Ace Jam created a space for games with asexual characters

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Asexuality is one of the most misunderstood identities under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Among other issues, it’s extremely rare to see asexual characters in games or wider media, and when they do appear, they often fall into harmful stereotypes. January’s Ace Jam invited developers to go some way to change this by creating games that feature characters on the asexual spectrum, and treat them respectfully.

Asexual people aren’t sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of gender, in the same way that straight people aren’t attracted to members of their own gender. Similarly, aromantic people aren’t romantically attracted to anyone. Some people are both, some are one or the other.

Asexual and aromantic spectrum (a-spec) people aren’t broken. But without proper representation helping them to recognise and understand their identity, many feel that way. Speaking to the Huffington Post, sociologist Michael Morgan explained: “When you don’t see people like yourself the message is: You’re invisible. The message is: You don’t count. And the message is: ‘There’s something wrong with me.’”

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Asexual representation in games is so sparse as to be virtually non-existent, and some of the few examples that there are reinforce incorrect beliefs about a-spec people. Mass Effect’s Mordin Solus can reveal that his species, Salarians, are asexual, if the player speaks to him enough, but as FemHype puts it, that’s “just another way of reinforcing the idea that asexuality just isn’t a part of human nature.” Another Bioware character, the spirit Cole from Dragon Age: Inquisition, has no interest in sex, but this is played as part of his childish nature, and worse, if the player character has Cole become more human, he suddenly becomes interested in a woman. A-spec folks aren’t inhuman or childish; that their meagre representation often suggests that they are is harmful.

Ace Jam, then, was an important step in bringing attention to a-spec people, and creating more respectful media that reflects them. The jam page curated helpful resources for developers wanting to create well-rounded characters without resorting to tired tropes. It also encouraged developers of all skill levels to take part without pressure or judgement, empowering many developers who are themselves asexual or otherwise a-spec to take part.

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Plenty of the games focused on the relationships of their a-spec characters. For example, Lovely Anemone is a dating sim with an asexual protagonist. Salena must deal with the fallout of her ex-girlfriend cheating on her, and the anxieties of dating and coming out to someone new. In this way, her asexuality is a major factor in how she relates to her potential partners, but the game is careful not to show it as an insurmountable obstacle. This is vital for ace folks who might be having those same fears.

Other games stick to the equally important platonic relationships of their characters. Stormtouched is a Twine with an asexual, aromantic, and agender protagonist called Milie. It explores their growing friendships with other mech pilot cadets while gently building an intriguing sci-fi world. The story touches on Milie’s identity without centring it, because, while stories focusing on LGBTQIA+ themes are great, sometimes genre fiction can just feature characters who aren’t straight or cis.

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Some of the games barely mention their characters’ identities at all. Two Girls Make a Game is about – well, two girls participating in a game jam. Both of them are asexual, but this is only referenced in a single conversation about fanfiction preferences. The rest of the game is about a growing friendship between two relatable characters who talk about anime, art, and anxiety. Being asexual is only one aspect of their lives, as it is for any identity in real life.

Of course, the thing about sexual and gender identities is that they’re subject to societal prejudices. The Suburb: Not Just Dinner addresses these: you play as Fin, a nonbinary panromantic ace who is kidnapped by their bigoted neighbours. As you explore the house, the neighbours will often jump out at you, spouting some harmful misconception about sexuality and the gender binary. The tension of expecting a queerphobic statement bursting from nowhere is in many ways reflective of how LGBTQIA+ folks experience the world; there’s often no way of knowing who is going to say something negative, or when.

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And yet despite this, The Suburb is heart warming and often very funny (queer folk have the best puns). This is what happens when we empower LGBTQIA+ people to create; their stories can address the problems we face whilst also being empowering and indulgent in a way that most media fails us.

Ace Jam created this space for a-spec folks, as well as encouraging those simply interested in bringing more much-needed inclusion to their games. You can find all the games created for the jam on Itch.

83 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Isn’t any fictional character that never expresses sexual interest sorta asexual by default? I mean, I get that this seems to mean “games with asexual characters that talk about it a lot”, but still. Isn’t assuming that any character that doesn’t mention their sexuality must inherently be straight sorta the same erasure problem that’s mentioned in the article?

