We are always looking towards technology to not only advance our physical capabilities, but to give us moral guidance and apply any lessons to be learned into a stronger societal frame.
So as a number of governments across the world are finally granting homosexuals the right to marry and live just as freely as their hetero contemporaries, it’s only right that such changes are put back into tech, particularly video games.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (please direct all “not very Final, huh?!” comments to the nearest garbage can), the sprawling MMORPG that acts as the latest in the legendary series, is offering its players the chance to get married.
With the Ceremony Of Eternal Bonding patch, makers Square-Enix have allowed players to not only marry as a couple, but with the choice of partnering off heterosexually, homosexually and even inter-specially. Brave new world, indeed!
Like any wedding ceremony, it’s not cheap and nor are things arranged with any ease. Players must be at least Level 50 before making a commitment, with the couple-to-be needing to complete quests to provide enough experience and items to make the ceremony valid. Thankfully, you don’t need to finalize the seating arrangements or make sure the in-laws don’t get too drunk!
But, in reality, is this such a major step? Are attitudes in society towards homosexual couples and marriage calmed, reflected or pioneered by ventures such as this? Long question short: Would the world still turn even without this feature?
“A lot of people argue that marriage features in any game are gimmicky” he says. “It’s true that often they add little in terms of gameplay, unless of course we’re talking about a dating sim. In the MMORPG genre many players enjoy roleplaying their character as much as chugging through dungeons and finishing quests. For these players their avatar may be representative of them or they could be an idealized version of them or they could be the total opposite of who they are in real life.
“In all of these cases players should be able to express themselves via their avatar however feels most appropriate.
“Had this been a game where the characters were pre-established, with written backstories by the developers, then this would be less of an issue. But when players are given the freedom to create their own characters it’s important they be able to do so in a way that doesn’t feel restrictive or policing outside of the bounds of the game’s world.”
As with all walks of life, LGBT issues are coming to the fore and (again… FINALLY) less people are being shunned and treated like lepers for their sexuality. While we still have a long, long way to go as a species, it’s steps like these that draw the sting out of such issues. As Sal says, it’s all in the name of progress.
But as Sal told BaDoink, games developers are restricted by their own experiences, or at least the fear of attracting the ire of minority groups (in all respects) when they don’t ‘get it right’. The LGBT community isn’t asking to be put inside a little box and labelled as such. They simply want what they’ve always wanted: inclusivity, a voice and the freedom to be one’s self.
“The most positive message that can be conveyed in media of all kinds is simply that LGBT people exist. People of color exist. People of all genders exist. People of all abilities exist. We need to start including these kinds of people in the games we make more often” exhorts Sal.
“Having talked to many major developers often times there is a fear of ‘getting it wrong’, which unfortunately leads to the host of homogenous white dudes you see lining game store shelves.
“There are plenty of more specific things in the way these characters may be portrayed that need to be looked at, but the more characters we get the less weight any individual one might have to ‘get it right’. After all how often do we worry about ‘getting it wrong’ when it comes to making a white straight male character?”
Consider this: casting the net out further, including more groups, people, colors, religions, whoever else wants to play, will only ever breed more diversity, bigger story-lines, wider scope for the future and… are you listening games companies… loads more money!
It’s a shame to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to push through an agenda of fairness, but that’s progress. Best foot forward and quick march!