If you've been on the internet for a while, you will have notice how drastically our world has been changing. Within recent years, outspoken groups have been forming, usually liberal in nature, to protest the norms of our society. Personally, I view nearly most of these social justice warriors as crazy and misguided, but don't let the crazy ones cover the intelligent, meaningful communities that actually improve our society as a whole.
Issues regarding the LGBT community around the world have been popping up constantly in the news. It seems that no matter what stance you have on it, there is an army of people ready to fight you and another ready to fight for you. But the internet is different. It's far more liberal and outspoken than most places, and as such the people beliefs create a larger flame. There are also companies of all types seeking to take their stand on it, either for belief or profit, and video game companies are no exception.
I am sure we all know about EA and Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic. Though it is not the BEST example, it is the most popular. You can make your own assumptions, but EA and Bioware have for a while tried to incorporate LGBT issues into all of their games as of late. Personally, I find their method of dealing with it a little suffocating, but I know they try to mean well. It's okay for some characters to be gay, but it gets a little unrealistic when every supporting actor seems to be anything but straight (Looking at you Mass Effect). In Star Wars: The Old Republic, there is a giant gay planet. Seriously. Look it up. It's called Makeb, and it is a part of a paid expansion for the game. Apparently, every NPC that shares the same gender as the player's avatar will try and flirt with them. If that's what you're after, go for it. Have fun. Just don't dance in forbidden areas or you'll get banned. To me, I don't think that's what being gay means. Its more than just swapping pronouns and packages around.
Guild Wars 2 is another MMO that deals with LGBT issues. There is a race in the game known as the Sylvari. Each Sylvari is born from the Pale Tree; a large, sentient and to some, godly being. All Sylvari are creations of the Pale Tree and as such, there is no need for procreation. Despite this, Sylvari can have sex. Or attempt to have sex. No one is really too sure what goes on down under, but Guild Wars 2 plays on the concept that gender is a social construct, at least to the Sylvari. While you, the viewer, may have issues regarding that phrase, its completely plausible with the Sylvari. They're not humans. They're more like flowers in fact. They can be whatever they want to be. From a technical standpoint, the distinction between male and female Sylvari is really just there to dictate which base gender clothing and armor they will wear. Male and Female Sylvari do look different, but the art style depicts both genders as rather ambiguous. Even though they lack the means of procreation, Sylvari still exhibit love. Gender to them is meaningless. Many players will roleplay with this aspect. In fact, it is almost encouraged since it is lore-friendly. If you're looking for an NPC community that caters to LGBT issues, picking a Sylvari in Guild Wars 2 is your best bet.
We also have that virtual world many of you might know of called Second Life. It's a "game" that allows everyone to craft for themselves, well, a second life. Players can create and sell content to other users, giving rise to intense economies and collaborative works. Do you want your avatar to be a mecha dragon who lives in a brothel located right next to a steampunk mall and volleyball court, who on every Saturday goes to the My Little Pony kingdom to troll innocent prey? You can do that. Do you want to meet and mingle with other gay players and form lasting relationships? Sounds pretty boring compared to being a mecha dragon, but if that's your interest you can do that instead. The only issue with Second Life is that it's not a game. It's a virtual world. Yeah there are minigames here and there other people have made, but you're not going to be going on epic raids any time soon.
There are many Korean and Chinese Free to Play MMORPGs that allow for in game marriages. Personally, I find it just to be an attempt to exploit more money out of the player base, but some people seem to like it. Common practice is that two people "marry" their avatars, and as a result are given new spells and skills that usually require both of them to be near each other. The earliest MMO I can recall that did this was Ragnarok Online. It never allowed gay marriage, but Ragnarok was around far before LGBT issues came on the rise. Since then, many games have allowed a gay marriage option. Here are just a few:
Runes of Magic
Dream of Mirror Online (Now defunct)
The oddity in all of this is that the countries that make most of these games, Taiwan and South Korea, do not recognize same sex marriages. Even stranger is that South Korea is rather opposed to same-sex relations while Taiwan is roughly 50/50. In fact, most of Asia, even the "Westernized" countries like Japan and South Korea take a rather conservative stance on LGBT rights. Whether or not a game's recognition of same-sex marriages is a personal belief by the developers or a tactic to gain a higher population is up to you. Regardless, this will often mean that this will be the limit of any gay experience one will have in these games.
What people need to understand is that games of all types: MMORPG, RTS, Strategy, Shooter, RPG, don't need to promote gay rights in order to be gay-friendly. Applying equality to in game romances is the best way to exemplify a game's support of LGBT issues. Storm Spirit in Dota 2 is flaming, but I've yet to see any groups complain about his demeanor. Caithe, a female Sylvari in Guild Wars 2 was once in love with Faolin, another female Sylvari. If a game has even one heterosexual romance between NPCs in it, it should at least have a homosexual romance in it. It is unrealistic for every character to be gay, but it is absurd for every romance to be between a man and a woman. Elder Scrolls Online is apparently taking a healthy approach to this, slipping little details in here and there, such as a man mentioning his husband, or a woman mentioning her lover who turns out to be another woman.
Nearly every MMO also has its "LGBT" guilds. Before you get into any MMO title, look on Google for an LGBT guild first. There's always something, and they're always well populated. I recall there being an LGBT group on my server in Guild Wars 2, and there were all friendly people. They will often help you with real life issues if that's what you are looking for. Sometimes they'll even offer a roleplay experience that caters to your LGBT needs. Yes, even those "other" needs as well.
If you are looking for an LGBT-friendly game, I do not want to tell you to play Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online or SWTOR simply because they have LGBT characters. A game might not have any LGBT characters in it, but that doesn't make it against LGBT issues. Many LGBT stuff comes out of World of Warcraft, despite there not being a single publicized LGBT character in the game. If a game does, chances are it will be a Western title. In my experience, Asian MMO titles do not handle LGBT issues properly at all.
I am also aware that I have been neglecting the T in LGBT. Transgender issues are not exactly bits that come up often in games. Being gay is about sexuality. A gay man will identify himself as a man. Transgender is a gender issue. Thing is, nearly every MMO title that deals with avatar creation has a gender option. You're not going to get a "genderqueer" option on any title to date, but you are allowed to pick and choose which gender you want to play as. If you change your mind, you can sometimes even switch at a later date (It usually requires real money to do so though) without the need of hormones or anything. Its magic, I don't need to explain it.
My advice for anyone looking for an LGBT-friendly MMO is simple. Find an LGBT guild on a Western MMO. When I say Western, I mean North America and Europe. Try to stay away from games where the majority of the community is anything but North American or North/West European. This will help reduce conflict between you and other players, as well as being able to have supportive moderators.