    Don’t get me wrong, I get that it’s good to have a jam about exploring characters talking about their asexuality or what-have-you, but pretending that no game has them unless they constantly talk about it is a bit silly. I don’t particularly care for sex myself, but I don’t generally mention that to people. What does that make me?

    Here’s hoping against hope that the comments section isn’t too horrendous this time. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      The thing, I think, is that you can’t raise visibility for something by not talking about it. So the idea is to raise visibility to the point where people acknowledge and notice that yes it is a real thing and then that’s pretty comfortable.

      You had to bring up that you don’t mention it to people, for example. Otherwise, how would anyone have known?

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        Well, right. I mean I get why they are having a jam about games about talking about it. Raising awareness, etc.

        I don’t generally mention it ’cause like, 99.99% of the time it’s not relevant to anything.

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        Iamblichos says:

        I’m with Drib… one of the tremendous benefits of being asexual is that you DON’T have to sit around talking about sex and sexuality all day. Why on earth would anyone assume that because we don’t run around clapping on about what we don’t like, that we are pining for representation. None of this makes sense to me at all… but then again, I don’t look for the games I play to validate my life choices and behavior. I think that’s the key issue.

        • WombatDeath says:

          “one of the tremendous benefits of being asexual is that you DON’T have to sit around talking about sex and sexuality all day”

          This reminds me of a quote attributed to many people, which I shall probably mangle:

          “The great thing about getting old is losing one’s libido. It’s like being unchained from a maniac”.

          Something along those lines. In any case, I certainly appreciate the sentiment and I can see the value in being asexual. I suppose it must be difficult, though, if one is asexual but not aromantic.

    • Vacuity729 says:

      I was thinking about that too as I read this. I’ve only played part of Dragon Age Origins, but there are several companions whom you cannot date whoever your avatar is. It’s never explained why not; they’re just not “available.”
      Also, the criticism relating to Mass Effect seems unduly harsh; it’s sci-fi. Large chunks of the background material is about non-humans, and good sci-fi (which we can argue whether ME really is) has always used aliens and technology as a means of reflecting and examining aspects of humanity which people often find difficult to deal with. That’s what the genre does.

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        Drib says:

        Yeah, that’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? “A non-human species has this behavior, so they are saying this behavior is literally inhuman”. I mean, the aliens speak English by all accounts. Speaking English makes you less than human. Speaking quickly like the Salarians is inhuman. Etc.

        Also spot on with the general use of sci-fi. It’s like back when plays and songs were mostly a way of having political statements that weren’t as easily punishable as a written book or something. It’s a way of discussing social ills or potential future problems outside of the usually heavily emotionally charged narrative of the day. Though I do wish more sci-fi authors had the sense to be a little less heavy-handed sometimes, but that’s just personal taste.

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          Graham Smith says:

          We’re talking about implicit messages. By not making it a part of the human characters’ experiences, you’re implicitly saying it doesn’t exist. By only making it part of the alien’s experiences, you’re implicitly saying that it’s alien. To me, it’s not a major criticism of BioWare so much as an example of how under-representation puts pressure on the few existing examples.

          In response to your previous comments, it’s worth noting that the article points out that some of these games do not make asexuality front and center to the games or the character’s conversations. It’s just a fact about them.

          As for not assuming that every character who expresses no preference is straight: I think this is splitting hairs. There a squillions of works of fiction that deal explicitly with straight relationships and very few that deal with queer or asexual relationships. Relationships where neither is mentioned isn’t much of a consolation. Why should one audience get to indulge while another must imagine and project and craft fan fics?

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            Drib says:

            Yep, I’m in agreement that it’s good to have characters explicitly stating it. I was just sorta going on about the nature of fictive characters I guess. Or maybe I was just rambling, it’s not uncommon.

            I’m not sure I’m quite with the idea that a non-human race having a trait is an implicit message that it doesn’t exist in humanity. I mean I haven’t played any ME games past the first, but I expect they don’t have any human… I dunno, vegans. Do any humans outright state that they are vegan? Googling it doesn’t turn any up, though there’s a mention that Quarians are generally vegan. Are vegans implicitly being said to be inhuman?

            That said, I guess that the article points out only a couple of canon-asexual examples, and all of them are inhuman in some way or another. Come to think of it, the only others I can think of are as well. I mean, some golem I think in Dragon’s Age, Curie (initially, when she’s less human) in Fallout 4, some anime girl-bots, etc… Yeah. Okay. Representation is kinda weak, and even when it’s there, it tends to be part of a “becoming more human by opening up to romance/sexuality” arc, which is pretty damn shaky.

