GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Video Game

The GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Video Game is an annual award that honors video games for excellence in the depiction of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) characters and themes. It is one of several categories of the annual GLAAD Media Awards, which are presented by GLAAD—an American non-governmental media monitoring organization founded in 1985, formerly called the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—at ceremonies in New York City; Los Angeles; and San Francisco between March and June.[1]

GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Video Game
Awarded forExcellence in depiction of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community in video games
VenueVaries
CountryUnited States
Presented byGLAAD
First awardedMarch 28, 2019; 3 years ago (2019-03-28)

The award was first given at the 30th GLAAD Media Awards in 2019 to The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset, an expansion pack developed by ZeniMax Online Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks for The Elder Scrolls Online. The 32nd ceremony in 2021 marks the only instance where a tie has occurred, with The Last of Us Part II (developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment) and Tell Me Why (developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Xbox Game Studios) both winning the award.

For a video game to be eligible, it must contain "outstanding LGBTQ-inclusive content",[2][3] consisting of LGBT characters and stories that are "authentic and impactful".[4] An important criterion is to what extent the LGBT-inclusive content is integrated into the gameplay, specifically in regard to player agency and the game's world.[3] Said LGBT-inclusive content must be revealed either within the game itself, or alternate media that are canonical to the game's world.[4] Since 2021, only video games from major developers and publishers are eligible as standard, although a game from non-major developers and publishers can still be nominated if it achieves a similar level of visibility and impact to a mainstream work.[5] If a game was released prior to the eligibility period, it can still be nominated if "substantial new first-party content" is released during the eligibility period, with said content being evaluated.[4][2]

Video games selected by GLAAD are evaluated based on four criteria: "Fair, Accurate, and Inclusive Representations" of the LGBT community, "Boldness and Originality" of the project, significant "Impact" on mainstream culture, and "Overall Quality" of the project.[6] GLAAD monitors mainstream media to identify which video games will be nominated, while also issuing a Call for Entries that encourages media outlets to submit games for consideration. Video games created by and for an LGBT audience must be submitted in order to be considered for nomination, as GLAAD does not monitor such works for defamation.[6] Winners are determined by a plurality vote by GLAAD staff and board, Shareholders Circle members,[a] as well as volunteers and affiliated individuals.[6]

The award has received some criticism, especially during 2019 and 2020, for its emphasis on mainstream Triple-A video games, which is often viewed as occurring at the expense of indie ones. Furthermore, criticism has also been aimed at the fact many of the mainstream games nominated contained minimal levels of LGBT-inclusive content and representation. Since its inception, the award has been given to five video games. At the 33rd GLAAD Media Awards in 2022, the award was given to Life Is Strange: True Colors, developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix.

BackgroundEdit

In September 2018, GLAAD announced the introduction of a category at the GLAAD Media Awards for recognizing video games.[8] According to Zeke Stokes, the Vice President of Programs, GLAAD had been interested in the video game medium for years.[9] Some of the factors that led to the creation of the Outstanding Video Game category were, according to Stokes, 2017 being a turning point in the industry—given the plethora of LGBT-inclusive video games released in that year—as well as video games being one of the primary sources of entertainment for youngsters.[9]

Stokes acknowledged that in contrast to films and television series, video games and especially Triple-A games rarely include LGBTQ characters and themes.[9] While independent games are more inclusive of such content, GLAAD is interested in Triple-A games including LGBT themes, especially given the size of the industry.[9] Prior to announcing the creation of the category, GLAAD had consulted various gaming studios, to ensure that the category would have "weight and meaning and attract submissions to give the industry an optimistic path forward".[9]

In January 2019, GLAAD announced the inaugural Outstanding Video Game nominees, one of which was Assassin's Creed Odyssey. The game's Legacy of the First Blade downloadable content attracted controversy for featuring a storyline placing the player character Alexios or Kassandra in an unavoidable heterosexual relationship that results in an offspring.[10] In a statement addressing the game's inclusion, GLAAD's Associate Director of Gaming Blair Durkee also criticized the storyline for giving the impression that sexual orientation can be changed and that LGBT individuals can "choose to conform to heteronormative expectations in spite of their identities".[10] However, she defended the nomination of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, acknowledging that progress can be complicated and that in order to motivate video game developers and publishers to continue making "these types of bold moves in the future, we must allow for growth, acknowledge that missteps do occur, and give proper credit where credit is due".[10]

