What a touchy subject this can be. I started thinking about it last night, actually, when reading up on Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh for kicks. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that game came out in 1996. Rather a while back. So when you reach the point in the game that the main, playable character confesses feelings that out him as bisexual, one must realise that this was a pretty progressive move for a game. It goes right along with the fact that the game also features a prominent, likeable, and realistic openly gay character.
This was sixteen years ago. Video games have yet to even do this much again.
And don’t talk to me about Mass Effect or Dragon Age. Not even Fable, which allowed full character customisability by letting the player choose to marry NPCs of the same gender (and more than one of them should that be their choice). Allowing a player to choose the character’s sexuality does not remove the implication that homosexual playable characters are shuffled out of the way. Or that heterosexuality is the “most natural” or “default” state for a character and therefore a person.
If it makes people uncomfortable, that option can be carefully hidden away. Ooh, mustn’t upset their sensitivities. No one has any bravery, I swear. Choices are nice, but when it’s a choice for an otherwise blank (or mostly blank) main character, then it can never be anything more. And yet these games get lauded as being incredibly progressive. Even though they’re less committed to the concept than Sierra was a billion years ago.
It does not help that companies like BioWare are very clearly more in favour of heterosexual and lesbian rather than gay relationships. The writing is significantly less polished and lovingly detailed in the gay romance options in all of their games that I’ve played. Jade Empire is the most clear example, I think. There is only one male love interest, and whether your character is male or female, there is significantly less interaction and development in that relationship than any of the other choices. Same-sex kisses are also noticeably hidden by being offscreen. This all looks rather bad when you consider that the preference might be due to personal comfort on the part of the writers, and the perception that Girl on Girl is Hot.
There are not any games that I can think of that have a main character who is realistically any orientation other than heterosexual. I don’t think there are even any real asexual ones. (celibate heroes are not the same thing, especially if the reason for their celibacy is being too dumb to pick up on other characters’ romantic feelings) Maybe the popularity of customising characters is partially to blame, but that’s not the only kind of game being made.
Really, there is absolutely no reason for there to not be at least one RPG or action adventure game with a playable LGBT character.