Mass Effect Fans Worry That Expanded Gay Options Will Create Inconsistencies, Alter Canon

Mass Effect Fans Worry That Expanded Gay Options Will Create Inconsistencies, Alter Canon
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Mass Effect developer Casey Hudson’s announcement less than a day ago that same-sex romances would be given fuller and more explicit articulation in Mass Effect 3 has unsurprisingly ignited a spark among many followers of the franchise.

In previous Mass Effect games, only female versions of series hero Commander Shepard have had access to homosexual relationships—and these having been limited to members of an all-female alien species, and a dalliance with a rather bizarre petty officer. Hudson’s Tweet implies that both female and male Shepard will be able to experience full-scale gay romance.

Some fans are elated, and others worried. But those who have taken to forums to express concern with Hudson’s words do not appear to be motivated by cultural or personal objections to homosexuality. No—these players are worried about the consistency and integrity of the series’s carefully-woven narrative. Will characters that have been established over the course of one or both of the previous two Mass Effect titles undergo implausible and abrupt sexual transformations?

candidate88766, a user on the ever-buzzing Bioware Social Network, summarized this concern nicely:

I just feel that after between 40 to 80 hours with these characters being straight that suddenly changing them would be a disservice to the character developments of the first two games. I’m sure many fans would love to have same-sex romances with current characters, but I think it would cheapen them to suddenly change their sexual orientation.

This argument appears to be quite persuasive. Many other people in the same thread chimed in to agree. Players have invested an enormous amount of time with these characters—they feel as though they know them, and are in a position to make certain claims of knowledge about their sexuality. Some users have gone character-by-character, detailing the why and how of their romantic background. A poster called Ghost Warrior writes:

Ashley- religious(they are not really for same-sex relationships),flirts and teases male Shep,but not Fem Shep. She has always been open with Shepard,maybe a little to much, so if she was a bi, it is in her character to admit it and go after Fem Shep, just like she did with male one.

Kaidan – similar to Ash. Always open, and sometimes nervous with opposite sex but never with men, which I think says something.

Jacob – very similar to Garrus. Some of his lines strongly indicate he is straight, and he has strictly platonic relationship with male Shep.

None of these three characters was available for a same-sex relationship in the earlier games. These users have concluded that though an individual may choose to conceal their sexual orientation, or experience a form of denial that exceeds concealment, it would be too much of stretch to have a teammate’s sexuality metamorphose out of seemingly nowhere. It’s also worth noting that the scripting of a scenario in which a hitherto heterosexually-inclined character steps “out of the closet” would be creatively costly for BioWare. It would need to be extremely sensitive and complex, and would run the risk of becoming distractingly digressive.

This was all very convincing, until a user going by the name Captain Kibosh came along and rocked the boat:

I can agree up to a very limited point—to build into the narrative that every character is bisexual might push credibility, BUT really what some perceive as an “upending” of continuity comes down to a bias of (heterosexual) perception…

…Why would some[players]be incredulous about, say, Garrus “suddenly” being being gay (and Shepard having the dialogue trees to allow such an option) but not about when a player has the option to sleep with MULTIPLE opposite sex partners on a very very small ship…Is this adolescent male heterosexual fantasy of bedding every chick in sight really any more credible compared to Garrus possibly being in the closet or only finally opening up to Shepard in the third act?

The Captain makes a strong point. Haven’t both Mass Effect games been riddled with narrative inconsistencies similar to the “harem scenario” mentioned above? I recall rather keenly my own disappointment when, having sacrificed Kaiden Alenko in the first title, none of my crew consoled Shepard her loss—despite the fact that she had been, up to that point, romantically pursuing the fallen soldier. Romances (and amorous one-off, for that mater) have never appeared to have the ripple effect one would suppose they would in real life. They have seemed, in this franchise, to be entirely local affairs. Why should one inconsistency be any more off-limits than another?

It remains a potentially knotty conflict: the Mass Effect developers would need to either (somewhat implausibly) reinvent some or all of the crew of the Normandy as bisexual, or stage creatively-expensive “coming out” scenarios for certain key characters of either gender. This, of course, doesn’t take into account that BioWare could introduce new characters into the franchise.

