I often hear the argument (as came up with the recent rigamarole over the inclusion of a trans character in Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear) that trans characters don’t belong in video games unless there’s a particular *reason* for them. Otherwise it feels “forced” or “breaks the immersion” or “insert excuse here.”
Now, aside from the obvious:
1) Not everything in a video game has to be for you–sometimes it’s for other people, and
2) You’re ok with elves, dwarves, dragons, boob plate, and fireballs, but not trans people? WTF? . . .
There IS a reason to put transgender characters in a game: namely, to be inclusive to trans members of the audience.
And maybe (just maybe!) it’ll teach something to those of us who aren’t trans: specifically, that it’s ok to have trans people in the game.
Not sure you buy it? Here’s an analogy:
Say all the games you had ever played starred lesbian Asian women. * And not just games, but movies, books, TV shows, etc.
All their major supporting characters were also lesbian Asian women.
Occasionally you’d see an Asian man, but mostly only in a minor role and then his stories were often caricatures of what it’s like to be manly. They all pretty much focus on one thing men do, say, play basketball. Pretty much all male characters you see play basketball, and no acts like that’s weird.
Occasionally you see white people too, but again, their stories are very one-note and all about one particular thing white people do–say, listen to Walkmans. Every white person (male or female) has headphones for an outdated music technology around their neck at all times.
You basically never see straight characters, and when you do, they’re always shouting about being straight and generally making fools of themselves.
And what you basically never EVER see is a straight white male. In fact, people in your games and movies are always talking about how gross straight white males are–constantly demeaning them, taunting others by calling them straight white males, and even threatening to murder them for being not lesbian Asian women. And those times a game or film tries to be “edgy” by starring a straight white male character? They cast a lesbian Asian woman in the role.
Meanwhile, the lesbian female Asian characters are varied. Some are super strong and tough, some are super smart and witty, some are malevolent and unpredictable. They have nuance. They have depth. They explore the corners of human nature.
Everyone else? They’re pretty one note. They show that the writers didn’t even try to be sensitive to their cultures, but just went with stereotypes. Because that was easier.
Your characters in Baldur’s Gate? 90% lesbian Asian women, a couple black people (one male, one female) and a gay white dude. No straight white males. Because why would the game include straight white males? They have to be in there for a REASON, right?
Now say a Baldur’s Gate expansion comes along where LO-and-BEHOLD, there’s a straight white dude. He’s not obviously a straight white dude–you only realize he’s straight if you go into his dialogue tree–but he’s there. Living his life. Being who he is.
Finally, a character who looks like you. You, who haven’t had any characters who look like you in a D&D game before, and few anywhere at all.
Haven’t you earned that, at last? You, who’ve been playing these games loyally for years. Wouldn’t it be meaningful to you to see the designers and developers FINALLY try to include you in a meaningful way? To acknowledge you and your way of life–to embrace you as a worthwhile part of the audience?
That’s the reason to include trans characters. Because trans people play the game, and it’s not fair that you and I get to be the vast majority of the heroes and NPCs and villains, and they get no one.
Particularly when we’re talking about the Realms is a big sandbox. It’s big enough for everyone. We can share it.
* Note that I have absolutely nothing against lesbian Asian women. That was just the analogy I picked. It could be orcs, it could be dwarves, whatever.