Relationships (Same-Sex) in Role-Playing Games

Photo by Ken Hammond.
Photo by Ken Hammond.

Yesterday, July 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) because it violates the ideals of equal protection and due process provided by the Constitution for same-sex members of the country.

In a changing landscape on the issue of equality that has in the past decade made an about face on the topic, the real-world implications of this now very visible struggle has made in-roads into most forms of entertainment and media. And while as a hobby, most Gamers you come across are open-minded and tolerant players, in terms of source material that most games themselves are drawn from little has changed in terms of equal parity of exposure for homosexual relationships in the cannon of most Gaming worlds. On the whole the industry which is certainly a niche venue of entertainment and amusement is largely absent in addressing this issue, to a disappointing degree.

In dealing with things like intimacy and relationships, most role-playing games are decidedly silent on these subjects, largely leaving them up to the mindset of the table of gamers where the game is being played. While this may seem laudable, the role-playing world is a medium that draws its inspiration from published works and common troupes, and this hands-off approach to the topic of same-sex issues in the world of gaming, like other issues in the gaming world concerning real-world issues, should be addressed.

From Salvatore to Sanderson to Tolkien to Weiss and Hickman, the portrayal of iconic characters like Drizzt and Sturm and Vin and others serves as a model around which adventures are formed in the minds of Gamers the world over. These heroic stories are populated with legends, villains, allies, lovers and others that form the basic elements of any good role-playing session and provide a dearth of material as inspiration. That these iconic stories are largely absent the presence of any characters of the homosexual persuasion means that its far too easy for campaign worlds, settings and systems, all of which put out by the role-playing industry through large and small press publishers, to simply ignore these issues.

It’s a fairly understood concept that a person’s experiences shape their expectations and by depriving the high-fantasy worlds where most role-playing games take place of citizenry with a casual trait of being a homosexual, gaming worlds can diminish the inclusive feel they offer players. For traditional high fantasy worlds, those of swords and sorcery, the image of a same-sexed marriage between the heads of elven dynasties or dwarven clans is incredulous to say the least.

Yet by incorporating these scenarios in gaming supplements, campaign settings and sourcebooks these ‘oddities’ would invariably gain traction and acceptance; a nod to the idea of art imitating life. In the mean time, for gamers looking to incorporate these issues, without turning them into the central plot of a campaign, start small. Simple things, a barkeep who eyes the same-sexed member of a party, the Queen’s lover who happens to be a Duchess rather than a Duke is kidnapped, or a wizard employer whose bitter rival has undertones of a past filled with more than monetary wrongs can add a layer of complexity to a world where fantasy and idealism can take on deeper meaning.

Small steps, like a decision by nine individuals, gathered in a room, and talking about rules, all of them lawyers, that’s all it takes sometimes to begin a discussion.  So when you get a chance, why not add some variety to your game with issues beyond the typical dungeon crawl and-

Game Forth!

  • An on-line Role-playing game from Japan, called Closed World created to be a digital game that deals with queer issues.
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