Being late to the party, I only finished Mass Effect 3 this past weekend. While I was pleased as pie that there was an exclusively homosexual romance in the game, it was not the one I pursued with Sebastian Shepard, for a number of reasons. However, this morning I was pleased to find that BioWare's blog had up an interview with the two writers responsible for both the male and female exclusively homosexual romances: Patrick Weekes and Dusty Everman.
Which is to say: this is not about the ending. Nor is it spoiler-free (in terms of game plot, yes, but not in terms of things that happen during the romances themselves). Spoilers will be below that handy dandy cut, contained in quotations I found particularly worthy of attention. Which is not to say this has always been how BioWare has presented itself, but hopefully is something that indicates future thought processes.
I still recall the Dragon Age forums having official posts concerning the fact that having a purely homosexual romance of any sort could be seen as a waste of resources: these are choices that would not be selected often enough to justify the cost, or the time spent away from other portions of the game.
What's changed? This is purely supposition, but I imagine it has a lot to do with budget, the growth of the series, and numbers. After all, in the day of internet connections, achievements, and our save-files having markers that tell who we played, what we did, and whom we romanced, they have quite a bit of data on how many people are engaging in these romances. When refuting the privileged straight male gamer, Gaider made note that the numbers they have are not insignificant.
Which makes sense to me, as someone who rarely roleplays himself in an RPG. I do still like to see same-sex romances when I can, though. Or perhaps same-sex flings. Depends on the character. However, it seems I am constantly reading reports of straight men who play as a female Shepard, and romancing Garrus, or going for one of the female companions in their crew. Funny how that works.
But, to the quotations!
How did you approach writing a gay character in Mass Effect 3?
Patrick Weekes: Liara's relationship in Lair of the Shadow Broker can be with players of either gender, so I was familiar with writing dialog that needed to work for a same-sex romance. Nevertheless, I'm a straight white male - pretty much the living embodiment of the Patriarchy - and I really wanted to avoid writing something that people saw and went, "That's a straight guy writing lesbians for other straight guys to look at."
I also really wanted the romance with Traynor to be positive. One of my gay friends has this kind of sad hobby in which she watches every lesbian movie she can find, trying to find ones that actually end up with the women not either dying or breaking up. I think the most positive one she's found is "D.E.B.S." I wanted to avoid any kind of tragic heartbreak, to make this a fundamentally life-affirming relationship... at least, as much as possible within Mass Effect 3′s grim war story.
Dusty Everman: I shared the concerns Patrick had about writing something that felt real. I've never been romantic with another guy, so I couldn't write from personal experience. Also, there seemed to be extra pitfalls associated with a male same-sex romance. Some players have concerns over being "ninja romanced" - where a relationship shifts from friendly to romantic to the player's surprise - and those concerns seem greater for same-sex romances.
Then, further along, Everman notes the following:
I believe that by the 22nd century, declaring your gender preference will be about as profound as saying, "I like blondes." It will just be an accepted part of who we are. So I tried to write a meaningful human relationship that just happens to be between two men.
They both note that they would love feedback on either Traynor or Cortez, so if you played through them, please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments, and I'll make sure that they manage to see this.