Mass Effect 3 Unlocks Gayness

Saturday 8 October 2011, 8:24 pm   ////  

In the Mass Effect series, you get all the intensity of a first-person shooter combined with a sprawling space-opera plot arc. And, the games have another aspect as well: As pan-galactic dating sims.

In the first two games, your customizable human, Commander Shepherd, who is the same paragon or renegade badass whether he’s black or white, male or female, can get it on with select characters. However, even though this is the way-far future sort of world in which there’s no problem with romance between beings from different planets, she or he can basically have only heterosexual relationships.

(Okay, she, if your Shepherd is female, can hook up with an alien character who looks quite a bit like a female human. But it’s made clear that your xenophilia isn’t, stricly speaking, homosexual, it’s just a pheremone thing with this hot alien who is not really a chick anyway.)

In May, the news broke that Mass Effect 3, still forthcoming, will support gay. So, everyone should stop teabagging their opponents in Halo 3 for a moment and celebrate this newfound progressive inclusiveness, right?

Well … the thing is, Mass Effect is a series. (Or franchise, really, with spin-offs … but let’s keep things simple.) The two main games released so far are strongly linked, with great effort made to connect the first to the second game – via importation of a character or play-through of an interactive comic. In the new game, Shepherd is definitely supposed to be the same guy (or butch woman, if you picked that option) that he or she was in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.

Which means that if Mass Effect 3 is the first game to support homosexuality … and players choose to take this option … it could suggest that the stress of saving the living universe has somehow turned Shepherd gay.

Unless, I suppose, Shepherd really was before, and you simply have turn somewhere else, other than your XBox or PS3, to read about it.


  1. Which means that if Mass Effect 3 is the first game to support homosexuality

    By no means. :) Dragon Age 2 has a gay romance option (if you build up enough “romance points” with someone of the same gender in your party).

    Even better, though — lots of people whined about how “the Straight Male gamer” demographic is “neglected” by this choice, resulting in a powerful reply from BioWare that includes the word “privilege”, which is a level of discourse that I was never expecting to see from a games company. Here’s the original post and BioWare reply:

    And an Ars Technica article about the whole thing:

    • Chris.
    Comment by Chris — 2011-10-08 @ 10:55 pm
  2. Thanks for the links, Chris, which are great ones. In this case, when I wrote “… if Mass Effect 3 is the first game …” I meant the first game in the Mass Effect series, not the first game evar.

    Comment by Nick Montfort — 2011-10-08 @ 11:09 pm
  3. I prefer to think Shepard has just been on a journey of personal discovery. He’s always had those feelings but was confused and ashamed by them. Until now.

    If you want to talk weird sexual politics, the Shepard / Tali option is pretty creepy. In the first game she’s basically a teenager and you play a paternal role. Then in the second game you seduce your former ward and convince her to risk death from infection in order to get it on with you. It felt really coercive.

    Comment by Nelson Minar — 2011-10-09 @ 10:35 am
  4. […] one of the more interesting posts on the blog was about Identity through sexuality in games. The article we read by Consalvo, “Hot Dates and Fairytale Romances” addressed […]

    Pingback by Blog Update 1 « Ashlyn's Blog — 2011-10-11 @ 9:09 pm

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