The gaming community has become more accepting of various communities and minorities over time, initially this was the acceptance of women as gamers or protagonists, recently we have been seeing more people of various cultural backgrounds in leading roles, such as Lee Everett of The Walking Dead or Connor from Assassin’s Creed III, we can now see at least a handful of well thought out representations of each. However, yet another community is beginning to see it’s first glimmers of recognition and inclusion, in this case I refer to the LGBTQIA+ community (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex and Asexual et al).
Games are a wonderful place to escape the real, put ones self into situations far beyond what we might ever be able to experience, even be someone else. The extensive character creation present in modern games such as Fallout 4 makes it a cinch to create a version of yourself fitting for whichever setting the player chooses to inhabit. Sadly, for all it’s customization there is still something missing in Fallout 4‘s character creation. Melissa notes in her article that developer Bethesda has a “history of decent LGBTQIA+ representation“ and in their latest release this remains at least partially true, however some great opportunities were missed in this installment to the Fallout universe.
A lot can be said for Bethesda’s progressiveness, they have striven to be inclusive in most of their games, whether this takes the form of allowing the player to create a character of any sex or race or including characters from different communities or backgrounds. During the creation of the player’s character in Fallout 4 however game forces hetero-normative ideals on a player that may not subscribe to such things. To explain, during the opening of the game the player is shown a married couple, being a cisgender male and female (meaning they identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) . The player can then customise the appearance of the couple, choosing one or the other to become their character throughout the game.
The player is not given the option to choose the gender of their characters partner even though this would be simple enough to implement considering that either character has to be able to fill the role of NPC spouse it would take little extra work to reuse the lines, possibly altering a few pronouns. The issue has been raised that the couple has a biological son, but considering the futuristic technology present in Fallout a solution to having a biological child of a gay could be manufactured as Melissa explores.
“If they can implement rocket cars and nuclear shelters that can sustain people for hundreds of years, I’m pretty sure they can manage a nonbinary or gay trans person who has a child with their partner, considering that it really happens. And the cis gay relationships? Gay science babies. Make it so. Or Bethesda could have skipped this whole mess by making Shaun an adoptee. Multi-million dollar companies have tons of creative options at their disposal, and ideas such as these are not outside the scope of their abilities.”
Despite this missed opportunity, Fallout does include other encouraging features. Firstly, once they are unleashed upon the Wasteland the player can romance any companion NPC regardless of gender, this has become increasingly common in open world RPGs such as Dragon Age or Mass Effect, though in those cases the NPC’s have an assigned orientation that is taken into account. The more surprising addition however is the ability for the player to be polyamorous, that is, maintain more than one romantic relationship at a time without detracting from each other. Sterling points this out in his video, expressing pleasant surprise that this is an option in the game.
“This is one of the very very very few times I’ve seen the situation occur, I won’t say tackled because Fallout 4 doesn’t discuss it. It’s just there, but that’s part of what I like about it; it’s just there, something you can choose.”
In future it would be nice to see more developers considering Bethesda’s example and including options of a polyamorous nature where appropriate and also consider the inclusion of a few simple additions to character creation that would make a world of difference to a lovely group of people.
Fallout 4, 2015, computer Program, Bethesda Softworks.
Fallout 4’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L Relationships, 2015, YouTube < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMUBqXkijAw >.
Melissa, 2015, ‘A Heteronormative Beginning: My Issues With ‘Fallout 4’’, FemHype, 13 November, < http://femhype.com/2015/11/13/a-heteronormative-beginning-my-issue-with-fallout-4/ >.