            I guess in summation I talked myself out of my arguments in a long stupid blathering session. A+ commenting, Drib.

          • Dewal says:

            It’s great that people want to take the time to talk and make games about people that are usually not talked about nor central in stories or cultural media in general.

            But what you’re saying is a sophism. It’s not because an author create an alien that is asexual that you can accuse him of saying that asexuals are aliens. And for Cole, HE’S A CHILD. Of course he doesn’t want to bang the main character. And no it doesn’t say anything about asexual people, it’s just that usually child don’t want sex.

            Yes, maybe it’s sad, but most people don’t know or don’t care about asexual people (in the sense that a lot of people seems to care about the sexuality of others – even if it doesn’t affect them either – but not really about the absence of it).
            Nobody thought “Let’s make an asexual character… it will be either a child or an alien because else it’s wrong”. They just wanted to make a race of alien that doesn’t reproduce sexually and a character that was a child, that’s it. I don’t see how someone that isn’t confronted to asexuality on a daily basis would ever think about it by seeing these two characters.

            So yes, you could go against Bioware and accuse them of not representing asexuals enough because they didn’t create any character “that could be interested but is not”… but they are one of the rare big studios that make the most efforts in regard of representation so that would be kinda unfair to them. (And when you have rosters of 10 characters, it’s hard to represent every race/gender/sexual orientation every time in a meaningful way, while be wary of being accused of tokenism…)

          • Zorgulon says:

            To me, it’s not a major criticism of BioWare so much as an example of how under-representation puts pressure on the few existing examples.

            I think this is a good point. It seems to me that the invisibility of being asexual is the key problem. I’m not sure very many outside the ace/aromantic community consider Mordin or Cole to be representative of asexual identities at all. But to someone who is, the unintended implication could be harmful.

          • Vacuity729 says:

            I agree that the biggest problem of all is under-representation, but I still feel that the criticism of Bioware here is unfair; what proportion of their companions are actually human? Does this mean that any semi-defining character trait of any of the non-human companions or species is thus being portrayed as inhuman?
            Does Star Trek imply that people who value honour are inhuman because of Klingons? It just seems like criticism for the sake of finding someone to criticise and displays a poor understanding of the genres of fantasy and sci-fi.
            With more examples, hopefully it would be possible to offer more nuanced and considered criticism of them, too.

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            Graham Smith says:

            Dewal: part of my point is that we’re not “accusing” BioWare of anything. The one paragraph that mentions them isn’t accusatory. It’s about stereotypes that exist and how they’re implicitly supported by a lack of representation.

            Also:

            i) Authorial intent isn’t the end of a discussion. What BioWare intended can’t be assumed, and their games communicate many things that they no doubt did not intend.

            ii) “I don’t see how someone that isn’t confronted to asexuality on a daily basis would ever think about it by seeing these two characters.” But some people are confronted by asexuality on a daily basis. Namely, asexuals.

          • Dewal says:

            @Graham Smith :
            Maybe “accusing” is too strong and it’s true that things can mean more that their original intent and that’s not an excuse for everything.

            But contrary to the case of hetero, bi or homo sexualities that are commonly known and everyone has an opinion about them (and putting them in any media will send messages either way and create reactions), people just don’t think (or know) about asexual people. So you can’t talk about “reinforcing stereotypes” against something that most people just don’t have a clue about and you can’t reproach to someone “not to have known”. Even more in the case of SF or Fantasy, where you can have golems, robots, spirits, aliens, etc… that just don’t care about sex because it’s in their nature, without any allusion to human sexual orientations.

            So yep, let’s celebrate and promote awareness but we should not condemn legitimate ignorance.

          • sosolidshoe says:

            “Authorial intent isn’t the end of a discussion…” – the sentiment behind statements like these always boggles my mind. People consuming and critiquing media content bring just as much baggage to the table as the author of the works being consumed, to assume that their reading of something into the work that isn’t explicitly supported by the text or subtext(when analysed dispassionately not through the prism of the reader’s baggage) is worth something while the stated or actually-implied by the text/subtext intent of the author can just be cast aside is a total nonsense.

