Company |Culture |Diversity | Date published: Jun 30, 2021

Gaming & Creating Worlds of Authentic Storytelling

The importance of keeping LGBTQ+ representation at the forefront of game development
Gaming & Creating Worlds of Authentic Storytelling

As another Pride month in the United States comes to a close, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) conversations about inclusivity, equality, and diversity are proud to continue, now and into the future, regardless of the time of year. At SIE, we are always working to create a sense of belonging where everyone feels welcomed — even through the virtual worlds of gaming. We had the chance to speak with developers and industry advocates  who understand how valuable it is to represent and elevate LGBTQ+ voices  and stories through video games to create more inclusive experiences.

“Like any other creative medium, games are a canvas for storytelling, and authentic LGBTQ+ stories deserve to be told. But games also go further by adding interactivity and agency,” says Blair Durkee, Special Consultant for Gaming, GLAAD. “Games are the only medium that allow people to embody a character, to see and experience, and even craft the story through that character’s eyes. For the LGBTQ+ community, it’s an incredibly powerful tool for building empathy and understanding.”

For Emilia Schatz, Co-Lead Game Designer of The Last of Us Part II at Naughty Dog, it’s important to remember how valuable the close relationship players form with the characters they play in games can be. “For a time, you immerse yourself in their identity and see the world from their perspective. When the portrayal is authentic, you can feel the humanity in that character. And maybe, the next time you’re out in the diverse real world, you’ll see a little more humanity in the people around you.” 

Games written and developed with diversity in mind are an opportunity for players to see the world from a different perspective and experience the challenges others face, challenges that are different from their own.

“Games have the unique ability to reflect our experiences back at us. Not simply the visual or narrative information of an experience, but in many ways, the experience itself,” says Mallory Littleton, Narrative Designer for Life is Strange: True Colors at DeckNine Games. “The mobile game A Normal Lost Phone didn’t just show me the dual lives the protagonist had to lead, but in forcing me to work through the dates and locations to unlock passwords and find hidden features, I experienced for myself how much labor went into keeping those two lives apart. It made me feel better about the times I’d cleared my YouTube history of gay music videos, or refused to let friends see my phone.”

While representation in games has improved in recent years, it’s important to continue growing to offer more fully inclusive experiences for LGBTQ+ players. All players deserve the opportunity to see themselves reflected as the  protagonist, overcome insurmountable odds, and be the hero they want to be.

“When I play a game, and feel as though I was left out, it feels almost intentional. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, we don’t have to be front and center all the time, but it shouldn’t be rare when we are recognized,” says Schatz. “As someone who develops games and crafts interactive experiences for characters, I think it’s important to clearly acknowledge the character’s identity, and then show how it is just a small part of the complex and unique person  they are..”

PlayStation Store has gathered over 50+ of the best video game titles that shine a light on LGBTQ+ characters, themes, and experiences

“Like any cultural medium, games benefit from portraying people as they are. It would be weird for us not to include queer characters, not as a checkbox to tick, but because these are just people we know, people that are just part of the world,” says Scott Benson, Co-creator and Artist, Night in the Woods. “Games benefit from having queer characters if only because that’s a more truthful depiction of the world around us. ” 

“Games that positively portray, or acknowledge, the LGBTQ+ community have been integral to my journey through life,” says Littleton. “If you’ve ever bought and played one, and especially if you’ve ever made one, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. In many ways, these games have given me the courage to be myself, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

To find out more about how Sony Interactive Entertainment celebrates the LGBTQ+ community globally please check out our recent blog post on how we celebrate Pride, not just this month, but every day.