Video Gay-ming: Part 1

21 Feb

Several months ago, my roommate called me over to watch him play a mission entitled “Out of the Closet” in Grand Theft Auto IV, merely one member of the historically controversial video game series.  On this specific occasion, the brutally straight protagonist Niko Bellic is hired to log onto a virtual dating sight called “Love Meet”(which caters to all sexual orientations), and makes a gay account to set up a rendezvous between himself and the game’s notorious gay Casanova, dubbed “French Tom.”

Gay men on Love Meet, with French Tom, center.

Alas, the cheesy diner date that ensues here does not end in either romance or a sexual encounter in which Niko has a revelation that he in fact has wasted his time at all those strip clubs because he really likes guys.  Instead, the protagonist is only here to make a moral based-decision whether or not to blow his date’s brains out, as Tom owes his boss a helluva lot of money.  Based on a personal understanding of the GTA standard in which you-kill-everyone-who-matters, I can tell you now that French Tom has more than likely had his last gay hookup.

This scenario indeed might have activists up in arms citing encouragement for gay bashing, but I instead would call for them to think about the predicament further.  For one, the makers of GTA have at least acknowledged with the character of Tom that there are indeed guys out there in the criminal/thug world who identify as gay.  In addition, the character of Tom is not really made to be overtly flamboyant or feminine—he fits right in, undifferentiated from any of the other straight male characters in the game.

Niko's Diner Date with Tom

On a more general basis, the angle of the game itself is that you should be enabled to kill anyone who gets in your way, regardless of race, gender, and social status—so why not throw in orientation too? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not condoning the GTA series as one of an angelic moral standard or a guilt-free conscious.  But what I am saying is that with the creation of French Tom (and the opportunity to surf that dating site for other men), the makers of GTA are integrating the idea that its “okay to be gay”, to their target audience of pubescent and prepubescent boys, many of whom may be from a variety of sociopolitical backgrounds which are not particularly gay friendly.

My support of GTA in this respect is further enhanced by recent news from my roommate that in October an expansion pack to GTA IV was released (on Xbox 360 only, to come on other platforms in March 2010) entitled “The Ballad of Gay Tony” (a gay in a video game title!).  The game follows new protagonist Luis Fernando Lopez, who serves as a favor-running personal bodyguard toboss and gay club owner, Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince.

While I don’t have any personal experience with this game yet, (I’ll get back to ya), I am sure there are many more up close and personal experiences with gay characters and scenarios.  My only question that will continue to linger is when the will the makers behind GTA release a version of their series with a GAY protagonist himself?

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