Homosexuality in Mass Effect 2

Tracey John recently interviewed some people at Bioware and among the questions asked included one about the lack of homosexual relationships in Mass Effect 2. The article had a quote from Casey Hudson, the Mass Effect 2 project lead,  We still view it as… if you’re picturing a PG-13 action movie. That’s how we’re trying to design it. So that’s why the love interest is relatively light. …

So, does that mean that homosexuality is R rated? I saw the implicit claim here that heterosexuality is PG-13, normal, but homosexuality is “dirtier” and deserves a stronger rating. I find that claim offensive. Love is good no matter the gender of the individuals. But the problem with this comment goes further than simply implying that homosexual sex is only acceptable for more mature audiences than heterosexual sex. A large problem with this quote is that Mass Effect  as well as Mass Effect 2 are M RATED games! These games already have the equivalent of an R rating for movies. So, is he implying that gay sex in video games deserves an even stronger rating? Is it seen as deserving of an Adults Only rating? It was possible to have a male Grey Warden character in Dragon Age Origins have a sexual relationship with the male party member Zevran. This Bioware game was rated M, just like Mass Effect 2. Bioware has already shown that they are willing to have homosexual relationships in M rated games. So what makes Mass Effect 2 different and why the PR spin? Is it simply because they felt Mass Effect 2 would be purchased by more people than Dragon Age Origins and they did not want to offend some of those consumers? If that is the case then I would like to remind Bioware and other companies that some of their consumers are gay. We are gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, queer, male, and female and we all count as gamers.

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24 Responses to Homosexuality in Mass Effect 2

  1. xutraa says:

    I think all game developers need to think about this. Surely they have staff in all areas of their business who are all colours of the sexual rainbow, as well as having the same in their demographics. It needs to be something that is the norm, not a focus point.

    Sidenote: I was pretty annoyed that what was simple to do with male characters in DA:O was a labour of exhaustion with two female characters. I loved Leliana but could never get her to love me back :(

    • Jargo says:

      still you had the posibility somehow… my poor redbearded dwarven warrior still dreams about Alistair.

    • Mantheos says:

      Her romance is almost glitched. You have to be very careful when choosing dialogue with her. Only an exact set of them will get you to romance her. Otherwise she will just be your best friend for the whole game. Make sure you focus on her past and what Marjolaine meant to her.

    • Mantheos says:

      Leliana’s romance is practically glitched. You have to be very careful when choosing dialogue options. Only certain ones will lead to romancing her, and they’re not always obvious. If the right ones aren’t chosen, she’ll just be your best friend for the whole game. Focus on her past and what Marjolaine meant to her.

      • z says:

        I wouldn’t say it was glitched per se, but you have to be conscious of what conversation options to look out for, which isn’t always obvious…

        • Gunthera1 says:

          So not glitched, just more like real life than a video game? After some thought I am beginning to like this about her romance versus the other characters.

    • Mantheos says:

      Ooops. My first comment didn’t show up right away, so I wrote a second one. :/

    • Gunthera1 says:

      I have been thinking about how it is “difficult” to romance Leliana. I think EVERY romance in the games should be this way. They should not just work because you give the person lots of gifts or always say the nice/complimentary thing to the character. Real life relationships are not that simple. They should be more complicated and something a player could miss. It is nice to have Leliana be more particular about what she needs from the person before choosing to get into a relationship with them. I just wish that was the case with all the characters and not just her.

      • Mantheos says:

        I agree. If you could effectively do that in a game, then I’m all for it. I guess glitched was an incorrect word, but there is a problem with Leliana’s romance. If you don’t choose an exact set of dialogue options (and they are not obvious) then she will not romance you. She is not offended or does not specifically refuse to romance you, it just won’t come up and her approval of you will inexplicably remain “friendly.”

  2. Jargo says:

    I was always a bit puzzled why a quite similar game from the same developer and the same publisher has no homosexuality at all in it while dragon age has it.

    Are fantasy RPG players more open-minded then SciFi players ?
    Or do bioware/ea think they are ?
    Or is this just a personal thing of the designers/authors/producers ?

    • Jayle Enn says:

      It’s almost certainly a developer/producer decision. Historically, science fiction has spent a lot more time exploring variations in culture, sexuality and gender identity than fantasy fiction has.

    • Gunthera1 says:

      It was 2 different groups within Bioware that worked on each game. But the inclusion of homosexuality in Dragon Age shows that Bioware as a whole is willing to have it in their games which just makes the lack of it in Mass Effect more painful.

    • Mantheos says:

      Mass Effect 2 is a blockbuster title, more so than Dragon Age. The decision not to include homosexuality in Mass Effect 2 probably came from EA. They are a corporation and therefore are concerned about sales and probably thought that having homosexuality in a game would lead to bad press. I don’t agree or think it’s right, but that’s probably why they did it.

      • Jargo says:

        Bioware is also a corporation and concerned about sales ;)

        And Dragon Age was published by EA too. I think its because ME2 was a bit more of a shooter and EA and/or Bioware where concerned that the average shooter player could have more problems with homosexuality then rpg players in general.

        But also it could be a personal thing of the person in charge of the project.

