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“Press ‘gAy’ to start: the assumption of monosexuality in the video game industry”

Written by Freya Peers

Like so many of us did, I tried out many new hobbies during the first lockdown. With some savings and the extra cash I wasn’t spending on going out I bought myself a Nintendo Switch. I highly prefer story driven games as a means of escapism. The complete immersion in experiences far more fantastical and adrenaline inducing than my own filled endless hours of gameplay. That’s when I stumbled on a game called Hades: a Greek underworld themed rogue-lite with voice acting that will give you chills. In the game, you can gift certain characters ambrosia regardless of gender and for a few characters this can lead to romance options. The relationship between Zagreus, Megaera, and Thanatos is not only interesting because of the plethora of daddy issues and spicy dialogue, but it was the first openly bisexual and polyamorous relationship to make it into an award-winning game. However, it is not the first time that bisexuality has been implemented into a video game. In fact, bisexuality has been programmed into most game mechanics and dialogue options, hiding right under our noses. You might be thinking, ‘wow that’s surprisingly progressive for a hobby that reeks of heteronormativity!’ and you would be partially correct if it weren’t for a concept that YouTuber verilybitchy defines as ‘the gay button’.

The bicons of the gaming industry. Source:

Non Playable Characters (NPCs) have been accidentally programmed to be able to have same sex romance dialogue options for decades, as programmers often didn’t put in the extra effort to change it. More recently, game developers have begun to embrace explicitly LGBTQ+ NPCs, the best example being Assassins Creed which has gay, bisexual, and trans characters. The bigger issue comes when it concerns the playable protagonist(s). Sexual identities are rarely explicitly stated, and when they are they are marked as either heterosexual or homosexual. Due to the innate bisexual nature of the NPCs, the player can choose their approach toward relationships. This gives games a higher marketability to simultaneously cater toward the LGBTQ+ community and a potentially homophobic audience. On top of this, the assumption of monosexuality, where a character can only be classified as gay or straight depending on the gender the playable character completely erases the intention of representation. These characters are bisexual by default for profit, so that the largest audience can enjoy the game without being offended by mentions of queer identities. The gaming industry is providing more storyline options for queer people but is blocked behind ‘the gay button’ for gamers who would rather not be exposed to such types of relationships. Unfortunately, ‘the gay button’ phenomena has yet to expose the gaming industry for feigning support for the queer community, using default bisexuality as yet another corporate cash grab.

Although there are many games that profit off of bisexuality while putting in zero effort for meaningful representation, there are many that do it correctly. Here are a few of my recommendations for your gaming pleasure:

Hades (2020): Defy the god of the dead as you hack and slash out of the Underworld in this rogue-like dungeon crawler. They are Greek gods, they’re chill with whatever. Many cute dialogue scenes the more you interact with certain characters

Bisexuality meter: ♥♥♥♥

Life is Strange 1 (2015) & 2 (2018): The power to turn back time, choices that drastically change the outcome of the game, and the gorgeous art style draws you in so deep you will be affected for days after you finish the game. There are a few queer scenes but the second definitely does it better. The first game hints toward characters being queer but it is never explicitly stated which is a shame.

Bisexuality meter: ♥♥

Coming out Simulator (2014): Completely free to play! It’s a semi-autobiographical tale intended to help queer youth with conversations surrounding coming out. Completely gut-wrenching yet empowering.

Bisexuality meter: ♥♥♥♥

Raptor Boyfriend (2021): Hear me out. 90s inspired dating sim all about finding love in your last year of high school. One of your love interests may be a velociraptor but that only adds to the endearing nature of this whimsical game. Give it a try, it’ll be fun I promise

Bisexuality meter: ♥♥♥♥

Check out verilybitch on YouTube for a deeper discussion on ‘the gay button’ phenomena:

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