Mass Effect 3's Sex Scenes Are Super Awkward

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]


Comments

    Nice spoilerific screenshot on the front page there buddy.

      Spolierific? What? Considering that it's common knowledge that ME3 had homosexual relationships (which in ME speak is sex scenes), and that Shepard is one of the galaxy's biggest tarts, I don't think that's spoilerific in any way. It'd be spolierific if he was sleeping with a Reaper.

      I'd agree with you if you were right, but since this is in no way a spoiler to what we already know, I simply cannot

        Yeah fair point, but sex scene or not it's a plot related sequence not a part of the gameplay.
        I guess I'm just touchy with people being more and more careless with their ME3 talk these days.

          This just in: Bioware RPG has a romance scene.

          Oh, sorry, I should have put up a spoilers tag, huh?

      poop

    The sex scenes are actually what drew me to the franchise at first, I'd played a couple of JRPGs that had a dating aspect like Riviera and I wanted to see what a western version would be like, but I was a bit disppointed, it just doesn't feel that believable. I like how you bond with your team-mates, and it's great, but the sex scenes are pretty stupid and actually detract from the game a bit.

      "The sex scenes are actually what drew me to the franchise at first, I’d played a couple of JRPGs that had a dating aspect"

      Bravo!

      don't visit a site about videogames if you are THAT touchy about spoilers then, because that aint a spoiler.

    That's one way to look at it. Personally, I enjoy the romance aspect of BioWare games, and wish there were more of them. No one complains in action movies when you have a romantic subplot with a sex scene. Honesty, I could take or leave the scene itself. I just like the romance. But..."woohoo (assume the position)" with the Sexbot in Fallout New Vegas was pretty damn funny.

      Untrue. I hate lame tacked-on romances in Action movies. Take Transformers, for instance. What should have been epic-robot-time was instead generic-collagen-implant-time.

        Don't you dare let them take away Megan Fox bending over things.

      There are a lot of action movies where people complain about unnecessary sex scenes that just feel shoehorned in for the sake of it. (Just ask Google) Personally, my most hated one is Underworld: Evolution.

        I love Megan fox too bad she didn't play the part in transformers 3 on the other hand if u watch Jennifer's body u wont like her so much because she eats people and it's gross but the lesbian scene wasn't to bad am I going of track sorry I like my conversations with people

    It's basically puppets dry humping. You expect more from a video game?

      It's not just that. The BioWare kissing is awful because there are no collision physics and the faces are clipping through each other and looks like one guy trying to get sock puppets on either hand to make out.

        Actually, I read the linked article BEFORE I got to the sex scene with Femshep/Kaidan, so I was expecting it to be horrible... but everything seemed to touch in the right spots and looked believable.

    It's not just the sex scenes - it's the whole character to character interaction. In all three games I never bothered pursuing a relationship with anyone because it just felt so... clunky and unnatural. Firstly, there's the actual relationship-building part, which boils down to talk to them a few times, they're all oh Shepard I have feelings, click on the painfully awkward pickup line, and BOOM! You're in. There's not really any of the tentative interest-gauging that goes on in real life. You won't find Tali or whoever coming up and asking you if you like doing activity X and hey, I'm going to do activity X next time I'm on the citadel, would you like to come along too? Aside from those few conversation scenes, nothing else in-game changes to reflect the supposed growing attachment between Shepard and whoever. No emails sent to each other or anything, hey I saved you a pudding before Wrex fucking ate the last one again - none of the little things real people would do. I know they were kind of constrained by the length of the game, but when Bioware goes on about how it was always going to be a trilogy, so why not spread it out over the three? Initial attraction and stuff in ME1, more development in ME2, and final development in ME3.

    Secondly is the actual animation, which the article mentions. It's like two mannequins bumping around behind the shop window. Bioware seems to have this problem with character animation, from the "head turn and stride off" NPC conversation ender, to Shepard's "fold arms and nod head". Invest in mocap for God's sake. Don't even get me started on the faces... or the smiles... or the eyes. It's like Team America. Ask naughty Dog for help. How could a love scene between two characters in any Mass Effect game come across as anything but uncomfortable to watch when they can't even get just talking to another person right? The whole relationship thing in these games just reeks of pandering to the crowd who just want to see some alien ass and say "man I banged Liara." For a company with the word "bio" as part of their name, hardly anything they do feels in the least bit organic.

      Why do you think the BioWare games are so slavishly obssessed over by social recluses? No, I'm not talking about everyone here. But take a gander at the BioWare official forums and you'd find a cesspool of creepy community fan-fiction, fan art and weird sex speculation that any Japanese 'dating sim' would be proud of.

      http://www.somethingawful.com/d/weekend-web/bioware-social-forums.php

      It's because these games remove any awkward reality in a relationship. It boils wooing and romance down to hitting a few pre-written dialogue options, saying hi in between missions and maybe giving a gift or two for some social brownie points. It literally turns romance into a spreadsheet and removes the need for real human interaction.

