QueerAF Partnership: Indie games are leading the way on queer stories, where are the big studios?

16 March 2024 | Inclusive Journalism Cymru

As someone who grew up alongside video games since the 1990s, I’ve had a ringside seat to their development into an easily accessible hobby that can provide positive LGBTQ+ representation at your fingertips. 

Yet, trying to find LGBTQIA+ stories still requires a bit more digging beyond the ‘recommended for you’ screen. 

But I know how important this representation is. While there may be dedicated in-person gaymer communities in cities like London and Bristol  but most spaces are either purely online or one day events. 

Living in South Wales makes it difficult to access LGBTQIA+ spaces, with most based in Cardiff. 

So representation in games is a beacon for many queer folks. Gaming is easy to access and can help to understand yourself better or feel less alone in your experiences through authentic storytelling. 

But with large game companies such as EA stating they value creativity and innovation in spite of layoffs, could we see more LGBTQIA+ stories going forward? 

I’ve grown up with video games playing them since the 90s. I’ve seen representation develop beyond purely focusing on straight white male consumers, with titles putting more positive LGBTQIA+ representation at your fingertips. But the industry still has a long way to go. 

A recent report by GLAAD found that one in five (17%) of active gamers under 34 are LGBTQIA+.However less than 2% of console games (Playstation, Xbox, and Switch) and 1.7% of SFW Steam games have LGBTQIA+ content. 

Looking a little deeper the majority of these games have been created by independent developers. That’s also true for the majority of upcoming LGBTQIA+ games too. Indie titles also dominate lists about the best LGBTQIA+ games with plenty of them becoming popular in the mainstream, such as Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3. 

I recently replayed 2013’s Gone Home, a game set in 1995 where you explore your family’s new home. You’re greeted by a note on the door from your sister, Sam, saying that she isn’t there to see you. I was moved by the game’s same sex love story because it was treated the same way as a straight love story would be. Rather than being rushed through to a dramatic conclusion or being added as a last minute twist, it’s allowed to grow throughout the story.

"Trying to find LGBTQIA+ stories still requires a bit more digging beyond the ‘recommended for you’ screen."

Sam Lewis


Returning to the game years after being a teenager it felt reassuring to know my experiences were shared by others. Having access to games like this are important for young LGBTQIA+ people as a way to see themselves and people they can relate to. For older people in the community it can allow them to look back and feel less isolated in certain experiences. Increasing the variety of LGBTQIA+ stories being told can help reach those who may not be being shown in other forms of media.

 Growing up queer in the 2000’s, a time when Section 28 was still in force, I saw my own experiences reflected in the game. From the first confusing crush on another guy to smuggling and hiding a copy of Attitude in my room, all while being somewhere nobody talked about being LGBTQIA+. Gone Home, while not perfect, is a solid example of how authentic LGBTQIA+ storytelling can resonate with those in the community.

Doing this would not be uncharted territory for the large studios. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and Bioware’s Dragon Age series have both received praise for their positive representation of LGBTQIA+ characters. Dragon Age games also include romanceable characters that were exclusively gay, lesbian, or straight, as well as bisexual. 

As more games are available across platforms and are ported onto mobiles, LGBTQIA+ games are reaching more people than before. This includes those who may not be able to engage in LGBTQIA+ spaces in real life. 

Now is the perfect time for the larger studios to innovate and follow the precedent that the indie studios have set. LGBTQIA+ stories can fit any genre and be compelling to all players when done authentically. The success of the indie studio’s development in this space also shows how popular, beloved and profitable queer stories can be too.

This article is part of a QueerAF and Inclusive Journalism Cymru partnership dedicated to uplifting Welsh LGBTQIA+ emerging and marginalised journalists. 

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