Research highlights trends in LGBTQ+ representation in video games

New research has explored how the LGBTQ+ community is represented over time in the video game industry. 

The video game industry has not historically provided extensive portrayals of the LGBTQ+ community, the research by Green Man Gaming using data from the Queerly Represent Me website found.

When characters representing the LGBTQ+ community did make an appearance, they were typically confined to stereotypical, one-dimensional roles and were often not playable characters. However, the analysis shows there has been a growing awareness of LGBTQ+ identities among video game developers and story writers.  

Until 2014 there were less than 500 games that included some kind of representation of LGBTQ+ communities. However, in the past five years there has been a significant upturn in the numbers, and today there are over 1,500 games with LGBTQ+ characters and the trend looks set to continue.

What’s more, video game designers seem to be becoming more sensitive to the diversity of sexual identities. In early games in the 80s and 90s, we mainly saw the LGBTQ+ community represented as gay, lesbian, bi or trans.

However, in 2019, research found that four additional sexual identities were represented in video games in roughly equal proportions.  

The research also showed that video game designers are increasingly giving gamers the option to play as an LGBTQ+ character. In 2019, 90% of video games that included an LGBTQ+ character gave gamers the option to play as that character.

By contrast, 30 years ago, you could only play as an LGBTQ+ character in a quarter of the games where the identities were present. We have also seen a growth in the diversity of genres where LGBTQ+ characters appear and can now be found in practically all formats.  

Other findings include: 

– LGBTQ+ characters are most often found in the interactive & visual novel genre, representing 64% of all games with characters representing the community in 2018 

– Almost no LGBTQ+ characters are found in fighter games today, yet in the 80s and 90s they were more common.  LGBTQ+ characters are particularly rare or non-existent in strategy, simulation and puzzle games 

– Playersexual characters are a regular feature of video games. This is where the player’s character, regardless of their gender, can start romantic encounters with any non-player character – even in an otherwise heteronormative game 

David Clark, Managing Director at Green Man Gaming Publishing said: “We are delighted to see an increasing trend in LGBTQ+ representation in the video games industry. There’s still a long way to go but, we hope the recent increase in this report demonstrates that change is really starting to happen.” 

“We believe that the growth in LGBTQ+ characters in games is really important because it allows players to identify with, understand and empathise with the community – which can only help to encourage tolerance.”

Written by QWEERIST editor

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