      • Gunthera1 says:

        “Concerned about sales” Such an easy way to exclude anything but the straight, white, male “default”. Perhaps that is why companies sometimes need reminding that straight, white males are not the only consumers.

  3. Jayle Enn says:

    Developer intent doesn’t necessarily coincide with eventual ESRB rating, but that doesn’t excuse the baffling inference that homosexual relationships are more ‘adults only’ than heterosexual ones.

    Of course at the same time, a female Shepherd can have a really obviously telegraphed lesbian fling with her cabin girl, so ‘PG-13′ is probably code for ‘we’re selling this mainly to hetero teen males who think girls kissing is awesome, but are terrified of seeing another man’s penis’.

  4. Mantheos says:

    What Casey Hudson should have said was that you see more heterosexual romance in the mass media and that homosexual romance is more awkward in the media. I don’t think that should be the case, but that’s what it currently is. Every time there’s a homosexual relationship in a movie or tv show, there’s a “gasp” and buzz about how daring the director and producers are in tackling such a hotbutton issue. I think that the social issues that come with depicting homosexual romance are what make it more mature, not the romance itself. Personally, I don’t think there should be a difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships in the media.

    Regarding Casey’s rating system, I don’t agree with him because the Mass Effect series is a mature series more than capable of handling that subject matter. I think EA pulled the strings and reduced the romance content because they don’t want more Fox News “coverage.”

  5. Sara Pickell says:

    What gets on my nerves about all of this is that when I’m playing the game itself, it doesn’t feel like they didn’t include the lesbian relationships. It feels like somebody came back with a black highlighter and crossed it out just before someone actually professed their love.

    • Well, the conversational path for romance option characters is designed to lead to a romance. So, if your Shepard is the same gender as the romance option character, you’ll follow the same line of conversation up to the point where a differently gendered Shepard would be able to move it on to a romance, but you won’t have that option (with some variations, notably Jack, who will note that she has had sex with women, but states that she doesn’t want to have sex with you). So in most cases it’s like the last bit of the road was never built.

      That said, you can have something a bit like a lesbian relationship – Kelly Chambers can be induced to act as a kind of romance option, and one other character is possible – but it’s not in either case treated in the same way as the “proper” romance options.

    • Ahem. Slightly horrified realisation that “proper’ above might suggest that heterosexual relationships are “proper’ and non-heterosexual relationships “improper”. Not my intention at all – rather, that the female-female relationships are being presented differently in game terms – they are quicker to achieve, they don’t open up a new dialogue afterwards, are treated in the script as less “serious”, and so on. In short, if you thought the Liara/female Shepard romance option in Mass Effect 1 was there for titillation, this is not likely to change your position.

      (There’s another element which it’s hard to go into for fear of dropping spoilers, but the characterisation of bisexuals as either sexually ravenous or morally lacking is also a real issue here.)

  6. Shy says:

    The lack of it was pretty strange, considering that I had played Dragon Age just a week or so before Mass Effect 2. Plus, my Shepard had romanced Liara in the last game, so I had assumed she was gay. Now it turns out she just has a thing for aliens in general. Live and learn!

    It seems to me like it would be super easy to put the relationships in–there’s already dialogue for it, and they wouldn’t have to animate that much–so I suspect the decision was because Mass Effect is a much more high-profile game that might attract less open-minded elements of our gaming community. It might be easier to take the options out, allowing Shepard to stay a manly man, than invite potential trouble by putting it in.

  7. 12Sided says:

    I heard a rumour somewhere that Tali and Thane were originally going to be romance-able by either gender Shepard but this ended up being cut.
    (which would have made Bisexual-Assassin 2 for 2 funnily enough)
    It’s also odd because Spoiler/ apparently if you talk to Mordin near the end without locking in any romance options he assumes you want to start a relationship with him and turns down female or male Shepard and even talks about this happening a lot -even with Krogans-/Spoiler so it’s not like they’ve erased male homosexuality entirely from the universe which again makes the lack of option for the player that much more confusing/annoying

    • Gunthera1 says:

      I have a friend that also had an “interesting” exchange with Jack during the game. Her character (a female Commander Shepard) had been with Liara in the first game and did not romance anyone in the second game. But she did try to find out more about Jack’s character and so had several conversations with her. At one point Jack decided that meant she was hitting on her and got upset at Shepard. Another comment about homosexuality and not a positive one.

  8. Lina says:

    Late response is late.

    Can’t figure out how to respond to 12Sided above, but it seems to be true for Thane at least — the French version had apparently even recorded it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d_7VRl87E0). I had heard similar rumours regarding Miranda as a romance option for either m/f Shep.

    Jack responds to female Shepard talking too her too much (as if she’s trying to romance her) by saying that she’s not into the “girl’s club” thing. Her response didn’t seem crude, however, just very curt and Jack. Earlier on, though, Jack does make reference to having been with at least one man and a woman. (I was a bit disappointed that my female Shepard couldn’t romance Jack, especially after the aforementioned comment early on, but that’s that. I’ve known men and women who’ve dated both men and women before and have decided that one or the other was it for them; it didn’t seem too unrealistic and Jack wasn’t harsh about it at all.)

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