GaymerX2 Panel Report: Gearbox Software’s Gaymer X Spectacular
By Marcus Estrada
Panelists: Anthony Burch, Amanda Christensen, Chris Faylor, Randy Pitchford, Ashley Rochelle, Graeme Timmins
[dropcap]G[/dropcap]earbox is the developer best known for the Borderlands series although they’ve been around for a good while now. However, it’s mostly in Borderlands that they have begun creating unique and interesting characters in regards to gender, body type, and sexuality. And yet, these gentle pushes are relatively rare in the video game industry. As such, it was very interesting to hear members of the development team speak at a LGBT-focused convention.
So what did they discuss exactly? First, they spoke about some of their characters and why they made them the way they did. For example Anthony Burch discussed how a bisexual protagonist was developed simply because they never thought to code who he would respond flirtatiously to (and so he ends up doing it to everyone). It’s refreshing to hear developers who consider sexuality so open-ended to not purposefully restrict it. Some might feel content to placate an audience with one character but Gearbox definitely appears to be trying for something much better.
Some video game fans appear to believe that “social justice warriors” are forcing developers to do things they otherwise don’t want to. Gearbox’s talk proved that they were consciously thinking about the presentation of characters and not simply responding to an angry mob. In fact, the team were all able to quickly agree that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel needed gender parity in its four lead characters (which consists of two women and two men). A decision like this shouldn’t be so huge but in the gaming industry it is unfortunately rare to see.
Gearbox desires to push even further with characters in their games. Eventually, they even hope to create more intriguing protagonists that step outside the stereotypical protagonist notions of white, straight, and male. Although it may not come to pass, Randy Pitchford specifically stated how interesting it would be to create a lead that happens to be transgender. How many non-indie games can you honestly think of that do that? The fact that Randy himself spoke as to this desire felt astonishing as some other developers appear not to have the slightest inkling of the social change occurring around them.
It was incredibly heartening to see that these team members of Gearbox care tremendously about their role as media-makers. They admit to there being a degree of fear as to why they and other creators don’t push further. After all, there is tons of money going into games so you hope for success. Yet, they appear tremendously aware of issues inherent in video gaming (and media in general). If their team continues to seek out socially conscious staff then perhaps we really will see a trans protagonist in a Gearbox game someday. By my count that would be the first ever. It shows that gaming is very slow to change but change is definitely coming.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]