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July 31
2013

How Garrus Vakarian Got Me Back Into the Abyss of Fan Porn

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I’ve been crushing on Garrus Vakarian way before it was cool. I and most of the female audience for the first Mass Effect were desperately flicking that dialogue wheel in our conversations with him down on the engineering deck, ever hoping for that temporary window to select the first flirtatious dialog option. And while the good folks at Bioware eventually came to their senses and made this hunk into the man of adorably awkward romance we knew he could be by Mass Effects 2 and 3, fans had spent the years between the first and second figuring out what he looked like under that armor.

Unlike my undying love for the Archangel of Omega, my attraction to porn arose in the same age range as the vast majority of the first world; perhaps a bit later than kids these days because the internet hadn’t caught on to what a Wonka’s Factory of perversion it could be when I was ten.  But once dial up died it’s modem-screeching death, a merger of interests began festering on message boards. Middle aged otaku and aspiring artists – that swore they were just drawing tits on Crash Bandicoot for “practice” – realized they could scan  and anonymously share their personal visions of popular characters without their clothes on, and a vibrant launch pad for careers and tissue-use began leaking onto the internet’s sheets. Somewhere, a man cast in shadow looked at a white board with the words “deviantart” circled in red, his head nodding menacingly.

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I do not think I would be an outlier if I admit to a working knowledge and use of pornography. But when it comes to the erotic depictions of existing pop culture characters, my interest becomes more zoological in nature. The distinction is likely due to my early attempts to find devious interpretations of early media crushes yielding only crude, barely recognizable scribbles (Carmen Sandiego would not have her respectable fan wank-base for several years at this point). But between my middle school and college years, the Rules of the Internet went into near-omnipotent effect, and from them sprung an endless trench of fascinating pop culture sexualizations.

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Not pictured, the hundreds of re-colored Sonic “Fan Characters”

The exploration of said trenches became a hobby of me and a couple friends. Often manifesting as zipped images passed about in IMs: the most obscure character we’ve yet found nude, or the most grotesque distention of the Lara Croft’s breasts that month. It was a ticket into online fandom’s Carnival of Horrors, glimpses of the frame of mind artistic perverts would eventually devolve to if they played Sinistar enough. But for the past several years, the rather time-consuming hobby fell by the wayside in favor of various adult time sinks. Occasionally a new character would so obviously be hitting enough Internet Rule buttons for me to do a cursory smut search, but nothing had held enough of an allure to merit the time. That is, until I first let Garrus on the Normandy.

This delicious pile of jaw mandibles and daddy issues represents a distinct line of pornographic depictions, that being “aliens we have no official naked references for.” And while Rule 34 has wreaked its havoc everything from The Blob (yes, that one) to that one thing from that one episode of “Futurama”, the humanoid – but still inhuman –  species (your Xenomorphs, your Andalites, what have you) occupies a rather distinct section of fan artists’ brain meats. And thanks to the Bioware writer’s talent at romantic sub-plots, Garrus had just enough of a kinky crowd behind him to merit a spelunking back into the abyss.

Mass-produced pornography, like most mass entertainment media, is a celebration of the ideal shape of body flesh and organ size. Perfect BMIs sporting perfectly coifed hairs and inflated loins slamming into one another at peak frequency. Fan produced pornography, on the other hand, tends to replace ideal proportions with liberally exaggerated ones over time, especially with characters attempting to avoid the uncanny valley with more cartoonish designs. For every reasonably sized Joanna Dark or recognizably slim Cloud, there’s approximately 1,000 beefed up Dantes and 100,000,000,000 Tifas with beach balls stapled to her chest.

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The further we move away from human realism, the more leniency artists tend to take with bodily proportions. Madison Paige of Heavy Rain looks far more freakish with breasts twice the size of her head than, say, Morrigan from Darkstalkers; indeed, many professional art designers take advantage of Boris Vallejo-esque proportions to allow for gratuitous sexual features. Feel free to ask Christian about Dragon’s Crown when you get the chance.

But, like the Uncanny Valley itself, the exaggerated proportions operate on a sort of bell curve. The more inhuman the character, the more difficult it is to endow them with exaggerated squirty-bits. How do you give a 40” chest and 20” guns to a Xenomorph, exactly? Don’t get me wrong, people have tried, O have they tried. But the same aversion that keeps most of us from enjoying characters like Metal Gear Solid’s Otacon with a two foot long solid snake rings pretty loudly when we stumble across Navi from Ocarina of Time with a clitoris.

Characters like Garrus seem to inhabit the apex of the porn bell curve, just human-looking enough to retain sex appeal, too inhuman to get beefed up and donged out beyond all physiological capability. Most erotic interpretations of Mr. Vakarian here, or the now hundreds of fan-made Turian characters, keep to a comparatively conservative build of what appears to be patches of layered leather making up a pectoral-heavy chest and slender limbs. Tongues may extend far beyond the mandible line than we’ve ever seen in Mass Effect canon, but for the most part, artists tend to keep to the available assets and stats for Turian physiology.

A flip side to our alien erotica subjects, though. It appears that when fans cannot embrace insanely engorged fun-flesh, they relish in the unlikely possibilities of the sexually unknown. It is here that I must ask all creators everywhere of distinctly inhuman characters to please, please provide the internet with the general shape of your alien genitals. Because when you don’t, you give fans license to make up their own carnal canon, and the results are rarely pretty, let alone stimulating.

