A Gay History of Gaming

A brief history of egalitarianism in games, and why non-traditional depictions matter.

Games take a lot of flak for being a fairly un-inclusive medium, made by young straight men for young straight men and mildly offensive to everyone else. Listen to much popular discourse on video games, and you'll come away with the impression that they (and their players) are overwhelmingly sexist, immature, and unwelcoming to anybody outside of that traditional demographic.

There's a small amount of truth in that, much as we'd all love to deny it. But this image belies the fact that many games are impressively egalitarian, and that gaming has a long history of positive depictions of lesbian, gay and queer characters. From the original Sims to Dragon Age, games haven't been afraid to show and enable gay relationships. Developers like BioWare have consistently stood up for gay players' rights to appropriate romances, just like everybody else. What follows is a brief history of queer visibility in gaming – and an explanation, should it be needed, of why these depictions matter.

It might surprise you that Nintendo had a history of censorship in the 80s and 90s that extended beyond turning blood blue and removing violent decapitations from Mortal Kombat and into depictions of sexuality. Super Mario's Birdo – probably gaming's most famous transsexual – was openly referred to as a transgender female in the Japanese manual, but all reference to her sexuality was removed for Western releases. Dragon Warrior III could only be released on the NES with its gay bar location censored out. It's a policy that had all but disappeared by the time Conker's Bad Fur Day came around in 1999, though, and not one that's had an effect on any game released on a Nintendo system for a long time. Sega's Streets of Rage 3, meanwhile, had a stereotypically hyper-camp sub-boss censored out for its Western release, though that's probably more because of the astonishing cringeworthiness of the character than anything else.

It's no great shock that MMOs and RPGs have the most impressive equality record in video games. These genres, by their very nature, let you be who you want to be – whether that's male or female, straight or gay, mage or dragon-puncher. Sexuality has never exactly been a checkbox on a character select screen, but try your luck with same-sex characters and you'll often find that gender boundaries aren't that big of a deal. Fallout 2 has the distinction of offering gaming's very first gay marriage – a shotgun wedding prompted by sleeping with a farmer's son, whose family are not at all happy about the situation. Playing as a female character, you'll find the post-apocalyptic world's hookers perfectly willing to take caps from women. (Presumably, after the world is brought to its knees by nuclear destruction, we'll have more important things to worry about than whom people are sleeping with.)

Japanese RPGs have never been afraid to throw a little cross-dressing or playful gay innuendo around (remember Chrono Trigger's Flea?), though Personas 2 and 4 are the only Japanese games I can think of that actually let you play a gay character. Kanji's Bad Bad Bathhouse in Persona 4 is an unforgettable scene where character Kanji struggles with his sexual identity by fighting a naked, man-loving version of himself in a bath-house. One of Persona 2's protagonists was Kuruso Jun, who could get himself mixed up in a relationship with main character Tatsuya. As is often the case with Japanese depictions of gay people, though, Kuruso is extremely effeminate, and hardly a model for fair representation. Generally, it's Western developers that have led by example. BioWare, for instance, has represented queer characters in its games for about as long as it has been making them.

Star Wars: The Old Republic's Juhani is unusual among BioWare's non-hetero characters in that she's exclusively lesbian, rather than swinging both ways according the player's gender and choices like Dragon Age II's many love interests. (In the original release of the game she could be a romantic interest for both male and female protagonists, but this was later altered in a patch). Generally, BioWare's love interests don't care much about your character's genitalia – though there was mild controversy over Mass Effect's girl-on-girl romantic scenes, it would be extremely difficult to argue that the affair between Liara and FemShep was designed for titillation. Sexuality isn't a big deal in BioWare's games, and in my opinion they've never tried to make a statement about it. It's just one more choice in a game full of choices designed to satisfy players' personal preferences, not much different from choosing your character's hair colour.

That's the response that developers themselves often produce when questioned on their games' gay characters. In Fable, a British-developed game, nobody really batted an eyelid when it was discovered that you could sleep with and marry whomever you wanted. When it was revealed that you could marry same-sex characters in Skyrim, Bethesda's response was an emphatic so what?. "Not hush hush, just not making a huge deal out of it. You can marry anyone," responded Bethesda's Pete Hines on Twitter, when asked why the issue had been "kept quiet".

