When the trailer to the popular video game The Last of Us: Part II was released in 2017, one of the first things I saw was a great public discussion about the fact that one of the main characters, Ellie, is seen kissing a girl.
Some of the main comments that were posted online after the trailer was released revolve around the opinion that the topic of homosexuality is nothing more than an unnecessary distraction within the game.
One commenter said: ‘Homosexuality has absolutely no relevance to the masterful post-pandemic world that Neil and Bruce created and, frankly, doesn’t make a person more or less important or relatable, therefore why add it?’
Personally, I have also encountered people who are genuinely bothered by the fact that characters are portrayed as LGBT+, not just in games, but in movies and TV shows, and in the media in general.
One comment that I remember was made by a close friend who saw me watching a show featuring a gay relationship. I was not out at the time, and she said: ‘Why do they need to be gay? They are both pretty. It’s just weird to see.’
I believe that having LGBT+ representation in the media is important and can be an essential element of a character for people like me. This is why.
When I grew up, watching a lot of films and TV shows, I would see countless boys falling in love with girls, and girls talking about how crazy they are about boys.
In my real life, this wasn’t much different. Girls started talking about the boys they liked and which character in a movie was the most handsome.
This meant that up until the age of sixteen, I was convinced that my interest in girls was something I should hide at all costs. I didn’t know that there were thousands of girls like me, because all I had seen were girls fancying boys.
Then I found a TV series called Hand aufs Herz. Hand aufs Herz showed a girl my age confidently telling one of her girl friends that she had a crush on her. Only then did I realize that maybe my feelings were valid.
I spent the majority of my time watching those two characters figure out their relationship, and it was the first time I was able to identify with anyone. I started to see myself in this character. I realized that maybe I could be as confident as her one day - even if I fancied girls.
I started to look up more and more LGBT+ characters in the media. Seeing so many people with different experiences I could relate to made me feel less strange. It was the first time I felt a sense of pride and comfort in my sexuality.
When we talk about LGBT+ representation, it is easy to forget that even one TV show, movie, or game could encourage someone to accept, and be proud of, themselves and their identity.
To a lot of people, it might not seem necessary for a character in a game to be openly gay, but I believe that if we stopped showing this part of their identity, we would be silencing a part of them that could potentially help a lot of people.