Winners and nomineesEdit

Table key
  Indicates the winner
Winners and nominees
Award year Game Developer Publisher Ref(s).
2019
(30th)
The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset   ZeniMax Online Studios Bethesda Softworks [11]
[12]
[13]
Assassin's Creed Odyssey Ubisoft Quebec Ubisoft
Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire ArenaNet ArenaNet
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Obsidian Entertainment Versus Evil
The Sims Mobile Maxis EA Mobile
2020
(31st)
The Outer Worlds   Obsidian Entertainment Private Division [14]
[15]
Apex Legends Respawn Entertainment Electronic Arts
Borderlands 3 Gearbox Software 2K Games
Overwatch Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment
The Walking Dead: The Final Season Telltale Games
Skybound Games
Skybound Games
2021
(32nd)
The Last of Us Part II   Naughty Dog Sony Interactive Entertainment [16]
[17]
Tell Me Why   Dontnod Entertainment Xbox Game Studios
Assassin's Creed Valhalla Ubisoft Montreal Ubisoft
Borderlands 3: Guns, Love, and Tentacles Gearbox Software 2K Games
Bugsnax Young Horses Young Horses
Hades Supergiant Games Supergiant Games
If Found... Dreamfeel Annapurna Interactive
Ikenfell Happy Ray Games Humble Games
Immortals Fenyx Rising Ubisoft Quebec Ubisoft
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment
2022
(33rd)
Life Is Strange: True Colors   Deck Nine Square Enix [18]
[19]
Boyfriend Dungeon Kitfox Games Kitfox Games
Far Cry 6 Ubisoft Toronto Ubisoft
The Gardener and the Wild Vines Finite Reflection Studios Finite Reflection Studios
Kena: Bridge of Spirits Ember Lab Ember Lab
Psychonauts 2 Double Fine Xbox Game Studios
Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan ManaVoid Entertainment Skybound Games
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege Ubisoft Montreal Ubisoft
Unpacking Witch Beam Humble Games
Unsighted Studio Pixel Punk

CriticismEdit

Following the category's announcement, Polygon's Owen S. Good lamented that, given the award's eligibility criteria, indie games inclusive of LGBT characters and themes such as Tacoma, Butterfly Soup, and Dream Daddy could not be nominated.[2] CJ Adriessen of Destructoid was disappointed by the inaugural nominees in 2019, arguing that The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories deserved a nomination given its positive and respectful representation of trans people,[20] and described the game's exclusion as having "le[ft] a rotten taste in [his] mouth".[20]

Also discussing the category's inaugural nominees, Jay Castello of Rock Paper Shotgun criticized the inclusion of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, particularly in light of its Legacy of the First Blade DLC.[21] Castello argued that—especially given GLAAD's own criticisms of the DLC—Odyssey "wasn't, in fact, 'outstanding'",[21] pointing out that all optional love interests in it are playersexual, and how the game does not offer enough same-sex options for Alexios.[21] Furthermore, they argued that indie games such as Heaven Will Be Mine and Hardcoded, which deal heavily with LGBT themes and are made by LGBTQ+ people—unlike Assassin's Creed Odyssey and The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset—were more deserving of recognition.[21]

Imogen Beckhelling, also of Rock Paper Shotgun, would go on to criticize the 2020 nominees, arguing that it is still "missing the point",[22] pointing out how in Overwatch both Tracer and Soldier: 76 are revealed to be queer only in the tie-in comics, outside of the game.[22] While Beckhelling believed that LGBT representation in video games is important, and progress in Triple-A games should be celebrated, she argued that indie games deserve more recognition, singling out Heart of the Woods for praise.[22]