BioWare made headlines when one player complained about gay characters in Dragon Age II, accusing the developer of "letting down their player base – the straight male gamer" by having support characters hit on the main character regardless of gender. To quote BioWare's rather heroic David Gaider, "the romances in the game are not for the 'straight male gamer'. They're for everyone." Gaider's full response – which you can read here - is a brilliantly balanced account of why catering for all types of players matters so much. "You can write it off as "political correctness" if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority," he writes. "They're so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance."

Outside of RPGs, meanwhile, gay representation has been less frequent and usually less prominent. There have been gay and bisexual secondary characters in everything from The Longest Journey to Metal Gear Solid to David Cage's utterly bonkers Indigo Prophecy, but action games and first-person shooters don't tend to bother much with characters' sexual identities (although a strong case could probably be made for Marcus Fenix). Personal relationships don't usually factor very prominently in stories like Modern Warfare 3's, so it's neither surprising nor objectionable that sexuality isn't a main theme.

You may think, so what? Why should sex in videogames matter any more for gay people than straight? But this visibility actually is important, for the same reason as having believable and relatable female characters is important: because by catering exclusively to straight men, you're excluding more than half the population, and limiting video games creatively and commercially to a restricted audience. (Plus, we'd look all backwards and narrow-minded in front of all the other, bigger art forms, and that's never good.)

It's also worth remembering that young gay and lesbian people need characters that they can relate to just as much as straight teenagers – if not more so, as they're more likely to face persecution in the real world. Games have long been a refuge for people who aren't quite like everyone else. Indeed, it's a depressing fact that gay people in the virtual world sometimes have more freedom than those in the actual world. The Sims 3 offers fully-fledged virtual gay marriage (a notable progression from the original Sims, which had no marriage, and the Sims 2, which offered only a "joining party"), a right still outwith the reach of same-sex couples living in most first-world countries. Fable and Skyrim do the same. If you're a gay character in Mass Effect, The Sims or Skyrim, nobody really cares; you don't face discrimination from other characters, or find yourself forced to justify your identity and choices to those around you. That, too, is a freedom that many gay, bisexual and transgender people in the real world still don't enjoy.

The next time you let out a sigh of resignation at gaming's lack of maturity, that's a good fact to remember. As the struggle for equality in the real world inches slowly forward, it's comforting to know that in virtual worlds, some of those battles have already been won.

How to Make Your Skyrim Character Look Like Arnold in Conan the Barbarian

The world of Skyrim offers players the ability to create custom character skins to use in their quest to quell the Dragon threat, and if you’ve got enough time and creativity on your hands you can create some celebrity inspired characters to use such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian.  This is exactly what one of my gamer buddies known as Perfected Kaos managed to do through some painstakingly detailed work.

 This guy is known for his dedication to gaming excellence, and while there are other videos out there of custom made Arnolds, I honestly feel his is the most authentic looking.

Luckily for those of you looking to create your own Conan, Kaos has shared his time tested formula to get you on your way.  I’m telling you, this gamer knows what he’s doing when it comes to Skyrim character creation, so you can fully trust in his coordinates to get you on your way to having your very own Arnold character in game.  In fact, I think at this point Kaos has probably spent more time creating various characters than actually playing the game.  What can I say?  He’s a stickler for details, and tends to shoot for perfection, hence his appropriately chosen gamer tag.

For a full list of directions on how to create an authentic looking Conan the Barbarian in Skyrim head on past the break.  There’s also a video of Kaos’ creation for you to use as a reference.  You’ve been wondering what other types of celebs you could create in this game…

How to create Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian in Skyrim
(0=slider far left)
  1. Race=Nord
  2. Body=0,0,2,10
  3. Head=2,0,0,0,0,0
  4. Face=3,10,8,7,7,16,18,18,0,0,0…
  5. Eyes=4,13,20,9,7,0,0,0
  6. Brow=1,0,13,14
  7. Mouth=7,13,12,15,16,14,0
  8. Hair=24,0,8

