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Developer asks LGBT advocates to include video games among their awards

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

This past week the LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD sharply criticized Nintendo for not including same-sex relationship options in the upcoming western release of Tomodachi Life. Now, a games developer is asking why GLAAD doesn't include video games as a category in its annual media awards.

"Wouldn't it be great to honor and recognize outstanding examples in video games who strive for inclusion, rather than weigh in on this issue in a public manner for negative reasons instead of positive ones?" writes Justin Amirkhani of Vagabond Dog, makers of the well regarded Always Sometimes Monsters.

The GLAAD Media Awards honor 39 different winners in two languages across categories such as comic books, newspapering and television programming. George Takei of Star Trek fame (pictured above) was honored with the organization's Vito Russo Award this year, given to an openly LGBT media professional for contributions to that community.

The awards' purpose, according to GLAAD, is to "recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives."

Amirkhani notes that his game is one of several - some of them large-budget, mainstream titles — depicting the LGBT community and issues facing it in an open and inclusive way. As it comes in an interactive medium, Amirkhani suggests there are technical limitations to overcome even for developers who wish to be supportive and inclusive.

"Speaking as a developer who has built a game from the ground up with this sort of freedom in mind, allow me to clarify that the sorts of options GLAAD wants to see in games do not come easily," he wrote. "We are not the first to include these choices, there are countless other games that have gone unrecognized for their inclusion over the years. Games that have sold millions upon millions of copies."

GLAAD's statement criticizing Nintendo seemed to acknowledge this, pointing out that Electronic Arts' huge series The Sims, has for some time allowed players to marry or have relationships with any other character they wish. Nintendo, in reply to GLAAD, apologized for not including same-sex relationships as an option in Tomodachi Life and promised to make future versions of the game "more inclusive."

The GLAAD Media Awards were just held in Los Angeles on April 12 and in New York on May 3. Polygon reached out to a GLAAD Awards representative for a comment on Amirkhani's open letter; any reply will be updated here.

"We, and other developers I'm sure, think it would be great for a respected, powerful organization such as GLAAD to finally recognize the positivity in the video game industry," Amirkhani wrote.