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.

-----------------------------------------

Managing Editor at TheBestGameSiteEver.com

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...

Oh wait...

Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Mattsworknamehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-Vx4_prmvo09/01/2015 - 3:18am
MattsworknameTotal bisquit talkes about why teh Deus X pre order systems is garbage.09/01/2015 - 3:18am
MechaTama31Infophile: Kind of like how you're criticizing these theoretical reactions before you've even read any? ;)09/01/2015 - 12:44am
PHX CorpI'll probaly Start the stream around 8PM Eastern08/31/2015 - 10:09pm
PHX CorpOk, see you guys Tomorrow on the GP Facebook Page, I'll be steaming either the first 2 megaman games(Through Megaman Legacy Collection) or Rare Replay as the first game on My twitch.tv page tomorrow While we wait for GP to Come back up later this week08/31/2015 - 10:01pm
james_fudgeAlso check out our Facebook page and chat there! https://www.facebook.com/gamepolitics08/31/2015 - 9:53pm
james_fudgeSee you all on the other side! Find me on Twitter :)08/31/2015 - 9:51pm
james_fudgeAllright, i'll mention this on the GP facebook page08/31/2015 - 9:49pm
PHX Corpand now it's ready to go for everyone08/31/2015 - 9:35pm
PHX Corpok, done http://www.twitch.tv/trustygemtwitch I have to put on one more finishing touch and it is ready to go08/31/2015 - 9:19pm
Andrew EisenFeel free to leave us suggestions on Facebook or Twitter too. We're going to be busy but we'll try our best to keep an eye on 'em.08/31/2015 - 8:59pm
Andrew EisenIt's an interesting idea though. If we do anything, we probably won't know until after the site goes offline so keep an eye on GP social media for announcements.08/31/2015 - 8:59pm
Andrew EisenYeah, we could use my Twitch chat box too. There's always IRC but we don't currently have a GamePolitics channel.08/31/2015 - 8:57pm
Goth_SkunkThough I think the limit is 9 at a time in the hangout, so anyone who can't get in would be stuck out in the 'on air' portion.08/31/2015 - 8:57pm
Andrew EisenFor the show, I'd like the chat open to anyone who wants to watch.08/31/2015 - 8:55pm
PHX CorpI could Set Up a Temporary chatroom on My twitch.TV page while GP is busy updating the site(since I'll be Fighting Megaman Legacy Collection on Xbox one)08/31/2015 - 8:54pm
Goth_SkunkI don't see a problem with inviting viewers. It's not like I'm advocating this to be an open forum, just something specific to GP members.08/31/2015 - 8:53pm
Andrew EisenThat's why I embed the chat box from my Twitch Page. Can't get chat on the YouTube page to work either.08/31/2015 - 8:49pm
Andrew EisenI do but I haven't seen a way to incorporate viewers to chat without specifically inviting them to the event.08/31/2015 - 8:49pm
Goth_SkunkThough I'm surprised you'd not be familiar with this, Andrew. Do you not use Google Hangouts when you do S.P.A.C.?08/31/2015 - 8:45pm

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician