Here’s a funny twist: when you shoot someone down, they are likely to be hurt by this. I know little of these ‘rivalry points’, admittedly, but if they are what they sound like they are – a mechanic to chart tensions between player character and computer-controlled party members – then in this case they are doing their job. If a character’s romantic advances are rebuffed and said character begins to play it huffy in some way, surely that’s… good characterisation?
If the characters of other orientations do not function in a similar manner – advance, rebuff, rivalry point – that’s different. Some people can take being knocked back, and some characters should react ‘better’ than others to a rebuff – again, that’s good characterisation. If all such level-headed characters are heterosexual, and a token gay character is hypersensitive, that’s a Problem. Either Gaider has constructed the characters as people first and representations second, if at all, and has either not considered the implications of representing x sexuality with y stereotypical trait, or he has considered it and decided it’s not worth bothering himself over, or – worst outcome of all – he’s perpetrated this representation deliberately.
A few points of order. Firstly, rumours of the author’s death have been greatly exaggerated; an interpretation of a text is only valid if it is in some way based on the content of that text, text which has been selected and crafted by a person. I like Barthes’ writing, compared to that of his poststructural peers, but it’s easily overextended to suggest that authorship in some way doesn’t happen, and that interpretation is a completely free game. Such is not the case. Rest assured, Gaider was thinking something when he decided to have this character behave in that way, and his colleagues were thinking something when they devised the mechanics that surround it.
Secondly, offense, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What Gaider intended his work to represent is a factor, but what the offended parties perceive his work to represent, independent of his intentions, is also a factor. Some interpretations are more valid, more supported by evidence and logic, than others. I am not sure that this petition-writing person’s perspective is taking into account all the evidence; I believe their interpretation to be skewed by that, but I want to discuss the possible invalidity, not dismiss the argument entirely based upon it.
A world of difference exists between the validity of someone’s interpretation, and the validity of their public objection. Sometimes a public objection is more valid than others, and personally I feel a healthy dose of SHUT MOUTH SHUT MOUTH SHUT MOUTH SHUT is in order for Straight Male Gamers who feel threatened by anything that, unlike the vast majority of characterisations, representations and narratives in the world, is not For Them. Privilege is not realising, nor ever having to realise, how good you’ve got it, after all.
Someone whose predecessors had to fight tooth and nail for the opportunity and status to speak, and not to be considered a moral, social and indeed biological deviant, should not be shouted down by someone whose perspective is reinforced and imposed by the vast weight of majority and societal approval. (like me). Should. Not. Ever. That’s not what I’m about here (although, in accordance with the above, it may be what I’m perceived to be about, and for that I sincerely apologise; suggestions for modifications in my tone or perspective are welcome).
What I’m about here is asking whether the objection is valid and whether the petition is going to do more harm than good in the long run. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that you wouldn’t have seen overt romance featuring gay male characters in a major computer game produced by a large, successful Western studio at all. Progress has been made. What’s left is a question of how far it has left to go, and whether Gaider and his peers will be motivated to check their privilege and advance the Cause again. They should, undoubtedly. Whether they will or not is another matter.
Calling for someone to be fired because they’ve done a good thing in a bad way, when their industry by and large wouldn’t even try, may not entirely encourage them to try again and do better. Gaider seems pretty committed to broadening representations in gaming and to improvement in his approach to doing so; it’d be a shame to lose him, ne?