I’m thrilled to finally announce the launch of Queer Intersections: Visualizing the LGBTQ Video Game Archive! This collection of visualizations reveals trends in LGBTQ representation in video games from the 1980s to the 2000s using an intersectional lens, particularly to look at intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and genre. Currently the project consists of 16 interactive visualizations, and more will be added in the future in order to continue breaking down the larger trends already present in the data.
Several surprising trends have emerged in the visualizations. For example, in the 1980s there were more representations of lesbian women than gay men in games, a fact that runs counter to contemporary popular culture where white gay men are by far the most represented in media. The presence of more lesbian representations in the 1980s is far from benign, however: most of the representations are highly sexualized, and objectify lesbians as exotic others for consumption by assumed straight male audiences. Another trend present in the visualizations is the increasing dominance of white LGBTQ representations in the 2000s, corresponding to a marked uptick in the number of characters who are defined as a specific race and a decrease in the number of indeterminate race characters. Without further research it’s difficult to explain this conclusively, but it seems likely that this trend corresponded to rising xenophobia, white supremacy, and the mainstreaming of white LGBTQ cultures in post-9/11 America.
It’s my great hope that these visualizations will be of use to scholars, gaymers, and the interested public in assessing where LGBTQ representation in games has been, a bit of where it is now, and the things that need to change in the games industry and gaming cultures in order to make them more inclusive of all peoples. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and to be sure these visualizations are still crude tools for doing it. For example, the current visualizations of race remain limited to large, cumbersome, and even stereotypical categories that don’t catch cultural differences, such as all Central and East Asian characters being labeled simply as “Asian.” Still, by taking what we can learn even from simple visualizations, hopefully we can work toward building (and playing!) better game worlds.
In the future the visualizations will be updated as the LGBTQ Video Game Archive expands, and more visualizations will be added to address intersections of queerness with class, disability, and other intersectional identities. Another future goal of the project is to link the visualizations together better in order to demonstrate how these intersections are not siloed categories, but rather are mingled, variable, and evolving connections between different forms of human experience.
Please check out the About and Resources pages of the site for more information, including references to other existing articles and visualizations of the LGBTQ Video Game Archive!