MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A Closed World'

September 22, 2011 -

New research efforts at MIT explore how games handle gay, bisexual and transgender characters and storylines... badly. Inspired by the lack of serious LGBT characters in mainstream video games, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab has developed a game called “A Closed World,” which hopes to answer straightforward questions such as "How can video games present LGBT content and what are the challenges that a development team faces when trying to include content about someone different from the perceived norm?"

In an attempt to answer these questions, several teams worked for eight weeks during GAMBIT's summer program as producers, designers, programmers, musicians and artists on some experimental games. Todd Harper, the GAMBIT product owner of “A Closed World,” led a team of nine interns from Singapore, MIT, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Berklee College of Music.

“This project addresses a very basic idea about identity and representation in mass media. Think about the first time you heard someone famous was different in the same way as you, or saw someone different in the same way on TV or in a movie. It gave you a little rush of good feeling,” Harper says. “This is the way I sold the project to the interns. Cultural content shapes our reality.”

A Closed World is a console-style RPG that lets players take control of a young resident of a village where (on the outskirts) a forest exists that legend claims "is a place of no return." Because of this the forest is forbidden and what is on the other side of it is unknown. The hero's beloved, tired of the oppressive attitude of the villagers, decides to go there and the protagonist eventually follows after.

Harper notes that LGBT content is usually incidental and never drives the story, which is one of the core reasons for making A Closed World.

"Rather than having it be sidelined or there for a one-off joke, games can and should be doing something explorative and expressive on the topic. We started with my having mapped out the narrative of the game ahead of time. But in eight weeks we'd done something completely different.”

You can check out A Closed World here.

Source: MIT


Comments

Re: MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A ...

Why exactly is the grouping always LGBT? Transsexualism has nothing to do with homosexuality, but it just seems like a convenient grouping due to the rare nature of transsexuals. If people are concerned over the portrayal of transsexual characters then they need to make sure that disabled are always included (due to the more common occurrence of that minority in society).

Having said that Saint's Row 2 actually had a transsexual as the main character (although this was on a technicality).

Re: MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A ...

I think the issue here is that the group doing this is immediately assuming that LGBT "content" would revolve around their likes and dislikes, which may or may not conform to "the norm". I'm sure a substantial amount of gay people find it rather offensive when others around them come to the assessment that most gay people fit the gay stereotype. Most times, the only thing that sets them apart is who they cuddle up with when they sleep.

Re: MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A ...

Perhaps in terms of personality, but I think it can be argued that gays in america encounter a special class of issues and problems that strait people do not, and that is a domain that be explored.

Though personally I think a lot could be done just be integrating GBLT characters as just regular people with plotlines that do not focus on what makes them differnt.   Ideally both types of plotlines would be in play in gaming.

Re: MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A ...

Games have a hard time portraying everybody other than caucasian/Asian-looking men. Games have a hard time doing relationships overall romance or not.

I think Mass Effect did a pretty good job. Shepherd and Liara is some kind of alternative lifestyle depending on how you classify Liara if you were a woman and you went after her. It also wasn't forced which was kind of nice.

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Re: MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A ...

Developers have a hard time portraying ethnic characters because they are mainly Asian/Caucasian men.

Developers have a hard time doing relationships because they've never been laid.

Re: MIT GAMBIT Game Labs Explores LGBT Characters in 'A ...

I guess you must find it sad, to never be able to play a moron like yourself in video games as well...

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james_fudgeAlso http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/09/17/Exposed-the-secret-mailing-list-of-the-gaming-journalism-elite09/17/2014 - 4:29pm
Andrew EisenI read the Kotaku story. Nowhere does it say anything close to "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers." It's commenting specifically on the crap being slung at people discussing gender issues in games. So, what's the problem?09/17/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenYeah, I can imagine Spiderwoman posed like in your second link.09/17/2014 - 4:00pm
Andrew EisenThat's not the same pose. Spiderman (who is wearing an actual outfit rather than body paint) is crouched low to the ground. Kinda like a spider! Spiderwoman has her butt up in the air like she's waiting to be mounted.09/17/2014 - 3:59pm
quiknkoldAndrew Eisen : Kotaku did a whiole article on it, as did others http://kotaku.com/we-might-be-witnessing-the-death-of-an-identity-162820307909/17/2014 - 3:59pm
CMinerQuiknkold: Do you think that there are no cases where a piece of art (painting, movie, videogame, comic cover, etc) is unambiguously sexist?09/17/2014 - 3:58pm
quiknkoldand can you imagine if Spiderwoman was posed like this? http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/spider-man1.jpg09/17/2014 - 3:58pm
Andrew EisenWhat games outlet is writing articles saying "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers"? What examples have you seen of journalists being paid off for favorable reviews? Who's shaming what now? What's the problem with critiquing the Spiderwoman cover?09/17/2014 - 3:57pm
james_fudgeWell there's def "politics" involved in this issue. The movement was hamstrung by bad behavior and illegal activites here. We would have covered it more if not for those unforutnate happenings.09/17/2014 - 3:56pm
quiknkoldhttp://i.imgur.com/v3p8Bwf.jpg Here you go EZacharyKnight. Spidermans Buttcrack.09/17/2014 - 3:56pm
quiknkoldwhile another person doesnt see it09/17/2014 - 3:56pm
quiknkoldJames_fudge : I feel like the people challenging Games are the same people who Challenge Art because Michaelangelo's David shows Wang. The problem is, alot of things with Games are left to the eye of the beholder. One Person see's Sexist Antiwomen views.09/17/2014 - 3:55pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I don't recall Spider-man's costume conforming to the contour of his buttcrack.09/17/2014 - 3:54pm
quiknkoldIts the same Agenda Fueled Journalism youd find on Fox News or MSNBC. I appreciate Gamepolitics for just stating the facts.09/17/2014 - 3:54pm
james_fudgeQuiknold: you're entitled to your opinion on creatives being left alone. Others are entitled to their opinions that they should be challenged.09/17/2014 - 3:53pm
quiknkoldI can point specifically to the Spiderwoman Milos Manara cover as an example. Not strictly VG Related, its still the same example of journalists attacking Milos's artwork, claiming its sexist, when its the exact same pose Spider-man has done on a cover.09/17/2014 - 3:52pm
quiknkolddevices, and then we can discus the merits of the game. and then there's the people exchanging money and other things to game journalists for favorable reviews and articles, while also shaming those who may criticize these articles09/17/2014 - 3:51pm
quiknkoldIts more about those 20 some odd articles saying Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers. I want there to be a discussion in videogames. Good positive discussion. but I also think the Artists involved in crafting the game should be left alone to their09/17/2014 - 3:49pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/09/17/ice-climbers-wont-be-in-the-new-smash-bros-and-heres-why/ Sakurai explains why Ice Climbers had to get cut from the roster. Spoiler alert, it's exactly why people thought they got cut.09/17/2014 - 3:47pm
Andrew EisenAgenda? What exactly is this agenda and what does it have to do with ethics and transparency in game journalism? I mean, goodness, you make it sound like GamerGate really IS about silencing people from talking about gender issues in video games.09/17/2014 - 3:03pm
 

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