There might be a comprise. Hudson’s Tweet specifies that same-sex relationships in Mass Effect 3 will be “reactive to how you interact w/them in-game.” Video games narratives are all about adaptability, and BioWare may be planning to address sexuality the same way they addressed sex. My Shepard is female, your Shepard is male; my Garrus is gay, your Garrus is straight. The game would interpret your play style and adapt the characters accordingly. But that’s just a guess.

Wider options for Romance in ME3, including Same-sex [Bioware Social Network]

(Top image is from a Mass Effect mod, as seen on YouTube.)


  • This article is based off one specific thread (

    I’ve read 30 pages or so of this thread, and the vast majority of respondents have no problem with the romances if they’re written well. The die-hard ideologues would number under ten people.

    I do understand the reasonable objection due continuity issues, but apart from the inconsistencies we’ve already seen, in many cases people are hiding their personal discomfort behind false logic.

  • I admit breaking the story by suddenly making all characters bi is a concern I’ve had since ME2 launched and there was a 20 page thread in the BioWare forums asking for just that to happen.

    Then again it is set in the future. Maybe everyone’s more open with sex then? And if you’re willing to hook up with an alien in the first place and they’re willing to hook up with you gender’s probably the last thing on both your minds.

    I’ll be missing out on all new romance options though because my Shepard is loyal to their ME1 LI damn it.

  • This plays right into one of my theories about games. Awesome. I will write it up at some point and blog it.

    I still give Bioware a lot of credit for going near any of this stuff. Romance, let alone homosexual romance, is still really touchy and difficult to express in games. Good on them for working on it.

    • Which is really only a step away from romancing an Asari. Both species are pretty clearly conscious thinking beings and very clearly not human. But I’ll bet my Shepard Bioware wouldn’t go near this.

  • If anyone can do it right, it’s Bioware.
    That said, they laid the foundation with Kelly Chambers when she said “character matters, not race or gender.”

  • Slightly off-topic, but do you think if you only had one relationship throughout the whole trilogy, there might be some dramatic wedding option at the end of ME3? That would be hilarious…

  • Probably should point out that all the dialog relating to same-sex relationships with Ash/Kaiden, Jacob and Garrus were all recorded for ME1 and ME2 respectively, but were cut at the last minute. So. in that context, Bioware had always intended same-sex relationships with those characters so it really shouldn’t alter the story.

  • I’m not sure I understand any concerns about breaking the story. the whole core of Mass Effect’s role-playing element has always been about choices (within a larger scheme of stopping the Reapers). more than anything the hallmark of this series is seeing the consequences you can bring about.

    aren’t these expanded options still part of that design philosophy? after all if you don’t want to initiate a gay romance, you don’t have to – and that’ll be the end of that. and most likely it’d be pretty obvious which options would be heading into that direction (not as much as DA2 having heart symbols next to flirting dialogue, but still). so if you consider Kaidan/Jacob/Garrus to be straight in your story, then through your choices (including choices not to start anything) he probably will be, and the options to gay-romance him won’t affect you because you never take it in that direction.

    if anything I think it can only make the game more realistic. if you always thought a friend of yours was straight and then he came out, hopefully you’d be like “oh ok, sure” and move on. because you obviously can’t say “no you can’t be, that’s breaking the story!”

    either way, this doesn’t affect how I can’t wait for ME3 to come out (pun totally unintended). and then once we’ve seen how this works, we can pass judgment on whether Bioware handled it well or not 🙂

  • I was surprised to hear all my online friends dumped zevran from their parties when they found out he was gay. Disappointing in this day and age.

  • I always thought you should be able to have a same sex relationship with either a guy or a girl in ME. Seems unfair to have one and not the other

    • haha, just realise my comment reads as ‘… a same sex relationship with either a guy or a girl in me”. Caps certainly change the meaning of that sentence

    • See, this is my issue.

      In DA2 I tried to be friendly to Anders.
      I wasn’t hitting on him, I was just picking the positive options… and Anders response was to start intimating that he was interested in me.

      I think it was implemented poorly in DA2, and I hope that it’s done better in ME3.

      • Bioware are definitely aware of this after so many people complained about being hit on by Anders.

        I doubt they’ll do something similar for ME 3 . More likely is that the player has to initiate anything with specific dialogue.

        Which is reasonable.

