BioWare's Handling Of A 'Gay Planet' In The Old Republic Isn't Surprising

Months back, when Bioware came out with the news that finally, finally, a gay-romance option would be included in Mass Effect 3, something stood out to me. It was the way they explained why it was becoming an option: not as a political statement, but as a business decision of sorts. Players asked for it, and we give players what they want sort of deal.

To quote an earlier interview with Kotaku, where they explained that inclusion wasn't a political statement:

"We respond to that feedback and try to make our games better based on what our players are asking for."

"We're neutral," Muzyka says. " It's the player's choice. It's a role-playing game."

We're not pushing any particular direction with most of our stuff."

For comparison's sake, how the writers at both Mass Effect and Dragon Age talk about same-sex romance:

Nevertheless, I'm a straight white male — pretty much the living embodiment of the Patriarchy — and I really wanted to avoid writing something that people saw and went, "That's a straight guy writing lesbians for other straight guys to look at." (Patrick Weekes)

The romances in the game are not for "the straight male gamer". (David Gaider)

The writers use language that sounds political. Words that make it sound like the decision to be inclusive is coming from a progressive place. Words like "patriarchal", "privilege", "political correctness" and so on. Words that the ex head-honchos at Bioware shied away from using, instead opting for "neutral."

Anyone that doesn't perceive there might be a schism between Bioware as a whole and smaller teams at Bioware isn't paying attention.

But even the folks using those words don't pose inclusion as a completely ideological thing. Above all, it's a smart-move sort of thing: metrics say this is wanted, and it doesn't cost much to include, so hey, let's do it.

It's a business; decisions have to be practical. We can't talk about things like inclusion without justification that spans beyond the ideological to come up. It's not uncommon to talk about, say, gay characters, and have someone chime in that they hope it's not needlessly put in the game, that they hope there's a good reason for it — both narrative-wise, and development-wise.

I think we lose sight of this. I think we don't realise there might not politics where we assume there are politics.

As an example that I think is representative of how many people feel, we here at Kotaku have gotten a number of impassioned emails from fans wondering why, at first, Bioware seemed to be ignoring them with same-sex romance options in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To quote one:

Bioware claim to be an LGBT friendly organisation and producer, but their handling of same-sex content in Star Wars: The Old Republic seems to very much put that in doubt.

Emphasis mine.

The call for same-sex romances is no longer being ignored: as we reported before, Bioware plans to bring same-sex romances into the game.

The controversy that has bizarrely popped up now, over a week after the announcement, is that the same sex romance will take place on a specific planet for now — Makeb — and you have to pay money to go there. Some have jokingly dubbed it 'pay-to-gay.'

Most are confused as to why Bioware would do this: aren't they, like, progressive or something? Why are they stumbling? This reaction puzzles me, for it asserts that the actions of one studio will predict the successes or predilections at other studios.

Kotaku's Tina Amini points out that if, for Bioware, inclusion is a business thing, then having to pay to access Makeb should not be surprising. In order to supply fans' desire for the extra content, BioWare would take on the development and resource costs in exchange for a price.

Ultimately I think we focus too much on the outcome of some of Bioware's actions: they have, on occasion, allowed players to pursue same-sex romances, so clearly they're making a statement and clearly they want to be progressive, and since they've done it before, they're always going to get it right.

That's hopeful thinking though. That's what we hope Bioware is saying and doing, what we hope they're taking a stance for. And somehow we've let a small part of the development team — the writers — speak not only for entire games, but for entire studios. That's crazy.

When the Bioware brand has extended to include not only Mass Effect and Dragon Age, assuming that all of the rest of their studios will take a stand in some way, or assuming that what one studio has done should be used as a metric for the other studios is a mistake.

It's especially a mistake now that Bioware has become a 'brand' which may not reflect a unification in ethos across all eight of the studios that are now considered "Bioware."

We've tried reaching out to Bioware for comment a couple of times on the fan-perception and Bioware's ideologies — should they exist — but we've not heard back. For now it seems clear that, even if The Old Republic fixes their mistakes, even if they give fans what they want, we should be cautious about assuming politics at Bioware.


    PC activists are getting desperate for something to whinge about it seems.

    It seems this writer will be going back to this particular well as much as possible.

    The fact there is a specific planet is amusing - "Captain, set course for the planet "Blue Oyster Bar" .

      Cue three-minute reluctant dance-scene between shepard and several of the planet's inhabitants.

