LGBTQ representation in entertainment media has flourished in recent years, and the gaming world is no exception, making significant strides in telling more inclusive stories.
Transgender Awareness Week, which takes place November 13 – 19 every year, is an ideal time to highlight a few of the games that feature noteworthy transgender characters. Though the nominees for the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards will not be revealed until early 2023, gamers should consider checking out video game nominees from previous years.
From one of the most iconic video game series, The Last of Us Part II is a gorgeous and tragic masterpiece from Naughty Dog. As the heartfelt and heartbreaking relationships unfold onscreen, the character interactions humanize the bleak world they inhabit. Lev remains one of our favorite characters from the sequel. While being transgender is essential to his identity, he is complex and multifaceted, with his background serving as an essential plotpoint that players encounter. It is refreshing to see a young trans man who finds conviction despite the oppressive world he has been brought up in. The Last of Us Part II is not for the faint of heart, but it is certainly worth playing to see how stories about queer and trans people can be successfully told by studios who do not shy away from giving them the space they deserve.
Players who enjoy games where underdog characters must navigate turbulent political environments should consider playing Far Cry 6. Paolo de la Vega is a major character that players meet and interact with, and his trans identity plays a major role in his storyline. His backstory also touches upon the struggles that many transgender people face when transitioning, such as a lack of safe medical care and social rejection. As an outspoken revolutionary and DJ, Paolo brings light into the war-torn country of Yara, reminding players that there is always something worth fighting for.
Both The Last of Us Part II and Far Cry 6 can be emotionally heavy games, with character arcs that are equal parts tragic and cathartic. Players who are more interested in competitive multiplayer games will be happy to know that many are also including trans characters. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is a tactical first-person shooter that exemplifies how trans people can be included without the need for in-depth narrative. In 2021, this popular esports title made headlines when Osa, a trans woman, debuted as the game’s first transgender character. She has since been joined by a nonbinary character called Sens that was added to the game in 2022. Osa’s transition and Sens’s coming out are both referenced in their official psychological reports on Ubisoft’s website. They are never discriminated against by their fellow operators and, most importantly, are a blast to play.
Earlier this month, the free-to-play hero shooter Apex Legends saw the release of Catalyst, its first playable trans woman legend. Apex Legends was nominated at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards for its inclusion of Gibraltar, a gay man, and Bloodhound, a nonbinary hero, in its launch roster. Catalyst brings an exciting new playstyle and much-needed representation for trans women into the realm of AAA games. You can read more about how GLAAD worked alongside Respawn Entertainment to bring Catalyst to life in our recent post here.
Fans of the Life is Strange series may be familiar with Don’t Nod Entertainment’s other recent narrative adventure game, Tell Me Why. The inclusion of queer and transgender characters, as well as Tlingit culture, offers a hands-on experience for gamers who may not be as familiar with these underrepresented groups. One of the game’s two protagonists is Tyler Ronan, a trans man. Through a years-long collaboration between GLAAD and the development teams, Tell Me Why brings to life a complex story regarding family, identity, and loss. For those looking for a slower-paced and less demanding gameplay experience than the previous games, Tell Me Why gives players a perfect amount of narrative control and hard-hitting story beats without the fear of zombies, mercenaries, or other players catching you off-guard at every corner.
Indie games have been pulling their weight with queer and trans representation for years. The gorgeous visual novel If Found… is just one example of LGBTQ stories done right, and getting to know Kasio, a transgender woman living in 1993 Ireland, is a journey worth taking. By using journal entries to explain the difficulties of being trans in a community inhospitable to LGBTQ people, If Found… provides an intimate look into the trans experience at a unique time and place. This shorter, story-based game is perfect for casual gamers or those simply looking to add trans-centric content into their gaming repertoire. The simplicity of the gameplay hides a depth to its characters, and Kasio’s struggles with friends and family is a heartfelt and bittersweet story that players will find rewarding.
While no single game or character can fully represent the diversity of the trans community, recent years have seen a growing selection of games with authentic transgender representation.
These games, all GLAAD Media Award nominees, are just a few of the many games that are creating more authentic, mutli-dimensional LGBTQ characters and stories.
Keep an eye out in January for the Outstanding Video Game nominees for the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, which will include even more opportunities for players seeking games that represent the LGBTQ community.