Monday, May 20, 2024

Crusader‌ ‌Kings‌ ‌3‌ ‌Can’t‌ ‌Conceive‌ ‌of‌ a ‌Gay‌ ‌Family‌ ‌

Crusader Kings 3’s obsession with bloodlines means arranged heterosexual marriages are the norm – even if you’re gay.

More and more video game developers are designing with an eye for being inclusive, and Crusader Kings 3 is no different. A grand strategy game set in medieval times, Crusader Kings 3 aims for authenticity, but not at the expense of inclusivity thanks to a plethora of options you can use to customize your game how you see fit. This includes making homosexuality more accepted or even the dominant sexuality in the game. But at least, in this case, inclusivity only goes so far, as the main mechanics of bloodlines, dynasties, and passing traits to the next generation take precedence over giving queer players the power to play their way. In doing so, developer Paradox unintentionally touches on a sore spot for many in the queer community: having kids and the validity of nontraditional families.

Crusader Kings 3 is a strategy game about being a ruler of a piece of land in the time of the crusades. And while there’s a lot to do with wars and raising armies, Crusader Kings 3 is a game mainly concerned with people and relationships – inheritance lines, how different traits in different people mesh, leveraging relationships to increase your dominion over land. It also is a great engine for roleplaying as a ruler, with random events interspersed that weaves a narrative in concert with your strategic machinations.

Of course, equality wasn’t something the Middle Ages was known for, meaning certain people would have a worse time seeing themselves in the game as things stood in actual history. That’s why it’s so refreshing that Paradox included a great number of options to customize each game with. The key options here are ones that give a leg up to people who were traditionally minimized during those times – namely, women and gay people. You could make a game where women dominate instead of men, or a world where almost everyone is homosexual, even going as far as making the world be accepting of homosexual relations by default.

In Crusader Kings 3, you’re able to fall in love with same-sex characters but marriage is out of the question.

Firing up a game of Crusader Kings 3 with a world that’s accepting of a population that’s mostly homosexual, however, is immediately a strange experience, not because of what’s different, but rather because of what’s the same. Upon checking your ruler’s dashboard, you’ll notice that your spouse is of the opposite sex. This is true even if your sexuality is homosexual. When you try to arrange a marriage between two people, you can only form heterosexual unions. The game still acknowledges you’re gay by letting you have relationships with people who aren’t your spouse. It’s just that you can’t have a spouse of the same gender, and any relationships outside of that union are considered adultery, which your kingdom’s faith may frown on even if they are accepting of homosexuality in general.

A gay playthrough will look a lot like a straight playthrough in that, in order to continue to play the game after your current leader dies off, you’ll need to have an heir assigned from within your family, which can include blood relations or people you’ve absorbed into your dynasty through marriage. This limitation may not make much sense at first – you could very easily create a system that allows for a dynasty to be built on a series of gay marriages –  but it becomes crystal clear once you realize that homosexual relationships disrupt Crusader Kings 3’s heavy focus on the importance of bloodlines in the way traits are passed between generations and the heterosexual unions that make them possible.

What this fails to consider is the very real trauma surrounding gay people and their lack of ability to have children in the same way as a heterosexual couple can. The idea that someone can only be family if they have the same blood as you has poisoned so much of society, and indeed, the lack of a traditional way to have children has been wielded against gay people as a bludgeon many times.

It’s impossible to have a solely same-sex family tree in Crusader Kings 3.

Being incapable of having a traditional family has been used against me multiple times, in fact. The worst part is how much of that doesn’t and shouldn’t matter, as gay people can have children in other ways that are equally as valid – adoption and surrogacy being two popular options. What’s more, the concept of a chosen family is so integral to queer life that representation without that aspect rings hollow. But the fact that the idea of the traditional family keeps being used against us means it continues to be a sore spot no matter how much it shouldn’t matter. When it feels like the whole world is screaming at you that you’ll never have this idealized construct, it tends to take a toll.

Whatever justifications are in place shouldn’t stand in the way of gay people being able to truly see themselves in the game. We deserve the ability to rule a fictional history as gay kings or queens. We are worthy of building families and dynasties on our own terms and not through the flimsy excuse of bloodlines. If companies are going to commit to diversity to the degree that Paradox seemingly has, then they need to go all the way in their options. Otherwise we’ll still feel like second-class citizens in a world built for the straights.

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