Virtually gay
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 January 2013, 7:50 am
Fox News announced that "‘Star Wars’ game segregates gay characters on gay planet", a rather ridiculously wrong interpretation of the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion Rise of the Hutt. They'll be even more shocked once they find out that after the patch you can actually be gay on any planet. But whether you are Fox News, a fighter for LGBT rights, or somewhere in between in your opinion, I have a question that applies to everybody: How exactly do you define a "gay character" in a MMORPG?

For me there are several problems here, the first being that there is no sexual reproduction at all in virtual worlds. Virtual characters don't have primary sexual characteristics, and thus no sexuality per se, at all. The second problem to me appears to be that the secondary sexual characteristics on which we base our impression of whether a virtual character is male or female do not necessarily correspond to the gender of the player behind the avatar. For two avatars to have a "gay" relationship, is it the genders of the avatars or the genders of the players that count?

Apparently Bioware and Fox News decided that the more important thing is the gender of the avatar. Thus Bioware is unlocking same-sex avatar relations between a player and an NPC, and Fox News is protecting against that in their drive to protect family values. Note that no sexual relations whatsoever are possible between two players. If you are having imagined virtual sex with a computer, is that sex heterosexual, homosexual, or just plain illusionary?

The real debate is obviously whether it is a good thing or a bad thing if gay couples appear depicted as a part of normal life in all sorts of media. Thus we get people protesting against a purple Teletubby with a handbag being too gay. If people grow up seeing gay couples leading a normal life all around them, the religious right has problems getting a majority against gay marriage or other rights together. But what people appear to fail to notice is that other players in Star Wars: The Old Republic can't even see what kind of a relationship your avatar and his companion have. The only thing Bioware unlocks is a way for people who WANT to have a gay relationship between their avatar and a NPC companion of the same gender to be able to see that. You won't see gay couples holding hands in a cantina on Tatooine. I seems to me that the possible effect of that on the sexual orientation or acceptability is a rather weak one.

Still Bioware hasn't removed all discrimination from the game. Why can't we kiss Wookiees or droids? There must be people out there who'd be interested in that.
Tobold's Blog

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