  • Many people come out later in life. Look at PJK for christ sake…Its not unreasonable to assume that the main characters didn’t bonk straight away (haha, get it straight).

  • Just look how poorly they handled DA2 romances though.

    Having Anders suddenly turn all sensitive and emotional from the fairly evident womaniser he used to be in DA2 was pretty disrespectful both to the character and to be quite honest, the way gays are perceived.

    And after witnessing Anders practically hit on my character all I could do was laugh when Fenris showed up. Be more subtle Bioware.

    The problem with gay relationships in-game is that there are no options to say your straight or not in character creation, therefore the NPC’s have to test the water via dialogue and that makes for some very awkward and uncomfortable moments during the gaming experience, rather then them being able to pick up clues such as checking out miranda’s ass when she walks.

    People seem to be mixing homophobia with being heterosexual. Any straight person is going to feel uncomfortable being hit on by another same-sex person (and try to avoid any conversations that go down that path), but that doesnt mean don’t have that scenario unavailable for those who’s preference it is.

    So is it politically incorrect to define your orientation in pre-game character creation? I mean, we know what we are when we walk out the door to go to work. Or would that be too ‘homophobic’?

    Strangely enough I reckon that would cause more of a shit-storm in the media then just having same-sex characters assume your bi until you give them the negative option and lose -10 friendship points or positive and get +30 romance points.

    • That is a really good idea, would stop alot of the complaints that happened with Dragon Age 2.

      I don’t see what the problem with making homosexual relationships with some of the characters that previously were not. I knew my girlfriend for many years before I realised and could admit my feelings for her, the characters of Mass Affect could easily be the same.

      They would have to make it so they are not all extremely forward about it like Anders was, if all the straight characters just started hitting on you I see where that would be a problem.

      Besides, I am still holding out for Tali! D:

    • Awesome choice of words, really great, been trying to discuss this issue with friends but every stance I take seems to come across that I’m being offensive to gay orientated peoples, but you expressed exactly my thoughts, I dont care that the game would house such options, but being a straight male it was highly awkward having Anders hit on me and then being punished by stating that I was not interested. I’m not homophobic, I’m just heterosexual but everyone seems to think that thats a crime and having a gameplay mechanic such as this that you choose your orientation would definitely clear the issue. Shifting the character narratives like this without it being subtle would be detrimental to the realism of the story, i.e. My Male Shepard has always been straight and my crew knows it but then Garrus randomly says lets get it on Shepard, that doesn’t happen in RL, it would be like one of my straight friends all of a sudden saying i want to sleep with you, wouldn’t make sense (in most cases anyways). So in otherwords, Bioware, if you do it, make it subtle, dont yell out SEX, BI STRAIGHT OR HOMOSEXUAL in our faces like in DA 2. Use tact

    • Remember that the DA and ME series have different writers. No doubt they’ll write the romance choices differently.

      I must admit that I haven’t played DA2 yet (still getting through DA1, the series is good but doesn’t interest me as much as Mass Effect) but I’ve heard a lot about the Anders romance option. The recurring complaint I’ve heard is that Anders tries to force it on you, and then you get punished for not reciprocating. Correct me if I’m wrong on the specifics. If this is the case though, I’d say it’s an exception. Most other romance options in DA and ME are usually handled a lot better, and to not pursue a relationship at worst makes someone loose a few respect points (in DA).

      It sounds like Anders was the exception to this rule, so I wouldn’t judge every possible same-sex romance by jumping to the conclusion it will be the same. In fact, I don’t see how that concern should be exclusive to same sex relationships; it’s just as likely for a straight interest to be as aggressive upon dismissal.

      • no offense, but the way that Anders’ initial flirtation was rather reasonable in my opinion. he apologizes directly after trying to flirt, at which time u can say u arent interested. the fact that u lose points with him is because, by telling him u arent interested, u signify that u may be someone that he may have a hard time reasoning with or relating to, due to your differing orientations.

  • just as long as its not DA2 and it seems like 95% of responses lead to a homosexual relationship.
    Id prefer a clear cut dialogue progression with back out points and are just as clear.

  • Speaking of logic, having ME1 and ME2 riddled with inconsistencies is NOT a valid reason to put inconsistencies you’re well aware of into future plots.
    Meh, as a once die hard fan of Mass Effect, I’m no longer sure I’ll even pick ME3 up, I just haven’t enjoyed Bioware’s recent efforts. I’m really just passed being pissed off at their design choices, it’s just expected sadly.

    I’d quite like to see one character come out and the writers actually put some effort into handling what can be a complex issue, you could have Ashley disapprove strongly and create a Miranda/Jack dichotomy, that you as a player could either diffuse or inflame further. Seems both more believable and interesting than the sudden random “Welcome to Normandy 3: The most bi curious ship this side of dark space!”

  • Also, many people don’t wear their sexual preference/s on their sleeve.

    Sexuality is a very complex matter. Many people don’t fit cleanly into any of the “quaint little categories” in the first place.

    Let’s look at the issue of Garrus. He normally prefers Turian females but makes an exception to his general preference for Turians when the issue is Fem-Shep.

    Now, if he can make a species exception, why couldn’t he make a gender exception?

    The obvious rebuttal is that if he could, he would have during ME2. But there may be mitigating factors. For one, the Turians are an heirarchical, militaristic culture – traits which are correlated with disapproval of dude-on-dude (its only a correlation but its a possible explanation). Now, for a Turian Garrus is very rebellious and counter-culture but he could easily have internalized many ideas found in his culture whilst rejecting others.

    Another point that should be mentioned is that perhaps alien species don’t share the same understanding of sexuality and related issues that humans have (the Asari clearly operate on a different paradigm).

    I don’t think there are any necessary inconsistencies raised by the possibility of a male gay option, UNLESS you assume away the existence of Kinsey ratings 1, 2, 4 and 5 (with 3 being Kelly Chambers (and its refreshing to see a bi character that isn’t a psychotic killer, although Kelly was a touch too cheerful for my tastes)).

    In summary, I don’t see why the possibility of previous male squadmates being attracted to male!Shep necessarily counts as character derailment.

  • “and these having been limited to members of an all-female alien species, and a dalliance with a rather bizarre petty officer”

    SO FAR.

    Tali fell for my FemShep so far she ADMITTED she was attracted, yet preferred men.
    (So changing teams IS possible, if bending the rules a bit.)

    As for Ashley not going for women just because she’s religious? PLEASE.

    I have many female friends who are religious and:

    – One has had sex with many women in her life

    Tad Edit: This was far too inappropriate to post. I had to edit it out. Sorry.

    So you can’t bullsh♥t me with “ALL religious people are straight!”.

  • A lot of people here are jumping to the conclusion that said same-sex romances will be exclusively with old characters. Has anyone considered the possibility of new gay or bisexual characters? If people have played their Shepard believing he or she is bisexual or gay, it can easily be explained that they simply haven’t had a chance to meet another bisexual or gay character.

    And at worst, consider the fact that in both ME1 and ME2 there was originally going to be same sex romances. In ME1, Kaiden and Ash were going to be romance options for both male and female Shepard. In ME2, Thane and Tali were going to be bisexual. Personally I’ve always felt the conversations with some of those characters had strong flirtatious or romantic undertones; me and my brother always joked that there was some seriously homoerotic subtext between Kaiden and MaleShep, and Ashely and FemShepd – which isn’t surprising considering they were meant to be a romantic options. And in ME2 Tali’s implies she’d be honoured to ‘link suits’ with FemShep. It could be dismissed purely as a sign of platonic trust, but it could easily link to a same-sex relationship in the future if need be.

    Of course, that’s all personal observation and opinion. I understand the desire to make sure there aren’t too many ass-pulls to the current characterization just so they can satisfy people who want same-sex romances. But I don’t think it will be too big of a stretch, and as someone with gay friends who play Mass Effect and have been saddened by the lack of same-sex relationships (outside of Liara and FemShep, obviously), I think it’s something that can be welcomed as long as it’s done tastefully and with good reason in the narrative. I trust Bioware and the Mass Effect writers enough that they’ll do it justice.

  • Urg. just take all of the ‘sex’ out; focus on the game! Think of all the features we could have had if they used to time they spent progamming in sodomy for other uses. NO ONE WANTS THIS.

    Fire this f♥ckhead who thinks a video game is a social justice/equality platofrm.

    • 1. Many people want this.

      2. The “f♥ckhead who thinks a video game is a social justice/equality platofrm” would be… the Executive Producer, lead writer, writing team, lead gameplay designer, senior designer and senior producer.

      I don’t think they’re gonna fire all of them, just quietly 😉

    • How is providing male bisexual options necessarily a “social justice” issue?

      Its a fanservice issue. They’re giving a segment of their fanbase (gay and bi men, as well as girls that like guy-on-guy) something that they’d like.

      That isn’t political. Its pure commerce. Its about creating a product that will provide more entertainment to a wider demographic.

      Also, you’re assuming they’re “programming in sodomy.” Again, unlikely. They may be programming in a same sex relationship option for males, but there’s no certainty that option will include even IMPLIED sodomy (also remember, the game needs to be rated MA15+). After all, ME2’s romance with Garrus didn’t include any depictions of sex.

      Finally, would there be anywhere NEAR this amount of outrage if it were a long-running presumed-yet-not-declared hetero FEMALE that experienced a same-sex attraction? Lets say Miranda (who is confirmed to have had several relationships with men, and is thus either heterosexual or bisexual) starts finding Kelly Chambers attractive. Would this cause any outrage at all?

      I doubt it.

      There’s a huge double standard here. A female character, generally straight, begins exploring her bisexual inclinations (and yes, most people are “generally one way but will make an exception for some”). This is considered “OMG SO HOT” and celebrated.

      Doing the same with a male character is considered character derailment. Its considered offensive and alienating or something. Why? Does it suddenly rob a male character of any previously-declared awesomeness/coolness/badassery/manliness if they happen to be bisexual?

      I notice there’s less hostility to Kaidan being bisexual than Garrus or Jacob. This may have something to do with the fact that Kaidan was originally intended to be bisexual, but it may also have something to do with the fact that Kaidan is softly spoken and levelheaded rather than GAAAAAAARRRR TESTOSTERONE I EAT SHREDDED METAL FOR MY BREAKFAST AND I SPEAK LIKE MARCUS FENIX!!!

      Not that Garrus and Jacob are, but they do seem to match up more to the traditional concept of martial manliness than Kaidan. Perhaps that’s why some people would be more OK with bi-Kaidan than bi-Garrus or bi-Jacob.

  • Am I in a minority in that I don’t want my toon to bed any of the npcs in any of the episodes? Would a ship captain face repremand for having a sexual relationship with a direct subordinate? Would some of the relationship paths in ME3 only be open if you have not followed any of the paths in ME1 or 2?

    • If you don’t want your Shep to bed any shipmates, he doesn’t have to.

      That’s the whole point of the romances being optional.

      And IIRC some of the dialog in ME1 between Kaidan and Femshep alludes to the “this is technically inappropriate” issue.

  • I love how Bioware was attacked by the gay gamers for not including gay options, and if I remember correctly bioware’s official stance was “this is the story of Commander Shepard, and he is not gay”, yeah way to pander to the gays again, even when it ruins the story of already well developed characters.

    • That quote is wrong. Ray Muzayka actually said: “Sometimes, in some of our games, we are going to have a defined character with a more defined view.”

      If that precludes gay romances I’d eat my hat. Besides, when is it a bad thing for developers to change their minds and include more and better content?

      Not to mention FemShep can already get it on with Liara and Kelly Chambers.

  • My worry about the issue is multi-fold. Let me list them.

    1) Suddenly previously straight characters are bisexual? Not readily believable. (Side-issue: why are there no 100% gay crew members? Had I hit on Miranda in Mass Effect 2, and she replied that she wasn’t into guys, I’d have respected that orientation.)

    2) Dialogue choices are ambiguous. In Effect 2, I picked a comment that SEEMED to say to Jack that I cared about her as a friend, when in REALITY it was a choice that hit her with a whole love thing. Oh, and then the MFing game autosaved on me. I’m not gay and would not be interested in persuing gay relationships in a game (though if my character was gay as a default, I’d not object.) I’d rather not bumble into a situation where my shipmates think I want them when I don’t. Female or Male.

    3) I was told that in Dragon Age 2, male characters constantly hit on you, even when you try and turn them down. In reality, when you make it clear you’re not interested, people have the sense to let it go. Or you just cut them off entirely. If I were trying to save the world, and someone was constantly trying to hump me un-welcomed, I’d throw them the hell out of my party. Again, Male or Female.