Top 10 Worst Games Of This Generation

Top 10 Worst Games Of This Generation

Most of us purchased our consoles so we could sit back on a lazy evening and enjoy ourselves. But sometimes I think video game developers don't really understand what the word "enjoy" means. If you've played any of the games on this list, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Bomberman: Act Zero (Xbox 360)
Bomberman: Act Zero (Xbox 360)
I'm not exactly sure why developers insist on taking classic video games and changing the formula so much that the sequel has almost no resemblance to the original. In Bomberman: Act Zero, Hudson Soft removed our cute, bomb-carrying protagonist and replaced him with a mechanical cyborg. The developer also attempted to add an agonizing storyline about cyborg battles and oppression.

  • The only time cyborgs have ever been uncool. 
  • Contains a mode called "First-Person Battle," which is actually in third-person perspective. 
  • Players can't save their progress unless they're connected to the Internet. Brilliant.

Chicken Shoot (Wii)
Chicken Shoot (Wii)
This game has made practically every "worst of" list that the Internet has ever produced. The only reason that it's not number one on my list is because it's culturally insignificant. And thank God for that. As far as I can tell, Chicken Shoot is a game that was specifically designed to push suicidal Duck Hunt fans over the edge. I'm actually surprised that their slogan isn't "Like Duck Hunt? Get ready to kill yourself."

  • A lot like Duck Hunt except ducks have been replaced with chickens and fun has been replaced with frustration. 
  • There's no discernible point. Shooting the game disc was far more enjoyable than playing the game. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS)
Popular film franchises have always been a goldmine for developers who are willing to churn out unplayable garbage just to make a few easy bucks. And, in the last few years, the Harry Potter series has been the most attractive goldmine on the planet. The funniest part about this game is that EA was actually trying to produce a Harry Potter game that would appeal to the franchise's growing adult fan base. Instead, they just managed to make LEGO Harry Potter all the more enjoyable.

  • For some reason, the storyline is only loosely based on the books and film. That's right, the writers took an award-winning literary franchise and rewrote it. 
  • Ralph Fiennes was one of the only cast members wise enough to avoid reprising his role in this train wreck. 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is just as bad.

101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix (Wii)
101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix (Wii)
Now, I know what you're thinking: "How can a game with an awesome title like 'Sports Party Megamix' be on a worst games list?" I probably thought that very thing myself at some point. But if you've ever actually played it, I'm sure that you can agree with me.

Here's an actual quote from the game's press release: "Really, we couldn't be happier with our decision to release the game on 1/11/11." said Aram Jabbari, chief isophenist for Atlus. "It's the most one-derful day of the year."

Now are you getting the picture? The developer has produced a game whose most important feature is that it's actually 101 games. Their marketing team couldn't come up with anything more exciting. These days, when my children disobey me, I make them play 101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix.

  • There are 101 games, but none of them are fun. 
  • If you can't figure out how to break up with your girlfriend, just ask her to play 101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix with you. 
  • If there's an award for over-alliteration, they should give it to the person who named all of these games. Sumo Suit Showdown, Daring Darts, Fancy Fencing? I feel nauseous.

COPS 2170: The Power of Law (PC)
COPS 2170: The Power of Law (PC)
COPS 2170: The Power of Law is an RPG that's been dressed up like a turn-based strategy game. Only, it feels like it's trying hard to ruin both genres. If you like controlling armies by individually clicking each unit, or an A.I. system that's guaranteed to get all of your soldiers killed, this is the game for you.

  • Gameplay and graphics that remind me of how awesome my 486's graphics card was. 
  • Sophisticated Multiplayer battles. Just kidding. There's no multiplayer. 
  • The term "cyberpunk" is tossed around liberally. 

Jumper: Griffin's Story (Xbox 360, PS2, Wii)
Jumper: Griffin's Story (Xbox 360, PS2, Wii)
Remember all that stuff I sad about film franchises? It's even worse when the movie is terrible.

  • It's a lot like the movie. 
  • Too much jumping. 
  • The game was released on the PS2 even though the PS3 had already been on the market for two years.

