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BioWare Interviews Writers Patrick Weekes & Dusty Everman

How Sebastian Shepard originally looked.

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.


Shin Gallon said:

Not being able to romance Garrus with my male Shepard is one of the greatest letdowns of my life as a gamer.

Sarah said:

I followed through with Traynor but then backtracked save game-wise to resume my long-term romance with Garrus. I found the lesbian romance - to the point of bedroom activities - very tasteful and Traynor herself super charming, from both a writing and performance perspective (more so than, say, Kelly.)

I was thrilled to have same-sex exclusive romances in the game!! My main consideration (and I think most potentially useful feedback) was how new these characters were to the story, and that as characters they were a degree removed from the heart of the action compared with other romanceables. This isn't to scold anyone for not adding them in earlier or giving them a larger role this time around, just to highlight my thought-process in not committing to a same-sex exclusive storyline. (I do have another playthrough with a three-game FemShep/Liara romance.)

In other words, the numbers they're seeing may have been even higher if a percentage of people like myself didn't feel the urge to privilege their longer-term romances, with even more fleshed out, central characters - regardless of orientation. So the statistics might be constructively contextualized among players who didn't play the first two games, or who had various dalliances that didn't seem to figure largely/consistently across playthroughs? It will be really exciting and interesting to see what happens when same-sex exclusives are offered in a new series from the top!

Zell said:

I loved Steve. I usually romance Kaidan but I've chosen Steve a couple times and it was good, and he's equally well-written as a friend. The only thing I wasn't entirely satisfied with as a romance was the last conversation with him; it felt a little impersonal.

AquiziTC said:

I very much appreciate that Everman said "declaring your GENDER preference" (emphasis obviously mine). It's nice that the T is included in all of this as well.

Dean said:

I loved Cortez and Traynor- hey got their sexuality out there right away without apology. They were three dimensional and interesting. They're the best written queer romances I've seen in a game, tender, sweet, and real.

Frank F said:

Hearing Steve's story made me tear up a bit. It was the happiest I'd ever been playing a video game. Bravo Dusty. You did a splendid job writing this character.

Limeade said:

I'll preface with saying that I love the characters and portrayal of Steve and Samantha. Not only were they good for being positive representations of lesbians and gays as characters and non-hetero relationships done well, they were good representations for being just *good people*. They were simply lovely, good human beings. Mature adults at that.

Now, as for the critiques, I do find that there is a very skewed amount of content and sexuality that f/f Sam and FemShep were able to explore that was utterly lacking with Steve and DudeShep. The whole 'hey, wanna play chess? lol okay, wow, nice shower, lemme talk to you about my interest in winkwink someone while I'm soaping up' thing and the ability for Sam and FemShep to have a go with the shower bit and have their sexuality be a present part of their on-screen relationship. There was nothing like for for Steve and DudeShep.

In total, the content of f/f is skewed heavily in that direction and servicing that direction than the m/m romances combined. Between Liara, Sam, and even Kelly and Diana, there was no content or on-screen sexuality and intimacy that m/m could even come close to. Kaidan and DudeShep even had their 'I love you' dialogues cut out, and they could never profess that kind of love to one another -- whereas Kaid and FemShep could. And again, majority of content for Steve in the romance and intimacy department is done in a heavily implied manner rather than shown. But the women in these f/f pairings get plenty of time to show their intimacy by comparison.

That stuck out for me most noticeably. Weekes mentions trying not to write with a hetero dude's male gaze in mind when it came to romance with Liara, yet all in all... when summed up in terms of content and portrayal on-screen, it really does come across to me like there is a specific demographic being serviced regardless of desire to be inclusive.

Another aspect is Cortez's dead husband. I do not have issue with that particular plotline in itself. However, I do look back upon all the BioWare romances and find a consistent thread of dead or wounded wives/girlfriends/lovers that a particular character waxes on about extensively for most of their friendship and love dialogues. Yet... this is something that doesn't seem to happen with any female LI except Jaheira from Baldur's Gate II. Considering that mPC/f romances are the majority of romances BioWare has created, yet the minorities (women/non-hetero men) seem to get this plotline a LOT makes it something worth examining, I think.

Although full disclosure? I still think Garrus should have been THE or A bisexual option for DudeShep. He's the wingman, the bro of all times, and he even freely admits that he can't tell humans apart - gender included, so... just sayin'. If there's a way to get more people on board the tolerance and acceptance train, it is for people to know non-hetero people that they love. Garrus being so popular and reaching so many of the gamer generation would have done some good representation, I think, and some great metaphors about looking beyond the exterior - sex and race et all included.

In the end, I am grateful and appreciative of what content and efforts are put into diversity and exclusivity. I support this wholeheartedly, to be recognized and acknowledged in an industry that all too often renders anyone non-hetero to be invisible -- or some terrible, negative stereotype. So thank you and please keep moving it forward.

Lepaca said:

I really liked Steve but I found Kaidan's romance to be much more satisfying.
When I heard that Kaidan would be available as a gay romance in ME3 I actually did a completly new playthrough from ME1 - 3 with no romances in 1 & 2!

MercuryWater said:

I haven't finished the game but I will have a long comment about Steve (and Kaiden?) when I get the time to.

h0neanias said:

If they made Garrus bi, I am sure plenty of people would complain that the gay romance isn't aesthetic (or tittilating) enough, that it desexualises the same sex option or presents it as alien -- in contrast to Liara, who looks human enough. Call me shallow, but I prefer handsome LIs myself. Regardless, I think Garrus works perfectly as your best friend in the series. He's the bro, the one to chill with when your romance hits a rough patch, not the one to have lovers' quarrels with.

Nexus said:

Actually from what I've read about it on various sites (and my own wishes) most people seem to be for a m/m Garrus option.
Something about his personality overrides most people's preconceptions about looks.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Nexus on BioWare Interviews Writers Patrick Weekes & Dusty Everman: @h0neanias Actually from what I've read about it on various sites (and my own wishes) most people seem to be...

h0neanias on BioWare Interviews Writers Patrick Weekes & Dusty Everman: @Limeade: If they made Garrus bi, I am sure plenty of people would complain that the gay romance isn't aesthetic...

MercuryWater on BioWare Interviews Writers Patrick Weekes & Dusty Everman: I haven't finished the game but I will have a long comment about Steve (and Kaiden?) when I get the...

Lepaca on BioWare Interviews Writers Patrick Weekes & Dusty Everman: I really liked Steve but I found Kaidan's romance to be much more satisfying. When I heard that Kaidan would...

Limeade on BioWare Interviews Writers Patrick Weekes & Dusty Everman: I'll preface with saying that I love the characters and portrayal of Steve and Samantha. Not only were they good...

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