I don’t want to have to celebrate Pride flags in video games
In a spectacular move of inclusion, you can choose one of many Pride flags in Gears 5 as your banner for multiplayer experiences. These flags give people a fun way to identify themselves, to help them feel like they are more represented in the game they love, and to make gathering into squads of like-minded folks just a hair easier.
But instead of seeing this as a simple gesture, almost expected in 2019, this move has been both celebrated and ridiculed in staggering volume. Honestly, I’m kind of sick of it.
This is a bit of inside baseball, but nobody wanted to write the story about the Pride flags in Gears 5. Every single person on staff knew it would cause a dust up, annoy people who enjoy shouting about some imaginary agenda. We all knew the comments section was going to be a dumpster fire. It was assumed whichever byline was on the story would be harassed on social networks. It’s insane that what should have been a lighthearted, supportive thing was so wrapped in concern, but that’s where we are right now. We’re only a few weeks removed from a massive data breach involving games journalists, and the fear of violence for saying or doing something these people don’t like is ever present right now.
There’s absolutely zero doubt in my mind these same waves of concern came from the people deciding to put these flags in the game at all. Gears of War is the pinnacle of alpha male violence and domination, not historically a group of people to be seen as incredibly accepting of other lifestyles. Putting any kind of supportive content in this game, something that wasn’t 100% attached to the Gears lore in some way, was a risk. And every person involved in making this decision and carrying it through to publish should be celebrated for being inclusive and supportive.
Those flags are a simple, quick way of taking a character or experience that doesn’t quite fit and tweak it a little to help tilt the mirror to point more in their direction.
It’s difficult to describe the power of a Pride flag to someone who doesn’t need one. I see myself reflected in just about every medium on the planet. I can watch any movie, play any game, read any book, and with no thought at all see myself as the protagonist. I’m a straight white guy with a vaguely athletic build, and we’ve had a pretty good run in storytelling over the last 250 years (give or take a few centuries).
However, those flags are a simple, quick way of taking a character or experience that doesn’t quite fit and tweak it a little to help tilt the mirror to point more in their direction. And it literally doesn’t get more harmless than a video game accessory.
There has never been a point in my life where I wasn’t surrounded by people who were afraid to talk about how they felt for fear of repercussions. I’ve never been one of those people, at least not really. I pretty much fit in anywhere, which makes seeing all of my friends who can’t just exist as themselves so infuriating. What makes them different from me, really? How and who they choose to love has very little to do with me, and I want to see every one of my friends happy. And that includes when they’re kicking my ass in Gears 5 online.
Stop it with the secret agenda bullshit. This has never been a political thing. There’s no effort to convert anyone. It’s all nonsense. Adding flags like this in a game like Gears 5 is an impossibly small gesture of support for the players who don’t immediately see themselves reflected in the story being told, and it shouldn’t be a big thing. It should be the starting point.
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