Queerness in the Boys Club – How Destiny 2 is Paving the Way for Inclusion in Gaming

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Destiny 2. Bastion of Inclusivity. Ian Hinsley explores how the first-person shooter has made waves in the LGBTQ+ gaming space.

When we think of gaming media making progress on LGBTQ+ representation, we often go to games like Gone Home (2013) or Celeste (2018), both critically acclaimed for their portrayals of gay and trans experiences, respectively. Despite these games’ success, queer representation in the medium faces difficulty breaking into arguably the largest genre: the first-person shooter (FPS).

FPS players are known for being a mostly cis, straight, male “boys club.” Although the community is steadily diversifying, and developers are making attempts at inclusion of queer characters, they often face resistance.

That being said, Bungie’s massively-multiplayer shooter, Destiny 2 (2017), breaks the mould in terms of its queer representation and inclusivity of its community.

Bungie’s writing team has developed an expansive sci-fi universe with frequent seasonal stories which explore how their characters respond to the changing setting. Their recent plotlines focused on intergenerational violence, grief, and trauma. What is especially important is that these stories centre around fan favourite queer characters.

Debuting in the original Destiny (2014) as queen of the mysterious Awoken people, Mara Sov radically changes after the death of her lover, Sjur, and their dynamic has become one of the most explored relationships in the setting. At the same time, 2019’s Season of Undying has the players assist their ally, Osiris, on a quest to break a time loop to reunite him with his war-hero partner, Saint.

These examples play a crucial role in changing the perception of queer relations in the Destiny community. Mara Sov has been a beloved character since her first appearance nearly a decade ago. And Saint’s arrival was anticipated for years, taking on a near-deity status among fans. Having players that are often part of the “boys’ club” be invested in these characters' relationships has resulted in a noticeably different response to the queer community than other FPS titles.

Having players that are often part of the “boys’ club” be invested in these characters' relationships has resulted in a noticeably different response to the queer community than other FPS titles.

I would point to the Lightfall expansion from last year as such an example. Of the characters introduced, Nimbus was one of the most criticised. This is because of their “Marvel-esque” jokes that felt out of place during a period that was meant to be the darkest moment of our adventures. Notably, Nimbus is Destiny’s first canonically non-binary character.

There was the small handful of bigots who proclaimed that Bungie’s writers had finally “gone woke,” but the largest Youtube and Twitch creators in the community rebuked those claims and showed support for their queer viewers. Following this, criticism of Nimbus slowed significantly and hopes that their character could develop more in the future have grown. 

Compare this to a similar situation in the Call of Duty community. After a homophobic tweet by Nickmercs (Nick Kolcheff) made rounds on the internet, the streamer’s purchasable character was removed by developers. Many of the largest Call of Duty content creators then attacked the developers and demanded that their characters be removed as well, charging their audiences to continue attacking the LGBTQ+ community.

Large creators play a significant role in shaping the beliefs of their viewers, and they have very different relationships with their respective games. Call of Duty’s stories are usually afterthoughts to players. Characters shown in the stories are quickly swept aside in favour of player-versus-player gameplay that draws in more viewers. Creators in Destiny 2 are tied at the hip to the game’s story, fostering communities that are more likely to care for one another due to their shared investment. 

Representation in media leads to greater acceptance, and queer players should hope that other FPS titles take cues from Destiny 2 and continue the progress it has made for the expanding industry.