Anecdotal evidence from around the Web (always a reliable barometer of public opinion) suggests that at least a few mouth-breathing troglodytes will be giving “Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony,” the latest episode in the “GTA” universe, a pass because — gasp! — the word “gay” appears in the title. I asked around, and apparently it’s true: If you play “Ballad,” all your friends will think you’re gay, junk mail promoting cruises from Sweet and Olivia will show up at your door and your dancing ability and taste in music will improve dramatically.
Seriously, though, what if the most sensible minds in the game industry managed to turn this ugly facet of online gameplay to the advantage of reasonable people everywhere? A few subtle shifts in the way the most popular titles are marketed would do a lot to trick the foul-mouthed race baiters and homophobes on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network into taking their bile to another forum, leaving the realm of online gaming to the civilized and polite. Here are a few of my ideas for tweaks to some of the most popular online games:
Any wrestling or football game: I wouldn’t be the first person to point out that both of these sports feature sweaty men in tight pants coming together in the spirit of competition. The biggest obstacle to a shift in marketing would be getting the athletes to go along with it.
“Gaylo 3”: Turn Master Chief’s armor pink, make the needler his default weapon and those fun-ruining homophobes will run for the hills.
“Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”: Of all the games on this list, the “Uncharted” franchise requires probably the least reimagining to scare off the foul-mouthed masses. It already stars a totally fit, impeccably groomed, brainy hunk who crawls, swims and jumps through ruins in search of sparkly treasure. A tweaked box cover (“Uncharted 2: Nathan’s Fabulous Hunt for Sparkly Treasure”) and adjusted marketing campaign should suffice.
“Left 4 Dead”: Reskin the game so that four gay men are blasting holes in zombified civilians in some gay-unfriendly backwater town. The dialogue for this one would practically write itself.
“Gears of War”: There are so few women in the “Gears of War” universe that I’ve taken to calling Anya Stroud, Marcus Fenix’s love interest and a lieutenant in the military, Smurfette. You do the math. You could say the same thing about women in the “Killzone” and “Halo” franchises.
“Call of Duty: World at War”: The next World War II-centered video game from Activision would shift from the Pacific theater back to the more shopworn Europe. You’d be fighting Nazis again, but the bulk of your mission would be liberating death camps full of oppressed minorities, including gay people.