I finally got a hold of Fire Emblem: Awakening and it’s been great fun so far. One of the coolest newer features is the upgraded Support system, in which units that are positioned next to one another in battle grow closer and build friendships/relationships. In Awakening, you can also marry characters who have reached the highest level compatibility rating. This doesn’t, however, include people of the same gender.
On first glance this seems like the typical exclusion of gay people from video games that we’re all used to. However, there is a feature in this game called the “Hubba Tester” that basically rates how compatible any two units are, and it includes (and frankly seems to mostly favor) units of the same gender. For instance, if you want to see how the player character Robin and the hero Chrom are getting along, it might have little green friendly arrows pointing from one to the other with a brief feeling attached to each like “Relaxed Around” and “Best Friend,” or it may be two pink arrows covered in hearts with descriptions like “First Love” or even “Loins Afire,” and this happens just as often for gay pairings as it does for straight pairings. Old Hubba even adds a comment after every reading and openly condones the homosexual behavior, pointing out how it’s getting hot in here if two girls are in love, or saying “Whatever floats yer boat” or “I’m not here to judge” for two guys. And this isn’t just pre-programmed dialogue that works for any two couples, there are specific things he says for male-male couples and female-female couples, and the game DOES exclude certain relationships, like those between brother and sister.
It’s not perfect. And yes, I would really, really like the ability to marry some of the characters to other characters of the same gender. But without giving away too much of the story, suffice it to say that for storyline purposes, married couples need to be able to breed and produce a kid who inherits their stats and abilities, and even I think it would get a bit complicated if you had to find a third-person Fire Emblem surrogate. I’m not saying that it isn’t unfair that gay pairings can’t get married in this game, I’m just saying that this aspect of the game seems to be getting bad press from certain bloggers, with one even suggesting that because the game only allows coupled that can breed to marry, it implies that relationships exist only for procreation in the view of the Fire Emblem creators. I highly doubt that. Now, I think it would have been a great and fair thing to allow anyone to marry anyone, but only those that can breed to have children, but I haven’t even reached the point in the game that involves children, so I don’t know how it’s supposed to work entirely.
At any rate, the fact that the programmers of Fire Emblem: Awakening specifically programmed the love-tester to measure romance between people of any gender, and programmed them with support conversations that are actually somewhat homoerotic but still left up to interpretation (try Miriel and Sully and see what happens) shows that they weren’t entirely ignoring the gay community or the idea that their characters might be gay. While nothing explicitly homosexual ever happens in the game, and gay couples can’t marry even in a fantasy world, I have to admit it’s still fun to see which boys are into each other.