Gay characters in Sierra games

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    • #28343 Reply

      I recently came across this interesting Wikipedia entry about gay (and lesbian, bisexual and transgender) characters in video and computer games: 

      It’s a fair article and seems pretty comprehensive. Anyhow, Sierra games (in addition to LucasArts, Nintendo, Microprose, Sega, etc) as early as 1987 are referenced numerous times throughout the entry.**

      I was wondering what Ken Williams and others at Sierra at the time thought about including homosexual-themed references in the games? Was making stereotypically gay characters the butt of jokes ever a concern? And what about potentially offending customers who might not be comfortable with the subject matter? Did Sierra try to avoid potentially controversial social issues or was it not much of an issue?

      **(Willy Beamish and Space Quest 4 are cited under the “Comical Gender Confusion” section. Rise of the Dragon and Phantasmagoria 2 are discussed in “Sexual Predators”. Leisure Suit Larry in “Gays as Target Practice”, Police Quest 4 in “Gay Bars” and Laura Bow 2 in “GLBT Normal and Well Adjusted Secondary Characters”.)

    • #28344 Reply

      Good question, and one I should probably do my darndest to ignore and not answer.

      That said… I’ll plunge ahead anyhow.

      My policy at Sierra was always to avoid censorship, and to publish the product Sierra’s authors wanted to produce. Certainly if someone had stepped WAY over the line, I would have had to take action, but I don’t remember any specific situations where that occured. The one area where I did constantly have to “censor” the games was when there was too much inside humor. I allowed some of it, but generally felt that consumers didn’t care about our internal politics — they just wanted to have fun.

      In playing the games, you should keep in mind that they were produced nearly 20 years ago. I’ve been retired nearly 10 years! Awareness of “political correctness” wasn’t quite as strong in those days as it is today. Humor that would have been fine then, might not be now. I do think that virtually every group is fair game for parody from time to time. There are ways to do humor that are not insulting or that reinforce negative stereotypes (although blondes do seem to be an unprotected species). Overall, when it comes to deciding what is politicaly correct, and what isn’t – I’m just happy I’m long retired, and don’t have to make those decisions anymore.

      -Ken W

    • #28345 Reply

      Thanks for the response! I just think it’s fascinating to try to take a bit of a sociological approach to something like the history of computer games… especially since “social issues” isn’t really something that naturally or automatically comes to my mind when thinking about computer games.

      Also, what you say about wanting to censor some of the inside humor stuff makes sense. But I also think that a lot of the stuff (like your cameos in the LSL games, etc.) that reminded players that there were real people behind the game development made for a bit of a bond between regular Sierra game players and the designers. Feeling like you’re familiar with the designers probably made a lot of players more interested in and loyal to Sierra. At least it had that effect on me…

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