- Bill, The Last of Us
Let’s face it, you were expecting to see Ellie here. She’s The Last of Us’ signature LGBT+ character; the quirky sassy female protagonist you protect and adore. It’s obviously awesome to have an LGBT+ female main protagonist in such a popular game, however, we are here to tell you, there are more LGBT+ characters in the game that deserve a little more attention.
Let us introduce to you… Bill. He’s top of this list for not having to justify who he is or have a focus on his sexuality in-game. He simply is and Naughty Dog don’t linger on it. There’s no unnecessary attention given that deters from the plot and yet Naughty Dog don’t shy away from the LGBT+ community. The game embraces his sexuality without a parade, and that’s great.
Bill is one of the first characters Joel and Ellie encounter on their journey across a deserted United States. First impressions suggest he’s grumpy and reclusive, but after spending time with this solitary fellow, you warm to him in unexpected ways.
Naughty Dog work their magic here by showing, not telling. From Bill’s behaviour to the environment he lives in, the attention to detail and the presentation of his character is impeccable.
- Birdo (aka Birdetta) (Various Mario titles)
The North American manual of Super Mario 2 says that Birdo “thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called ‘birdetta’.” Future games would show that this wasn’t a mistranslation.
Birdo’s gender is constantly a focus of her character throughout other titles. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl Birdo’s character description labels her as ‘gender indeterminate’ and uses the pronoun ‘it’ rather than gender-specific pronouns ‘she’ or ‘he’. Yet, Nintendo themselves alternate between referring to Birdo as a ‘she’ or an ‘it’, so it’s very unclear what pronoun Birdo would prefer to be correctly and universally used. Predominantly though, the pronoun ‘she’ is used.
In a game exclusively released in Japan, Captain Rainbow, Birdo is presented as a damsel in distress, imprisoned for using the female bathroom when the robot jailer doesn’t not believe that she’s a girl. The player finds evidence proving that she is a female and Birdo is saved!
Despite Nintendo’s confusion, the unchanging fact is that Birdo does not identify as male despite the problems in her identity’s lack of consistency. Seeing Birdo in a mainstream franchise is heartwarming to say the least.
- Dorian Pavus (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
A beloved game of Forge, Dragon Age Inquisition has a very developed, intriguing cast of characters to accompany your fantasy-fuelled journey across Thedas. One of these cast members is Dorian Pavus, the charismatic, confident and homosexual mage ripe for romance.
If the player chooses to pursue romance with Dorian, his backstory slowly unfolds. Dorian is estranged from his family. Without going into the intricate details of how magic works in the universe of Dragon Age Inquisition, Dorian’s family made some very questionable decisions regarding him and who he is as a person. His father attempted to utilise magic to essentially alter Dorian’s sexuality, believing that his sexual attraction to men was wrong.
A survey by Stonewall in 2009 regarding 1,300 accredited mental health professionals showed that 200 of them had offered some form of conversion therapy to patients, so Dorian’s storyline reflects the journey of many members the LGBT+ community today. His tale in a fictional setting will make real issues become far more tangible and clarified for many.
In stark contrast to the subtlety of Birdo and Bill, Dorian Pavus’ relevance to issues within the LGBT+ community is what makes him such a remarkable character.
- Leon (Fire Emblem Echoes)
From the little known but fairly respected Fire Emblem series, Leon hails from Fire Emblem Echoes. With a nihilistic, narcissistic ‘pretty boy’ persona, Leon is a fairly stereotypical character in Japanese games and media. Here though, this character-type is pleasantly subverted.
When we meet him, Leon is accompanied by knights Valbar and Kamui. Through conversations unlocked by fighting alongside Leon, his adoration for Valbar is revealed. Sadly the knight is sadly completely oblivious to Leon’s affection.
Fun fact! In the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Echoes, Leon prefers to use the pronoun Atashi, typically used to assert femininity among women. It’s also revealed Leon has no interest in women whatsoever and that his past lover, who died in battle, was a man.
A relationship never fully blossoms between Leon and Valbar, yet he doesn’t seem to mind. He says that Valbar is all he needs, even if Valbar never notices his love for him. Leon’s sexuality and preference, and whether Leon’s feelings for Valbar are romantic or platonic is never made a huge deal of in the game.
His sexuality could also be interpreted as lithoromantic, akoiromantic or apromantic, considering that he does not want or need the sexual attraction he has for Valbar to be reciprocated, highlighting sub-asexual identity spectrums that don’t usually find themselves represented in video games.
- Samantha Greenbriar (Gone Home)
Samantha Greenbriar is a curious character. The structure of Gone Home and its gameplay means that we never meet her, and yet most of the game is focused on who she is. Gone Home has the player assume control of Samantha’s sister Katie.
The player discovers Samantha’s story as they explore the desolate and empty house. It transpires that Samantha developed feelings for a fellow student in high school after finding it impossible to fit in and that this was received negatively by her parents. They forbade Samantha’s bedroom door to be shut when the two students were home, insisted that Samantha was going through a phase and that she hadn’t ‘met the right boy yet’.
The story presents a very natural, real story of homosexuality and coming to terms with it, alongside the repercussions of homophobia within a family.
The game’s climax is heartfelt and real. It’s a coming-of-age tale that many people in the LGBT+ community can relate to on some level, showing the fight many have to feel comfortable in their own skin. The game doesn’t overcomplicate things or simplify things, it’s beautifully both raw and pertinent.