To The Tune Of: Tom Robinson Band – Glad To Be Gay
Again, this was a think-piece for a magazine that didn’t get used. The hypothetical situation was a game is about to released with a gay lead character; do you think that game would stand a chance at retail? If not, why not? If it landed on your desk, how would you go about marketing it? Here are my answers.
I think it would stand the same chance at retail as any other game, but the clear point is that the gay character normally would not be relevant to the main thrust of the marketing – not because of homophobia, but because the gay demographic is just a subsection of the mainstream game-playing demographic. If I only targetted that audience, I’d be losing out on everyone else. It also matters if it were a tie-in or not – a game tied into a TV series like Will & Grace or Big Gay Al from South Park would obviously benefit from brand exploitation, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother marketing it that way.
That said, I’d definitely, budgets and time allowing, have a second prong of the marketing approach targetted at the gay community, and try and push it as a big story with the gay media, supporting that with developer access, interviews and possibly pull out survey data to explore whether the populace at large have a problem with the game; digging into the survey results could generate good news stories. It’s not something I’d hide, just not the main thrust of my marketing and PR unless we can find something mainstream to talk about.
I’d imagine that you might encounter those usual right-wing or religious organisations that stick to antiquated and/or arbitrary moral codes that would have a problem with the game, especially if the title has anything less than an 18-rating, but as a PR I’d let the UK rating authorities deal with whether it should be legal or not and just enjoy the extra sales generated by any controversy. That said, in the case of ultraviolent or sadistic games, it’s easy to take advantage of the media furore to increase sales for your game, while perhaps sharing qualms yourself about the moral value of the game; here, I’d argue that there’s a moral imperative for the company to pressure the rating authorities, saying that if there’s no violent or sexual content then the game should have the same rating irrespective of its homosexual content.
Thinking about the irrelevance of sexuality to the age-rating further; if a kid’s game explored human relationships in any real depth, I don’t think it would appeal to kids anyway and would be difficult to market, but if the lead character had a same-sex partner (like Noddy and Big-Ears, for example) and the game was enjoyable, then marketing it should be unproblematic. From a personal perspective, there would be an additional moral imperative to make such a game a success.