The supreme court wasn’t just copying Fire Emblem when it ruled in favor of same-sex marriage today. Gay unions have been around for quite some time in video games. Let’s look back at marriage equality’s rich history in the virtual world.
Widely regarded as the first video game to allow full-blown gay marriage, the iconic 1998 CRPG Fallout 2 beat the real-world state of California to the bunch by a full ten years. Kotaku’s very own Patricia Hernandez wrote a wonderful essay about how the game’s same-sex relationships option impacted her personally, which you can read over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
As Fallout shows, RPGs led the charge for marriage equality in video games. The next big step came in 2004 with the release of the original Fable, which got a lot of attention at the time for the many ways it seemed to allow players to indulge in incredibly realistic life-like activities alongside all the usual monster-killing and loot-grinding RPGs are known for. Looking back, adding gay marriage into the mix of domestic activities Fable offered was an ingenious way to seamless introduce it to gamers’—i.e., by appealing to many RPG fans taste for having as much freedom of choice in how they create and play as a character as possible. Fable creator Peter Molyneux famously said that allowing for gay marriages in his game wasn’t even a big deal.
While The Sims has always allowed players’ Sims to have gay relationships, it wasn’t until 2009 that the one-of-a-kind life simulator actually let same-sex-Sims tie the knot. The original Sims didn’t feature marriage of any kind, while The Sims 2 only let gay Sims have something called a “joining party.” I guess that was the civil union of video games?
BioWare’s acclaimed RPGs Dragon Age and Mass Effect don’t technically allow you to get gay married, but you can’t really look over the history of same-sex relationships in video games without taking these landmark franchises into consideration. Thanks to a popular player-created mod, Dragon Age: Origins (the first game in the series) did something incredibly provocative with one of its romantic subplots. If you played as a man, you could pursue a romantic relationship with the charmingly befuddled dope Alistair. But if you chose to help him become king, he would eventually break up with you, explaining that his new regal duties required him to get a more...socially acceptable spouse. It was like Brokeback Mountain, except with more dragons. In other words: it was awesome.
Continuing the tradition started by Fable and Fallout, Bethesda’s legendary Elder Scrolls finally joined the party with Skyrim in 2011. I hope that at least one gay couple got married with buckets on their heads.
Two years after saying that FFXIV would not allow players to get gay married, the developers’ views officially evolved at last year’s E3, when game director Naoki Yoshida confirmed same-sex marriages as a thing. A Realm Reborn players put on an in-game gay pride parade to celebrate the change of heart. Adorable.
A year after disappointing fans in the U.S. for its refusal to allow for gay marriages in its weird-as-fuck sim game Tomodachi Life, Nintendo revealed this week that its latest Fire Emblem game will provide the option. To the company’s credit, it responded to fans’ outcry about Tomodachi Life with a sincere apology that promised the developers would “strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players” if they decided to make a sequel. Gay marriage or not, Tomodachi Life didn’t make much of a splash in the U.S., so I’m not confident we’ll ever see a sequel. It is nice to see they listened and applied the same principle to another of their games, though.
That’s all for now. But given the enormous stamp of approval the U.S. Supreme Court just gave to gay marriage, I’m guessing that we’re going to start to see a lot more gay-friendly games coming out soon.