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Mass Effect 3 Really Needs A Few Gay Space Marines

Garrus Romance.jpg

With Mass Effect 3 landing in stores tomorrow, we'll soon get the answers to all of our burning questions. How can we drive off the reapers, whom have already won this battle and cleansed the universe countless times before? Why would anyone stand in Commander Shepard's way when the galaxy hangs in the balance?

And will we finally get implicitly gay romance options?

By implicitly gay, I mean a character or characters that can only be romanced by a Shepard of the same sex. Not bisexual characters, not monosexed aliens that don't have gender concepts, not this "in your story, they can be gay" stuff, but characters that are always gay whether you pursue them or not. It's the next logical step for Bioware.

Sure, female Shepard's had the chance to dance around with Kelly Chambers, and everyone can get freaky with the various Asari squadmates between Mass Effect 1 and 2, but never has Bioware's space opera given gay gamers much of a nod.

Despite what little options already exist, the second game requires a heterosexual romance to unlock the Paramour achievement. Even more insulting, the original Mass Effect was slated to have homosexual options for Ashley and Kaiden, but they were removed during production. The voices for the conversations still hide on the disk, though, waiting for steamy scenes that will never come.

But maybe Mass Effect 3 can make up for all that. After executive producer Casey Hudson tweeted last May that the game would "support wider for love interests, including same-sex options for male and female characters," fans have argued about continuity issues and fairness across the internet.

The argument 's core lies around the idea of personal authorship, the fact that certain key parts of the story are filled in by the player through their actions, and how new gay options could affect people's previous character ideas. Some even claimed that allowing these romances would cheapen the narrative experience.

Well, excuse me, but as one of many gay gamers who wish Garrus would look our way once in a while, I have to call bullcrap. There already exist plenty of limitations in the story; straight gamers just don't have to deal with a lot of it.

Out of the 12 romances so far in the Mass Effect series, eight are always heterosexual encounters. Nothing can change that, no matter how much your male Shepard likes Kaiden or your FemShep wants to dig beneath Tali's environmental suit. Yet, those choices don't "cheapen" the narrative or limit the player significantly in most people's eyes.

Implicit sexualities are already part of Bioware's fictions, even in the lauded Dragon Age 2 (remember, Sebastian only has eyes for the ladies). So adding a teammate or two that only wants to get down with the Commander at the end of the rainbow wouldn't upheave or even alter the existing systems, but rather add a touch of realistic equality.

Yes, realistic. It makes zero sense that everyone the commander gets to know would want to sex him/her across the stars. Romance has more sides than just flirting, true love, and harem fantasies - there is also unrequited passion and outright rejection, which blocking off some romance options can create.

"But this is a fantasy game, not a dating simulator. People don't want to be rejected." Yeah, and people don't want rejection in real life, either, but it still happens. Loss, in war or love, can serve as a way to make the eventual victory sweeter and actually mean something because you had to work for it.

Guarantees are boring. Maybe your Shepard will always hold a candle for that girl he could never quite get or has to deal with a flirtatious sqaudmate that likes to tease. Offering true homosexual pairing options can open up the possibilities for everyone's games and make a fuller, more appreciably realistic experience.

Bioware has consistently been a big player for gay representation in games over the last decade, being inclusive in virtually every title since Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. They have even stood up to the bigots among their fans and said that romances are "for everyone." Let's hope that tomorrow's end to the Mass Effect trilogy will be no different.


Kenneth said:

"And will we finally get implicitly gay romance options?"


Mikey said:

If it was just an action/adventure game, I would agree with you. I like the way it is now though. I can choose as the player if my Shepard is gay, bi, or straight...and I can choose what the other characters are, based on my interactions with them. That makes it a role-playing experience.

Now, if we're talking about a series like Resident Evil - I'd agree! It would be awesome to have some LGBT characters who are awesome characters, who just happen to be gay.

When it comes down to RPG's though and romance, I think choice is important...because some people don't want to be limited to one token gay person they can date in the game. Sure, have some characters who you can't sway, but there should be a nice variety to pick from. :)

Charlie said:

One thing Bioware found out with gay gamers back in Dragon Age 1 is that a lot of us were annoyed we couldn't romance Alistair. I rather enjoyed Zevran but truth be told, between the two I would have chosen the hunky, sheltered heir to the throne.

For this game I know at least one of the romance options is male only. I don't want to spoil anything but it's up on the Mass Effect Wiki

magritte said:

Actually, one thing I liked in DA2 was that you can flirt with Aveline, but she will always reject you, though it has nothing to do with your sex. I think it would have been cute in DA:O if a male character had been able to flirt with Alistair and be rejected. It could have followed so easily off the lamp post conversation, and he would have been so cute and embarrassed.

To me it's more important that my character to be able to express his feelings than that they be reciprocated.

occono said:

I have no problem with the Schrodinger's Homosexuality either :P It's a matter of function, I think it's nice that they don't feel the need to have characters be stuck the same for all players, as if it was so integral to them.