            If you torture something enough you can make it say anything you like, and that’s as true of works of fiction as it is of people. Sometimes a spoon is just a spoon, and I imagine it’s a pretty garbage experience as an author to have your work torn to bits by people determined to find *something* to take a pop at, and then when they inevitably do to tell you that what you meant and what you say you meant and what the text actually does suggest you meant all mean nothing in the face of your critic choosing to believe differently.

            As a bisexual on the autism spectrum(which I dislike bringing up, but you must or else be labelled a horrible selfish biased cishet monster), nothing offends me quite so much as right-on social studies grads(or amateurs) insisting that what people actually say and do is less important than what they or indeed I might choose to believe people *meant*.

          • vargata says:

            so with your logic if a game is not about straight sexuality then the message is that straight is bad , straight is invisible straight is broken because not talking about it puts a pressure… and lets be honest, in our today society being straight is the only sin… ohh well. people should deal with their sexuality in their bedroom. i hate when straight sexuality is pushed into my face in a game just as much as i hate this or other lgtb shit. its none of my business, if i want sexuality i go to my wife :D the problem is that these people want attention, want to feel special. not equal or accepted but superior…

          • Azmoham says:

            There are a billtion plus love stories about straight people because the vast majority of people are straight so that’s what they can connect to. An asexual character is inherintly harder to connect to. It’s like asking ‘why are there so few one-eyed Scottish characters in fiction?’ because most people aren’t one-eyed and scottish.

    • dgdg says:

      As someone who is at least on the spectrum, I don’t think so. If you don’t know something about someone, most people tend to fill in the detail with whatever is normal, and in this context that’s heterosexuality. Some people will fill it in with what they want to see as well.

      Or lets put it like this: go on a site like fanfiction.net, and select a videogame franchise to get an idea of how people interpret those characters. You’ll see a lot of fanfiction for heterosexual/homosexual characters when such things are not defined in the game. You’ll even see what can loosely be defined as intersex in some places. But I can’t recall seeing asexual interpretations of characters who aren’t at least implied to be asexual in the game – simply because for most people asexuality is neither a norm nor something they want to see (insofar that asexuality is seen to prevent fan pairings).

      So for the minority of people who are asexual, and it is a minority, it is nice to see stuff in at least some games.

    • falcon2001 says:

      I think it’s a positive affirmation thing – like for instance there’s a big debate on tumblr (yeah, I know) about whether Sherlock Holmes is asexual. My view on it as someone who recently read the whole canon of work is that he isn’t ace, but just that sexuality was something that the author didn’t feel like including and made it part of his character.

      But on the other hand; I absolutely understand why people would think he is and want to have someone as famous as that figure as a cultural touchpoint, so there’s a lot of passion in the community about it.

      • TheBetterStory says:

        Moffat, the writer, came right out and said Sherlock wasn’t asexual because that would be “boring.”

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      You say that, but sexuality comes up in more subtle ways in a lot of games: Tomb Raider has Lara make flirtatious quips to male characters; a lot of JRPGs have ‘that scene’ where male protagonist gets embarrassed talking to attractive female; even Mario has implied romantic subtext in rescuing Peach (“_your_ princess is in another castle”). Likewise the main character’s backstory may include past lovers or an off-screen partner.

      I would say it’s very rare in a game where orientation *is* expressed to see a character who is asexual, and when you do, they’re either a robot or ‘asexuality’ is their racial trait: “Oh, Vulcans? They’re the ones with no emotions who don’t have sex”. It’s not handled with any understanding.

    • April March says:

      Isn’t any fictional character that never expresses sexual interest sorta asexual by default?

      No, I don’t think so.

      There’s an old nugget about writing that goes something like this: even though Australia is never mentioned in Pride or Prejudice, this doesn’t mean it takes place in a universe in which Australia doesn’t exist. That is, whenever we read a story we must assume that anything that isn’t explicitly stated to be different must be the same, or at least similar enough.

      But by the logic of that statement, technically Australia doesn’t exist in Pride and Prejudice. Trying to say that there are visible asexual or aromantic characters because not everyone in every single story states their sexual or romantic preferences is like saying that Pride and Prejudice is your favourite alt-history novel, that takes place in a world without Australia.

      I agree that assuming that everyone is straight is a bad thing (called heteronormativity), but that doesn’t mean assuming everyone belongs to a small minority helps anything. I mean, even if your interpretation holds, a story in which everyone is asexual and aromantic except for the people who are in relationships is probably just as damning of a way to represent them.

