Thursday, April 18, 2024

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes should make good with gay men

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is edging closer and closer to release, and while I’m very excited to see what this new iteration of a favourite game of mine has in store, I can’t help but wonder if this will be the entry that will make good with gay men.

Back before Fire Emblem: Three Houses was released in 2019, a preview playthrough of the game made us originally believe that both queer men and women would be able to find love without restriction, that no matter who you were, the people you got to know would still find some sort of romantic interest in you. This, sadly, turned out to be far from the truth. Instead of a romantic connection for gay men and women, limitations were found waiting around every corner.

Criticism of the handling of queer men within Three Houses soon came to light, and justifiably so. Accusations of queer baiting are one thing, but the lack of inclusion for queer men outside of characters who were either steeped in stereotypes, or married to women made it a game that felt insensitive at best and downright cruel at worst.

Eventually, more options for gay, male Byleths were added. The first was Jeritza von Hrym, also known as The Death Knight – a character that didn’t just play into the Depraved Bisexual trope more so than embraced it with bloodied, murderous hands. He was added in a free update, but could only be romanced by both male and female Byleth’s if you picked the Crimson Flower route, already limiting gay men to one house. The next character added was Yuri Leclerc, leader of the Ashen Wolves and only able to be interacted with by players who forked over some money to buy the Cindered Shadows DLC. This meant that, if you didn’t want to spend money, gay men only had two options to choose from…out of 22. That’s not great.

Claude not being bisexual? An actual crime

Now let’s rewind back a little bit by saying two things: stereotypes are not inherently bad, but they are when that’s all you’re presented with in a game that allows heterosexual players an abundance of romance options that are both varied and complex. Secondly, queer women may have done better in the romance department than men (they got Dorothea, Edelgard AND Mercedes? They won. Facts). But that doesn’t mean those options didn’t come with their own problems. But that’s a discussion for another day.

So where does this bring us for gay men and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes? The previous Fire Emblem Warriors had zero S-Supports, supports which indicate a romantic pairing between two characters, between the player character and their companions. With that in mind, it’s highly likely that S-Supports may not even be part of the new game whatsoever. But that, in my opinion, would be a huge mistake on Fire Emblem’s part. Not only would that stomp on most of the chances for queer men to be included, but it would inherently deny players one of the most rewarding parts of this anime chess game – making familiar connections that we relate to.

But more importantly, the need for queer men within Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes goes beyond the need for more gay and bisexual men representation in video games. The reality is that, despite being a setting where heteronormativity is encouraged in order for Crests to continue to pass on from person to person, a large part of Fire Emblem’s narrative is structured for the players to fight against it and remake the world with open-minded ideals. If this is the story that Intelligent Systems wants to tell, it makes very little senses for queerness to be pushed aside. It’s funny then, and rather telling, that a vocal group in the Three Houses fandom are LGBTQ+ and have shaped queerness into the game’s design. It’s why I hope that the upcoming game will remedy this mistake.

And if not? Well…I suppose there’s always fanfiction.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.