
Dragon Age: Origins puts players in the world of Thedas, a medieval inspired medium-fantasy setting. Players chose their race, gender, and backstory – The backstory was race and class specific, and worked both as a tutorial for new players, and an introduction to their race’s standing in the world. Dwarves could be nobles or commoners, having forever lived in the underground city of Orzammar; elves could be wild and free as the Dalish, living in a nomadic clan, or part of the underclass in the capital of Ferelden, Denerim. Customisation, and a slew of dialogue options, let characters make characters all of their own.
The player’s character is eventually recruited into the Grey Wardens, an organisation formed to fight creatures affected by the Blight, and unholy curse. A horde of Blight affected creatures have gathered, and plot to march on Ferelden – You, the other Wardens, and the King’s army march to stop them. But treachery is afoot, and things don’t go as planned; one of the few survivors of the failed offensive, you and a rag-tag bunch you recruit along the way – From the gorgeously witty Morrigan through to the lovable drunk Oghren – Must manoeuvre a civil war, cursed forests, holy fables, and elections to bring everyone together before its too late.
The combat of the game is heavily strategic, with powers and abilities able to work off one another to create devastating combos – Players may also pause and give characters orders at any time, or set them up in advance through programming the AI. Players may also resolve situations they come across in a great number of ways – You may start off facing a peril with the intent of helping one group, only to find the other offers more rewards. Sometimes, you can even help everyone out and gain the alligiance of all.
The cast is a highlight of the title to be sure; lovable and charming, you will make friends with a great many of them. Personal favourites of mine include the previously aforementioned Morrigan, Zevran the elven assassin, the goofy but well meaning Alistair, and the cranky but caring Wynne.
The game also has a lot of representation; multiple same-sex romances and encounters may be pursued, and there are canonical LGBT+ romances in the game (eg. Lelianna and her mentor, Marjolaine). The third game in the franchise, Dragon Age: Inquisition also has trans representation via Krem, and there’s also Maevaris Tilani from the comics.
The title has brilliant writing and gameplay; anyone who considers themselves a gamer has to play this at some point in all honesty. I mean, you can go into a games store and find a copy on the shelf; how many decade old titles have that sort of staying power?
Violet – Spirit
Night in the Woods is a fantastic game – Imagine Life is Strange, but if Chloe was the main character and actually a good character, too. I know, I know, I wouldn’t believe it either. But unlike Miss Price, Mae Borrowski is a flawed character who actually *realises* she can be pretty shitty, and instead of blaming everyone else for her issues, strives to work on them (With varying degrees of success).
A beautiful 2D title by Infinite Fall, Night in the Woods revolves around Mae’s return to her small, slowly dying Mid-Western town after dropping out of college, and trying to rebuild her life and old friendships. It is a story of growing up, of change (For better and for worse), of the slowly fading Rust Belt of America, with an underlying mystery threading eldritch beings and sacrificial cults through it all.
The game is an exploration platformer, and the plot propelled by interacting with the cast – You can choose to hang out with the ever excitable, punkish Gregg, the estranged and sardonic Bae, the wise and introverted Angus, or dozens of other people around town, and as time passes, events begin to unfold. Although there’s anthros and surreal elements (Especially in Mae’s dreams), the cast is entirely believable in their motivations and personality: for example, there’s a heated moment between you and your mother where she reveals confusion and resentment over you leaving college, because she and your father worked incredibly hard to make it happen, and the local priest reveals they don’t know why they’re preaching because they don’t know if they believe in their faith any more. There’s a lot of heart and soul in the writing here, which makes the encroaching horror more spectacular; you feel roped in right alongside Mae as her average, boring life becomes interrupted by the unknown.
The LGBT+ representation in this title come primarily in the form of Angus and Gregg, who are a couple. Their romance is explored in a realistic manner, with both expressing love and doubt, and commentators on the side assuming they’re only together because they’re the only gay people in town. Gregg is honestly the game’s best character in my opinion, because he’s such a lovable idiot. At a party, Mae also has the opportunity to flirt with an attractive woman, and is officially confirmed to be pansexual.
If you’re after a well written game to explore (with a really well realised RPG minigame in it, too), this is a must.
Dream Daddy: A Dating Simulator
An LGBT+ title made by the Game Grumps that has cute writing and fun gameplay; you can even make your own ‘dadsona’! One of the dads, Damien, is trans, and the player character can be, too.
Get up to mischief with the stupid farmer’s son, be caught, and forced into a shotgun marriage regardless of gender! Fallout 2 is a game people should try anyway; a classic.
Yep, Dwarves can be bi, gay, or asexual in this, and even marry and live happily ever after (until you flood the fort with lava). Extra bonus: It’s free!
A Normal Lost Phone
Snoop through someone’s lost phone, and discover a lot about them without their knowing! News of The World Simulator, 2018.
Crusader Kings 2
Be a gay king or queen, marry a beard, and make the entire court your harem as you go around conquering the world as early medieval ruler!
So that’s it for our look at LGBT+ representation and games that you should perhaps dabble in if you’re looking to shake up your gaming experience post-Pride Month! Let us know if we missed any notable examples, or your own favourites down in the comments!!