EA Hosts LGBT Event

EA Rainbow Logo
EA Rainbow – I kinda love this image

As much of a debacle as EA can make of things, they can get a few things right too.  EA hosted an LGBT event called “Full Spectrum” to explore the role of LGBT representation in the video game industry.  The event had panels headed by Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the RIAA, which has it’s own sordid history.  Interestingly, she makes references to trying to “Silence Hip-hop,” and then says “Preaching doesn’t work.”  I’m really interested in the context of that statement, the Gamasutra article leaves it somewhat ambiguous.  The event also had several other industry veterans who’s who talking the issues of LGBT interests in the industry.

The general consensus seems to be that diversity in the workplace will help increase diversity in the games.  Currently, the white male protagonist dominates the leading roles in games almost exclusively, with a few nods to overly sexualized female characters.  The hope is that by increasing diversity amongst the developers, that will lead to increased diversity in games by taking away the exclusivity of the white male making games.  I’m not 100% sure I think that this will make a difference, but there’s also a chance.  As the article cites, BioWare as a company has been very encouraging of same-sex relationships, as they are possible (if limited) in most of their games.

As a gaymer myself, I think it would be interesting to have more varied options for same sex relationships.  In most games (though not all), same-sex relationships are generally between the player and the giant, glaring homosexual stereotype.  I really enjoyed the way that Guild Wars 2 handled same sex relationships — they just were.  There was no special pomp or circumstance around it, they just were as we expected them to be….just a thing.  In Dragon Age, I remember the one bisexual character, Zevran, who I felt was portrayed as maybe a little more promiscuous than necessary.  With that though comes the question of did they make promiscuous because he was gay (or bisexual), or was he promiscuous and they just tacked on the gay aspect?

Regardless, it’s great to see companies taking a step up to address sexuality in games…and well, basically everything that’s not a giant white guy killing everyone else.


Via: Gamasutra

The F-bomb in Games

Image from Kotaku

Denis Farr, of GayGamer  among other outlets made a guest post on Kotaku a few months back, entitled “This Gaymer’s Story” about the use of the f-bomb (faggot) in gaming culture, and to a lesser extent, the use of the word gay as a derogatory word.  The post generated quite a lot of buzz, and this week, Denis wrote a follow up describing his experience from writing the last article.

Based on reading the comments and posting, I wanted to give a more consolidating response to what I am seeing on the forums.  I might even through some semiotics into the mix, just for good measure.  There are a few different arguments I want to respond to–the f-bomb doesn’t directly relate to gays anymore, stop being so sensitive there’s nothing wrong with the word, and it’s not bad because Britain uses it differently.

Granted, these statements are all pretty similar, but they keep being presented again and again as if, by repetition, it will make them more true (truth: it doesn’t.).  The first is the f-bomb doesn’t relate to gay males anymore, but rather it’s use has grown to be a more generic meaning of something being bad, incompetent, things like that.  Some comments argue that when they use the f-bomb, they aren’t thinking about gay males, therefore it doesn’t relate to gay males anymore, but just generally something bad.  Luckily, all three of the arguments above can be debunked by a little semiotics.

This is incorrect.  Like I posted on the forums, we need to go into a little bit of a semiotics lesson.  Saussure states that communication happens through signs (words, sounds, etc).  These signs are made up of a signifier (the word or the sign) and the signified – the concept.  In this view, the word or sound is just a vessel for carrying meaning, and the signifier is completely arbitrary, meaning that the word itself has no inherent meaning.  The only meaning it has is that which is attributed to it by the signified concept.

So at first blush, it would seem that this argument only serves to support the “f-bomb no longer means gay” argument.  However, the cultural meaning also comes into play here.  While in Britain the f-bomb can mean cigarette, or pile of sticks,  in the U.S., the meaning has been negative in contemporary settings–always referring to gay males in a negative capacity.  In fact, even in Britain the word has a variety of negative meanings, sometimes meaning a particularly difficult woman, or a young boy who is subservient to an older male, or death by burning (Dictionary.com).  Wikipedia even says that the word is primarily negative even in Britain, while not necessarily meaning homosexual (Wikipedia).

But again, we are coming from a perspective of American culture, where the negative meaning finds it’s roots in referring to the homosexual male.  When someone calls another person a f-bomb negatively, they are inherently referring to the social agreed upon negative meaning — in this case, the gay male.  Why, you ask?  Well, there are no other negative roots for the word within American culture–the ONLY use/root of the word is negative, referring to the gay male.  There’s no place else to get the negative connotations within American culture.

While someone might use the f-bomb without meaning a gay male, the negative use of the word invokes the correlation to the gay male.  Whether someone means gay male or not, the only way to negotiate a negative meaning of the world in contemporary American culture is to use the word as a referent to the gay male.  Because we are coming from a primary American culture point of view, the British meanings of the word doesn’t really apply here–the signified of the British word is different the signified of the American word.  That is to say, while they have the same signifier (the word itself), and we know that signifiers have no inherent meaning, the words are, for intent, different words entirely.

As for the argument that gay males shouldn’t be so sensitive to the word – like I said in the comments, if it’s really just someone being too sensitive, call your mother the f-bomb, and see how that goes.  Or call your boss the f-bomb, or your teacher/professor.  Really, if we are just being too sensitive, then you should be able to use the word in this situations and have them understand that it’s not really an offensive word, it’s just a general term for negativity.

Please, be sure to let me know how that goes for you.