Today I saw an interesting article on characters in video games on out.com, (link here) a website that deals with LGBTQ entertainment issues. I’m not
really much of a video game person to be honest though. Yes, I have an XBOX 360 but we use it mainly as a media extender and for all of the applications it supports. Game wise about the only time it gets pressed into service is when we have friends round, we have a few drinks, and someone thinks that it is a good idea to break out Dance Central and we all bust some moves with Kinect. well, it’s all fun and games until someone dislocates a hip-joint anyway.
But I digress (as usual)….what REALLY caught my eye about this article was that it was about transgender friendly characters in video games. I’ve never thought about that before at all. Maybe it’s because I don’t have enough exposure to video games that it hadn’t occurred to me or maybe it’s because trans people are always treated as invisible by society. But the article listed 7 characters in video games that were considered to be “trans friendly”.
Now, in the whole history of the world, 7 is not really a large number at all. But considering how there are virtually no trans people visible on telly, it’s certainly more than I would have thought. Chas Bono was the last time I saw a trans person on prime time TV in anything substantial and Dancing With The Stars, while one of my favorite shows, is hardly a show that is going to educate people about the weightier side of transgender issues.
Video games seemed such an unlikely place for trans characters to be hanging out. I was also quite surprised at the write ups that were given about each character as well. Poison, from the Capcom series Final Fight, was revealed to be officially a post-op transsexual by the games producers and Leo, from Tekken 6 by Bandai-Namco, was deliberately created to be gender ambiguous, though was later revealed to be female. Others, such as Guillo, from Baten Kaitos Origins, were created as gender neutral characters with attributes of both men and women. It’s clear that the game makers were intent on introducing (at the least controversial end of the spectrum) non-normative gender characters, and (at the other end of the spectrum) trans friendly characters into their games.
But why video games? Why not into print media, films, or TV shows? Perhaps they had an eye to the
fact that gamers are often marginalized themselves and therefore may relate to these characters. It’s certainly possible that people who may operate on the fringes of society would be more willing to accept others that society places into the same positions as themselves. It also suggests that trans people, for some reason, may have an easier time breaking into society through a visual medium than through real life. The reasons for that may be far more complicated than this blog can deal with. Could it be that the medium of gaming also allows people to deal with the issues in a controlled, detached way? Visually I also found it interesting to see how
these characters were portrayed. they are all heavily styled, and there are significant visual links between them. 7 is hardly enough to be able to make a significant analysis on though. But it would be interesting to assemble a greater collection to see if the representation of either transgender people or “trans friendly characters” (whatever that really means) presents any unifying information.
Still, what ties all this to my blog is that it is yet another example of LGBTQ issues in visual culture. There is no denying the role that video games play in visual culture today when games break out of the console into movies, books, and even soundtracks. The crossover between media genres ensures that what is relevant in one area has impact in another, so we can be sure that the use of transgender identities in the visually driven gaming world is having an impact in other areas of visual culture too.
I wonder what I’ll come across next? It’s always something different, that’s for sure!