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EA supports gay youth, haters pile on hate

EA employees talk about what it was like growing up gay, lesbian and bisexual for the It Gets Better Project.
EA employees talk about what it was like growing up gay, lesbian and bisexual for the It Gets Better Project.

Electronic Arts, one of the biggest video game companies in the world, has joined a campaign to end bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teens and to offer these kids support and hope.

EA is the first gaming company to join the It Gets Better Project, which was started by columnist Dan Savage in September after several young gay people committed suicide after being bullied.

Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment, Savage pointed out in his Sept. 21 podcast. And gay teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide. The It Gets Better Project strives to let gay kids know that, despite the difficult times they might experience, life does get better and is worth living.

Since its launch, the It Gets Better project has received hundreds of videos from both gay and straight people – celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, President Barack Obama as well as companies like Pixar.

But EA – the development and publishing company that brought us game franchises like "The Sims," "Medal of Honor" and "Dead Space" – appears to be the first video game company to join the project. The company's video features a variety of their employees – from artists to database programmers – talking about their experiences growing up.

"At one time, a bully actually physically threatened me and put a knife to my neck," one employee recalls.

"Not really having anybody to talk to about it, that was probably the hardest part," explains another.

It's not easy being gay no matter what your walk of life or favorite pastime, but as any gamer can tell you, gaming communities can be especially intolerant places. Play a game online and you're sure to run into conversations laced with homophobic slurs and insults. Meanwhile, the number of games that feature gay or lesbian characters and relationships are very few indeed.

For a glimpse into the hatred that runs rampant in gaming (and admittedly, in lots of other places too) take a look at of the comments posted on YouTube after EA made their video public.

"This video is disgusting, I'm never buying another EA product ever again, [deleted] homosexual agenda. I urge all parents to keep any EA games from their children to prevent them to be AIDS-spreading, Satan-loving scum," wrote one viewer.

"Homos ruined GAMING," wrote another.

"Ever bought an EA game? Then you're a [deleted] FAGGOT," writes yet another.

And that's just the beginning.

While gaming websites and blogs like Kotaku, Game Informer and GamePro have posted supportive articles about the EA video, many of their readers were less than enthusiastic (surprise, surprise).

"If you want equality don't call attention to yourselves, believe it or not you don't deserve special treatment," wrote one Kotaku commenter.

"Thats disgusting – Time to boycott EA," wrote one GamePro commenter.

Haters and homophobes aside, many gamers have been supportive of the EA video. At Kotaku.com, players chimed in with their own stories of growing up gay, feeling confused and dealing with harassment.

"As a transsexual myself, I can say:  It gets *somewhat* better," wrote one Kotaku commenter.

Meanwhile, one Game Informer reader said, "It's good to see stuff like this. As a soldier it hurts me to see such bigotry in the country I'm fighting for. We've got enough people outside the country who hate us, why hate each other? Rock on, EA."

Indeed, kudos to EA for sharing their employees' stories of harassment and of hope. These are the people who've helped make and publish some of our favorite games. Their experiences need to be heard.

As one EA employee says, "Keep in mind it absolutely gets better and the things that you love and the things about you that you think are weird might actually turn out to be the best traits you have."

Meanwhile, you can visit the It Gets Better Project here.

And check out The Escapist's excellent video discussion about the importance of sexual diversity in gaming.

For more on this topic, check out:
'FrontierVille' players create 650,000 same-sex marriages
Xbox Live gamer suspended for saying he lives in Fort Gay
Video game sex that's sexy, not sophomoric

Winda Benedetti writes about games  for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter.