05 Apr 2012
A still from 'Star Wars - The Old Republic' © Lucasfilm Entertainment Company
The video game manufacturer EA has revealed that it has received thousands of complaint letters after introducing games with LGBT characters.
Bioware, a subdivision of EA, has recently launched two mainstream games which include gay and lesbian characters. Mass Effect 3 (released last month) gives players the option of choosing lesbian/gay characters and storylines – and Star Wars: The Old Republic (released last December) will be introducing the option to select LGBT characters at some point in the future.
EA confirmed to Gamesindustry.biz that it had received “several thousand” letters and emails protesting about the inclusion of same-sex content.
But despite this, EA has promised that it will stand by its decision to include LGBT options, and that it will not tolerate hate speech.
Jeff Brown, Vice President of corporate communications at EA said that it was “hard to believe” that anyone was surprised by the availability of gay relationships in games.
He said: "Every one of EA's games includes ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) content descriptors so it's hard to believe anyone is surprised by the content. This isn't about protecting children, it's about political harassment."
A letter of complaint received by EA has been scanned and published by GamesIndustry.biz. It says: “The overwhelming number of players on Star Wars games is children who do not need to be forced as a captured audience to participate in homosexual content.
“We ask that you please adhere to your long term policy of omitting and steering clear of this type of advocacy representation in your games. Please do not include LGBT content in Star Wars video games that will impact so many children.”
As a finishing touch, handwritten on the typed letter are the words “Remember Sodom”.
According to Gamesindustry.biz many of the complaints are coming from Florida, and are most likely in response to an alarmist blog posted by the Florida Family Association. The blog calls for parents to complain to Bioware, and mockingly suggests a trans option for Darth Vader in the form of RuPaul.
Also named as influential in the game’s anti-gay lobby is Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, who said on FRC Radio that gamers had already gone over to “the dark side” because of the inclusion of gay characters.
According to him, parents are worried about the potential influence of LGBT characters in gaming on their children. He says: “On the game’s website, there are more than 300 pages of comments – a lot of them expressing anger that their kids will be exposed to this Star Warped way of thinking.”
However, as the writer of the Gamesindustry.biz article points out, the games are targeting adult audiences, not children - and they do not force players to choose LGBT characters, but instead present options for players who would like to experience the game through a same-sex perspective.
Matt Kane, Associate Director of Entertainment Media at GLAAD said: “Trying to rally Americans around messages rooted in hate is a losing proposition.”
He also drew attention to recent failed gay-hate campaigns, including One Million Moms’ attempt to get Ellen DeGeneres sacked as a spokesperson for retail giant J C Penney.