featuring gay marriage and visible gaydar--is the most inclusive video game ever created

When asked to picture a video game hero, few would imagine a pregnant, cross-dressing lesbian. But Fable II, the long-anticipated sequel to the 2004 role-playing game role-playing game, gives players a wealth of options to customize their protagonist. And in keeping with the original version, it even offers garners the ability to pursue same-sex relationships with their characters. The game has added female protagonists and a host of potential real-world complications, including the option to have protected or unprotected sex-and the attendant possibilities of pregnancy or STDs. However, perhaps the most intriguing new Fable feature remains squarely in the realm of fantasy: a visible, on-screen "gaydar" that identifies characters as straight, gay, or bisexual as they're approached.

"It's kind of a no-brainer for us," explains game designer Peter Molyneux Peter Molyneux, whose U.K.-based Lionhead Studios produces the Fable series. "We allow you the freedom to be whoever you want to be; it seemed natural to allow you to choose your sexuality."

When Fable premiered, it was part of a new wave of games (including The Sims, the bestselling PC game in history) that allowed players to design a gay protagonist. Now, with ever more diverse games--such as Bully, set in a boarding school--making the feature more commonplace, the Fable team felt it necessary to increase the options available to gay players.

Just as important, says Lionhead community manager Sam Van Tilburgh, "we've written lines specifically for same-sex relationships." Van Tilburgh, who is 27 and gay himself, runs the game's online presence and manages the forums where players interact on a daily basis. He admits that designers of the 2004 game didn't think through all the potential choices gay players might make, so when two men engaged in an on-screen romantic rendezvous, "the sounds that played were a little bit feminine," he says. "Now, when you go into the hanky-panky, you actually get lines that play appropriately."

Though special attention like that will no doubt make the game a hit with gay garners, both Molyneux and Van Tilburgh concede that not everyone is a fan of Fable's same-sex options.

Van Tilburgh says that opposition mainly comes from "religious groups sending messages or writing on the forum because we allow gay relationships. However, Molyneux and Van Tilburgh are hopeful that an inclusive series like Fable will lead to change in the video game world. Molyneux, who is British, says, "I don't know the complete story of sexual liberation in America, but certainly in Europe, especially places like Germany, Holland, and the U.K., it's not a big thing."