Gaming offers us the chance to enter other worlds, personalities, universes and realities. With the open ended possibilities within gaming, why then are these alternate realities stagnated in the here and now when faced with the question of queer or the female. If gaming is set in the future, or in other worlds, then surely these worlds should reflect possible futures or completely differing worlds from our own?
Historically the queer question is a simple one, are things getting better for queers in reality? although not a perfect YES!, the answer is still yes, things are getting better. Laws are changing, people are less fearful and with more knowledge comes less fear and discrimination. Looking at a timeline like this, then surely a title set in the real future should feature real future ideals--in this case perhaps gayness that is there and not hidden or is just accepted as the norm.
There are obvious 'now' problems facing developers who would dare go this route, but it does bring up a multitude of interesting questions. Why is it that when creating a fake world where often aliens and technology are par for the course, notions of homosexuality are still buried in the now.
This isn't a problem within gaming alone, science-fiction television suffers from the same dilemma. Star Trek for example is set in a future of the now, yet features no openly gay characters (barring a couple of side stories). This goes some way to explaining the recent furore over the Mass Effect 'lesbian' scene--people are not used to gay and lesbian content in games even if they are set in other worlds / universes.
Even when content in games may appear 'lesbian', there are a variety of 'ingenious' ways of covering up this content. In TV they will often use convoluted background stories to show their sensationalist 'lesbian' moment, only to have it fade into the background--games are no different. Matrix Revolution was passed by the ESRB only after the developers stated that the lesbian kiss was actually between two computers and not flesh and blood women. Similarly in Mass Effect, the developers were forced to explain the lesbian content by using the term 'mono-gendered' in reference to one of the female characters, who whilst appearing female, was within the framework of the story an alien being of both genders.
The recent Battlestar Galactica episode 'Razor' featured a lesbian relationship that just was. There seemed to be none of the usual sensationalist furore that surrounds lesbian content, but even in a series so forward thinking with regards to the female characters, it still fell into the demonisation of the lesbian character by having her be the villain--or in fact, both of them villains for differing reasons. None of the lead characters in the series are gay, even those that exhibit stereotypically gay traits.
It definitely seems that gay and lesbian visibility in popular culture is becoming more predominant, however it has a long way to go. Only when developers realise that creating the future may require them to be more diverse and accepting, will we see more lesbian / gay characters in games.