Okay folks, today, I’m going to tackle a touchy subject. You’ve probably guessed from the title of this post that I’m going to talk about the whole forced heterosexuality at the start of Fallout 4. Thing is, that’s only going to be part of it. What I’m actually going to address is the fallout (pun intended) that has come about because of discussions over it. See, here’s the thing, it’s reached such epic levels, that even discussing it now has become a reason for someone to be attacked.
Case in point, just last night (or early this morning), I posted a question to the Steam forums for Fallout 4 quoting the advice that a friend of Dori’s gave to her when the game first came out. I’d link to the thread, but I asked a mod to delete it because it was becoming so hateful, and they have.
In my initial post, I simply asked if using the method Dori’s friend suggested (using console commands to change yourself from male to female after customizing your wife) to address it would break the game or not. I cited the fact that many Steam games fail to register achievements when console commands are used, as well as how sometimes console commands can make the game even buggier than it already is. Nowhere did I say “this should have be included at the start,” or anything along those lines, even if it should have been, but immediately I was attacked. The initial responses were along the lines of “why does it matter? Suck it up and play the game,” but it quickly devolved into arguments about how homosexuality is wrong, how same-sex couples can’t have kids, etc. etc.
At one point, someone even posted a link to a Tumblr screenshot that was basically an attack on Anita Sarkeesian and anyone who argues for feminism in games. Another person took a snapshot of my gaming history (showing links to several dating sim and visual novel games I’ve posted on while ignoring other more “accepted genre” titles like any of the Shadowrun games) in order to portray me as yet another “girl who only plays casual games, lulz.” Never mind that I’m a modder and have made a mod for Fallout 3 and am still working out the bugs of one for New Vegas. The mere fact that I’m female brought my gaming credibility into question. Not to mention all the rest of the homophobia being thrown around. I even got called a faggot at one point (I corrected him that the proper term to use in my case is dyke).
Remember back in September when Brianna Wu made that post about her theory that Samus from Metroid is trans? Only a day later, she was back posting again about the transphobic backlash she had received for that post. The mere hint that a character might not be white, het, and cis is enough to send the gaming community into a frenzy, even when, in the case of Fallout 4, that character is a player avatar.
Simply put, as a gamer, I’m ashamed. As a champion of games as art, I see my own community as the very enemies I need to defend my medium from. And with that, I think it’s time I took a step back from the community as a while. I’ll still enjoy my games, but I’m going to be even warier of other players for a while, because they’re usually a bunch of entitled, heterosexist and cissexist @$$holes who complain about people wanting games to be more inclusive as being “entitled,” yet also complain when there actually is diversity in gaming because “it’s not just like me.”
It’s one thing playing a game with a character who was entirely made by the developers (such as the Tales series of games, or Metroid, Infamous, etc.) and them being white, cis, het, whatever. It’s a whole other when a game built around creating and playing your character however you like takes away options from you, as happens a lot. Gay guys had no representation in Mass Effect until the third installment, but lesbians were present from the first game (and not just between Shepard and Liara). Likewise, in Fallout games, going back to the early titles, sexuality wasn’t an issue. Hell, you know how they picked your sexuality for your character sheet back in Fallout 2? Based on your interactions with others. Flirted with both guys and girls? You get a nice bisexual put there. Only with members of your own sex? You were gay. And in Fallout 2, you could get married to any marriageable character regardless of your sex or theirs, an no one batted an eye. Hell, you could then pimp out your spouse for extra caps, and while it would earn you a certain reputation, it wasn’t stopped. And unlike in Fallout 3 and New Vegas (after Bethesda took over), children weren’t set as essential, immortal characters. Some kid decided to pick your pocket in the bad parts of the Hub or New Reno? You could blow them away. Sure, it had consequences on the game, as you were permanently branded as a child killer, but the fact of the matter is, the option was there.
Since Bethesda took over, the freedom to have your character be who you wanted and do what you wanted has gone away, though it is slowly coming back. Fallout 3 didn’t even allow for a gay or bi protagonist, only allowing for the Black Widow/Lady Killer perks and not having the Cherchez La Femme/Confirmed Bachelor ones. New Vegas opened up a lot of options for queer folks, including having some great queer representation in characters. Fallout 4 took both a huge step forward and a step backward at the same time. Sure, you can be pan and poly if you want, but you’ve still got that het marriage forced down your throat for the first 15 minutes or so of gameplay which sets the tone for the whole rest of the game. The whole plot revolves around you hunting down the people who murdered your spouse and kidnapped your son. Some people argue that because your spouse dies in the first few minutes and then you’re free to be whoever you want that that first 15 minutes amounts to nothing.
However, as with everything else, first impressions are everything, and when that first 15 minutes sets the tone for the rest of the main story, that’s a big deal. Whether you choose to follow the path the story has set for you or reject it, that first 15 minutes has affected how you play the rest of the game. In New Vegas, you get shot in the head and people expect you to go hunting for the guy who did it. Whether you choose to do so (follow the main path) or decide that it’s best to live and let live (go do whatever else you want), that choice affects the rest of your gaming experience. Especially since the topic of Benny keeps popping up wherever you go. Likewise, here, the topic of your spouse comes up wherever you go, so yes, that first 15 minutes matters.
Never assume otherwise.