  2. DeepSleeper says:

    As an asexual who really enjoys RPGmaker games, Bioware games, Twine and visual novels:
    Good luck with this comments section.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      It’ll be a mess. No way around it.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      So let’s get it out of the way: asexuality doesn’t exists. It’s an Internet subculture consisting mostly of very young peoply who are anxious about sex.

      • Fomorian1988 says:

        Well THAT didn’t take long.

      • DeepSleeper says:

        So let’s get it out of the way: You’re wrong.

        Asexuality absolutely exists, it’s not just young people, they’re not just anxious about sex, it’s not just an “internet subculture”, which is somewhat meaningless because “internet subcultures” … also exist and are real groups of real people? I don’t know what you intended to prove with that gambit.
        The Kinsey scale accounts for it and the sooner it’s generally accepted the better.

        • Premium User Badge

          Drib says:

          I feel like it was meant as a joke. The comment I mean. I hope? Sort of a “here’s what people are going to say” kind of thing?

          • DeepSleeper says:

            If so, we’ve gotten the debate nicely out of the way at the start. Claps all around in that case.

          • Fomorian1988 says:

            Especially since, even if this really was a joke, it’s written exactly like what an acephobe would think. It still needs to be responded to in case a real one/another one shows up and considers this section a safe haven to spread their acephobic idiocy.

      • modzero says:

        Actually, you don’t exist. You’re just a figment of my imagination, and it’s rather embarrassing that I apparently imagined you.

        • cardigait says:

          Please oh please stop appearing in my imaginary comment section, and call back that other furry funny character you replaced.

      • NR says:

        Poe’s Law and all, but just in case you (or someone else reading this) sincerely share this viewpoint, it’s worth pointing out that Asexuality is an actual biological thing that affects up to about 1% of the population and not just some millennial invention or whatever.

      • abstrarie says:

        I assume this is a joke? But to quickly jump into an alternate reality where it is not:

        Sexual needs come from hormones (and some social pressure I suppose, but that pressure came from everyone being all hormoned up anyway). It isn’t very hard to imagine people who don’t have these hormones at average levels or whose bodies process them slightly differently. Biology be crazy.

      • Neutrino says:

        It’s clearly not an Internet only subculture, and it’s clearly not only young people engaging in it.

        What I don’t get about the people that want to experiment with these fringe lifestyle choices, is why do they seem to feel such a need to try and strong arm the rest of society into buying into their viewpoint that their lifestyle choice is some sort of a ‘big deal’ that we all need to explicitly accomodate.

        We have to make films about them, we have to have them in games. They have to have special passports, and so on ad nauseum, and if we don’t it must be because we’re racists or sexist or some other form of pure evil.

        Other people with interests like trainspotting and stamp collecting don’t seem to feel the need to make a fuss about how society doesn’t go to great lengths to recognise and accomodate their passtimes, so what makes these guys who think they’ve come up with a new sex lifestyle variant think they’re so special?

  3. StAUG says:

    “Similarly, aromantic people aren’t romantically attracted to anyone”

    Huh, I never knew I had my own letter in that ever lengthening acronym.

    Edit: and yes, if these comments don’t turn into a bonfire I’ll eat a variety of hats.

    • Halk says:

      I read “aromatic”, and was wondering why smelling good would prevent one from being attracted to other people.

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        Drib says:

        Well, being too aromatic can stop people from being attracted to you, at least.

  4. noom says:

    “LGBTQIA+”

    I think this acronym is getting a touch out of control at this point

    • Spakkenkhrist says:

      Don’t you mean this initialism?

      • noom says:

        Thanks. I had a feeling acronym wasn’t the right term, but wasn’t sure what the correct one was.

    • WombatDeath says:

      I think we’re up to LGBTTQQIAAP by now, but I suspect that most people have long since given up trying to keep track.

      • batraz says:

        Thing is we’re soon going to be short on letters. Alphabet is fascist.

      • Azmoham says:

        I think it’s gotten to the point where the acronymn (or whatever the term for it is) has gotten so long that it is now utterly useless and absurd.

    • Sunjammer says:

      It seems to exist only as a kind of type registry for everything that isn’t one specific other thing, “straight and cis”. The set exists as a meticulously detailed exclusion, and it’s only an inclusive set if you keep in mind exactly that it excludes. It’s profoundly weird to me. And inefficient, surely there has to be a more general word we can apply to this with the exact same meaning without listing everyone in the classroom other than that kid over there?

