Gay Marriage Flap Around New Lord of the Rings MMO

April 30, 2007 -
A well-documented Salon piece tracks a bit of controversy surrounding the new Tolkien-esque MMO Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

It seems that, after a heated in-house debate, LOTRO developer Turbine decided to remove the option for marriage between characters over concerns that same-sex weddings would inevitably take place. Salon's Katherine Glover writes:
Largely due to the uniquely libertarian culture of game design, games are ahead of the real world in terms of acceptance of same-sex marriage... Today, the discussion of same-sex marriage in games redraws the battle lines over the issue, making it not a fight over marriage but an issue of the philosophy of video games themselves.

So, what do gay gamers want? Pretty much the same thing as their straight counterparts: a good game experience. Researcher Jason Rockwood told Glover:
Gay gamers do not want 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Video Game... My research suggests that gay gamers don't want games that are made for a 'gay audience. They simply want to be able to play games that everyone else is playing, but they want to have inclusion; they want the option to have gay characters.

In setting the stage for the LOTRO controversy, Glover recounts a number of games which have allowed gay unions, including The Sims series, Fallout 2, Second Life and Fable. Game designer Timothy Cain spoke about the decision to allow gay relationships in Fallout 2:
A big part of the 'Fallout' series was that we wanted it to be as open-ended as possible. We had no way of knowing whether you were going to be a man or a woman, so we decided to write all the different dialogue combinations... A role-playing game, you invent your character at the beginning, so you should get to determine what they do, and if we're going to put any romantic element in, we should cover all the bases.

Sims exec Rod Humble echoed Cain:
Players should be able to do whatever they want within their own game, and it's not our business to stop them. If you have two regular plastic dolls, you wouldn't expect someone to come along and tell you what positions you could and couldn't put them in.

According to one Turbine developer, the decision to rule out gay marriage came down to toeing the line on Tolkien authenticity. Nik Davidson said:
The rule that we tried to follow across the board was: if there's an example of it in the book, the door is open to explore it. Very rarely will you see an elf and a human hook up, but it does happen; the door is open. Dwarves don't intermarry with hobbits; that door is shut ... Did two male hobbits ever hook up in the shire and have little hobbit civil unions? No. The door is shut.

Tolkien was a conservative Catholic. He went out drinking with C.S. Lewis every night, and the two of them had a worldview that was -- well, let's just say it clashes a little bit with the sensibilities of East Coast liberals who make up the largest population of Turbine.

But sex-in-games expert Brenda Brathwaite was skeptical:
Players are still creating their own experience. In a video game, it's about abdicating authorship and letting a player explore a world.

GayGamer and Water Cooler Games have additional perspective on the controversy.

Comments

@Yoshiko:

Ah, yes.... affirmative action and whatnot. I see what you're getting at.

Well, I guess one could argue that discrimination against homosexuals is more widespread, whereas affirmative action is more specific (i.e., in relation only to employment and enrollment).

But then again, I don't really think it's even in the same vein as discrimination against a certain group based on color, sexuality, etc. Affirmative action doesn't discriminate -against- you for being white... it discriminates (if that's the right word) -in favor of- someone else for their ethnicity. I dunno -- Affirmative action was always a tricky topic for me and I never bothered to put much thought into it. lol =/

Actually, that's kind of why I'm against affirmative action. It just seems like a more discriminatory practice to me.

But yeah. Before it was blacks, and then gays. Now, I'd say it's immigrants, but gays are still discriminated against, in terms of social issue; politics, I guess you could say. While gays as a whole are more accepted than back then, it's still...hmm..."I accept you, but I don't want you to have equal rights." Um...It's like, there are people who accept the fact someone may be, and that there are, homosexuals. But they don't support their right to get married, and really, I find that as counter-constructive (or maybe some other word, I can't think right now) to the idea of acceptance of homosexuals.

While homosexualtiy is not mentioned in any on Tolkien's works, (Although Aragorn kissed Boromir's brow after his death, and Sam did the same to Frodo thinking he was dead. But that sort of thing wasn't uncommon in classical times. Even today, it's traditional for royalty to greet people by kissing their cheeks.) I wonder if the studio would allow Incestual relationships. They play a promenant role in the Narn i Chîn Húrin as related in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, the Lays of Beleriand and most reciently The Children of Húrin.