    4) Statistics put homosexuality/bisexuality at something like 3% in the US. In a 30 member main party, statistics show that having 1 gay/bisexual character is therefore statistically accurate. 2 or 3 would be a coincidence, but not a long shot. When we take a look at the Mass Effect series, Kelly Chambers is a pansexual (like a bisexual, but also goes for aliens.) Jack experimented, but expresses that it’s not her thing now. Asari technically go both ways, but they have no dudes at all, so you can’t really count them. So add up all those crew members, and we’re in the realm of believability. Dragon Age tried to be more open minded, but they started tipping the scales. 9 party members (besides the dog) and 2 are bisexual. That’s over 20%. That’s an improbability. But hey, maybe bisexuals are more heroic in Ferelden than in other places, right? Dragon Age 2: 9 party members, 4 of whom are confirmed as bisexual, as you can have bi-sex with them. Oh, and I’ve been told it’s possible to wrangle a foursome with them all. That TOTALLY blows the statistics out of the water, and makes the character composition just plain not believable. Not saying anything about morality here or condemning anyone… except the writers, who have shattered my suspension of disbelief. I simply do not accept that out of nine characters who meet and try to stop some bad stuff, nearly half of them are bisexual.

    5) For the love of whatever you think is up there, can’t we just be FRIENDS with our co-workers and fellow heroes? In Mass Effect 1, I turned down both Liara and Ashley, because I seriously did not care for them in the slightest. In 2, I picked Tali because, despite being an alien, she’s got some of the most real human interaction going. Didn’t want to be mind-raped mid event by jack, and with Miranda, hell, she’s practically having sex with the entire ship just by wearing that outfit. Yes, I mean the ship itself. Anyway, I truly feel that the game and the story suffer by being forced to pick “Bed or acquaintance” with every romance-able character, and making more characters possible love interests can spread this problem. Since things like this are better handled with dialogue than with menus or anything, how about we have a character that is ALWAYS just a friend to Shepherd, and you can talk to this person about the things that you look for in a partner. This can remove the “accidental romance” problem that I encountered with Jack, and not really influence the game. One person could say “I’m up for a good time with whoever I want” and bam, he’s got all his options open. Another could reply “There’s too much at stake to worry about romance now. I’ll save it for after the mission,” and now he’s free to turn everyone down without worry that they’ll keep hitting on him. It would even let the gay players get their orientation out there, with a line like, “There’s no regs against spending some time with the right guy,” and THEN they could romance without the ladies hitting on them. I don’t know, but I can imagine it’s annoying for gay men to have women not get the hint and keep bothering them, as annoying as it would be for me, straight, to have a gay admirer who won’t let it go and respect the way that I CAN’T feel about him. Make this character EDI. Make it either Kaiden or Ashley, if they’re maintaining their orientations from the first game. Ooh, JOKER! NOBODY could have sex with Joker, it would probably kill him! He’d be PERFECT for the friend role to talk about relationships with! But it could be an easy way for a player to curtail unwanted advances from genders (or species, or whatever) that they just aren’t interested in. No offense to anyone, but I’m just not into dudes, blondes, black girls, or anyone from Jersey. And life has dialogue options to reflect that. Mass Effect 3 should have the same.

    • 1. We have no information yet on which characters will be available. I’d save the criticism until then. There’s a fair chance that the m/m and f/f options will be new characters. If they *are* returning characters, I trust Bioware to write it well. Your side issue is a good question.

      2. Bioware have promised to reduce the ambiguity of conversation options. I too found this annoying.

      3. With respect, when you play DA2, this happens once. One time. He can then be turned down and there are no more advances. I’ve had to wade through Ashley, Liara, Tali, Miranda, Jack, Kelly Chambers, Gianna Parasini, Shiala – all making advances. I didn’t “throw them the hell out of my party.” I turned them down and got over it.

      4. I’ll take that as a comment… I’m not really sure how this relates to Mass Effect at all.

      5. Bioware have said that more friendship options will be in ME3 for non-romanced party members. I agree with you, the lack of a ‘friendship’ character (except for maybe Chakwas) is disappointing.

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