Why we should hope for gay characters in the next Fire Emblem

10 April 2015 by , No Comments

All right people, there’s something we’ve got to address: Fire Emblem is really, really, really gay. And that’s okay.

At first, the series had just a few characters like Rickard openly hitting on same-sex allies but, since the 2000’s, Fire Emblem has been power-levelling its Queerness stat. Florina is so obviously in love with Lyn that her heterosexual romances feel more like awkwardly crowbarred-in additions rather than legitimate character development; Legault and Tethys openly flirt with guys and girls alike; wicked witches Sonia and Ursula feel like they’re one away from being Nintendo’s answer to Fifty Shades of Grey; Ike and Soren are a couple in all but name until Ike finds whichever woman helped him kickstart Priam’s line; Kyza is just a bit too devoted to Ranulf to just be another loyal soldier and Ranulf himself is clearly harbouring a schoolboy crush on Ike; Tibarn and Reyson slot perfectly into that stereotypical seme/uke dynamic that fangirls love to squee over; Heather has a pretty obvious crush on Elincia and more or less admits that she joined her army to pick up chicks; the male Avatar from New Mystery of the Emblem is mancrushing on Marth that it’s a wonder he doesn’t just propose at the end of the game; and Frederick is so head-over-heels in love with Prince Chrom that even his potential fiance Sumia makes a snarky comment about their relationship. Let’s face it: despite legions of homophobes crying, “They’re all just really good friends”, Fire Emblem has been gaily gaying it up the Rainbow Road for literally decades now. And, again, that’s okay.

Fire Emblem already has a surprising number of LGBTQ characters, like the flighty Heather.

Fire Emblem already has a surprising number of LGBTQ characters, like the flighty Heather.

In fact, it’s more than okay: it makes total sense. It’s a franchise about people from all walks of life fighting together for a common goal, with soldiers of differing race, religion, and political beliefs all uniting to save the world. Why, then would we not expect to see people of varying sexual preferences join forces in the fight against evil? Gay people live in the world, too. Personally, I think it’s kind of awesome to get a reminder that your army has so many representatives from so many different walks of life all supporting you.

Unfortunately, what isn’t awesome is the fact that, despite all the obviously gay characters, there’s still no way to play as an LGBTQ main character – and I’m hoping that the next game in the series will change that. Why? Well, a few reasons. The biggest of them is that I love Fire Emblem and I want more people to love it, too. A good way to make a game more inclusive is to allow players greater control over their player characters. I’m honestly kind of a sucker for romantic stuff, so I really enjoyed the marriage option in Fire Emblem Awakening. I liked seeing my Avatar fall in love with the snarkiest member of the army, get hitched, and raise two beautiful daughters with her. It just made the war feel so much more personal because I wasn’t just fighting in the name of justice or freedom or some other transcendent moral force: I was also fighting on a personal level for my family and I had a moral responsibility to protect them from all the horrors of the world. Granted, when your daughters can ride dragons and shoot fireballs at people (and one of them has an evil split personality), you realistically don’t need to protect them all that much but I digress. But of course I would appreciate the option to marry a lovely lady: I’m not gay. However, I know a lot of gamers who are (many of them are very dear friends of mine) and that’s why I want there to be the option to make the player character as such in the upcoming Fire Emblem If: because the more people playing, enjoying, and feeling a personal connection to this series, the better.

Character creation is always a cool feature, so let's hope Fire Emblem If expands upon it.

Character creation is always a cool feature, so let’s hope Fire Emblem If expands upon it.

But my motivations for wanting the option to have gay protagonists don’t just have to do with bringing more people to the Fire Emblem fanbase. I also want to see that option implemented because I would like to see the stories of those protagonists for myself. I’d actually be rather interested in playing as a gay character in the next game, mostly because I’m not much for “playing as myself” in my games (or “self-inserting”, as it’s sometimes known). It’s okay in games with Excuse Plots, where the gameplay is really all that matters but, in story-driven titles, I’ve found that I make for a really boring game character. A blue-eyed cisgendered straight white guy with long flowing brown/dark blonde locks who subscribes to the same school of morality as Superman, Jesus, and the Care Bears? Choo choo, all aboard the originality train! If I want to play a game about a guy who looks like me, acts like me, and likes what I like, I could literally boot up any JRPG made in the 90’s or early 2000’s. Boom. There’s my escapist fantasy and it ain’t goin’ anywhere anytime soon.

Games, however, don’t force you to be you. You can be you but you can also mess about with your player character and make them into whatever you want. You can make up whatever character you want and, indeed, I often do because it makes the story more interesting than playing The Adventure of Whitey McChristwannabe for the billionth time. My Spirit Monk in Jade Empire was a backstabbing opportunist so evil that she was willing to betray the gods themselves to get what she wanted. My Fable Hero was a ruthless tyrant who cared more for profit and getting his sordid end away than honour. My Dragon Age: Origins character was a rebellious elven upstart who may or may not have been racist towards humans and my favourite incarnation of Commander Shepard from Mass Effect was a black lesbian who started off as a bit of a baddie but found things to fight for and made noble sacrifices for the good of humanity. And then there’s my second Fire Emblem Awakening run, in which the Avatar was an older woman named Paige who fell in love with the young Chrom and raised a pair of children with him. That last one probably gave me my most emotional experience with Fire Emblem yet, because playing the game as a father is one thing but seeing it from the perspective of a mother is… really quite something else. There’s a certain scene near the endgame involving Chrom’s daughter Lucina that hit a lot harder because my character was her mother. In fact, seeing the game from the female perspective wasn’t just different – it was better. It felt like it made more sense as a story. Now and forever, the heroine of that game is firmly settled in my mind as a woman – to the point that I still haven’t played as her male counterpart in Smash Bros. That’s what’s so cool about games that let you play around with character customisation. Sometimes, seeing a story from the perspective of a character who’s not you – and can never be you – helps to give you new insight into the world and fresh new stories to go with it… and, if there’s one thing I love, it’s new stories.

It’s for this reason that I’d be interested in seeing the new protagonist Kamui have the option to be gay. Fire Emblem If‘s story is already tackling the theme of identity on a national level, what with Kamui being torn between his or her blood relatives in Hoshido and the people of Nohr who actually raised them, and their status as a weredragon means that they’re probably going to have some kind of personal crisis as to whether or not they’re even human sooner or later. Self-discovery seems to be shaping up to be a big part of the next game and a big part of one’s identity is sexuality, so why not make it a potential topic to explore? I can already think of some pretty interesting ways it could go down, too… A male Kamui could side with Hoshido after discovering his true origins and falling for that dashing archer bloke. A female Kamui could stay true to her Nohr allies after realising her love for Camille… What if there’s even some sort of option to get involved in a love triangle? Suppose Kamui got torn between the handsome Tsubaki from Hoshido and that pretty maid from Nohr? (Bisexuals exist too, after all)

I’m just throwing out ideas here but it seems to me that there could really be something worth exploring here. Not only would it give those gamers who identify as LGBTQ some more representation but it might also just give us straight gamers a new perspective to think about – and that’s a good thing. Don’t judge another person before you walk a mile in their shoes and whatnot. … Not that Kamui wears any shoes anyway but you know what I mean.

Oh yeah, and a few more customisation options in general wouldn’t hurt, either. I’d like to see a real long-haired option for male characters, thank you very much.

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