A lot has been said lately about Mass Effect 3‘s romance options. Scuttlebutt on the internet is that there are quite a few people scratching their heads about the “blatant homesexuality” presented in the game, and how it’s become a huge controversial issue for some.
Is it really that controversial? And how blatant is it, really? There’s really not a huge “gay agenda” subtext, it’s just that the characters within the game world are unapologetic when it comes to their sexuality. There’s no reason to be in the closet in the Mass Effect world, especially when you’ve got the threat of galactic annihilation hanging over your head, I suppose you really don’t have to worry about getting your teeth knocked out because you prefer guys over girls, or vice versa.
Admittedly I haven’t finished the game by a long shot, but I’ve been to the main non-combat hub where you overhear the majority of the incidental conversations going around. I found an instance of one “non-traditional” couple discussing their problems out in the open, and it was a female human talking with her asari lover about leaving her husband while he’s away on the front – and it’s less about them saying HEY WE’RE LESBIANS LOOK AT HOW LESBIAN WE ARE and more about the human woman agonizing over how to break the news to her husband that she wants out of the relationship. Not only that, but asari are kind of given a pass, since the entire race appears female biologically and they reproduce via parthenogenesis. Now, there may be more instances out there, but that’s the only one that stands out just from passing by.
As far as the LGBT characters that play a greater role in the story – especially through the romance sub-plot that’s common with the Mass Effect trilogy – there are three characters that are available to both male and female players to romance, one character each for strictly same-sex pairings, four possible partners for strict heterosexual pairings with a male protagonist, and only one strict heterosexual pairing for female main characters. By the numbers, this puts straight males in the lead, followed closely by the Anything Goes category, then a three-way between the straight female love interests, the gay love interest, and the lesbian love interest. Looks to me like the straight men come out on top once again (see what I did there?).
I do have an issue with the game’s romance mechanics, however – and anyone who’s been on Facebook has probably seen my conversation with Daniel H. Crazybecks (one of the Daniels in Daniel and the Lions, who are playing their next show on April 20, by the way), and that’s with the three Anything Goes relationships. They’re not necessarily bisexual, straight, or even gay characters, they’re just Gay For You if the situation calls for it. These three characters have their sexuality defined not from within, as a more fleshed-out character would be, but instead are subject to change from an outside source, the player. While the player’s choices do indeed influence the entire game (you are the main character, after all), the other characters you encounter have independent internal lives – or you’re at least given the impression of this, as you can walk around the Normandy and hear them having conversations with each other when you’re not around – but something as integral to a character’s internal life as their sexuality.
Truth be told, this Gay For You problem isn’t nearly as prevalent in Mass Effect 3 as it has been in other BioWare games. In ME3, one of the three GFY characters is an asari, so she’s given a pass, really. Another is a character from the first game that was available as a heterosexual partner exclusively, but there is evidence through recorded but never used dialogue from the first game that he was intended to be bisexual from the beginning, though the content was supposedly cut due to an outcry over same-sex relationships being included in the game. That leaves just one GFY character – and I’m really fine with that, especially when you compare it to the steaming pile of varren droppings that was Dragon Age 2.
DA2, the much-anticipated sequel to what many have felt was the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, suffered from a lot of gameplay and story-related problems. However, the one thing that bothered me the most that every available character in that game (except for the DLC-only character) was GFY. I’m not offended because of their sexuality, though; I’m offended at the decision of the writers and developers, as it’s lazy and little more than a cost-cutting measure, and denies these five characters an internal life of their own, much as I said above. It strikes me as an incredibly solipsistic design choice that destroys my immersion and takes me out of the story. You’re telling me that the main character of DA2, no matter if it’s a male or a female, is so incredibly appealing that he or she simply exudes some sort of pheromone that makes nearly everyone want to jump into bed? The only alternative to this is that your main character from the game simply attracts bisexual characters by the handful. I’m not sure which is more unrealistic.
But that’s neither here nor there, and I’m actually glad that BioWare did not continue on that vein with ME3. I really don’t know what the big deal is about, considering the main goal of the game is to save the goddamn galaxy. I’ll be busy playing through my copy towards that goal while romancing the batshit crazy biotic that I banged back in ME2. To be honest, the only thing that incredibly upsets me about this third and final game in what has been an overall excellent series is that Lieutenant Blast Hardcheese didn’t turn out to be available to romance. Just take one look at him; you just know he’s got to be a power bottom.