      The fact that Shepard is some galactic stud who's absolutely irresistable to any sexual orientation capable of being attracted to him means he's a perfect vessel for wish fulfilment. Yes, the character interaction is unrealistic and naive but that's precisely why its creepy fanbase loves it. You basically get to live vicariously through a surrogate Captain Kirk, trekking around the universe boning multi-coloured babes who never say no.

        Hahaha if you think the stuff in that link is bad then clearly you haven't been on DeviantArt much. ;)

    I find sex scenes in nearly any medium fairly awkward, I can never really understand what they're supposed to add to the narrative, if you haven't convincly built up intimacy between two characters before the scene then it feels off, and if you have it comes off as unnecessary grunting and thrusting. Ironically I find implied rape scenes or 'quickies' in media less awkward because they tend to serve a purpose beyond showing dat hot actress ass. I think 'clunky' is perhaps a slightly better word for the ME scenes, they're more than just awkard, they're stiff and quite creepy, as so many have said, dry humping puppetry.

    As an aside, I think the Triss/Geralt scene in TW2 is fairly well done, and that's coming from someone who tries to avoid the awkward sex scenes in most games.

      Holly crap that was a long talk I can't be bother reading it

    As great as the Mass Effect games are, they lack the subtle nuances that reflect a real romance progression. Things are more complex than "say line x at designated time"

    I'm on the other side of the fence...yes, the animation is sub-par at best, but for me it's more about connecting with that other player. The Mass Effect serious has been the most engaging piece of entertainment that I've ever taking part in. Having just completed Mass Effect 3, and for the first time shedding a geniune tear, more than once mind you - I can honestly say that I felt like commander Shepard. I grew close to characters in the game. I fell in love with Liara from the start, and maintained that affection all the way through. The sex scenes are more about what I would do in that situation (granted I would be having a lot more sex then once before I do the final battle!). Most sex scenes in games are forced, I agree, but I believe Mass Effect has a different purpose in mind. It just needs to be looked at from a different angle I suppose.

    Mass Effect 2 was the last BioWare game I'll ever play. I'm sick of them. They try too hard to be progressive and please "everyone", and what they end up with is an awful mess.

    It makes no Sense!?!??!!? Wait... Wrong ME3 thread..Jungle fever baby!!!!

    I didn't mind Dragon Age's sex scene, mainly because the quick cuts meant the awkward way the models interacted wasn't as noticeable. I would have appreciated a similar method in all three mass effect games. That said, even the kissing isn't done well, but that's overlookable compared to entire bodies touching but not quite argh stupid models are making this weird feeling during sex scenes.

    I agree the writing is awkward, scene mechanics are crappy. The sooner they do a gay porn parody of Mass Effect, the better.

    why do they need a sex scene in a game? Why cant they just cut to a door closing,, outside shot showing lights going out, and then fade to the following morning with the two characters having breakfast in their pj's?

    I totally applaud Bioware for letting me romance a woman as a femshep. Finally a game that has that option for me. I like the fact that we could have a romance if we wanted to. And a bit on the side, (thanks Yoeman Chambers). Sure the graphics weren't great, but it let my imagination go for it. It got me closer to the characters and made me really listen to and see what kind of person they were.

    I was disappointed ME3's sex scenes didn't have some kind of mini-game attached. Hey, GoW managed it.

    hey I saved you a pudding before Wrex fucking ate the last one again

    I would pay big money for a DLC with a mission that requires Shepard to save the last pudding for his/her RI before Wrex eats it. :)

    where is the complaints dept because watchmen got a lot of complaints due to it, btw japs have a notorius hentai video game industry

    Some of the decisions in the sequels might be worth dwelling upon, but these are not they.

    Let me preface my dissent by noting that I'm sure Mark Vanderloo needs little more than a simple 'hi,' to woo pretty much anyone in the universe. Combine that with the prerogative of a character like Commander Shepard, and what are we finding difficult about the willingness of his crew members? We're trying to argue the 'reality' of these fictional romance scenarios by the courting standards of a fantasy romance novel. That's what I liked about Jack in the second game: correct me if I'm remembering this wrong, but she had 'good' and a 'bad' romance options, and the bad involved angry boiler room sex and afterward not being able to look each other in the eyes.

    On a less flippant note, some of you seem to forget that characters like Tali become romance options after Shepard saves her from exile, or settles a three-century war between her people and the geth and reclaims her homeworld. I can't be certain, but I'd imagine that would have more of an impact on my emotional interest than sharing dessert treats. But I congratulate Bioware for their successful character-immersion techniques that many of you are projecting your own romantic quandaries onto Shepard. I could go on explaining the interest-rational for the remaining options, but love is not rational, and none of us can pretend to understand the mindset of living in this universe in this apocalyptic climate, and ultimately it's only a game; it may prove to be a positive point of departure for successive releases.

      Oops, rationale.

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