It strikes me as somewhat odd, in a (supposedly) tolerant society, that video games can still trip up over something as odd and limited as the concept of sexuality.
This is not really a response to the fiasco that emanated from the back of Mass Effect 3 – seriously, it’s fiction. If anyone who likes Mass Effect has done any Googling on this game, they will have been confronted with acres and acres of fan-fiction, stories detailing in often very explicit terms about the results of unions between a threesome with Wrex, Sheperd and Garrus. Reams and reams of hot, sweaty pornographic fiction has spread in the wake of a game that dared to have an optional “relationship” in it, and this has covered just about every character in the series. You haven’t lived until you’ve read about a hot, steamy night on the tiles between Legion and the Normandy…
That said, EA and BioWare should not be surprised that if they make sexuality such a core issue, it will attract unwanted and unkind attention. This isn’t a subject I’d ordinarily want to debate – but to be fair here, the last few BioWare games in particular have been unbelievably silly in this regard. Even those of us in the world who are in a position to be gay or transgendered would say that EA’s handling of the subjects in Dragon Age 2 and the recent Mass Effect games has been opportunistic at best, and immature and unhinged in cruelty and stereotype at worst. It brings out the worst in everyone.
Which is why I am surprised to see such a call now in the MMO world for equal rights for LGBT-Guilds. For those uninitiated, that’s Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered. These people want to be separated from other guilds on the servers, want to campaign for equal rights and tolerance and generally be able to proudly display their sexuality in a virtual world.
I have to be the one to ask this… why would you want to segregate yourselves so publicly?
Forgetting the issue of sex and sexuality for just a moment here, I have been in some fantastic guilds in my time, and we’ve all been unified and enjoyed each others company. We talk, we laugh, we kick ass. Sexuality has never come into it – we know each other and understand we’re all adults, none of us are virgins and some of us are into some deliriously kinky stuff. Immediately, sexuality isn’t an issue. Sex is sex. We laugh about it. When someone tries to talk about set pieces and makes a slip about penises, we all burst out laughing – but there’s never a sense of if its a guy, he must be gay. We have gay people in our groups. We have transgendered people. And we have very vanilla married men and women in our groups too. We are tolerant because we’re all modern, educated adults with lives, jobs and a sense of unity, of friendship.
That is not to say I haven’t seen some cruel and horrible comments in my time on the internet and in MMOs, but generally speaking these are people who immediately run to the sexuality card – like the race card, or the gender card – and hide behind it. “Begone, I am defended behind my wall of human rights mwahahahahaha!”
Why? I understand many will feel comfortable in a group that is tolerant and understanding, but part of the problem about sticking together – especially in an MMO, a virtual world – is you stand out more. Intolerance, misunderstanding and general old-school thuggery can be directed in a concentrated, direct fashion towards a singular guild, or group, who have clubbed together. Safety in numbers doesn’t work. I’m sorry, truth hurts, but it never has and never will.
If you are happy with your sexuality, your gender or your transgender identity, then why on earth would you care so much about what others say? If a guild is intolerant, or mean, or insulting – leave them. Life is too short for that sort of crap. They’re clearly not the sort of people you’d want to spend time with in the real world, so why spend three or four hours in a night being forced into a raid with them, having to listen to them and put yourself directly in their path? Common sense needs to prevail here in some cases.
Likewise, you can’t force people to change. If someone is openly hostile and makes really horrid remarks publicly – report them. Most GMs in an MMO are remarkably good at this sort of thing, and those who are reported can often find themselves with lengthy suspensions and/or penalties, if not actual bans from the game. This is what they do, are good at and – here’s the key point – it’s what they are PAID for.
Meanwhile, in the real world of normal people – and I say this deliberately including a number of gay and trans individuals – we just get on with our lives, and our gaming. We play, we win, we cheer, we laugh, we cry, we get mad at nerfs together. We do everything that friends would do, and the issue of gender and sexuality never comes into the equation. Why should it? When we do, it tends to be either as a mutually respectful conversation or because we’re drooling over images of famous people on Memebase or some other site, and we’re discussing the filthy kinky thoughts that run through our heads. And because we’re an eclectic mix of boys and girls with various tastes in clothes, partners, famous people, music, movies and more, we blend. It’s the differences between friends that make things easy, not their similarities, and it makes us appreciative of what we have. A great raiding team, with people who are all individual and unique and yet interesting and mature. We don’t focus on world firsts, or necessarily being the best raid group on the server, because we enjoy each others company. That is a reward unto itself in what can often be a cruel, cruel world.
Ultimately, I don’t believe that LGBT Guilds deserve any more or less protection than other guilds. They are people, and they deserve the basic rights and respects that a GM would afford to anyone else. They don’t deserve to be ridiculed, no. We don’t choose our gender or our sexuality, that’s been proven enough times scientifically to be pretty unanimous in condemning those against same-sex unions.
Having pride in who you are and what you are is important – but it doesn’t make you any more or less special than another person. We are rarely unique in our struggles, in our thoughts, and those who act as though they are and somehow deserve more protection than someone in the same position, who chooses not to parade it around so publicly, are actually doing the cause of LGBT individuals a great disservice. More and more people are simply saying it is who they are, and yes they’re happy – but they’re happy because they are accepted by those who care about them. Not because they are accepted by their own peer group.
If you paint a target on your face, expect someone to aim at it. It’s a bizarre moral line I know, but it applies here. Even if most people simply won’t care, and some may stare, there will be a minority who take that as an invitation. It’s up to you whether that is worth the risk or not.
But you don’t have the right to complain about criticism if you advertise it. People have fought and even died for the right to be accepted as a normal person. If you treat their sacrifice as meaning you have entitlement, then you haven’t learned from the past mistakes…
And those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.