Regarding the 2022 ceremony, Jade King described the nominees as consisting of "both triple-A titles and indie hits".[23] While King acknowledged some of the nominees' representation was minimal and the games were included likely to "make up the numbers",[23] she recognized that progress is not a linear process, and described the list as being well-founded.[23]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The Shareholders Circle consists of individuals who have made a donation of $1,500 or more.[7]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "GLAAD Media Awards Selection Process". GLAAD. September 10, 2011. Archived from the original on August 17, 2018. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Good, Owen S. (September 27, 2018). "GLAAD awards will spotlight video games for the first time". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on April 6, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Official 30th GLAAD Media Awards Category – Outstanding Video Game". GLAAD. 2018. Archived from the original on April 6, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Official 31st GLAAD Media Awards Category – Outstanding Video Game". GLAAD. 2019. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  5. ^ "Official 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards Categories". GLAAD. 2020. Archived from the original on May 18, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c "GLAAD Media Awards Selection Process". GLAAD. Archived from the original on July 11, 2018. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  7. ^ "Become a Member. Donate Today. Help us make a difference". GLAAD. Archived from the original on January 15, 2022. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  8. ^ Lemon, Marshall (September 28, 2018). "GLAAD awards introduces its first video game category". VG247. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on April 18, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d e Shanley, Patrick (September 26, 2018). "GLAAD Explains New Video Game Award Category: 'We Can't Ignore This Space'". The Hollywood Reporter. Penske Media Corporation. ISSN 0018-3660. Archived from the original on July 7, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c Vincent, Brittany (January 25, 2019). "GLAAD Discusses Assassin's Creed Odyssey Nomination For Upcoming Media Awards". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. ISSN 0042-2738. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  11. ^ Durkee, Blair (January 25, 2019). "GLAAD celebrates the first nominees for Outstanding Video Game in the GLAAD Media Awards". GLAAD. Archived from the original on April 7, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  12. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (January 25, 2019). "GLAAD Media Awards: Adventure Time, She-Ra, Steven Universe Nominated". Animation Magazine. Animation Magazine, Inc. ISSN 1041-617X. Archived from the original on January 26, 2019. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  13. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly (March 28, 2019). "GLAAD Media Awards: Love, Simon, Vida, Queer Eye Among Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Penske Media Corporation. ISSN 0018-3660. Archived from the original on October 28, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  14. ^ Gardner, Chris; Howard, Annie (January 8, 2020). "GLAAD Media Awards: Booksmart, Bombshell, Rocketman Among Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Eldridge Industries. ISSN 0018-3660. Archived from the original on February 18, 2020. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  15. ^ Daw, Stephen (July 30, 2020). "Here Are All the Winners From the 2020 GLAAD Media Awards". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. ISSN 0006-2510. Archived from the original on January 26, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  16. ^ Durkee, Blair (January 28, 2021). "GLAAD celebrates Outstanding Video Game nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards". GLAAD. Archived from the original on April 19, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  17. ^ Bailey, Dustin (April 9, 2021). "Tell Me Why tops Assassin's Creed, WoW Shadowlands, and more at GLAAD awards". PCGamesN. Network N. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  18. ^ Tapp, Tom (January 19, 2022). "GLAAD Media Awards Nominations: HBO/HBO Max Leads With 19; Netflix Close Behind". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on March 12, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  19. ^ Aquilina, Tyler (April 3, 2022). "Hacks, Drag Race, and more honored at 2022 GLAAD Media Awards: See the full list of winners". Entertainment Weekly. Dotdash Meredith. ISSN 1049-0434. Archived from the original on April 3, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  20. ^ a b Andriessen, CJ (January 25, 2019). "The GLAAD Media Awards royally screwed up its first video game award". Destructoid. Enthusiast Gaming. Archived from the original on April 18, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  21. ^ a b c d Castello, Jay (January 26, 2019). "GLAAD's first video game awards highlight difficulties in celebrating queer representation". Rock Paper Shotgun. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on May 10, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  22. ^ a b c Beckhelling, Imogen (January 9, 2020). "For the second year running, the Glaad awards look like they're missing the mark on celebrating queer representation". Rock Paper Shotgun. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on November 23, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  23. ^ a b c King, Jade (January 25, 2022). "The GLAAD Awards: Where Is Queer Rep In Video Games Right Now?". TheGamer. Valnet Inc. Archived from the original on January 28, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.