Homotech: Gay-Friendly Gaming Companies Resist the Right
The head of Electronic Arts (EA) says his company has no intention of censoring any of its games even though they have received a barrage of several thousands letters and emails protesting the inclusion of LGBT characters and content in its video games.
According to EA officials, the letters have been directed to the company’s executive team, board of directors, and game designers.
EA spokesperson Jeff Brown says that many of the letters threaten boycott unless the publisher orders the removal of same-sex relationships and content in the mega-popular games "Mass Effect 3" and "Star Wars: The Old Republic."
Brown says the brouhaha "isn’t about protecting children, it’s about political harassment."
Trouble over the LGBT-inclusion of characters began in January, when EA released "Star Wars: The Old Republic."
"In a new Star Wars game, the biggest threat to the empire may be homosexual activists," Tony Perkins, president of the Christian ultra-conservative and vehemently anti-gay Family Research Council, warned in January, in a radio program.
Another, even more ultra-conservative group, the Florida Family Association, called on its members to complain. Explained the group’s website: "LGBT extremists pressure ’Star Wars’ videogame maker to commit to add LGBT content and censor critics. An overwhelming percentage of the 1.7 million games sold are being used by children who do not need to be introduced to this propaganda."
If BioWare adds LGBT characters for kids to select as their action character, the website warned, "it could be something like Darth ’RuPaula,’ a combination of Darth Vader, one of the most popular ’Star Wars’ characters, and RuPaul, the renown transgender cross dresser."
Reality check: The video games in question are not meant for small children. Now do they force an LGBT lifestyle or character on a player; It’s purely an alternative for gamers who wish to mirror their real-life sexual orientation when gaming.
According to EA officials, the company has not been pressured by any LGBT groups to include gay characters in their games. Brown does not that "we have met with LBGT groups and sponsored industry forums to discuss content and harassment of players in online forums. In short, we do put options for same-sex relationships in our games and we don’t tolerate hate speech on our forums."
That’s great news considering the amount of anti-LGBT cyberbullying is currently going on in online game forums.
"Anti-LGBT campaigns are falling into a pretty consistent pattern these days, in which messages of hate directed at our allies are met with an overwhelming outpouring of support for our allies in response," said Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Kane cited several anti-LGBT campaigns that have sprung up when LGBT supporters felt as though the community and our allies were under fire. In each case, it is notable that our side won the battle.
Following Starbucks’ announcing public support for marriage equality, 25,000 people signed a "Dump Starbucks" campaign, which in turn inspired more than 600,000 people to sign on to a "Thank Starbucks" campaign.
A group with the somewhat optimistic name of "One Million Moms" tried to have Ellen DeGeneres fired from her role as a spokesperson for JC Penney. "But," according to Kane, "the public expressions of support JC Penney received following the Stand Up for Ellen campaign were so numerous that ’One Million Moms’ announced they would be ’moving on to other things.’ Trying to rally Americans around messages rooted in hate is a losing proposition."
In the case of "Star Wars" and "Mass Effect 3," the same appears to have happened in the gaming sphere. Activist group AllOut.org have decided to thank EA for "fighting the dark side" with a petition signed by over 60,000 supporters to date -- a remarkable number for something that hardly has the universal consumer depth of a Starbucks or Penneys.
"Electronic Arts customers are speaking out loud and clear: Being for equality is good for business," said Andre Banks, executive director for AllOut.org. "Groups like the Family Research Council are truly on the ’dark side’: They put pressure on companies like EA to block fair, balanced portrayals of gay characters in gaming and other media. You don’t have to be a gamer to understand that it makes a real difference for Electronic Arts to present positive portrayals of gays and lesbians to its community of 100 million players."
Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.