Mass Effect 3 became the game in the sci-fi series where BioWare finally opened up the relationship possibilities for players wanting to romance a character of the same gender, with characters Esteban Cortez and Samantha Traynor only available for wooing if you played as a male or female Commander Shepard.
Given the level of fan concern when news of these options broke, the moves to offer lesbian and gay romance options were going to face unprecedented levels of scrutiny. A new interview on the official BioWare site reveals that Dusty Everman and Patrick Weekes — the writers who worked on the Cortez and Traynor story arcs — knew that a critical lens was going to hover over their work and lets the pair talk about how they approached their duties:
PW: I worked hard to create a character who addressed her lesbian identity in a positive and intelligent way. My first draft of Traynor’s pitch was all about how her character arc would be about identifying and overcoming the challenges of being gay… and my friends and managers called me on it. I’d been so focused on writing something positive that I hadn’t made a real-enough character. So in the next draft (closer to how she shipped), the focus was on her as a mostly lighthearted fish out of water, a very smart lab tech trying to adjust to life on the front lines, with her identity as a lesbian present but not shouted from the rooftops.
DE: I shared the concerns Patrick had about writing something that felt real. I’ve never been romantic with another guy, so I couldn’t write from personal experience. Also, there seemed to be extra pitfalls associated with a male same-sex romance. Some players have concerns over being “ninja romanced” — where a relationship shifts from friendly to romantic to the player’s surprise — and those concerns seem greater for same-sex romances.
Both writers talk about approaching the characters from a place of relatable humanity first, and not as individuals who needed to be billboards for a certain kind of nobility. Whether you’re happy or not about these characters’ existence and portrayal, people like them exist in the real world and their inclusion into Mass Effect 3 makes the game more representative of the planet players fight so hard to save in the game.
SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS IN MASS EFFECT 3 [BioWare Blog]