Modern video games and development studios have a larger population of LGBTQ+ characters and employees than in previous decades, in which the population was considered to be slim to nonexistent. Gamesradar’s Sam Greer wrote that only 179 video games commercially released had LGBTQ+ representation. Of these, only 87 had playable characters with only 8 featuring a non-hetero main character. While at first glance that seems like a high number, it’s actually quite small when taking into account the 1,181,019 video games that exist.
When it comes to KSI, the experience in modern times is quite different from years past. More than half polled have had positive experiences about coming out as part of the LGBT community. One member shares, “I’m gay, and when I came out, I thought it would be a huge deal because gamers are [jerks] and don’t accept us at all. In KSI, it is so much different! My squad at the time was accepting, and we all talked about our personal lives and it didn’t matter that I was into men.”
The insight of older members, however, shows a slight shift in that experience such as issues that come up or phrases and comments being used that aren’t acceptable. One such member says, “I am gay, and older than most members here… I’ve had to remind my fellow KSI members that you cannot use the word ‘fag’ and [such], that I don’t want to hear that and it’s immature. I’ve gotten a laugh from it or been told I only find it offensive because I like it.” Unfortunately, that behavior was much more common in the past, but, as KSI has progressed in the last five years, it’s been reinforced how members should be accepting of all. Former members who were openly part of the LGBTQ+ community also tend to agree that the current generation seems to be more accepting and hopes that it doesn’t go backwards.
One game that broke several barriers in this field is the Mass Effect series. It allowed gamers to play Commander Shepard as either homosexual or heterosexual. It was not just a hinted nuance like so many other games but actually allowed players to romance certain characters leading to a full relationship. Some scenes were risque while others were standard relationship cutscenes. Mass Effect even allowed Shepard to not participate in any relationship, instead exist and build friendships with others. The game also broke barriers with NPCs also being in multifaceted relationships, pushed as part of the importance of the character and less of a footnote. For example, an Asari would be considered to be in a lesbian relationship as part of their matriarchal society.
As one member states regarding the acceptance of LGBTQ+ persons, “I feel, with the spread of the internet and online texting apps like Discord and Kik and how accepting a lot of communities are, it provides people to express themselves and offer a safe space with people who are a part of the community.” As more persons in the LGBTQ+ community continue to publicly identify, it’s becoming more of a reality that the gaming world is adapting and creating more opportunities for proper representation. And, if KSI continues to educate itself in this realm, it could become a cornerstone for gaming communities for the LGBTQ+ world.