This weekend there is going to be a float at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras covered in video game characters, followed by a group of dedicated queer gamers. That’s all because popular online role-playing game Final Fantasy XIV Online is sponsoring the Sydney Gaymers float, and that’s a big deal.
Here’s your fun fact of the day: The Bechdel Test, the one that a piece of fiction passes or fails based on whether or not it has two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, isn’t a “feminism test”. It’s used that way a lot these days, and it works for that most of the time, but it was actually designed to illustrate the isolation of being a lesbian in a world designed for men.
Until pretty recently, it was tough to find many queers in popular media. On TV there was the token sexless gay best friend, or the sacrificial lesbian who would kiss a woman during sweeps before being gruesomely murdered (usually by a bullet meant for someone else), but none that really mattered. Once you’d seen DEBS, But I’m A Cheerleader, Imagine Me and You, and more recently The Carmilla Movie, you were pretty much out of the happy romantic movies. After that you had to resort to those depressing films where the gays would be persecuted and naked for an hour and a half so the upper middle-class straight women could go home and tell their families about how awful homophobia is, while congratulating themselves for being so progressive.
Then you get to video games, and suddenly the rest of pop culture looks like a Tegan and Sara concert. Things have improved a lot for queers in games since the unpleasantness of 2014 and 2015, and that’s down to a lot of developers, companies and conventions making a conscious effort to be more inclusive.