While this year has been challenging for many sectors of the entertainment industry, video games have been a notable exception. Many people spending extra time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic have found gaming to be a welcome respite and diversion from stressful times, which has led the gaming world into a period of unprecedented growth. Companies and developers have capitalized on this phenomenon, introducing hundreds of new games and services for players to sink their teeth into.
Additionally, this year saw the introduction of an entire new generation of consoles, led by the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, setting the industry on a continued upward trend. As gaming becomes a greater slice of the entertainment landscape—and as LGBTQ rights are increasingly in danger of being rolled back from a partisan Supreme Court and conservative state legislatures—it is all the more important for games to tell authentic and impactful LGBTQ stories.
GLAAD has been working in a variety of ways over many years to advance LGBTQ inclusion in gaming. We regularly collaborate with developers to consult on LGBTQ storylines and with media outlets to ensure that meaningful representation is properly covered. Another important way is through the Outstanding Video Game category at the GLAAD Media Awards.
The GLAAD Media Awards were created in 1989 to recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ community and the issues that affect our lives. More specifically, the awards highlight media which reach non-LGBTQ audiences with stories and content that grows acceptance of LGBTQ people and issues. The Outstanding Video Game category is an increasingly important part of this mission, as LGBTQ inclusion in gaming grows and as more and more people are discovering and embracing gaming as their entertainment medium of choice.
This year GLAAD updated and clarified the eligibility and criteria of the category: The language of the category has been updated to better communicate its purpose in recognizing culturally transformative games. Whether AAA, indie, or anywhere in between, the GLAAD Media Awards honors games which make the greatest impact and tangibly move the needle for LGBTQ acceptance.
In 2019, at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, the winner of the inaugural Outstanding Video Game category was The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset. This expansion to the popular MMO introduced a storyline involving a trans woman who is reunited with her estranged sister, offering a message of hope, reconciliation, and acceptance. This message reflected in the community in profound ways, with many players stepping up to show their support for trans acceptance both inside and outside the game.
This year, the Outstanding Video Game award went to sci-fi RPG The Outer Worlds. Parvati Holcomb, a fan-favorite character from the game, is perhaps the most prominent example of an authentic asexual character ever seen in a major studio title. Her storyline was also notable for having—assuming the player saw it through to completion—a happy ending, something LGBTQ characters are so often denied. Parvati no doubt helped countless players see themselves reflected on the screen for the first time and gave them hope that they deserved a happy and fulfilling life too.
The Outstanding Video Game category at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards will recognize games released in 2020 and, once again, will be highly competitive, as the bar for authentic and prominent LGBTQ representation has been raised significantly. Keep an eye out for nominations, which will be announced in the early months of 2021.
Which games would you like to see nominated? Let us know in the comments and on social media!
Submissions officially close Thursday, December 10th, but GLAAD will still accept occasional late submissions upon request.