What is this?
A work in progress and a labor of love. We are constantly working on adding content, but have decided what we have is ready enough to begin sharing our research with the world.
This “archive” of LGBTQ video game content is meant to be a resource for researchers, journalists, critics, game designers/developers/publishers, students, gamers and/or people who play games and anyone else who is interested in learning more about the history of LGBTQ content in video games. Why “archive”? Well because this is not a traditional collection of primary sources that would be required for an Archive. We are working on plans to create more robust Archive, but for now this is really a “curated collection of information about LGBTQ and queerly read game content.” As a title, however, that seemed unwieldy. Moreover, the invitation for researchers to use this as a starting place in their research evoked by “archive” was more useful than many of the alternatives we might have used. With future funding and space we hope to be able to make this more than an “archive,” but rest assured archivists we know this is not an Archive.
In our “archive” we have synthesized information we have been able to find on LGBTQ content in digital games dating back to the 1980s. At present, we consider the 1980s and 1990s lists of games and LGBTQ game content complete, but if you know of games or content we have missed please let us know! We are still working on games from 2000-present but have listed all the games we are presently aware of on the 2000s and 2010s pages. Again, if you know of more games not on these lists, let us know and we’ll add it to our to do list (but if you are willing to contribute an entry, that’s even more helpful and we will can talk you through what that would require).
We also have a working list academic sources for those who want to learn more. Eventually we will also have a list of popular press, blogs, etc. sources as well. If you have published something (scholarly or journalistic, blogs or traditional press, we’ll take it all) about LGBTQ content and don’t see it listed please send us a link.
We began by creating a list of all of the games we could find that were listed in popular, academic, and web spaces as having some LGBTQ content. We were broad in our search, including all genres from all countries in all games as far back as we could (though we only found games dating back to the 1980s). Our initial list included around 350 games total.
We are in the process of going game by game to find all the information we can find about what content folks have felt is LGBTQ-related. We use articles (popular and scholarly), game wikis, YouTube videos, reviews, blog posts, walkthroughs, forum discussions, and any other source we can find that discusses the LGBTQ content in these games.
We created pages for each game or game series, and then write posts synthesizing information about each type of LGBTQ content in the game/game series. The posts are categorized by the type of content (an explanation of our categorization system is here). As a project on LGBTQ content, there are some entries whose categorization is very much up for debate. On individual entries we have tried as best we can to accurately reflect the tensions surrounding the labeling of content. In creating this “archive” we are not interested in definitely determining characters “real” sexualities or genders (“canon” is not our goal or concern). That said, when coding characters unless there was enough information for us to determine the character’s sexuality or gender we did not add them to the lists of LGBTQ characters, instead labeling them as “rumored.”
In sum, our goal is to offer a record of how characters are explicitly coded, what creators have said about these characters, as well as how fans have interpreted these characters. We have included games and characters than have been read queerly as well as games where players have created modifications to the original game to create LGBTQ content. We also include homophobic and transphobic content, as well as other forms of ambient LGBTQ representation.
We have been limited by language (our citations are nearly all English-based sources), availability of information about games, and by what games had been previously classified as containing LGBTQ content. If there are games we have missed or mis-represented please get in touch. Additional limitations include:
We have tried to include as wide a variety of games as we could find, but are limited to what games we could find on existing lists of LGBTQ digital game content. Some day we may also add table-top games, LARPs, etc. But at present non-digital games are outside the scope of this project. We also have not completed researching all of the games on our initial list. If there are pages for games but no linked posts about content– we’re working on it! If you know of more games that should be on this site but aren’t listed anywhere, please contact us. If you’d like to volunteer and entry, get in touch and we can tell you what we would need. You will receive credit on the site for your contribution (if you wish).
At present we are not coding or accounting for LGBTQ game designers. We do hope to add that as a feature in the future however, and if you would like your work foregrounded in such a space let us know. And in fact if you have worked on any of the games featured here and are interested in talking with us more about them, we would love to hear from you.
The Numbers Question
At present (May 10, 2016) our list includes 351 games with approximately 550 examples of LGBTQ related content. We can say for certain that there has been an exponential increase in the number of games with LGBTQ content over the years based on the information we have collected. At presentations of this and prior research are often asked what percentage of games have LGBTQ content. The problem with that question, however, is that we have been unable to find a reliable count of how many games were published in any given year. So, yes, the number of games with LGBTQ content has increased over the past 3.5 decades, but so has the sheer number of games. Moreover, without playing every game ever made we will never have a sense of how complete the lists of games with LGBTQ content we began from were. Particularly as we are cataloging implicit, queerly read, and ambient LGBTQ content as well as homophobia and transphobia, it is very likely there are games with a one-off homophobic joke that didn’t make the list. Our hope is to make this an on-going and evolving project to record LGBTQ games history. Our concern is less how much LGBTQ content there is in games writ large, and more to record the fact that this content does exist and has existed for as long as games have been around.
The intersectionality question
On this site we only focus on coding characters gender and/or sexuality. Future research can combine this analysis with one that looks at race, class, ability, role in the game, etc. However as Shaw, Lauteria, and Waldron presented at 2016’s Different Games Conference, just considering racial categorization of game characters and reading gender and sexuality across cultures is a nuanced and fraught process. To simplify the site we have not included that information in our in-site coding schema. We would love to hear from you if use this site in a project that looks at the intersection of other axes of identity however.
Fair Use Statement
This site may contain copyrighted material without the specific authorization of the copyright owner. We are including this material only for educational and research purposes, providing credits to and citations for the original sources. We believe this constitutes s a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
How to use this site
You can look at our lists of games by decade or take a look at game series with examples of LGBTQ content in more than one game. You can also use the categories listed above (descriptions of those here) to explore examples specific types of LGBTQ content in games. The examples of content are categorized with WordPress’s post category system, so some examples appear on multiple lists if they fall across categories. Also, for games or game series with a large amount of LGBTQ content some posts have multiple examples within them. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch.
If you are using this archive for your own research (this means you academics, journalists, bloggers, critics, etc.): This has been a labor of love and represents hundreds of hours of labor on the part of many different people, much of it uncompensated or at least not directly compensated. We would love for you to build on this work and expand what is know about LGBTQ content in games. All we ask is that you acknowledge this site and offer a link to it in any publication. And send us your article so we can add it to our list of resources!
Game Designers: if you worked on any of the games listed here and have more information on the games we would love to hear from you.
What are these QRM links?
Queerly Represent Me is a website/database founded by Alayna Cole that is similar to ours in a lot of ways, but with a different format and different goals. We have agreed to share resources to help strengthen both projects. With QRM’s approval, for games we have not completed entries on we have linked to the QRM write up of the game next as a place holder. We’ve also added a link to their page on individual game pages.
More questions? Contact us!
A comment form can be found here. Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about the project, contribute information to the archive, or if you publish anything about or using this archive.