Terminator Salvation (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS)
Terminator Salvation (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS)
Here we go again. If you saw this movie, you must already have some idea about how awful this game was. The most enjoyable moment was when I started crying and turned it off. Actually, that was the most enjoyable moment in the movie too.

  • Backups are automated, but it's almost impossible to tell when your game has been saved. 
  • The dystopian future portrayed in the Terminator movies looks like it would be more fun than playing this game. 
  • Christian Bale isn't in it.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (Xbox 360)
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (Xbox 360)
I feel like a traitor to my gender for putting this one the list, but I just can't ignore the fact that Team Ninja spent more time perfecting breast physics than improving gameplay. And, while I like jiggly things as much as the next guy, DoA X2 always makes me feel creepy and depressed.


  • Semi-realistic breast movement.

  • Major technological advancements in tan line realism.

  • Complex and engaging narrative involving waterslides.

Duke Nukem Forever (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Duke Nukem Forever (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
I've heard people call Duke Nukem Forever the "Chinese Democracy of the video game industry." but when you consider that Axl Rose is bigger cartoon character than Duke Nukem, DNF was probably a far bigger disappointment than the Axl's record, which makes Duke Nukem Forever more Chinese Democracy than Chinese Democracy. This is obviously not a compliment.

Actually, if DNF had been released in 1998, when it was supposed to hit the market, it would have been a semi-interesting game, but making fans wait around for thirteen years in preparation for a game that would have been past its prime a decade ago is cruel and unusual. If you're Facebook friends with anyone who enjoyed this title, unfriend them. DNF fans are terrible, terrible people.

  • A ton of dialogue that would have middle-schoolers laugh back when Clinton was still president. 
  • Makes you feel like more of a pervert than the Internet already does. 
  • he single-player campaign is about seven hours long, but it feels like fifteen.

Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (PC, PS3, X360)
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (PC, PS3, X360)
As if Duke Nukem Forever and Dead Or Alive X2 weren't enough to meet the oversexed-and-unplayable video game quota on this list, Leisure Suit Larry just had to make an appearance.

For those of you who don't remember—or weren't alive—the original Leisure Suit Larry stirred up a small controversy in 1987 when conservative groups got an eyeful of his pixilated soft-core adventures. Well, these days Larry's adventures are slightly less pixilated and slightly less soft-core.

Box Office Bust follows Larry Lovage, the nephew of Larry Laffer, the original Leisure Suit Larry. Now, I didn't think the original Leisure Suit titles were the funniest games ever made, but Lovage's title has to be one of the least funny pieces of comedy ever produced, and it wasn't even written by Carlos Mencia. This is compounded by an endless stream of repetitive tasks, and graphics that almost make the 1987 Leisure Suit title seem technologically advanced.

Sometimes I wonder if this game was produced to flush out society's worst perverts. I had better hide my copy, just in case.

  • Witness the lowest moment in the careers of comedians Jeffrey Tambor and Jay Mohr as they display their voice acting talents. 
  • Mindless repetitive tasks and incoherent dialog. 
  • The writers seem to think that vulgarity can be evenly exchanged for comedic wit, but they're obviously mistaken. 
  • Someone should have shown Bob Saget's standup act to them.

The Men of Batman

The Truth About People

One can say that he or she is a drug addict but they grew up fighting for his family but failed.

One can say he or she is a thief but they steal to bring some food home for their starving children.

One can say he or she is nice and helpful but they spread lies behind your back.

One can say he or she is bad because they are willing to say what you need to hear not what you want to hear.

Just because they smile, doesn’t mean they’re happy. Just because they’re quiet it doesn’t mean they are sad.

The ugly truth of people jumping to conclusions and spread stories.

The ugly truth of people being afraid to learn the truth and accepting lies.

Who are we to judge people?

Everyone is imperfect.
Everyone have their side of stories.

There’s good within people that we never find out because we just don’t care.

Therefore, one shall not be afraid to learn the truth by hearing both sides of the story.

Otherwise, don’t judge.


Civil Engineering Reference Wallpaper

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A Beginner's Guide To Final Fantasy

Trying something new takes courage of various quantities. Taking the plunge into a new cuisine or hobby always comes with a mote of nervous excitement. The same holds true for video games. We all know what we like so departing from those norms could mean wasted time and money. Fortunately, despite Final Fantasy's 25-year history, you can get started without much trouble. 

