Celebrating diversity and inclusivity through video game localization

Let’s take a look at some examples of how different video games portrayed diversity, and the need for respectful and sensitive video game localization.

Intro

In today’s day and age game development and video game localization are much more complex processes, not only because of the advanced gameplay elements and the richer narratives, but also because of the growing sensitivity on social matters.

With increased global reach, it’s not only crucial that video games are localized for international success through cultural adaptation for target markets, but are also in line with today’s new sensitivity on social issues.

In a world where inequality and social injustice are unfortunately still very present , content adaptation and video game localization have to be thoughtful and considerate about the portrayal of diversity and inclusivity in gaming.

Let’s jump right in!

Far Cry 6

Aside from its complex and engaging story, sensational scenery and a huge world to explore, the game takes a huge step towards diversity and inclusivity as well as the representation of LGBTQ+ people in gaming. Two prominent LGBTQ+ characters are Gilberto Rosario and Paolo de la Vega.

Paolo de la Vega

Co-leader of a rebellious faction (Maximas Matanza), Paolo de la Vega is a brave trans man, not afraid to fight for the revolution. He comes from a family with a strong military tradition, and was once in the National Defence Forces, before being kicked out due to his gender identity. His gender identity plays a major part in his story, shining a light on the struggles that trans people face when transitioning, such as rejection from family and society and lack of proper and safe medical care.

Gilberto Rosario

Head of a spying network, Gilberto Rosario alias Rosa Mel Paquete, uses his drag persona, popular among the military forces, to gain valuable intel about the regime’s plans and operations. While Gilberto is an introverted person, with a complex backstory, running away from home, Rosa Mel is an eccentric, outgoing character, very popular among government officials and functionaries. 

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions go to another character that has a significant role in breaking down the barriers of inequality, Clara Garcia, a strong, commanding young woman, leader of the main revolutionary movement called Libertad.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

The game sets quite a high standard for player freedom, especially when it comes to gender, right from the beginning. AC Valhalla enables gender choice as soon as you start the game, with the possibility of changing it throughout the storyline as many times as you may wish. Throughout the story also, the main character, Eivor, is allowed to engage freely in romantic relationships with multiple characters, regardless of their gender, giving players the freedom to explore different relationships within the game. This possibility represents a huge step towards inclusivity in video games. 

The most notable one is the one with Vili, a character from the Snotinghamscire arc. Vili is a childhood friend who confesses his romantic interest to Eivor. The player has total freedom whether to engage in this romantic relationship or not.

Other characters that show interest in the main character, regardless of gender are:

 – Brodie: A male character found in the Grantebridgescire region.

 – Stigr: The flyting champion in Snotinghamscire. He shows interest in Eivor regardless of their gender. 

 – Tewdwr: A character in Glowecestrescire with whom Eivor can have a romantic encounter during a festival. 

 – Tarben: The baker in Ravensthorpe. Eivor can pursue a romantic storyline with Tarben, regardless of gender.

 – Orwig Neverdeath: A possible romantic interest encountered during a festival.

The Last of Us II

The Last of Us has been lauded for its mature, nuanced portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, which is still relatively rare in mainstream video games. The game uses its platform to tell a complex and emotional story that includes diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, contributing to greater inclusivity, diversity and representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the gaming world.

Prominent LGBTQ+ characters are Ellie, Dina and Lev. 

Ellie

Ellie is openly lesbian and her sexuality, which was first revealed in the DLC Left Behind, of the original game, plays a significant role in the sequel. Her relationship with another female character, Dina, is a central element of the story, providing depth to her character and driving much of the game’s emotional narrative. While accepting her own sexuality, Ellie kept it from Joel, afraid of the reaction he could have had. When she eventually told him, he proved to be very supportive.

Lev

Lev’s story is one of the more significant subplots of the game, exploring themes of identity, acceptance, and the challenges faced by transgender individuals, particularly in conservative and hostile environments. Lev is the first trangender man to appear in a blockbuster video game. Adding authenticity to his representation, is voice-over, which was performed by Ian Alexander, a transgender actor.

Dina

Dina is a member of the Jackson community, a settlement in Wyoming that serves as a safe haven in the post-apocalyptic world of the game. She becomes Ellie’s love interest early in the game. Their relationship is a central element of the story, providing depth and emotional context to Ellie’s journey. Dina, as a bisexual character, contributes to the game’s diverse representation of sexual orientations. Her past relationship with Jesse, another character in the game, is referenced, and her relationship with Ellie is a significant aspect of the game.

Honorable mentions

Riley Abel

Riley is a key character in The Last of Us: Left Behind, a DLC of the original game. She is a close friend of Ellie and plays a significant role in Ellie’s backstory. The DLC explores their deep bond, culminating in a moment where they share a kiss, revealing a more profound aspect of their relationship. 

Bill

Bill is a character in the original The Last of Us game. He is a survivalist and an old acquaintance of Joel, the main protagonist of the first game. Bill is gruff and has a no-nonsense attitude, skilled in surviving the post-apocalyptic world. His sexuality is subtly revealed through the narrative. The game includes references to his relationship with a man named Frank, adding depth to his character.

Cat

Although she never physically appears in the game she is referenced as Ellie’s ex-girlfriend in the second game. She is significant in Ellie’s past, having been a romantic interest before the events of the game and is mentioned in Ellie’s journal and in conversations.

Conclusion

These examples show the significant shift the industry is slowly taking towards greater inclusivity and representation of diversity in gaming, and the new crucial role of localization. Historically, video games often featured homogenous character profiles, with limited representation of different genders, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds. Mainstream titles typically centered around heteronormative narratives and characters, leaving little room for diverse identities. 

With these modern changes video game localization has to be wary and respectful of gender identity, and social issues, for an inclusive and rich global gaming community. These video games serve as examples of great steps towards inclusivity and diversity in gaming, as we keep on creating record-breaking video games with breath-taking narratives.

What examples are there of inclusivity and diversity in video games?

In recent years, several mainstream video games have made significant strides in including LGBTQ+ characters and narratives, such as Far Cry 6, AC Valhalla and The Last of Us.

How important is localization for inclusivity and diversity in gaming?

Video game localization is crucial for a respectful portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, fostering inclusion and diversity.

What challenges do video games face in representing LGBTQ+ characters and narratives?

Video games face several challenges in representing LGBTQ+ characters and narratives, including the need to balance creative expression with cultural sensitivity, for a respectuf portrayal of diversity and inclusivity.