Representation in Gaming

We live in an increasingly diverse society, one in which we come into contact with more people of different backgrounds than ever before. It is therefore important for our media, our tv and games to reflect the varied nature of the world.

Why we need representation?

We need it to show others perspectives and give you and I a chance to see ourselves in the characters we see and play as. Representation also helps people know that they are normal and as much accepted by society as everyone else.

Gaming has come on a lot from the days of overly sexual women and all male protagonists. By no means is gaming perfect when it comes to gender representation but you know we’re getting there. When it comes to LGBT+ representation things are less great but again on their way up.

Representation isn’t something we all have to think about for some they pick up a game and see themselves well represented.

As I am a white man in many ways games do a lot to represent me. But there is always something missing in every character I play and try to see myself in. The observant among you may spot the identifier I left out above, sexuality.

download

I am Asexual.

For the unaware it simply means that I am a person who does not experience sexual attraction. For more info I highly recommend you look at Asexuality.org, I don’t intend to go into what being ace (asexual) means here but I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments if you have them!

So why asexual representation matters, well firstly I wanted to list the number of 100% confirmed ace video game characters:

*queue the tumbleweed and sound of wind.

I spent my teen years thinking something was broken in me because I did not date, want a relationship or engage in those good old teen lads talk about sex. It made me uncomfortable and I was and still am not interested in it. At first I thought maybe I was just innocently minded, naive or a late bloomer but at 20 I’m still waiting. I went through years of feeling confused, knowing I wasn’t straight or gay or anything. And my biggest regret has been trying to force myself into joining in the conversations and laddish behaviour to fit in and force myself to fit a mold that I just don’t fit in.

The internet being the font of all knowledge where the insecure and introverted go. Was where I first learnt about being Ace and finally found who I am. I still question my sexuality and stuff but I’m in a better head space then I ever have been.

This is where representation would have helped. To have seen an ace character in video games would have helped me to know who I was sooner and helped me understand I was not broken. Instead every game with a relationship involves romance and sex. Mass Effect has one of the few kind of ace representations in the Salarians an alien race who form relationships but don’t engage in sex. But in this case their lack of sexual attraction is used to further show them as not human. Sex if part of the human experience right?

Image result for salarian mass effect

This is not to say that every game should have an ace character and that ace representation should over rule the importance of making a game good and making the content make sense. But representation is important.

The only explicit representation I have seen of an asexual in media was in fact in the TV show House. They had an ace storyline that was totally focused on House proving that the patient (who claimed to be ace) had a medical problem causing the feeling. House dismissed a lack of sexual attraction as childish, repressive and inhuman. By the end of the episode it turned out the patient had a brain tumour affecting their sex drive. And they were cured. There is medically nothing wrong with me but seeing my orientation framed in that way was crushing and depicts us as unnatural or sick.

A bad representation is as bad as no representation of not worse. It perpetuates myths and stereotypes. As a society we need to get better at researching and including things beyond the main stream. I don’t know what the solution would be other than us using our voices to demand more of our games and media, more representation of woman, of LGBT+ people, of disabled people and those with mental health issues. The world is a crazy mosaic of different things and we should all want our games to reflect that fairly and sensitively and not excessively or through tokenism.

I found myself writing this post before I knew if I was ready to post it. But as I typed I remembered all those small Youtubers and bloggers I saw that introduced me to Asexuality and helped me find my place. I realised that if I could share my story maybe it would help someone else and if your ace I want you to know you’re not broken and not alone. And if you’re not ace maybe you will have learnt something new which is always fun!

I’ve popped a couple of useful resources down below and am happy to reply to any questions in the comments!

Asexual and Visibility Education Network (AVEN)

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18 thoughts

  1. Great Post! Representation is always a hard thing for game developers, but you’re right in there has been so much growth. Hopefully we can get to a place where all people are represented. Thank you for sharing your story, it is very eye opening!

    -Luna 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks! Trying to equally represent everyone in the gaming industry can’t be easy but a load of progress has definitely been made in just a few years! Happy my post was eye opening too 😋

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG!! I’m an ace too (just found out it was a valid orientation earlier this year… yes more representation is definitely needed). Thank you for writing this post!! I haven’t officially come out anywhere (mostly because no one understands), and have only told a few close friends. For most of my life, I really thought something was wrong with me. I relate very strongly with your experiences.

