LGBT+ characters and storylines are having another breakthrough moment—in video games.
This week LGBT+ media non-profit organisation GLAAD announced that for the first time, its annual media awards is branching out into video games.
The GLAAD Awards have been an annual staple for honouring the diverse range of LGBT+ stories across entertainment and journalism for more than two decades.
Mainstream video games have been slower to adapt compared to other forms of media, but over the past few years several blockbuster games have begun to feature LGBT+ stories.
In a release, GLAAD announced a new awards category for a “video game with outstanding LGBTQ-inclusive content.”
A description explains: “[This] award is given for an interactive experience that includes authentic and impactful LGBTQ characters or storylines.
“Judging will take into consideration the degree to which the LGBTQ-inclusive content is effectively woven into gameplay, including player agency and the world itself.”
GLAAD explicitly cited increasing inclusivity in the medium as the reason for the change.
Zeke Stokes of GLAAD told The Hollywood Reporter: “It has been the turning point in the industry. There was an unprecedented number of LGBTQ-inclusive games in 2017.
“The industry is ready to give LGBT characters bigger roles, so it’s a lot of what’s already happening in the industry combined with the vastness of it all.
Under-representation of LGBT people in video games has been a point of criticism within the industry for many years, while sections of the video game community have reacted with hostility to diverse narratives.
Game developers who have included female-driven, LGBT+ and other minority themes in their work have previously spoken about receiving torrents of abuse from people affiliated with GamerGate, an online movement in opposition to so-called social justice warriors, which gained infamy in 2013 and is considered an effective precursor to the present-day alt-right.
Online fantasy game Old School RuneScape faced a mass ‘riot’ from players last year when developers added a Pride-themed update.
Even games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, which include little explicit LGBT+ content, have become a hit with queer fans by taking a more genderfluid approach to unlockable outfits.
Stokes added: “For LGBTQ people, gaming is one of those spaces where they can experiment with owning their identity [when] they may not be ready to do in their real life.
“A place to try on their authentic self in an environment that is not threatening. Making sure that we are reaching people where they are with messages of inclusion is very important.”