The three-part miniseries examines the depiction of queers in games, much like Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games looked at the representation of females in games. Sarkeesian has never shied from controversy, and her new series will likely trigger strong reactions again. She was subjected to considerable harassment after the debut of the first series in 2013.
But it’s worth noting that the series moves from criticism in gaming’s early years to the progress of the depiction of LGBTQ people in more recent games.
In 1993, the game Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season shows a queer villain being set on fire by a police officer using a lighter and hair spray. Capcom’s Resident Evil X: Code Veronica (2000) depicts a cross-dressing villain named Alfred as a cold-blooded killer. And Capcom’s Dead Rising (2006) game depicted a psychopathic killer “butch lesbian cop” named Joe Slade, a “chilling example of queerness can be demonized in the portrayals of villains,” Petit said. The series found many such examples.
The new miniseries is hosted by Carolyn Petit and was directed by Sarkeesian. They produced it with the support of the LGBTQ Video Game Archive. In an email, Sarkeesian said the series looks closely at the “history of homophobia and transphobia in games, the evolution of portrayals of gay relationships, and the troubling ways in which game villains have often been queer coded.”
You can see the whole series on a playlist here, and I have embedded the first episode in this post.
Sarkeesian said the past several months have seen a sharp increase in transphobic rhetoric in the United Kingdom, while here in the United States, “Trump’s administration wages war on queer and trans people, with the Justice Department arguing in favor of employment discrimination against gay people and Trump working to have trans people banned from military service.”
She added, “Representations of queer and trans people matter now as much as they ever have, and in the world of games, it seems like for every step forward (Apex Legends launching with two queer characters), we also get a step back (the updated release of Catherine being even more transphobic than the original game).”
It’s never been more important to have these conversations, and to fight for better queer representation in games and other media, Sarkeesian said. She said the premier of Queer Tropes in Video Games continues “our legacy of educating viewers about the troubling patterns of representation in the media so many of us love.”
The first episode, Are You Gay or Just Coded That Way, is embedded above. The second post is Video Games’ Relationship Status: It’s Complicated, and the third episode is Press B to Hate Gay People.
As for positive portrayals of LGBTQ people, Feminist Frequency found small examples in Batman: Arkham Knight. I can also recall a positive portrayal of Ellie in The Last of Us: Left Behind.
Of course, the point of this isn’t to tally up who has done a good job and who hasn’t or to make any single company look bad. It’s to make us all — game developers included — aware of the patterns that we might not see because we don’t have this particular perspective.