We picked this up from father of MUDs (or another appropriate title), Richard Bartle:

When role-playing games offer the possibility for player characters to romance non-player characters, the pressure for including same-sex relationships doesn't come primarily from gay players. Rather, it comes from straight male players who are playing female characters and get creeped out when they get hit on by male non-player characters.
Now he's a man who would know but I'm going to call Bouffalantshit on this one especially as it isn't qualified at all. is this an assumption or assertion? Are we talking about existing games, theoretical games or the two or three games that virtual world scholars study? Has anyone talked tot he developers who make this decisions and asked why they do/don't allow same sex relationships? Or at least I'm hoping it is all codswallop. Far too much has been written about gender and identity in games but for our liking none of it has really focused on gender and identity in games. I play as female characters more often than not because, despite what the feminists might say, female characters are more interesting than 30 something white guys plus we are 30 something white guys. We play that role in life. It's dull. I also don't buy the "if I'm going to stare at my character's butt for hours on end might as well be a woman's". That, my friends is also a bullshit argument. We've masturbated over male, female and 'other' characters and the sex barely makes a difference in duration, power of orgasm or feeling of shame afterwards. 

Maybe we're uber-liberal pinkos but we're finding hard to swallow the idea that playing as a character in a game is so immersing that players feel embodied in their avatars to the extent that they want to follow their normal sexual preferences but not immersing enough that they aren't happy to play as the gender/sexuality of their character that fits with the game world or fiction. Or, /ugh, are most gamers homophobic morons who can't accept even virtually pretending to play a homosexual role for fear of becoming a gay or catching the gay? More research plz.


  1. Yes, people have spoken to developers. My statement is not qualified because then you'd know whom I asked. Feel free to believe I'm making it up.

    OK, so game designers and developers are in general quite liberal, and if they're creating an RPG with romance options to it would probably want to put in same-sex relationships as a matter of course. Bioware games are like this, for example.

    However, if they don't put it in then most (note: not all) of the pressure to do so comes from guys playing as gals. Now not all guys who play as gals have creeped-out problems when their female characters have kiss-and-cuddle scenes with male characters, but many do. These are the people who ask for same-sex relationships between characters and NPCs. They do so in greater numbers than gay guys who want the same.

    I pointed this out because I've been reviewing a spate of academic papers (well, 3 or 4) recently that completely ignore this dynamic. They see the inclusion of same-sex relationships entirely in terms of serving (or not serving) the needs of gay players. The authors of these papers draw conclusions from this which are based on flawed assumptions.

    Example: if you ask someone in a survey a question like "have you ever romanced a character of the opposite gender?" then the answer you get will depend heavily on whether the player takes "the opposite gender" to mean "opposite to my real-life gender" or "opposite to my character's gender". If the researcher always takes it as the former, they'll get distorted results.

    Your /ugh line is to some extent true, but be careful about the "homophobic morons" pot shot. There are plenty of straight men who are fazed by male-on-male sex, but that doesn't make them homophobic (although many of them may be homophobic, of course).

    A good explanation for what's going on here can found at . It's talking about male reactions to lesbian sex, but the underlying principles are the same.

    By the way, you're right about that whole "looking at female butts" excuse men give for why they play as female characters. The proportion of men who play as a female character in today's MMOs is exactly the same as it was in the days of text MUDs, when there were no pert backsides to look at. The response has evolved so that straight men can shrug off aspersions about their sexuality with something that amounts to "I'm so male, I have to play as a female". The other side of the coin, used by women when playing men, is that they are constantly hit on and harrassed and chatted up so they play as a male character in order to escape that. In other words, "I'm so female, I have to play as male".


  2. Hi Richard. Thanks for the comment. We get them so rarely these days.... especially from national treasures/legends other lofty titles.

    Thanks for putting some extra context on your post. I knew where your thoughts may have been coming from (well you did say you were tired of putting it as a review comment).

    Do you have (or could you point us to) any specific examples of the pressures from players and what percentage of the player body the pressure is coming from? Is there a tipping point or do these issues rise to the top because they are so emotive and bleed into discriminatory?

    Despite our rather glib blog post, seeing more games that allow 'relationships' full stop would be great. Even better if Sexuality based responses and choices were allowed. Mass Effect's Female Shepherd's rather masculine animations betray the token effort into feminizing that character beyond a re-skin.

    Again thanks for the reply. We're not worthy etc. etc.


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