BioWare developers working on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic concealed a fact concerning one of the game’s characters from their own marketing team in 2003. The Jedi Knight Juhani happened to be female and gay. Developers were unsure how players would respond to that trait.
David Gaider, BioWare lead writer stated in 2013 that he thought for a long time it was simply assumed that nobody would accept it. Even in the final game, the sexuality of the character Juhani is vague.
That ended up becoming a turning point for BioWare and a wake-up call for Gaider. BioWare’s future video games, specifically Mass Effect 3 and Jade Empire, feature options for players to engage in relationships if they prefer, as well as homosexual characters. Twelve years following the release of Knights of the Old Republic, video games featuring non-white, female or gay characters, although these occurrences remain in the minority. Majority of video games, particularly big-budget titles, stick with the default idea of a protagonist: male, straight and white.
This means that video games featuring other types of characters – sexuality, identity, gender and racial minorities – stand out immediately.
Experiences like these are happening more frequently. The definition of ‘normal’ video games is changing.
Developer of Guacamelee DrinkBox Studios ran into a tricky issue when it was looking for a publisher. Graham Smith, studio co-founder, stated that when they were looking for funding early on in the project, a big publisher informed them that they were not interested in Guacamelee because a previous luchador-themed video game had performed badly.
Dr. Gray argues that working with diverse developers is the best way to make sure representation in video games in realistic.
For example, the young women at the centre of Life is Strange are engaging and complex, and it feels as if the story couldn’t exist without them at the heart of it.
Michel Koch, Dontnod artistic director, stated that they have women in the development team – not that many because there still aren’t many women in the video games industry – but they have women on their team.
At the same time, creative director Jean-Maxime Moris added that they try not to be different for the sake of being different.
Some studios go out of their way to make minority characters feel robust and authentic, such as Upper One Games; which partnered with Alaskan Native storytellers to make an educational and riveting platform that respects a culture barely seen in video games.
According to the IGDA’s 2015 survey, the video games industry is actually above the US average in terms of representing diverse sexualities in its workforce.