    I’m playing through the Mass Effect series now. I’m honestly very uncomfortable with how the games really force the point that you really should sexually romance someone (Dragon Age to a lesser extent). Andromeda is really bad for this, but I love the close friendships the protagonist can develop without doing any of the sexy time stuff. I accidentally stumbled on my ideal life partnership with Liara’s non-romantic friendship arc in Mass Effect 3, and I loved that. I’ve figured out I have romantic feelings, just not sexual ones. My ideal someone special would be just like a BFF, haha. I’m also claiming Lightning Farron from FFXIII as an ace. She has no interest in love stories at all in her trilogy 🙂

    But yes, awesome post! Sorry for babbling about my life. It’s very rare to see another ace!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We are a rare breed! I didn’t expect to find another ace person through this especially someone already in the game blogging community 😁 I totally agree with you though the over sexual nature in some games definitely makes me uncomfortable. Personally I’ve come out to only close friends and my parents (oh and the internet now 😋) they have all been cool with it if a bit confused I also wear an ace ring sometimes but no ones picked up on that yet I was thinking about going a bit more into what being ace means but I think I’m gunna save that for asexual awareness week in October!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I still can’t believe there’s another ace in the blogging community woot! So awesome 😀

        I still haven’t told my parents… trying to figure out the best way to explain it to them is difficult, haha. I’ve also been meaning to get an ace ring! That’s a cool symbol, that’s for sure.

        You’ve really inspired me. I kinda want to do an aces in gaming post and talk about my perspective in a blog post now! Hm. If you want to collaborate on something for ace awareness week, let me know!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds awesome! Definitely love the idea of doing a collaboration for ace week 😁 I’ve got an ace ring! Don’t always wear it but I do love it, I’m out to parents and friends my friends are totally fine with it but my parents are a little confused. I went with the “look I’m not straight, I’m ace, I explained what that meant and said all you need to know is I’m fine, don’t worry but seriously stop asking if I’m dating someone! 😋”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sounds cool! We can talk more about it when October is nearer, if you want. Haha. That’s a good plan! I might have to try something along those lines. My parents don’t actually ask me if I’m dating anyone, but I can tell they want to. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience! It is a great example of why positive representation for marginalized groups is so important. That House episode…yikes. I’m sorry you had to experience that. I’m in a position where I’ve never had to worry about being misrepresented in media but I know from discussing the topic with my wife that it’s difficult to see people like yourself in a show or game who paint a negative picture of the group you identify with. Here’s hoping things get better down the road!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I was surprisingly less scared to share my experience then I expected 😁 At the risk of using an extremely over used phrase “it gets better” you’re right there when I look back even a few years compared to now you can see that it’s improving. But hey only time will tell!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great post! In fact I am going to address that same aspect about gaming in my blog sooner or later 🙂

    I clearly feel you and think the same as you! It’s not like all games need to represent one way or another. But, trully, it would be nice to start seeing more representation from smaller parties! We also exist and also deserve to have characters who we relate almost completely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks and I look forward to the post when it comes out! Yeah it’s not like every game needs to have one of every type of identity like some strange version of Noah’s ark but a little more representation of smaller groups would go a long way! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A great and insightful article. I myself am creating a computer fantasy roleplaying game in my spare time (Realms of Quest V). At first, I was mostly creating content that depicted white people of medieval Europe because I thought that is how it should be. But when it came time to do a graphics review where I would improve or replace previous images, I decided to put in a few persons of color. And once I got started, I found myself more pleased with the results and I began to put in more and more diversity.

    Now this world of fantasy that I had created is far more inclusive. In fact, one of the themes of the game is that the people must unite together despite their differences to overcome a great threat to their world. It think this is quite an apt allegory for “Diversity is our strength”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! I’ve just looked up Realms of Quest and it looks amazing! It’s great that you’ve added more diversity too, when I first played DnD and other fantasy games I also had the understanding that fantasy should be medieval themed and full of white people but I quickly learnt that more diversity improves a game/world and it’s actually more historically accurate. Before modern times medieval people didn’t just stay in their own areas never travelling or moving to other places 😁 can’t wait to see how your game develops!

      Like

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