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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 20: Beyond Sex and Romance: LGBTQ Representation in Games and the Grand Theft Auto Series (Adrienne Shaw)

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CHAPTER 20

Beyond Sex and Romance

LGBTQ Representation in Games and the Grand Theft Auto Series

Adrienne Shaw

When I tell people I research lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) representation in digital games, the most common response I hear is “Is there any?” This is because nonnormative sexualities and genders are often seen as outside the scope of a medium often associated with children (particularly in the United States) and associated with fantasy (and thus outside the scope of political issues like LGBTQ rights). The game industry presumes their audience does not want or would be hostile to such content (see Shaw, 2009), or that it simply doesn’t matter to most games. Indeed, in my own work a common refrain from game players and makers alike was that LGBTQ content should only be included “if it matters,” mostly citing same-sex relationship options as positive examples of inclusion (Shaw, 2009, 2012, 2014).

Scholarship on LGBTQ game content similarly focuses on same-sex relationship options, or homophobia in online gaming spaces (Condis, 2015; Consalvo, 2003; Greer, 2013; Sundén & Sveningsson, 2012). Going through my collection of game design textbooks, not a single one discusses sex or sexuality in games, and largely only discuss cisgender representation.1 The closest is Adams’ (2010) discussion of relationships between in-game entities being governed by algorithmic rules, which is how most role-playing games and simulation games deal with relationship options, including same-sex ones...

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