      • Crane says:

        I’ve always seen “queer” as (essentially) the open-ended antonym to “straight”, for “straight” = “cishet” thus “queer” = “anything except cishet”.
        So it always seems odd to me to include it in the LGBTetc initialism, which as mentioned above is getting almost self-parodic in its efforts towards an increasingly fractal inclusivism.
        For example, I’m demisexual, but no-one ever puts a D in the acronym! Where’s my inclusion?! (Not really indignant.)

    • MajorLag says:

      It is unfortunate that we feel we need to label these things so distinctly, but also probably unavoidable if your goal is to raise awareness of them. Also unfortunate is that labels can be harmful, because their purpose is to separate and categorize, something the human mind takes advantage of to make low-effort judgements leading to all sorts of -isms. Worse still is that we often latch on to labels and incorporate them into our identities, which leads us not only to be defensive of them but to seek conformity with them.

      The reality of course is that human sexuality is incredibly complicated because human minds are incredibly complicated. There’s a spectrum, and it probably has at least 2 or 3 dimensions to it. The day we, as a society, can drop the labels is a day I look forward to.

      • Azmoham says:

        Alright, bout to be the jerk of the whole comments section but here goes: I don’t know how much I like this growing trend of trying to include every single random tiny subculture under the sun into media as a whole. As a member of the LGBTQ community myself (bisexual, another group who also do not happen to recieve much if any popular media attention, outside of porn that is) I feel like the attempts to be more and more inclusive have simply ended up cheapening and fracturing the whole subculture until it feels like a real case of ‘when everyone is special, nobody is’. I don’t see why we need to go around having a character/letter/game/book/movie/pasta sauce to represent any of the dozens if not possibly hundreds of sexualities there are. I’d wager that most of the non-straight community fits under the flag of LGBT, and that by tacking more and more and more and more on, you just end up catering to ever smaller populations. Being part of the LGBT movement and community used to really mean something, but now, it more and more often feels like it means nothing at all. I’m not saying we should or can ignore these other groups, but I think that claiming they need the same level of representation as say, the far larger gay population, is absurd when maybe a grand total of 1% of the population actually fits that subcategory. Stories give us an oppertunity to explore other viewpoints and to get outside ourselves, and that is wonderful, but try to write a story for every single person who doesn’t feel like they fit just means we end up drowning in stories and it all becomes noise.

    • TheBetterStory says:

      Ace person here. I’m quite comfortable being included as part of the “Q” in LGBTQ, but not everyone is. It mostly has to do with age—some people have bad memories about queer being used as a slur.

  5. Gothnak says:

    Maybe the majority of RPS commenters are aasexual meaning they have no interest in asexuality and that’s why the comments section is relatively quiet?

    • Turkey says:

      I can’t even fathom anybody having a problem with asexuality. It’s not even condemned by any religions.

      • Nevard says:

        People get unjustifiably upset by other people being harmlessly different to them all the time.
        Talking about asexuality often brings out the type that tends to throw around the word “snowflakes”.

      • WombatDeath says:

        If you’re asexual I can’t judge you for giving into your base urges (or at least not that one). Looked at the other way, if I had been a virtuous Wombat and valiantly suppressed my base urges until marriage, perhaps I would begrudge you getting the same virtue points while expending no moral effort.

        Or maybe your rejection of social norms is threatening to my view of how society should be structured, or possibly I like finding differences to exploit because I feel superior by othering people. Or perhaps, and I think that ultimately it probably boils down to this, I’m just a bit of a cunt.

        And yes, I know that choice of language was unnecessary, but in this case I’m satisfied that it’s appropriate. On the scale of villainies it’s unnoticeable next to the bullying of those who don’t much care for the “Insert tab A into slot B” game. Perhaps it can be used as a test: “Which is more offensive: calling someone a cunt or belittling them for their sexuality? If the former, then guess what…”

        (And I expect that your question was rhetorical anyway, but I had five minutes to kill and nothing better to kill it with).

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        Drib says:

        If one was being fairly absurdly literal, one could argue that Abrahamic religions do imply that it’s humanity’s duty to multiply. Someone asexual who refuses to do that could arguably be considered faulting that religion. There may be similar tracts in other religions, dunno.