Why Christopher Tolkien found it nessessary to release yet another version of his father's story, I don't know.

Rigor Mortis
that wont stop people from from doing it they might not have a simply in game tag or quest to get hitched to another its not overly bad they decided against since both sides of the matter love to talk trash, all in all a option in a game is that if its there its up to the player to use if its not there.

What makes me laugh is the whole 'It can only happen if it happened in the book'.

Considering that by the Lord of the Rings there were only a couple of hundred elves left in Middle Earth, as the rest had travelled West, that Gandalf and the other mages returned also to the West with the Elves, does that mean that they have limited the number of elves and disallowed magic use?

Of course not, so it's hippocrisy, Turbine are making a game, not trying to enforce Tolkeins own personal views on other people. That game is, from a marketting perspective, supposed to make money and appeal to as many players as possible, if they aren't doing that, hiding behind a 50 year old moral ghost is not an acceptable response.

As mention by ZippyDSMlee, the Silmarillion contains elves killing elves, Turambar sleeping with his sister etc.

Some of you are being quite ridiculous about this, and basing your views on the idea that there is a large amount of "fairy" gay men. Please stop, it's a dated and poor stereotype.

Moving on. This decision is a poor one. If the game developer were so liberal and free thinking, they wouldn't allow a ghost's prejudice to tyrannize them. I don't think that this is the case, however. Someone, some rights holder must have had a hissy fit because they mistook a heterosexual elvin couple as being lesbians, without realizing that all elves look like chicks.

This interracial issue is massive to me, as well. If there weren't examples of those things, I don't believe there ought to be Hobbits as magicians. That never happened in the books. Also, there should only be one dwarf who is allowed to fight, as Gimli is the only example of a dwarf fighting in LoTR. Furthermore, the only names available to men should be "Aragorn, Theoden, Eomir, Grima, Faramir, Boromir, " and about three or four others which escape me. What I would like is for Turbine to simply begin calling their game an MMO, rather than an MMORPG, as they seem intent on creating as strict a game as possible, and have forgotten the whole "Role Playing" element. If characters cannot choose their role (within reason, I realize, I'm not saying that there should be hobbits in mechas), then the experience will not be full.

That being said, I love LoTR, and will be playing the game ASAP.

In regards to what Tim Cain said (I'm sorry to say this because the Fallout community loves him) but he had no part in there being a gay marriage in the game. He was long since gone by the time Modoc was being fully implemented. In fact, it wasn't even in the initial design for the marriage sequence. The idea was something that started as a funny conversation between the designer of the area Jason Suinn and myself (I scripted the area) had while having a late night cigarette. Yeah, Tim Cain is in many ways one of the three fathers of Fallout but here I just want to give credit where credit is deserved. There were a lot of really amazing people that made those two games great that didn't leave Black Isle to form Troika.

In 34 months time, will all this bs about game marrage really matter ?

let alone the issue about gay marriage i'm still tryin to work out why anyone wants to get married in a game.... maybe even at all.

What people are failing to realize and accept is that, in LotRO, the issue was not about whether or not a person was gay, played a gay character or what have you, but that such things are against the lore of the times the books/movies/game are set in. Turbine has done their best to make Middle-Earth true to Tolkien's vision of it and if they'd allowed a system that made gay marriage possible, that would be making a mockery of that vision.

Middle-Earth is set in roughly the 13th-14th century. Gay people existed, yes, but they were not open. If someone would have dared to come out of the closet at that time, they could have expected to be put to death. Not something I agree with being a 21st century woman, but that is simply the way it was back then; if you were gay, you kept your mouth shut, suppressed your urges, and lived as a 'normal' man or woman.

I do not condemn Turbine for this decision or their stance. They are not saying they are, personally, against gays or gay marriage, only that such a lifestyle was not acceptable in Tolkien's world and the time the game is set in. They are trying to encourage people to actually live in the times of the game when they're logged in and not try to turn Middle-Earth into Middle-America (to borrow a phrase from my guild leader).

It is not gay-bashing or anti-gay, it is the way things were at the time...the closet door had not been opened even a crack at the point in time the game takes place.

yoyo

Anyone know what trigger the latent effect of These ???

Thanks in advance
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