Dryden said:

@Kenneth - We'll see how romancing Samantha and Cortez work out, but right now, they're not even real party members. Samantha is a personal assistant and Cortez is a pilot, which is not the same as running around with Tali or Jacob in tow and getting to experience events with them. And don't forget, Kelly was a "romance option" for Femshep, but neither affects other relationships with the love triangle effect or earns the achievement for romancing a partner. NONE of the bisexual options do. Hardly sounds equal at all, yet it still gets referred to the same way.

@Mikey - But you don't have the choice of making characters straight or gay, that's the point. Kaiden, Jacob, Garrus, and Thane only want Femshep, and Ashley, Miranda, Jack, and Tali only want Manshep. The Asari don't have gender, so they don't count, which leaves just one stock choice -- Kelly. And like I've said, the game doesn't count that as a true romance. Almost all other games, especially RPGs, force you into a romantic storyline, so why is it suddenly out of bounds to ask that there be a gay choice.

@occono - For the most part, I like being able to choose as well, but there's nothing wrong with having one or two people off limits when the dating pool is 15. But in Mass Effect, you don't get that choice.

Limeade said:

One of the issues here is looking at the romance options for the entire series, rather than breaking them down by game. If one looks at the sum of romanceable characters in the series as a 'dating pool,' then yes, it will look obscenely large. However, per game, there is a limitation of romances and that narrows down the choices considerably.

I do not want a one-off NPC romance for the sake of sexual diversity, and expect to be happy that I get anything at all. There is no choice in that. This is why I play choice-driven RPGs that emphasize heavily on being able to create a story that I want to particpate in, that I want to be engaged in, and that I want to help create by my choices. Limitation of choice is a backward step in our games, not a forward one.

If we're concerned about visibility and representation #which is a separate issue#, then we should be expecting game-makers to add in NPC characters that cross a host of sexualities and gender expression. To show relationships beyond just heterosexual ones that are living in the world, in the backdrop. And getting quests that aren't always heterosexual themes #like a grieving man asking you to secure the body of his husband that fell in battle, etc#.

For RPG games, BioWare developers have said many, many, many times that romance content is tertiary content at best. It is minority content. It is not a priority in any way to the actual game. They are optional content. Limiting optional minority content even further by dividing between sexualities per gender makes that minority content even further marginalized. Voice acting, scripting, writing, cinematics, storylines, they all cost big bucks and time and energy. All that spent on tertiary content, or content that only a minority of a minority will ever see just isn't sensible as a company. And that's pretty much what BW devs have stated as well.

So in the interim? I find that everyone being bisexual, or PC-sexual, is likely the best solution we have for right now. It offers majority choice to the majority of players interested in the content. Let NPCs reject your advances or show unrequited affections, don't limit actual companions. A game that has content you would like to participate in locked away and only allowed for y subset of players is only serving to limit a player's potential enjoyment, not enrich it.

Duriel said:

Limeade that is excatly how I feel. its a role playing game. you can only have a male or female sheperd you can't play both at the same time on the same playthrough. which means that any npcs you come across will be either gay or straight! depending on how you played that particular playthrough. I understand everyone wants exclusivity, they want their choice and no one else can have him!. but what if someone doesn't like that? like alot of other gay guys I wanted alistair. I *eventually* grew to like zevran after finally completing his storyline quest but I still wanted alistair. it wouldn't have hurt any female players playing a female character, alistair would have been completely hetero for them. and my alistair would have been completely bi curious for me! so. Give people more choice not less.

I think to be more realistic while still not frustrating, there should be all the 3 cases: some exclusively straight or gay characters, and other "bisexual" ones.

While the bisexual ones would supply a wider variety of choices, the exclusively straight or gay ones would give a more realistic sense that not everybody is available for us to date. I don't think this should apply only to action games. RPGs are for role-playing, and dealing with the deception of not always getting what we want is part of the character construction.

The problem is when we have just too few options, like in DA:O. Zevran was definitely my last choice in the romance list, but was the only option available (Alistair was my favorite, but I thought Oghren's cranky ways were really funny). Though, after some time with him, I actually started to like him and the final part of the game shows that his feelings were true. But I still have to applaud Bioware for giving us such content while most games lack it anyways.

I still haven't played any ME, but What I've seen of this third part is really making me want to do so.

RDM said:

In politics, it's easier for people to accept that sexuality is purely biological, and can't be fixed.

In videogames, it's easier for people to accept that sexuality is purely a choice, and have no more consequences than selecting a hat or hair color.

beez said:

What was that about kaidan only liking femshep?

obviously this video is a spoiler, but there you go.

Dan said:

@beez - Nice!! I was hoping that Cortez wasn't the only gay romance option and I wasn't finding anything else confirmed on the web. Great find!!

Makes me want to go out and pick up ME3 sooner rather than later

Also for those lamenting the lack of an Alistair love option in Dragon Age, if you have the ability to play on PC, there are a few mods that convert him to a gay love interest by turning the gender check off. There are a handful of times when he refers to you as a woman (which are actually quite humorous), but for the most part its hard to tell it wasn't natural in game.

