Video games have grown up a lot in the last few years, “but we still haven’t seen the kind of normalization [of LGBT characters and story lines] that we’ve seen in movies and on TV for some time,” laments Brenda Brathwaite, a veteran game designer and the author of Sex in Video Games. “We still haven’t had our Brokeback Mountain moment.”

Actually, it could be argued -- and quite convincingly -- that video games haven’t yet had their Birdcage moment. After all, the few LGBT characters and story lines that find their way into today’s titles tend to showcase stereotypes that haven’t been big-screen staples for a few decades.

Still, gay gamers are given more to work with than they were in the past. Case in point: Persona 4, a role-playing game released late last year for the PlayStation 2. The title features what many consider the first character in a mainstream video game to confront his homosexuality in a realistic and meaningful manner.

Another recent release, Fable II for the Xbox 360, takes things a few steps further by allowing players to hit on, have sex with, and even marry members of the same gender.

“That’s a fantasy that hasn't been fully realized in the real world,” says David Edison, an editor at So not only is the title ahead of the times in terms of video games, “it's ahead of the actual times.”

The medium should make even more strides this fall when Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony is released for the Xbox 360. Although no one outside the offices of developer Rockstar North knows how much gay content will make it into the game -- only the titular Tony is a given at this point -- Edison believes it will be groundbreaking nonetheless.

“Whether they’re gay or straight or black or white,” he says, gamers “will see the word gay every time they look at [the title].”