Allow me, a long-time Final Fantasy enthusiast, to help you try your hand at a legendary Japanese RPG series enjoyed (and hated) across the world. 

The History Lesson
The first Final Fantasy launched in Japan on December 18th, 1987. Developed by Square Co. (now Square-Enix), Final Fantasy represented a desperate attempt to make a hit by creator and director Hironobu Sakaguchi following several unsuccessful efforts by the company. Final Fantasy was a tremendous success and started a series that would define JRPGs for years after. 

The Final Fantasy series includes 14 main installments, two sequels (one for X and one for XIII), and numerous spin-offs. Besides the two direct sequels, none of the installments relate to each other outside of thematic motifs and the occasional inside joke. In this way, newcomers can start with virtually any installment without missing important plot points. Each game features an original story populated by an original cast. 

Why Do People Love It?
With a fan base spanning the globe, you might wonder why so many gamers dote on Final Fantasy. While the original focused on a dungeon-filled world and exciting combat, the series grew to highlight story and characterization as much as the battles that drove it forward. From a troubled dark knight to a flirtatious king, Final Fantasy populates its worlds with an eclectic assortment of heroes and villains that inspire fan renderings, cosplay, and even a few crushes.

Each installment in the series attempts something different from the last. Final Fantasy has both ups and downs, but gamers can always trust that the developers will explore new ground in an effort to redefine old systems and earn your interest for hundreds of hours. 

East vs. West
If you know western RPGs like Fallout, Mass Effect, and Elder Scrolls, you might be surprised at how different Final Fantasy feels compared to its western counterparts. Most of this comes from the obvious cultural gap between Japanese developers creating a product that reaches a non-Japanese audience. Subtleties, such as character mannerisms and dialogue, reflect actual cultural differences. A hero, for example, might gesture and emote in ways that feel unusual for a gamer outside of Japan. 

Most Final Fantasy installments use some form of a turn-based battle system in contrast to the action-oriented affairs common in modern western RPGs. This promotes strategic thinking, especially for gamers uncomfortable with fast-paced action. If you lack the ability to input button combinations with inhuman quickness, Final Fantasy enables you to enjoy an exciting battle without fast reflexes. 

What's a Chocobo?
A fictional, recurring creature in the Final Fantasy series, chocobos are large, yellow birds that -- once domesticated -- serve as mounts and a source of cuteness. See image below. 

Where to Start
Considering Final Fantasy's long history, its many installments have appeared across numerous consoles and handheld devices. Almost any modern gaming device supports at least one Final Fantasy game, so you needn't run out to buy an original Nintendo Entertainment System to play the classics. 

For those interested in seeing where it all begin -- more a novelty than a necessity -- a remake of the original Final Fantasy isavailable for iOS devices, as well as the PSP. Fantasy Fantasy Origins, a collection containing updated versions of Final Fantasy I and II, just launched on the PlayStation Network. 

Final Fantasy VI will better serve you if you want to see the series' greatest "old-school" moments. This installment also appears on numerous devices, including the PlayStation Network, the Game Boy Advance, and the Wii Virtual Console. 

If 16-bit sprites don't suit you and you want something more modern, look no further than one of the most popular installments:Final Fantasy VII. Also available on the PlayStation Network, this one also made it to PC -- though finding an actual copy will take time and patience. 

The most recent Final Fantasy, XIII, made its way to the PS3 and 360 in 2010. Final Fantasy XIII is the easiest to find and most up-to-date. It also has a reputation for extreme linearity. If you want to sample the franchise's knack for exploration, look elsewhere. But for a beautiful game with a stellar combat system, give Final Fantasy XIII a spin. 

Select the Final Fantasy that sounds right to you and give it a shot. I hope you enjoy it. If not, you can always try another one, or go back to your gaming staple of choice. But don't give up before riding a chocobo. Everyone needs to ride a chocobo. 

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Happy belated New Year of the Gregorian calendar, and happy advanced New Year especially if you're Chinese!