BrookeTF said:


Confirmed romance options for a male Commander Shepard:
Liara T'Soni
Ashley Williams
Kaidan Alenko
Tali'Zorah vas Normandy
Miranda Lawson
Diana Allers
Steven Cortez

Confirmed romance options for a female Commander Shepard:
Liara T'Soni
Kaidan Alenko
Garrus Vakarian
Diana Allers
Samantha Traynor

Straight FemSheps are a bit screwed if Kaidan and Garrus both died. Dunno where Jacob and Thane are. Surprising they made Kaidan bi, but not Ashley (surely christians in the late 22nd century would be less likely to be homophobic...).
Apparently Tali wasn't made bi despite serious FemShep crushing in ME2 because of her voice actress' religious beliefs. Lesbians are no-no, but humans banging aliens are A-OK.
Also shocking that FemShep has significantly fewer options, and most of them are lesbian. And only 1 human male.

Nexus said:

Lack of alien male same-gender romance option annoys the hell out of me (crushing on Garrus since the first game).
But I suppose I'll have to take what I can get.

It would've been nice though, if Kaidan wasn't already established as having had feelings for women and you could at least pretend he was fully gay.

Lucas said:

I'm actually inclined to disagree with the author of this post. I'd rather be able to romance whoever I want in the game whether I'm playing male or female. I mean, since romance is an option and all. If there was no romance then no biggie. And I'm not sure I really even think making the NPCs sexual orientation "fixed" is even progress. It's still a fantasy/sci-fi game. I've always preferred games that give me MORE options rather than fewer, and not just in regards to "romance." Player look, class, species, powersets, good guy or bad guy, etc.
I'm always on the side of MORE choice rather than LESS choice.

MME said:

I think that all games that provide romance options should always have everyone to be "available". It's just more fun that way. The only exception to this is when a character has a romantic option with someone else in the crew/universe (ie Aveline Vallen in Dragon Age 2). Even then, I wonder if that romance option just be flexible and allow to change if the player has an interest.

The way I see it, a character can be straight or gay depending on their main backstory. But if the player has an interest, that can be altered to something else that fits with the player's choices. Like any choices in the game, it changes outcomes and even history. For example, I don't see Kaiden as bisexual. Kaiden can always be straight for a femshep, or even a maleshep if he didn't choose the romance option for him. But Kaiden story can include a gay backstory for when a maleshep becomes interested.

The game can be more dynamic with romances. It doesn't need to be fixed.

Scott said:

I'm finding Steve Cortez's story to be really well done so far, even if he's not a full party member.

I think the fact that you can romance him is not nearly as revolutionary to the game as the way his background is actually being presented.

I may also be overly identifying with him due to having an ex-boyfriend on his third tour of duty overseas and worrying about him regularly, even if he is an ex.

RX said:

What is the point anyway... with the ending being what it is...I don't see why to even try ... :((

Rburt said:

From Scott:

I think the fact that you can romance him is not nearly as revolutionary to the game as the way his background is actually being presented.


Hearing him talk about his husband felt incredibly good for some reason.

Tom said:

Thought I'd finish ME2 before getting ME3 but since I haven't played the first game and I'm male, it defaults Kaidan as dead and I'm guessing I have to avoid all romance options if I wanted to then import this later into ME3 and romance a guy.

That sucks. I really wanted to explore ManShep and Kaidan as a pairing and so I'll have to buy the first game, play it through, avoid romances, save Kaidan, replay the second game, avoid romances etc just to have the chance to do this in the third game?

There couldn't have been a question at the start of the game saying "Who survived with you Kaidan or Ashley?"

I'm not trying to detract from the point its good they've finally put same sex romances into the game but it's a shame they didn't release a patch to make it less awkward with the back-compatibility. The fact they'd planned same-sex for in the first game before taking it out also makes this seem even more frustrating.

Caewyr said:

You can look up "Mass Effect saves" and easily pick out one from ME1 that suits you to import into ME2, if you dont want to get ME1.

You totally should, though.

Tom said:

Ah, didn't realise you can do that for xbox360 now as well, thanks. I don't really want to use someone elses files though. I think I'll just finish playing through as Straight Shepard then get ME1 and replay the game with no romance, save Kaidan, replay ME2, no romance then by the time I get around to 3, the payoff will be awesome.

Rob said:


Think of it this way, Kaidan and Shepard has been harboring attraction towards one another since they first met. But choose to bury themselves in work (saving people and all) until the events in ME3 when they finally realized the world might end tomorrow. Thinking that they might not be able to live to see another day, they decided to profess their love for each other.

Makes their romance even more endearing IMO.

Roster said:

Honestly, Cortez's story is lovely. It is so nice to hear him talk about his husband. I would have gone after Kaidan had I not saved Ashley, but I really like Cortez so far.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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