Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas Made Me Gay


I was a good five hours into Fallout: New Vegas before I realized I had created a gay character. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it had not been my intention.

Major Awesome
Once I staggered into the Mojave Outpost, Major Knight chatted me up about how certain types of “friendships” were strictly “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the NCR and how The Legion was actually more progressive in that area (Ave, Caesar!). Before I knew what had happened, Knight had turned me down for sex but offered free equipment repairs as a consolation prize. Two thoughts popped into my head: “Holy crap, my character is gay!” and “Being gay is awesome!”

This was all due to the Confirmed Bachelor perk, of course. I knew what the phrase “confirmed bachelor” implied when I selected it, but I took it for a sly joke—the game is full of them. And I saw the perk as simply a same-sex extension of the damage bonus and conversation options that the Lady Killer and Black Widow perks provided in Fallout 3. It was a nice extension at that, considering that my opponents in the previous game had been predominantly male.

I should back up a second and explain that I’m not a huge fan of “romances” in RPGs in general. They take role-playing to the edge of the realm of the pathetic, in my opinion, but I also recognize that they are here to stay. Plus I’m always curious to see just how much nudity sneaks into the resulting cutscenes. I usually draw the line, however, at letting my female character be seduced by a man. Or letting a male character be seduced by a man, for that matter. I’m not anti-gay by any means (repeal Prop 8 already, for God’s sake!), but I have a harder time rolling with that aspect of role-playing.

Fallout: New VegasBut Fallout: New Vegas treated homosexuality as something more than an opportunity to pursue sex with a different set of partners. Being gay provided a few obstacles, but also some unique advantages. Hell, without the Confirmed Bachelor perk, I wouldn’t have had the requisite skill points to recruit Arcade Gannon into my party. With it, all I needed to do was bat my eyes and boyfriend came running with his healing perk and eventually a suit of Enclave power armor. Again, “Awesome!”

Of course, Arcade was not the only gay character in the game:

  • Manny. One of the snipers in Novac; Confirmed Bachelor helped me exploit his crush on Boone (and who could blame him for that?) to get vital information.
  • Veronica. She’s a sarcastic, face-punching scholar who happens to like girls.
  • Betsy. Another ass-kicking lesbian. I’m sensing a trend here. It’s incidental to her orientation, but she’s also a rape victim. That part of her story is handled reasonably well, though it hovers dangerously close to Women in Refrigerators territory.
  • Jimmy. A male prostitute at the Casa Madrid Apartments. A little bit of a caricature, but why not? I did not partake of his services (as per my aforementioned hang-ups). In fact, I slept with a female hooker at Gomorrah and none of my companions even questioned it. Maybe they felt I was just overcompensating.
  • Fisto. Robosexuality doesn’t count here. But dammit, Fisto was funny.

So they can’t all be home runs, but it beats the treatment of gay men as swishy punch lines, such as in Grand Theft Auto IV and pretty much every game preceding it. And it seems we’ve come a long way from the media hysteria surrounding the possibility of a lesbian kiss in Mass Effect. Fable II made good progress in the “gayness isn’t a big deal” area, but in the end it was more about who was willing to sleep with you as you gained renown (almost everyone!). It was cool, but also very ancient Greece.

I doubt that Obsidian set out to make a “pro-gay” game, but rather they were trying to make skills and perks more versatile—more consequential—than in Fallout 3. A high Medicine skill, for example, sometimes opened new conversation options or let you improvise medical devices. I suspect that replaying the game with the Lady Killer, Black Widow, or Cherchez La Femme (oh là là) perks will introduce whole different sets of options around sexual orientation.

I also don’t mean to imply that Fallout: New Vegas changed my perception of homosexuality or gay rights. That ship sailed long ago. Rather, I was impressed by how casually and respectfully the game treated those matters. Being gay in the game had advantages and downsides, just like any other characteristic. In other words, it was normal. That seems like progress to me.

(Wouldn’t you know it? I wrote this lengthy post only to find that Jim Sterling at Game Front has tackled virtually the same subject with more style and depth than I could ever hope to muster. Go read it. I’m still posting mine, though.)

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More about Fallout: New Vegas:

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