Welcome, my FGC brothers & sisters. Today, we are going to do something unique. For starters, since it's the rare fifth Sunday, we're debuting a special edition of The Dynamek Perspective and secondly, we're going to discuss something that is practically -NEVER- brought up in the usual FGC chat. More on this topic after the jump...
So, what is this subject I was alluding to earlier? Considering that today is Gay Pride Day in my neck of the woods, I figured I would talk about LGBT characters in fighting games. Now, despite how some characters may be perceived, there's apparently an unwritten rule or agreement that all fighters are just unabashedly heterosexual. It's as if there isn't even any question or room for curiosity... fighters are just straight and that's the way it is, end of story. Sure, there have been warriors in the past that make you wonder, a few that leave you scratching your head & others you would probably even bet the farm on, but at the end of the day... they're all straight, despite how they may carry themselves.
For the sake of argument, I can understand why this particular trope has persisted for so long. Back in the old days, one of the go-to game ideas (in general, not just fighting games) was to have a usually über-masculine hero rescue a damsel in distress. Mind you, I'm not faulting anyone for this pattern or any of the others that were the bedrock for all modern gaming. It is simply what worked. These ideas eventually became standards in fighting games. Between the rescue and revenge motifs, you also had the lone warrior. All of these roles, by necessity, demanded a strong (and assuredly) heterosexual male lead. There's also the eventual romantic interest to take into account. All of these are hallmarks of a typically straight lead character.
While those types are still very prevalent, it wasn't until 1998, when Arc System Works released the first Guilty Gear that anyone even thought to approach the idea of putting an actual homosexual on their character roster. From that moment on, ASW would be the only company to make any type of strides on this matter and they have kept true to that commitment over the course of a few different series.
However, I'm going to be the very first to admit this hasn't always been beneficial. On that merit, I'm going to address Chaos Code's Catherine (Heihachi Katori) & Chrono Phantasma's Amane Nishiki first. While I can understand the sense of balance that comes with having androgynous characters on the roster, these two are dreadfully close to the point of skipping past 'being in bad taste' and aiming directly for 'flat out offensive'. Between their overtly flamboyant choice of attire & their frankly unsettling obsessions, these two are borderline stereotypes in the worst way possible. Whether or not their fighting styles are unique & effective is rendered moot because of the 'cringe' factor with these two.
Thankfully, it's not all bad. This whole trend actually started with Guilty Gear X's Venom. For all intents & purposes, Venom was the first openly gay character ever put into a fighting game. The object of his affection happens to be Zato-1. He cared for Zato so deeply that he kept the Assassin's Guild active even after both Zato's death -AND- Slayer (the Guild's founder) disbanding the group. Venom willingly went up against someone he had next to no chance of ever defeating in an attempt to honor his fallen comrade's memory. I don't know about you, but I consider that above & beyond the call of comradery. Any of us, gay or straight, would be lucky to have someone even a fraction that loyal in our lives. More importantly, though, what makes Venom so exemplary is the fact that he feels no need to neither justify nor broadcast his preference. His decision to devote himself to Zato was exactly that: HIS decision. That kind of security & confidence should be a standard for everyone.
Ironically, it's the lack of security & confidence that leads me to my favorite example: Kanji Tatsumi from the Persona 4 canon. The reason I place Kanji in such high regard is because of the choices that are involved with him. Kanji's tough guy exterior covers up the insecurities he has about himself regarding his sexuality. The beauty of this is that the player gets to decide his preference. And, personally, I think there is nothing more symbolic of our time than someone having such a choice. More importantly, that he even has the freedom to make that choice is incredible to me. Think about it, you're acting as his conscience during gameplay. He is as much as a reflection of your choices as your are of his. The only pressure he's under is primarily self-inflicted. While, yes, it IS idealistic, the fact that he suffers no negative consequences for his decision is what makes Kanji a great character. Not because he's the grappler on the roster & the resident strong man of the Investigation Team (although all that does kick ass), but because he is universally accepted amongst his peers regardless of his decision. That's the endgame, folks: equality. Hopefully, these characters will lead to the broadening of horizons in fighting games, but for now... we're good.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.