Saints Row might be Grand Theft Auto’s zanier cousin, but the series was quite progressive for the time.
If anyone needs to hear this: There are spoilers for the storylines of the Saints Row games in this article. Like, almost immediately.
Saints Row is in a weird position.
It’s one of those almost-obscure games series that most gamers have heard of but most non-gamers haven’t. Contrast and compare to the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, for example. That’s also a good way to explain it to non-gamers: It’s like GTA, but if GTA had gotten progressively weirder with each sequel.
Saints Row: You’re a male gang leader who roams around the city doing activities to gain territory.
Saints Row 2: You’re a gang leader who roams around the city doing activities to gain territory, but this time you can choose to play a female (the next two games also provide that choice).
Saints Row The Third: You’re a gang leader who roams around the city doing activities to gain territory and ultimately claims the city as your own thereby creating a city-state in modern America. One of the vehicles you can fly is an alien spacecraft.
Saints Row IV: You’re the President of the United States until an alien invasion destroys Earth, then you roam around in cyberspace doing activities to rescue your companions so you can all find another planet to settle. One of the weapons uses the power of dubstep to destroy organic objects.
Saints Row – Gat Out Of Hell: You can play one of two predetermined characters (a male or a female) who roam around the afterlife doing activities to save the player character from the previous game, ultimately defeating Satan himself. One of the cutscenes is a Disneyesque musical number.
Yes, you read that correctly: One of the cutscenes is a Disneyesque musical number.
Check it out below!
Saints Row Is Friendly To Trans Players
I mean, that doesn’t affect me personally, but I can dig it. As a ‘wider gentleman’, I appreciate the game letting me choose to have the type of body I have in real life. Obviously that’s not the exact same thing, but I’m talking about basic representation. That’s the genius of the Saints Row series – letting the player customise away to their hearts content means I don’t need some game developers to represent me, I can just do it myself.
I mentioned before that you can play male or female players, but Saints Row goes further than that. It allows you to change your gender midgame, as many times as you want. It goes even further, too: The clothing, hairstyles, and even the voices aren’t tied to gender.
You want to play as a fat dude who wears T-shirts and jeans? Go for it!
You want to play a buffed woman who wears business suits? Go off!
You want to roleplay a drag queen who likes to wear evening gowns on their missions and change their wigs inbetween missions? Get stuck in, the game will allow that!
There are even Fursuits. What’s more, the female player from Gat Out Of Hell is canonically a Furry. It’s not even played for laughs, it’s just an offhanded comment she says at one point in the game.
And you can swap between all those characters by simply visiting the plastic surgeon. Well, I mean – not literally, you can’t save your character settings and just reload them. You can remake your character from scratch though, at basically anytime you feel like it.
While most of that stuff doesn’t really affect me, I’m glad that others can represent themselves too. Not bad for a game that existed long before trans rights became a common talking point.
Saints Row Features Same-Sex Romance scenes
The thing that confuses me the most about the Saints Row series isn’t the weird way that they never settled on a convention for naming the sequels, or the gun that shoots tiny brain-controlling octopodes onto unsuspecting citizens. It’s the fact that a game that could easily be purely just about violence is also very accepting of same sex couples.
If they hadn’t have added same-sex romance scenes to Saints Row IV, nobody would have made too much of a noise at the time. But they did add same-sex romance scenes.
Well, ‘romance scene’ is probably a bit of a misnomer.
Let’s take Kinzie (our aforementioned furry friend), for instance. After you do enough missions for her, you get the option to ‘romance’ her. It’s been a long time since I dated, but I don’t remember this being how flirting works:
The Boss (the player character): Hey Kinzie – wanna fuck?
Kinzie: Let’s go! *punches The Boss in the face and jumps on them*
And then the screen fades out because this game has more class than most TV shows.
It’s the exact same scene if you’re male or female.
Is that lazy, genius, or both?
You’ll notice that the hardcore gangster (who, fun fact, is still technically the President of the United States) very clearly asks for consent. Sure – it wasn’t very smooth, but it was still there.
Keith David is in this game, as himself.
You could, no matter your gender, go and have consensual intimate relations with Keith David, RIGHT NOW.
There’s also a sentient robot you could shtoink too, if you’re that way inclined.
But I mean, come on now – it’s KEITH DAVID.
Your Gang Doesn’t Care About Your Demographics
Your gang doesn’t react any differently if you’re a male, a female, a trans person, black, white, asiatic, hispanic, or (as my teachers used to say) pink with purple polka dots. They respect you for your actions, not your physical appearance or anything else like that.
If the Saints Row series were roleplaying games, this would probably be a mark against them. However, it’s not, so I think it’s a mark for them.
While it can be argued that it’s probably due to lazy design, it was still a design choice. And if your design choice supports inclusivity, well – what’s not to love about that?
While I’d hesitate to call the series wholesome – you do spend a lot of time murdering people, after all – it certainly can’t be accused of being guilty of ‘bald male space marine’ syndrome.
Although you could play a bald male space marine if you wanted to, of course.
Yes, I know that Agents of Mayhem kind of takes place in the Saints Row universe, don’t @ me.