        But that’d have to be a pretty absurdly fundamentalist view. Then again I live in the American southeast, so it’s hardly inconceivable.

    • falcon2001 says:

      See, I’m AAAsexual because I’m not interested in people who aren’t interested in asexual discussion, and I also get free roadside tows and car service. (USA only joke there I guess?)

  6. LennyLeonardo says:

    I had sort of forgotten that asexual & aromantic people exist. That’s my bad, obviously, but now I am aware again! Success times!

    • Babymech says:

      So now will you finally remember not to do anything for them on Valentine’s Day?

  7. Babymech says:

    “sociologist Michael Morgan explained: “When you don’t see people like yourself the message is: You’re invisible. You can do anything, go anywhere. Nobody can stop you, nobody can see you. You are become Cena, destroyer of worlds.”

  8. dethtoll says:

    As an ace, I think I’d rather die than read the comments here.

  9. waltC says:

    If defining people by the color of their skin is racism, then surely defining people by their sexual attractions is certainly a form of sexism. Generally speaking, people amount to much more than either–and I believe it is completely demeaning for people to be defined, grouped, and classified because of their sexual preferences. Except maybe for Eunuchs, who have (deliberately or otherwise) had their equipment *cough* removed…;)

    • Babymech says:

      See there’s your problem – that’s never been the definition of the racism. That’s why the rest of your ‘thinking’ is so goofy.

      • baud001 says:

        So what’s the definition of racism?

        I mean if racism is not prejudicing people based on their skin color, what is it? A socially transmitted degenerative illness?

        • Babymech says:

          It’s not the categorization, it’s the prejudice and discrimination. Choosing to identify by your skin color, your sexuality, or your age is fine. Acknowledging the skin color, sexuality, or age of others is fine; treating them like shit because of it is not.

          Building a common identity around sexuality, as in these games, is not ‘reducing’ asexual folk to their sexuality – there’s nothing demeaning about it. This kind of “aren’t the NAACP the real racists, huh? Huh?! Think about it.” schtick is real old.

          Plus the op got all kinds of things wrong – ‘sexism’ doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality, and being a eunuch says nothing about sexual preference.

    • April March says:

      I wish language worked the way you think it does. It’d be a lot easier to learn foreign languages, and people would never shout the dictionary at each other in a discussion.

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    Serrit says:

    I’d not seen the term “aromantic” before. I stumbled across Adult attachment style: dismissive avoidant a while back, which seemed to align with my own views fairly closely (particularly around being self sufficient / avoid dependencies).

    Good to see a game dev event stoking some thoughts in this area though – might have to check some of those out!

  11. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    Surprisingly pleasant comments here. Good.

    • MajorLag says:

      I know right? It’s like we’ve accidentally stumbled into an alternate reality where the internet is full of reasonable adults.

  12. KRVeale says:

    “Fantastic!” I thought. “Gladdens my bleak and terrible heart!” I thought.

    “I’m betting the comments section is a trashfire,” I thought.

    …and I was right, but *with more positive stuff mixed in than I expected.*

    I will take that as a win.

    • Fleko81 says:

      I’d take it as more than a win – having read them all i can barely see a single comment that would fall into the trashfire category. Certainly a few you “might not agree with” and at least one with debatable use of sarcasm but barely anything which looks intended to light a flame
      I wonder if that’s in part the nature the particular topic – as has been mentioned above the concept of asexuality is sort of defined by its LACK of fervent opinion in a particular area so by definition you are less likely to engender strong moral opposition. I say this from a position of relative ignorance mind you, happy to be corrected by anyone if there are any ‘militant asexuals’ out there…

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    Aerothorn says:

    Speaking as someone who has, at various points, identified as asexual:

    A. I find the term “ace” more than a little obnoxious, and while people are free to call themselves whatever they went it’s pretty frustrating when some larger body decides it’s acceptable shorthand for all asexuals, and

    B. I strongly disagree with the argument that “it’s extremely rare to see asexual characters in games or wider media.” I’d argue the exact opposite: the outright majority of game characters are asexual, for various sociocultural reasons that don’t need to be relitigated here.