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According to the slobbering, deviant side of the collective internet brain, Xenomorph penises operate on the same kind of matryoshka doll, little-one-inside-of-a-larger-one system their tongues are on. It’s a new type of terrifying that I’m certain H.R. Giger never intended. But it’s just one example of how the internet nerd’s imagination is allowed to indulge a side of itself as unappealingly and lumpy as sun-soaked mayonnaise. And, sadly, this is where Garrus Vakarian comes back into the picture.

Fan-embellished Turian physiology is quite the jarring blend of the near-human and Lovecraftian bizarre. As we’ve established, artists tend to keep impressively close to canonized Turian proportions, forgiving the uneven skull fringe here and there. And while the most we’ve see of an unarmored Turian extends to Reaper-infected thralls in the Evolution comic book tie-in, the general artistic consensus tends towards a believable top-heavy frame of leathery hide extending to thinner limbs topped with thick claws. The back retains the slight hump hinted at by the race’s in-game armor, the slender waist remains reasonable, and the thick feet and toes also have reference in armaments found in the game series’ universe. It’s only with the moister regions that fans take a disturbing leap of creative license.

Anyone with enough time on their hands has eventually stumbled across sex toys made in the “image” of famed alien or monster loins, I’m sure. Even the least intrepid companies have online listings for dildos/fleshlights in the “shape” of Navi (“Avatar”, not Zelda…yet), zombies, Roswell Aliens, cat people, Predator, you name it. Just sharpen the tip, add a few lumps here and there, rib the base and finish with some fleshy growths and you have the makings of an Official Alien Vibrating Inflatable Doll Attachment. Nothing new there, until Turians came along.

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Apparently, your choice when it comes to Turian lovers extends to dicks shaped like a stacking ring toy (above, *shudder*), or a tightly wrapped collection of pistils and stamens straight from a garden of violated flowers. The contrast between reasonably sized bi-pedal humanoid bird alien and fourth dimensional spawn of Cthulthu is enough to stop even the most hardened of masturbators. Female Turians fare better, when you can find them, usually getting a layer of barbed flesh circling the meat drapes, as if their lower lips needed a moat.

All this is certainly taking Mass Effect continuity for a loop, but it’s not as if fans were the first ones to think along these lines. When developers (or any media maker) are in the design trenches for so long, producing endless details about character backstory and world building, you can bet artists and voice over talent muse together about what everyone’s genitals look like. I know this for fact in the same way that I know that no matter how demented erotica artists make their Garrus penises, they will always be canonically wrong.

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In my first year at GDC, I had the fortune to be at the VIP tables after of the GDC Awards. It was 2011, and the team behind Mass Effect 2 had spent most of the night losing awards to Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. A few developers remained, including the two members of the art team that caught my ears by randomly moving their conversation to comparing the porn followings of Garrus and the more romantically mysterious Tali’Zorah. Upon my entering into the conversation, it was brought up that all fan porn of Garrus the two artists had ever seen had been wrong because they gave Garrus a penis. I asked why the seemingly common sense addition was a patently false one, and was told with a chuckle that Vakarian had a cloaca. I smiled and returned the chuckle, having no clue what the hell a cloaca was.

A cloaca, as I later found out is an all-purpose hole for all the defecating, urinating, and sexing that most avians, amphibians and reptiles will do in their lives. Given the construct of the Turian race as one of a bird-like species, the zoological lines definitely match up. This also explains why a relationship with Garrus in Mass Effect 2 would get curious stares from most humans and a bit of protective medical research from your resident genius Mordin Solus. It also means my Commander Rebecca Shepard spent a few FTL hours effectively having sex with a sarlac pit filled with potato chips. I suddenly prefer the pistil dicks.

Despite one of my favorite game characters now possessing an all purpose ultili-hole, it was nice to discover that those that make these characters are just as sexually curious about them as the rest of us.

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About Gavin Greene

(Writer) GavinGreene.exe was installed in December of 1987, and has been gaming ever since his motor skills have allowed. In addition to making them pretty words here, he operates as Production Coordinator at Phoenix Online Studios, and News Editor at Elder Geek. You can follow his inane babbling over on Twitter (@GameDevGav).

5 Responses

  1. avatar Branovices says:

    I really liked the Zora in Ocarina of Time. I remember imagining that their genitals worked essentially like those of dolphins.

  2. avatar Shin Gallon says:

    Interesting article. I fell in love with Garrus because of his beyond sexy voice, but I think I’ll continue pretending he’s got something besides a cloaca inside his armored pants. Not being able to romance him with male Shepard was the most disappointing thing about ME3 if you ask me.

  3. avatar Van says:

    Really interesting article. Somehow I’m not very surprised that Garrus hasn’t a penis. It makes sense considering Turian bird-like evolution.
    Still, the concern about these questions maybe says a lot about the role of sex and porn in our society today.

  4. avatar LINCARD1000 says:

    It’s not often I read something that genuinely makes me laugh out loud:

    “It also means my Commander Rebecca Shepard spent a few FTL hours effectively having sex with a sarlac pit filled with potato chips.”

    Genius :-)

  5. avatar Eric says:

    Birds don’t only have a cloaca. Some bird species, such as the Ostriches, Kiwis, Geese, and Ducks, the male actually uses a phallus to copulate. So fear not author, Garrus may just have a penis yet. Of course, if he’s anything like a duck, it might be shaped like a corkscrew. I don’t know how I feel about that.

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