Electronic Arts have stepped forward in an admirable move to defend the constitutional rights of its employees, the gaming community, and the people of America from outdated precepts enforced by the US government. The stand coud have dramatic ramifications for all LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) representation.
Despite the declaration of support for same sex marriage issued by President Obama back in May; there still looms the Federal law governing the rights of gay couples. The Defence of Marriage Act(DOMA) states that:
“The word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife”.
It all started in San Francisco in 2009. A married lesbian couple were denied spousal medical care based on the fact that their union. although legal. does not carry the same legal rights as a heterosexual marriage. A court case ensued with a number of Judges demanding that DOMA be desolved in the light that it is unconstitutional. However, The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) made up of only five government officials, led by John Boehner, stands by the bill. Their entrenchment within the American justice system makes them hard to overrule.
The case is currently still dragging through the courts but light may yet appear at the end of the tunnel thanks to… Video Games!?
Electronic Arts made a decisive stand when they signed a document marking their support disputing the outdated DOMA bill. The reason for the move is reflected in a statement on their site which reads:
“DOMA presents a number of problems for businesses like EA, as it creates regulatory, tax, and discrimination complications for employers, and that’s why we’re standing against it”.
EA have always been perceived as a money grabbing corporate machine and garnered the unenviable title of worst company in america earlier this year. But this move proves a huge heart beats beneath the financial giant. By playing a part in removing the DOMA bill, EA will be forced to honour any and all spousal obligations included in their employee’s contracts. This could potentially cost EA hundreds of thousands of dollars. Clearly they care more about what is right than just money. At least on this occasion.
In many ways. video games have unwittingly become a haven of acceptance for the LGBT communities. Same sex relationships don’t cause much of a stir in games because you don’t get an extra achievement or trophy for your characters sexual preference.
When Beauty model and T.V. personality Kayo Satoh announced in 2010 she was born male, the fashion world was quick to shun her. She was stripped of contracts and dragged through a media circus. However, her hobby as a top Street Fighter competitor continued without pause. The fighting game community embraced Kayo as a player and respected her life-choices as her own business. It is unfortunate that Aris Bakhtanians didn’t show the same respect to his fellow female competitors during the Cross Assault reality show but that is another tale.
LGBT acceptance within games is commonplace with same sex marriages and scenes of a sexual nature appearing in the Mass Effect series, Fable, Elder Scrolls etc. Players tend not to react with prejudice and plainly accept that whatever happens in-game is within reason and can be catered to their own comfort.
Bioware’s Dusty Everman, level designer and writer on Mass Effect 3 went on record saying:
I believe that by the 22nd century, declaring your gender preference will be about as profound as saying, “I like blondes.” It will just be an accepted part of who we are. So I tried to write a meaningful human relationship that just happens to be between two men.
This overwhelming understanding of modern values and the desire to reach a point where there are no lines dividing us is exactly why video games are such a wonderful arena for self-expression.
Gamers have always been afforded the opportunity to play as, and experience actions through, the eyes of another gender. The desire to express sexuality through a digital medium or to distance oneself as far from reality as possible is entirely a personal journey shared between a player and their control pad.
I for one nearly always play as female characters and have done so ever since I chose Chun Li as my main chicken back in 1991. If a game poses the mechanic of picking a romantic partner I choose to pursue a female not for titillation’s sake but because I am heterosexual and feel inclined to involve myself with a female, regardless of the assumed gender of my avatar. I don’t consider the ramifications of my choices as statements of my position on sexuality. I’m just playing the game how I want to play it.
Electronic Arts along with 132 members of Congress, 70 companies and the state of California see the BLAG committee for what it is: backward thinking, ignorant and bigoted. The impact this will have on games is nominal and therefore not necessarily front page news. The fact that a major games company is standing up for the rights of its community is heart warming and inspiring.
As a proud gamer, I welcome the opportunity to once again prove that our community leads the way in social awareness, acceptance and the breaking of unnecessary boundaries.