Why Genshin Impact inspired so much gay fanfiction

A tribute to r/GenshinGays

Genshin Impact, miHoYo’s popular gacha RPG hybrid, boasts a thoughtfully crafted world, attractive sceneries and characters — and a big gay fanfiction community. When they’re not whaling on limited-edition banners or charting extensive team-building spreadsheets, some players take to prominent fan fiction sites like Archive of Our Own to post fan works, many of which happen to be gay.

Genshin has one of the fastest-growing video game fandom communities. Since its worldwide release, the game amassed over 11K stories on AO3 alone. AO3 primarily hosts slash, or male-on-male, stories. Labelled as M/M, these works feature same-sex relationships between male characters. Femslash, or F/F, and heterosexual fanfics are a minority. Genshin’s AO3 numbers rival those of long-standing fandoms like Final Fantasy VII, Super Danganronpa 2, and Assassin’s Creed. Even then, fandoms within its range don’t necessarily have as much gay fanfiction. Most of Genshin’s top pairings are M/M, though it also has a reasonable F/F archive.

There’s no single reason for all the gay fanfiction. Pairings might share emotionally intimate history, appear in multiple cutscenes together, or check off a bunch of romantic tropes. Many pairings build off of established relationships in the canon. Sources like trailers, voice lines, and character profiles also influence fanfics. These are only a few reasons that light up a fanfiction writer’s imagination. 

At this time, Childe/Zhongli tops AO3 listings as the most popular pairing under the Genshin Impact tag. Chapter One introduces Childe and Zhongli as unlikely business partners. Childe doesn’t find out until the end of the chapter that Zhongli is the Geo Archon. Furthermore, he had the gnosis, a powerful charm that Childe had been searching for, in his possession the entire time. According to Childe’s voice lines, he’s still salty about it. 

Fans thrive off the different angles the story offers to tackle Childe and Zhongli’s relationship. The enemies-to-lovers trope especially stands out, considering their adversarial relationship in the canon. Some fans like to joke about Childe being Zhongli’s “sugar daddy” because of how poorly the Geo Archon manages his money. Others play with their contrasting personalities — Childe comes off as a trickster while Zhongli seems like more of a gentleman. 

Kaeya and Diluc, or Kaeluc, is the second most popular pairing on AO3. Their character profiles detail their complicated history. Diluc’s father adopted Kaeya when they were younger, so they grew up as brothers. Or, at least, the English translation calls them “brothers.” Chinese fans have been quick to call out that the word in the original version actually means “sworn brothers,” which is more similar to best friends. Even though they’re not related by blood, some fans are squicked out that the English translation canonises them as siblings. 

Diluc/Kaeya especially appeals to fans who enjoy hot-and-cold relationships. Diluc, who fits the jerk with a heart of gold trope, sets off several tsundere radars with his harsh demeanor towards Kaeya. He comes to save him in Prologue Act I from a Cryo Abyss Mage, though he complains about the Knight of Favonius while doing so. He says that he sees no reason to “cling to things that have outlived their purpose,” yet he keeps the vase Kaeya gave him. Kaeya tosses back teasing responses that fan the flames even more.

Jean/Lisa, the most popular F/F ship on AO3, also follows the opposites attract rule. However, their relationship has a more friendly foundation compared to Childe/Zhongli and Kaeya/Diluc. They work closely with each other in the Knights of Favonius with Jean as the Acting Grand Master and Lisa as the librarian.

The two of them complement each other in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Jean is a typical Type A personality–hardworking, organised, and punctual. On the other hand, Lisa doesn’t care to do more than she has to. Despite these differences, the two respect and admire each other. One of Jean’s character stories mentions Lisa suggesting that she take a break to “enjoy some afternoon tea.” Lisa, in turn, admits that Jean’s work ethic inspires her. Jean’s Daily Schedule – Ver. XVII, an unlockable story, reveals that they eat breakfast together. Shippers also enjoy Lisa’s Good Morning quote, where she expects to see Jean but instead finds the Traveller. 

Chlide/Zhongli, Kaeya/Diluc, and Jean/Lisa only represent a small sample of gay ships. Other popular ones include Chongyun/Xingqiu, Ningguang/Beidou, Xiao/Venti — too many to count. Those are only the gay ones, too. Because of the limited cutscenes and interactions between characters in the game, it doesn’t take much for shippers to take a few lines of lore and run. 

Het ships do exist in the Genshin Impact community. They’re just less popular based on fanfiction numbers. There aren’t many in-depth male/female interactions in canon, which might contribute to the lack of F/M fanfiction. Childe/Lumine is the most popular het ship on AO3 with over 600 stories total. However, strictly considering canon material, Aether would have the same interactions with Childe because both he and his sister represent the game’s default protagonist. 

Either way, fanfiction writers will likely keep Genshin Impact gay so long as same-sex relationships feed into romantic fantasies.

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