Recently one of Ubisoft’s lead writers, Lucien Soulban, was being interview and a journalist asked “When are going to get a gay/lesbian AAA hero(ine) who isn’t a one-off joke?’
“Not for a while, I suspect, because of fears that it’ll impact sales.”
And you know what? He’s absolutely right. Publishers are afraid fans won’t be receptive to such a thing. While I think they’re being overly-afraid, the concerned is 100% warranted. That may not make the most sense the first time through the ears, so let me explain. Many people believe the video game industry- even the consumer base- is completely dominate by males. In actuality the percentage of gamers who are female is around 45%, according to the Entertainment Software Association. When the developers of the recently released Remember Me were shopping around for a publisher, they were turned down by several and given a response along the lines of “this won’t sell because the protagonist is a female and you see her kissing a man, and that’s going to upset players.”
So not only were they implying people won’t be comfortable playing as a women, but the idea of a male gamer playing a female character in a straight relationship would disturb players. Well, hello there homophobia.
The thing is, while this prediction is more or less correct, it doesn’t mean nothing is happening on the regarded front. Case and point, Gone Home, the PC indie game centered around the very subject. The protagonist is a college girl who has returned home to find her family home empty. As you peel back the mystery you discovered the source of your family’s falling out to be the youngest sister’s lesbian relationship and the parents disapproval.
The game was also quite popular and won plenty of awards. So no, the idea of a character or protagonists isn’t unfounded and it can be successful. But it won’t come without its criticisms. What it comes down to is fan responsibility to get the word out there that such things are acceptable and desirable as a new approach for the art form.