Happy Pride Month, Active Players!
Queer representation in the gaming community has always been significant, and in a lot of ways, this seems natural. Like people who are LGBTQ+, people who game feel that they are just outside of society’s “accepted” view (though to our credit this is changing), and gamers find community together through FLGS, online communities, and conventions. And of course, manymany people who game also identify as LGBTQ+, and the combination of these two communities means a safe space for people to be who they are without fear or intimidation. Both communities talk greatly about chosen families, and that really speaks to the depth of love and acceptance we find together. Naturally, with more and more LGBTQ+ individuals not only playing games but making games, we’ve seen an encouraging increase in representation within the games we play.
RPGs have really been leading the way, with both player characters and NPCs providing a much-needed amount of diversity. Here you can find a list of 50 LGBTQ+ characters in Pathfinder. I recently finished DMing Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the scripted NPC characters included a gender-neutral elf, a same-sex genasi couple (male in the book, changed to female in my campaign to include more female representation as well), and a trans drow. Both homebrew and official campaigns are becoming more and more inclusive, and as they should be. We’ve got worlds with magic, spaceships, shapeshifters, and fey. It’s not like you can say a queer character would be “unrealistic”. The question that seems to be on people’s minds is “Why not? If being cishet isn’t integral to this character’s story, why not write them as something else?” And in that way we are seeing a wonderful increase in both flat and round characters (“flat” meaning just-here-to-drop-a-quest-and-then-I’m-out, “round” meaning dynamic characters with growth and character arcs) that are just as representative and diverse as the world we live in.
It is admittedly a bit harder to include LGBTQ+ representation in board games because a lot of times the characters just aren’t as well developed, if they are true “characters” at all. For example, in Hanabi, you play “absent minded firework manufacturers,” but no more is said about your characters, in Tsuro, you’re abstract pieces of stone on a path, and in Sushi Go! you’re just you. There is nowhere to include representation because who you’re playing just isn’t important to the game! But for all of those examples, there are certainly times where character identity is a vital part of the game, giving you different abilities, stats, jobs, etc. Sometimes you get to flesh it out yourself and create your own character, so including representation is easy, like in Betrayal: Legacywhere each game you’re playing another member of a family through generations. However, there’s no reason that when characters are laid out for you that game developers can’t include LGBTQ+ representation. Like in the original Betrayal at House on the Hill, there could be a mention that Flash Williams has a crush on a boy in his class. I have seen the argument that in Pandemic, the Dispatcher represents a trans person through both the gender-neutral character design and the pink totem matching the shade of pink in the trans flag. Why not? It hurts no one and helps everyone who longs to see themselves represented in the games they play. Fog of Love has two alternate covers for same-sex couples. Sentinels of the Multiverse contain several LGBTQ+ characters, as noted in their bios. We’ve come a long way but we can always go further. It’s up to us as gamers to insist we go further.
For more information check out Tabletop Gaymers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to address homophobia in the tabletop gaming community; I Need Diverse Games, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to diverse games, game designers, and intersectionality; this list of queer tabletop resources; APN’s feature on the PAX Diversity Lounge that exists at every PAX event and, of course, check with your FLGS to see if they offer any LGBTQ+ game nights or events (and if they don’t you should tell them to).