This chart reveals how the types of LGBTQ representation have shifted and likely are still shifting. While Characters remain the primary way of representing LGBTQ experiences, Relationships and other forms of representation are increasingly common. The chart also reveals how LGBTQ representation appears to follow a trend of roughly doubling each decade.
This chart reveals just how few games are made with LGBTQ content, especially when compared to the overall number of games released each decade. The number of games with LGBTQ content is only approximately .2-.3% of games made in a given decade. While the number of representations and number of overall games continues to grow exponentially, the percentage of queer games remains constant. It’s worth noting that it’s difficult to get an accurate count of the overall number of games released in a given year, and these numbers come from the Mobygames database.
Gender Representation by Decade
This chart demonstrates how gender representation in the 1980s skewed largely toward representations of queer women, mostly lesbians. This is mostly due to several games that used lesbians as exotic and hyper-sexualized characters for the consumption of assumed straight male audiences. “Other” here denotes characters who for various reasons do not fall into the categories of queer men, queer women, or non-binary folks (for example, non-human characters or whose gender is indeterminate).
Gender representation shifted in the 1990s, particularly away from queer women and toward queer men. This could have been because of the rise of representations of gay men in popular culture after the AIDS crisis, but confirming this would require further research.
Gender representation continued to shift in the 2000s, and appears to arrive at more of a balance between the 1980s and 1990s (though queer men are still over-represented). Interestingly, the percentage of non-binary and other representations remains stable throughout the 1980s-2000s.
Sexuality Representation by Decade
This chart reveals how, similar to gender, representations of sexuality in games with LGBTQ content were dominated by lesbian women in the 1980s. However it is often difficult to discern a character’s sexuality in a game unless it is explicitly stated or strong clues imply it, so a large number of characters fall into the “Indiscernible” category.
Representations of sexuality in LGBTQ games in the 1990s shift heavily toward representing gay men, with a corresponding decline in the representation of lesbian women. Interestingly, the number of indiscernible representations also shrinks drastically, perhaps indicating that more characters are explicitly coded as LGBTQ starting in the 1990s.
Representations of sexuality shifted in the 2000s to represent more bisexual characters, a trend that likely corresponds to the rise in LGBTQ relationship options: there were more characters in games who would romance the player regardless of their gender, and were coded as bisexual. The 2000s also saw the first representations of sexuality beyond LGB, including two representations of implied asexuality.