LGBTQIA+ representation. Can we get more of that? Gaming as a woman can be difficult in itself, but I also find diverse gaming difficult too. Combine the two and I find my gaming experience … blah. I just wish it wasn’t so. It is pretty obvious that all video games aren’t quite built with the LGBTQIA+ individual in mind.
When it comes to gaming, I can’t think of one genre as chock-full of content as the everlasting MMORPG. Now, I will argue that every game should have a queer character, but agree with me or not, I believe that MMORPGs have no excuse considering how expansive and diverse they are. One MMORPG in particular is close to my heart. RuneScape is diverse as they come, but has some key areas to grow in. One particular area is exploring LGBTQIA+ characters in the game’s storyline.
So let’s discuss the vast array of characters within the wonderful game of RuneScape! After all, it does have queer characters! How many do they have? Oh, only three? And the complete absence of trans*, lesbian, or other queer-identified characters? Okay, there isn’t much to explore here, but we’ll have to make do with what we got. First, here’s a little context as to how I got into exploring LGBTQIA+ representation in RuneScape.
On November 17, 2014, I posted a thread that resulted in a barrage of angry posts on the RuneScape Official Forums for daring to explain that the chat filter was being applied to a specific part of the game that (most likely) was being grandfathered in unintentionally to the player examine interface. This player examine feature was kind of meant to be like a status that you could put up to describe yourself or just a quick message about you that people could see at all times. I wanted to use some queer terminology to describe myself, but to my surprise, I tripped the chat censor. Normally, this doesn’t happen in-game, but it was being applied to player examine. I find this odd because Jagex (the developer) had intended for this feature to be fully customizable.
So I took to the forums, which happens to be a common method of communication between players and Jagex, and wrote up a thread as to why I thought this should be changed. It didn’t take long before the thread was under fire with comments about religion, questioning my identity, flaming me, ‘special snowflake’ comments, “think of the children,” concerned parents, gays = adult content, this is not a dating site, stop shoving your gayness down our throat, etc. Before long, the thread attracted trolls and others spouting hate behind their computer screens and it was deemed that my thread was a topic of controversy. It was subsequently locked by no fault of my own, all while I was being blamed for victimizing myself and trying to be the center of attention.
Whew. So, all that negativity resulted in a really awesome thing: research! Here’s what I found out. (Warning: RuneScape spoilers and terminology incoming.)
RuneScape has two gay characters and a possible bisexual character. Unfortunately, two of these characters are killed off in Daemonheim during the Vengeance saga. Okay, bummer, we have only one living character to explore a storyline with. According to Mod John A, Zanik is possibly bisexual because of her potential romantic interest in the player. Zanik could also be dead if the player killed her in the Kyzaj Tournament. If not, Zanik mentions to the player that she plans to lead the Bandosians through Yu’biusk and would never be able to return, so she asks the adventurer to remember her and say goodbye to the other Dorgeshuun for her. Her fate after this is unknown. Either way, we said our final goodbyes to Zanik. This is not good news. While Zanik might be living for some players, we essentially have zero LGBTQIA+ characters to explore at the present moment in RuneScape.
As it stands, if you have completed this content, there are no LGBTQIA+ characters to interact with. This is really depressing, actually, because representation does matter in games. However, I was able to do some digging on the RuneScape Official Forums and found an answer to the question I’m sure you and I both had in our heads to which the RuneScape community got an answer to!
Mod Raven mentions that existing characters might be LGBTQIA+, which would be really awesome, because I think that would make for some really interesting content. I think some really strong emotional bonds can be made between characters who are diverse, and any story can be told just as well from a perspective of an LGBTQIA+ character. I would especially love to see a transgender character. (Personal bias maybe. 😉) That doesn’t mean the story has to be centered around the character’s sexual and/or gender identity, but come on, Jagex! Let’s make some changes here and use your staff and players who are apart of this community to make those characters come to life.
Not only would RuneScape become more diverse in its representation of different identities, but it would become vastly more interesting. The most interesting part of the Vengeance saga, hands down, was when you happen upon two bodies on the ground side by side.
When you examine each of them, it says:
At least he was with his beloved Kavel till the end. He never left Morvas’ side.
That was heartbreaking. And when I took my eyes away from the chat window and looked up at their bodies and their hands were near inches from each other, reaching out—my heart broke again.
That’s interesting storytelling to me, and this wasn’t even the main part of the saga. It was just something you happened upon during your questing! Imagine how many rich, untold stories from queer lives that are going unused? Let’s fix this, Jagex! Impress me, move me, and inspire me.