Writer Tom Bissell, who might be one of the most insightful critics in gaming today, published a great piece over at Grantland today about Mass Effect 3.
Here's an excerpt (though you should totally read the whole thing):
A lot, finally, has been made of the fact that the male Commander Shepard can have a homosexual relationship in Mass Effect 3. It's an undeniably welcome development that gay and straight gamers alike can push a video game's male hero outside the heteronormative perimeter. In a similar vein, I found myself oddly moved when a male member of Commander Shepard's crew mentioned his — that is, the crew member's — husband. Video-game enthusiasts are, in many ways, the most reactionary and emotionally conservative audience out there.
For that reason alone BioWare should continue to give gamers the chance to meet and interact with incidentally gay characters. (This is what more meatheaded gamers call "shoving the gay agenda down our throats!!") That said, BioWare's talented storytellers desperately need to rethink their curious devotion to the video-game sex scene, gay or otherwise, which, even at its best, remains as polygonally unconvincing as digital representation gets.
In fact, could we, as gamers, maybe politely band together to convince BioWare to can the sex scenes entirely, at least until the technology exists to make a non-hilarious one? Then again, I'm a shameless hypocrite, because I spent an inordinate amount of time as Commander Shepard trolling my crew for sex. All I can say in my defence is that, when I know Liara's in the next room, it's hard not to get a hankering for blueberry, if you know what I mean.
Giving the player choices doesn't mean you have to give the player stupid choices. Over the course of the Mass Effect games, I've emotionally misled at least three members of my crew, cheated on two more, and seduced both of my female aides-de-camp. Why have I been allowed to play a game called Mass Effect: Shepard Gone Wild? I have no idea. Neither real-life nor video-game commanders should be allowed to seduce their subordinates; it's beyond blockheaded even to give the gamer the option of doing so, especially when it shatters the gritty, war-is-hell vibe the game so desperately attempts to evoke. This aspect of the Mass Effect franchise feels like lonely-gamer pandering at its worst.
It's hard not to disagree. The sex scenes in BioWare's recent sci-fi role-playing game feel stilted and uncomfortable. I'm not sure why so many people seem to love them so much. Maybe there's just no better alternative?
Relationship Blues [Grantland]