This page contains visualizations of race in the LGBTQ Video Game Archive. The visualizations draw primarily on video game characters, as other types of content (mentions, artifacts, etc.) often lack explicit markers of race. Please note that currently the categories used for race are very broad and miss many cultural specificities; for example, currently all characters from central or eastern Asia are simply labled “Asian.” Future work will break down these categories further, and look at more specific intersections between race, gender, and sexuality in LGBTQ content.
Human vs. Non-Human Characters
As this chart demonstrates, most LGBTQ characters (roughly 80%) are human. The number of non-human characters has increased since the 1980s, but remains smaller than the number of human characters. Non-human LGBTQ characters are often beings or entities that lack gender or sexuality, have different (and often more fluid) experiences of gender and sexuality, or are non-binary.
Character Race by Decade
As this chart demonstrates, the number of LGBTQ characters in games was very limited in the 1980s, and strongly favored representation of either white queer folks or queer folks whose race was indeterminate. The relatively stronger numbers for representation of Pacific Islanders come from one game: Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals. This game relied heavily on objectifying and stereotyping Pacific Islanders as exotic, hyper-sexual, wild persons.
Representations of race in LGBTQ content remained similar in the 1990s, with the distribution of white characters and race-indeterminate characters staying roughly the same as the 1980s. However there are cases of LGBTQ characters of a number of races not present in the 1980s, including Asian, Middle Eastern, Black, and Latinx. Pacific Islander representation completely disappears.
Games with LGBTQ characters in the 2000s demonstrate immense change from the two preceding decades. Representation of white queer characters becomes much more dominant, while representation of other races grows for the most part and race-indeterminate characters become less common. Pacific Islander representation remains nonexistent, and Middle Eastern representation drops to zero as well. Together, these trends seem to indicate a shift toward explicitly marking race in the 2000s, and preferring white characters over other races. This may also be linked to a trend of primarily white characters being represented as gay in popular culture: if other races are represented, they are almost never LGBTQ. A possible explanation of these trends in American culture could be post-9/11 xenophobia and heightened white supremacy that continues to bloom in the 2010s, though more research is required to support that explanation.