Specifically, in Bioware games.

I usually don’t mind homosexual, transexual/transgender, or other such minority characters in a video game. That is, I don’t think that sexuality is a very relevant factor in the personality of a person. In fact, I’d argue that in certain cases, a game can get away by making the playable character bisexual, or more accurately letting the player choose their sexuality.

Skyrim and Fallout 4 did this with mixed results.

Essentially, Skyrim allows the player to marry once and only once to a preset selection of characters in the game, male or female, regardless of the sex of the player character, after they have accomplished a certain quest. Fallout 4 allows the player to date and have relationships with certain followers regardless of sex, and unlike Skyrim, the number is not limited.

Skyrim’s approach, which we will term the “full sandbox” approach, is faulty in that there is no real incentive to chose a character over another, other than their physical apearance and a few lines of dialogue. The characters in Skyrim are not truly fleshed out, outside of a few major characters, most of which can’t be married. As with many aspects of Skyrim, it feels incomplete and flawed.

Fallout 4’s approach is a more complete aproach, as the followers are more fleshed out as characters. However, one could raise the issue of sexuality not being a part of said fleshing out. That Piper can date either a male or female protagonist is, while not necessarily impossible (she can be bisexual) not explained clearly in the game.

A similar approach was found in Dragon Age : Origins, where four characters were date-able. Two males, two females, one of each was straight and the other bisexual. Whether this was designed for gender parity or simply to let the player have the choice they want, Bioware achieved both.

However, there were some problems with other Bioware games. Mass Effect 1’s Asari people, I actually consider really interesting and a proper addition to the lore. I also really liked the character Cortez, the navet pilot in ME3, who was mourning his dead husband. I had a nice conversation with a fellow gamer a few days ago about this character: we both felt really strongly about this character, because he was memorable. He wasn’t simply a Latino gay man, he was a character in pain, mourning the man he loved, and that made him memorable to us.

On the contrary, in Mass Effect: Andromeda, and in Dragon Age: Inquisition, you have characters coming to you and all but telling you “HEY, I’M TRANS. HEY, DID YOU KNOW I SWITCHED GENDERS? HEY, I’M TRANS AND THAT MAKES ME INTERESTING”. No it doesn’t. This is tokenism.

The simple fact of being gay or trans or anything does not make a character interesting. That’s tokenism. The same would apply to any idea of “representation” in games where you don’t get to create your character.

I’ll elaborate. Geralt of Rivia and Ciri are both relatable characters in The Witcher series (and only The Witcher 3 as for Ciri). They’re not relatable because of their race or sex or sexuality (and Ciri is canonically gay as well) but because they are characters with an actual personality. Lara Croft is not interesting because she is a female protagonist in an action game, but because the games were good enough that a blank-slate character is acceptable (and her story picked off after that). A blank-slate character is acceptable in Skyrim, because it’s a sandbox more than anything else.

But simply having a minority character ? That’s not enough. Actually write relatable characters, and gamers will accept anything. Tokenism is stupid and insulting to everyone involved.

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