Celebrating Transgender Representation in the Video Game Industry

The video game industry continues to embrace and take a global lead about diversity in mental health, gender identity and sexual orientation, with companies participating in initiatives like Pride month or Mental Health Awareness month.

This "new era" has been built on the principles and commitment of charismatic figures in the past.

In the recent Netflix documentary: "High score" we are introduced to Rebecca Heineman, an incredible American video game designer and programmer that was also the first national video game tournament champion. She openly spoke about her gender dysphoria and struggles while transitioning, which happened in 2003 and it says something about her character that Rebecca is still making games today after 40 years, living with her wife and her 5 children.

Not everyone remembers that before her, we had another important figure in the LGBTQ+ community: Danielle Bunten Berry, known for the game "M.U.L.E.", one of the first multiplayer strategy games, made in 1983.

In one interview, she revealed:

“When I was a kid, the only times my family spent together that weren’t totally dysfunctional were when we were playing games. Consequently, I believe games are a wonderful way to socialize.”

Her passion for video games developed during her childhood, and she was a leading figure for the development of multiplayer strategy games, such as "The seven cities of gold" or "Heart of Africa".

In the video games environment, even if we had different examples of ambiguous gender in the past, like "Flea" from "Chrono Trigger", we have to wait until 2012 to see a real transgender character in "Dys4ia".

This game made by Anna Anthropy is an autobiography that touches on the "frustrations" of transitioning, particularity about the struggle of taking estrogen.

This game was so influential at the time, being one of the first to communicate such a topical and challenging subject, this also drove it's popularity on Newgrounds, winning several prizes.

One great example of a well-written video game's openly transgender character is "Tell Me Why". This is an adventure game made by the French company Dontnod, already known for the "Life Is Strange" series.

In the game, one of the protagonists is exploring his life as FTM (Female To Male), while constantly confronting his past. This game faces up some important topics for the transgender community, while still maintaining the focus on the general storyline and gaming content for a player.

What has happened in recent years with a more equitable representation of genders and LGBTQ + people is an important collective achievement, moving from the shadows to centre stage, but also building on the steps taken by Rebecca, Danielle and Anna, whilst improving the gaming content and experience for all.

With these examples and we believe many more to come, we shall continue to see more meaningful stories, which are worth telling, that can bring people closer to an often overlooked subject.

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