    There is probably a better way to say what the author was trying to say, which I believe is “in the limited subset of game universes that acknowledge the existence of sex, it is extraordinarily rare to have a character who overtly self-identifies as asexual.” And that’s true and worth noting (hence the jam), but it’s also restrictive; there are plenty of asexual individuals who do not publicly identify as asexual, or even know the word “asexual,” and it’s exclusionary (at best) to pretend that only people who have embraced the social identity/label are asexuals worthy of the name.

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      Great comment.

      One thing on the terminology: after getting in a few pointless internet debates with supposed allies about exactly this topic, i think this is just something we just need to suck up and deal with. Every few years the acceptable terms for people of particular sexualities or gender identities get changed under our feet, apparently by the young Americans who tend to dominate the online discourse on these issues. It’s annoying to have to strike terms from our vocabularies that we unashamedly identify with, or add new terms that we feel are unnecessary, but that’s the price we pay for keeping a dialog open with the next generation. Their negative experiences trump our positive (or neutral) experiences. For us it’s an inconvenience to have to adapt to new labels, but for the people who are actively being oppressed – who usually are the young – that label might provide a sense of community or pride they were missing before. So… whatever.

    • Brinx says:

      Not trying to get into the terminology debate here (Identity politics are very confusing, because even the people who identify as a specific identity don’t agree about the terminology, so it’s definitely difficult to find a “right” answer.)

      I don’t think I agree with you about characters in video games usually being asexual. As someone has also pointed out above, characters, whose sexuality isn’t explicitly expressed, are usually read as heterosexual “by default”. While I agree that a lot of video games don’t deal with their characters sexuality (who cares who Doom guy is attracted to), this is exactly the sociocultural problem that leads to queer people being invisible in a lot of popular culture.

      Edit: And I don’t even think it’s the game’s fault. It is a societal problem. But I like that people are trying to create something that adresses these issues.

      • Premium User Badge

        alison says:

        I’m not sure it’s right to say that game characters read as heterosexual “by default”, except to those people who consider the default to be heterosexual. There is plenty of headcanon out there that reads unspecified characters as gay, or trans, or asexual, or whatever.

        Like the OC, i am not against the idea of more explicit representation of asexuals and similar “invisible” minorities in games and other media. I think it’s great to see out and proud characters of every stripe, and there’s no doubt this jam will produce games that provide comfort to people who don’t have a role model or feel their stories are being ignored… But as someone for whom sexuality has become completely irrelevant in recent years, it’s also nice to play games and experience compelling stories where that topic really just never comes up at all.

        • TheBetterStory says:

          I’m also ace (and yes, I much prefer that term to “asexual”, which sounds clinical to me. Like calling someone gay “homosexual”). Headcanons exist for tons of characters with just about every sexuality, but that’s largely because many minority groups don’t get any explicit representation. So we have to make ours up and project it onto existing media.

          I also think it’s possible to have a character be obviously asexual without using the word, like in the third season of Bojack Horseman when Todd is asked if he’s gay and he says, “I think I’m…nothing. Is it okay to be nothing?” That was a hugely validating moment for me. It was actually less powerful when the story went on to have him explicitly identify as ace in the fourth season, but again, different strokes for different folks.

  14. teije says:

    Interesting article and some insightful comments. Thank you.

  15. Metaparadox says:

    Hi! I’m the person who started Ace Jam! Thanks for writing such a nice story on the jam and bringing more attention to the games!

  16. greener says:

    Gotta agree with others on the unfair criticism of sci-fi using aliens to represent human conditions – especially ones not currently accepted or supported in our own culture.

    Despite the author’s protestations to the contrary, it most definitely is presented as a criticism. Keeping in mind that this character dates back to 2010 those game developers were leading this charge.

    It might be fair to lament the dearth of human asexual characters but saying that using alien characters to represent asexuality is “just another way of reinforcing the idea that asexuality just isn’t a part of human nature.” is most definitely not.

    There’s two main reasons these things are often alien’ized. It’s less threatening to the audience, some of whom may harbour conscious or unconscious biases against this idea courtesy of their culture. Presenting it as part of an alien culture and something which no-one is bothered by, normalizes it. The next time they encounter this thing in the real world they’re going to be more accepting of it.

    And of course there are the organisations which are responsible for promoting and maintaining these negative biases. Representing these ideas via alien characters undermines their efforts to censor them.

  17. Scarab83 says:

    Why are you assuming 90% of video game characters who don’t blatantly scream about their sexuality aren’t already asexual.