Water Cooler Games
Water Cooler Games served as the web's primary forum for "videogames with an agenda" — coverage of the uses of video games in advertising, politics, education, and other everyday activities, outside the sphere of entertainment.
The site was maintained at watercoolergames.org
from 2003-2009, where it was edited by myself and Gonzalo Frasca
. It is now archived here in full.
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No Marriage, Gay or Otherwise, in Middle Earth
by Ian Bogost April 28, 2007
One of our more popular posts here on Water Cooler Games is a mention three years ago about gay marriage in The Sims 2. Just last week, Turbine and Midway released The Lord of the Rings Online, sure to become an absurdly over-discussed and possibly popular massively multi-player game. The debate seems to have begun around the very topic of gay marriage.
Today, Salon published a story by Katherine Glover: Why can't gay dwarves get married in Middle-earth?. Apparently Turbine's solution to the quandary was just to pull marriage from the game entirely. The article covers many themes, including social interaction in MMOs, gay gamers, and marriage in virtual worlds. Despite the apparent popularity of marriage -- and moreso sex -- in virtual worlds, Turbine justified the decision to axe the feature as an issue of adaptation fidelity:
"The rule that we tried to follow across the board was: if there's an example of it in the book, the door is open to explore it," [Turbine game designer Nik Davidson] says. "Very rarely will you see an elf and a human hook up, but it does happen; the door is open. Dwarves don't intermarry with hobbits; that door is shut ... Did two male hobbits ever hook up in the shire and have little hobbit civil unions? No. The door is shut."
Davidson also cites Tolkein's conservative Catholic background as further justification for the decision. I don't agree with SCAD professor and sex in games expert Brenda Brathwaite's objection that videogames require "abdicating authorship and letting a player explore a world," but I am happy to see a debate like this taking place. GayGamer calls it a "cop out"; more discussion at GamePolitics and Kotaku.
(thanks to Dakota for the link)