The Moose Test for LGBT Representation in Video Games:

As outlined in my first article, I am trying to become a credible authority on LGBT+ Narrative Design. A significant part of this is the creation of a pass/fail checklist to determine which games, developers, and publishers have accurate representation, and to lead those that don’t to have better diversity.

I’m using two tests to shape my criteria. The Bechdel Test and the Vito Russo Test. After analysis and discussion of these tests, establishing common practices of narrative design, and learning more about the role from top industry professionals, I created the first iteration of the Moose Test.

  1. The work contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender,
  2. The character must not be solely defined by their orientation or gender identity,
  3. They must be tied into the plot in such a way that removal of that character would be significant,
  4. And their role should have a positive impact on LGBT+ perception,
  5. They must be voiced or played by an LGBT+ person,
  6. Have a prominent role in the dialogue (exposition), and
  7. That dialogue must advance the plot in some way.

With this I started analyzing games, and I ran into 5 key issues. (Some of which I’ve noted above.)

1. There was a lot of discussion around if this test should be universal, not just video games, but film and other media as well. For the purpose of the role I want to fill someday, I am making the conscious constraint to keep my test solely in the realm of video games.

2. Another issue is the wide umbrella of LGBT. I believe it’s important in the early stages of fighting for representation to have a breadth of inclusion. With everyone we can open the forum for more voices.

3. The phrasing of ‘positive impact’ was too vague and subjective. The root came down to avoiding harmful stereotypes, and the common practice that LGBT+ characters are often portrayed as villains. In the current version, I changed the language to ‘must not have a negative impact’ which is more specific. This doesn’t mean queer characters can’t be evil, only that there needs to be other important, non-evil, queer characters.

4. Along similar lines, I believed that point five was important, but the sexual orientation of voice actors is very difficult to find, even with intense social listening |The nice way to say ‘twitter stalking’|. I conducted a survey asking the LGBT+ gaming community if this was important. Turns out it isn’t.

5. I believed that having an LGBT voice actor who plays an LGBT character should be a must because of events that have happened in film. When Eddie Redmayne, a cisgender man, plays Lili Elbe a transgender woman the film feels inauthentic. It also speaks to a larger systemic issue of how transgender actors aren’t being hired to play someone of their community. A lack of representation. Through my survey it became apparent that there is a disconnect between the video game character seen and the voice actors. The person behind the voice doesn’t matter, instead it’s representation in the writing room, the dev space, and the design forum that is important.

Do you feel that the LGBT+ community is represented fairly in video games?

With those thoughts in mind, the current Moose Test stands:

  1. The game must contain a character that is identifiably LGBT+,
  2. The character must not solely be defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity,
  3. They must be tied into the plot in such a way that removal of their character would be significant,
  4. Their role must not have a negative impact toward LGBT+ perception,
  5. They must have a role in the game’s dialogue, and
  6. That dialogue must advance the plot in some way.

My hope is for this test to have bigger industry implications. In the early days of video games most LGBT+ representation was negative if it existed at all. Today, the industry is trying to be better, which is good news.

But as alluded to in my first post and confirmed by the community, there isn’t enough representation in these key design roles. We need better queer narratives, to do that we need community members in dev and design roles, and in order for this to be successful companies need to be hiring LGBT+ people for these positions. With the Moose Test I will try to reveal which companies and developer teams are the most diverse, and how they can move forward towards even greater success.