Research consistently finds that LGBTQ+ youth face discrimination, threats and rejection, particularly offline, that negatively impact their mental health and wellbeing.
Online, however, LGBTQ+ youth engage more in ways that build their resilience and create affirming communities for their peers.
At this present situation, researchers are excited to launch LEVEL UP! to capture the impact of gaming on LGBTQ+ youth given the explosion of video games in the last few years.
In launching the research, LEVEL UP!’s investigators aim to recruit 5,000 LGBTQ+ youth aged 14-29 across Canada, the USA, Mexico, the UK, and Australia. The researchers will also examine how the video game industry creates LGBTQ+ characters and tells LGBTQ+ stories within games.
Video gaming has emerged as an important activity for youth today, with estimates suggesting that 10 percent of gamers over the age of 18 identify as LGBTQ+. In 2021, the global gaming industry saw a 20 percent increase in revenue, surpassing that garnered by sports and movies.
LEVEL UP!’s researchers have also noted an increase in LGBTQ+ representation in video games, with more storylines and characters exploring LGBTQ+ themes and inclusive romance options. Games such as The Last of Us: Part 2, Assassins Creed: Valhalla and Life is Strange 3 are some examples.
LGBTQ+ youth seeing themselves meaningfully and appropriately represented within video game characters and/or storylines can be affirming and can have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
Positive LGBTQ+ representation in video games is important because, on a fundamental level, it communicates to LGBTQ+ youth that they have a place in our world.
INQYR is an interdisciplinary and multilingual international research partnership designed to understand and support the resilience of LGBTQ+ youth and young adults in an increasingly digitized world. Hosted by the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, it’s the first initiative of its kind to be funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant.