So... You may have heard that Mortal Kombat X has introduced the series' first confirmed homosexual character: Kung Jin [pictured right].

Quickly after launch, Mortal Kombat Online began receiving enthusiastic submissions from key interest websites [eg; @UKGaynews] - all eager to share and assert the breaking headline. While firsts of any kind are always interesting, we weren't so sure we wanted to dedicate coverage to this one.

There were a few factors behind the hesitation -- an intent to hold-off on detailed content spoilers, chief among them.

We also weren't entirely certain the claims were true, or even in need of special acknowledgment. Then news broke of Marvel Comics preparing to announce popular X-Men character - Iceman - will be gay after fifty-two years of publication. In this adjacent pop culture news, the real importance of Kung Jin became immediately crystallized.

First - clarification. We say Kung Jin is a "confirmed" homosexual character. Uncovering the intent behind the source of speculation was an important detail - one that needed more than interpretation.

It all stems from a dialogue sequence between Kung Jin and Raiden - a flashback during the Mortal Kombat X story mode. Jin is the black sheep to his family's mythic ancestor The Great Kung Lao and his contemporary heroic progeny (also Kung Lao). Raiden sees potential greatness in the now common thief, but Kung Jin lacks confidence in himself, and those charged with defending the light:

Raiden: "Go to the Wu Shi Academy. Join the Shaolin! Like Kung Lao before you." Kung Jin: "I can't. They wont... accept--" Raiden: "They care only about what is in your heart. Not whom your heart desires."

One of the first and few nods from an authoritative source came from Mortal Kombat X Cinematic Director Dominic Cianciolo. He made allusions to the subtext of story dialogue -- and the inferences being drawn by fans and industry commentators -- in a conversational Tweet to NetherRealm Sound Designer Brian Chard.

Without knowing for sure, the line doesn't immediately lend itself to interpreting Kung Jin's sexual preference. It could just as easily be a reference to the moral character of a prospective love interest, some other unspecified allegiance [see; Romeo & Juliet], or a platonic concern. It's incredibly ambiguous - and therein lies its true value.

Pop entertainment and video games are now deep in the throes of a rigorous cultural debate stemming from issues of social, racial and sexual characterization.

As video games and comic book licensing grow to inherit and dominate the forefront of popular entertainment - so too does the scrutiny of a steadily diversifying audience. The more eyes the mediums command, the more they become appropriated by new interests and imposed responsibilities. Boutique mediums traditionally dominated in the West by young, straight male demographics are now being challenged to attract and reflect existing, present, and increasingly available potential audiences. It's a necessary facet of growth - not without its pains.

The acceleration of, and assimilation into, a handheld, 24-hour digital mainstream has reshaped corporate industry, redefined social conscience, and participated in the free exchange of political discourse that blurs the picket lines between democracy and entertainment. The end result can be as cold and cynical as anything that came before it. Marvel Comics: an on-going case in point.

Comic books have become pretty notorious for their cynical manoeuvres. While cross-media properties like Avengers and X-Men may dominate the public consciousness through movies, television and mass produced wares - their home turf in four-color hasn't thrived.

The comics audience has evolved in conjunction with fifteen years of cultural conquest, but parity of gains and losses in comics readership has kept the audience small, and audible. The pulp guide to major industry has been at the forefront of the social debates that are going on now in gaming, spurring the print industry to seek new readership through loud, headline grabbing proclamations targeted at untapped demographics. Iceman is far from the first franchise character to undertake a sudden change of race, sex, or orientation in the service of headlines. He's just the latest. And as the list grows longer - often for a limited time - the clumsy, calculated insincerity of it all starts to overshadow the social benefit.

Kung Jin's sexuality in Mortal Kombat matters because it doesn't matter.

Straight Arrow: Kung Jin's sexuality is unimportant - and that's why it matters.

It would be naïve to think NetherRealm Studios and/or Warner Brothers aren't aware of the homosexual fanbase present within its die hard community. It may be reasonable to think this awareness was an influence in the decision to create a homosexual fighter. Whether the motive was pandering, or not - it's their handling of the fact that may make this one of the most sophisticated and progressive depictions of homosexuality [of this type] in quite some time.

It's difficult to say sexuality doesn't matter to Mortal Kombat. Scantily clad fighters have been an obvious trope of titillation projected toward the audience for a long time. Within the fictional context, however, one might argue there's been limited room for defining sexual orientation. Bone breaking, side-to-side battles haven't lent themselves naturally to romance. They've created a brutal form of gender equality through mutual aggression, but left most of the casts preferences unknown. By and large, it simply doesn't matter.

Kung Jin is a fully realized kombatant. Archery gives him the customary hook of a fighting game character, while his backstory and relationships inform compassionate motives, morality and a sense of identity. Aesthetically, he represents the legacy of the Eastern influences that spawned Mortal Kombat, expanding upon them, even as they become ever diminished. Being gay isn't irrelevant to the character, but it doesn't define him, either. It bucks the stereotypes that can trivialize gay characters, circumvents the creative jack-knife of arbitrary imposed quotas, and avoids the complete undermining cynicism of self-congratulatory press releases.

There's a slightly less glowing side to it. The ambiguity also eases the tension that might be felt by an immature, boof-headed segment of the still male dominated audience. For those who uncomfortably crack the code of plausible deniability, however, there may still be a valuable lesson to be learned: Kung Jin's sexual preference doesn't really matter. Which is actually a credit to NetherRealm Studios.