    Jesus tap-dancing christ, can't we just play some video games? Back in my day RPGs were about exploration and character building, not romance and "cinematic events" (in other words; cutscenes).

    I just wanna play some damn video games without EA and Bioware forcing DLC, hackneyed plotlines and how damn progressive they are down my throat. The solution is drop the whole stupid romance side quests completely.

      Agree completely. I'm all for more rights to LBGT couples. But EA are just so satanic in every other aspect I can't look on decisions like this in a positive light.

      Also, the fact that they literally added in a "gay planet" is just freaking stupid. There is no better way of breaking immersion and lore than adding an exclusively gay planet.

      EA, games are for entertainment. They're not social observation and commentary.

        It's not a gay planet, it's a new planet, where some NPCs may be gay.

          I can't wait to see EA in damage control over this (again)

            Yeah, because Fox News has the best reporting on this, right?

              I agree Fox News is a bad source, it's obvious they don't even pretend to be impartial but the whole segregation thing is definately gonna get picked up.

                It's not going to be "all NPCs on Makeb will be gay". That's just stupid. Bioware aren't going to change existing content to make existing NPCs respond to gay flirts.

                I will bet you an Internets that there will be straight NPCs on Makeb.

                  Never said there wouldn't be straight NPCs, just that the gay NPCs aren't allowed off the planet.

                  "Never said there wouldn't be straight NPCs, just that the gay NPCs aren't allowed off the planet."

                  When has *any* NPC been able to leave the planet in TOR other than your companions? Where has it been announced that there would be a new companion?


      and LOL Toasty; perhaps we'll see a strictly homophobic planet in future DLC, and the two will go to war against one another. I'm imagining space-fences between two sides having a space-picket protest. :P

      (everything sounds better with space in front of it)

      But yeah, it pretty much boils down to: stop faffing on about non-issues and focus that manpower on actually making the game more enjoyable.

        Why is it a non-issue? Because there's already straight romances in the game?

          Settle down bloke.

          It's a non-issue because straight or otherwise, they could be spending less time on the politics of relationships and romance in the game, and more time actually making TOR a half-decent game to play.

          Last edited 15/01/13 4:39 pm

            I'm still hearing your answer as "there's straight romances, that's good enough, work on something else first". Heading to the back of the bus to wait yet again, I get it.

              "I'm still hearing your answer as -puts words in my mouth-"

              Didn't I just tell you to settle down? I'm just not one for romance in my vidya. For all I care, take the straight romance out, or don't; it makes no difference, TOR is still pretty a pretty horrid game,

              You're reading into things far too much; at least we know if Patricia's out of a job there'll be someone just as keen to take her place. :P

              Last edited 15/01/13 4:52 pm

                Why don't you settle down and cut yer butthurt about romances, then, and leave it to people who care?

                See, I can belittle you just like you belittle me. Aren't you proud?

                  If Fruitlewp doesn't get it, there's no point explaining it to him. He and Toasty very obviously missed the point in the first place, or cherry picked what they wanted to rage about. Let him have his little MMO rage, Better here than him picketing a funeral on Makeb. At least his ill-conceived, erroneous rants are public here.

              So in other words you're hearing what you want to hear and blocking out the rest of his statement?

              Last edited 15/01/13 4:59 pm

                Well, I'm hearing it as "we don't need same-sex romance right now, because other things are more important". Is that not the position he is advocating?

                  Honestly, you don't need any type of sexual encounter, i mean FFS it's star wars! Fly around in ships attacking Jedi of fighting sith not wondering whether your going to get layed or not.

            Couldn't agree more. It's an MMO, if you want to have relationships then have them with the other people playing the damn game.

            I played the game from US launch till about a month after the launch of the Australian servers and the "jesus-patch" but the game was just a complete mess. Levels 1 - 49 screamed single player campaign with an MMO endgame tacked on the end with some dungeons scattered throughout to try to hide that, and while PvP had some serious potential their handling of Ilum and their often-stated belief that the legacy system and the leveling portion of the game were "what the player wanted" proved they had no business making an MMO.

            This continued nonsense about NPC relationships and the way they have chosen to go about their free to play transition just continues to prove that Bioware should stick to making single player games.

            Seriously, if they wanted to have relationships in the game, straight or gay, then they should have just launched with player marriages and left the NPC companions as the useless leveling meatshields that they were.

    First sentence says Mass Effect 3, I think that's meant to be The Old republic.

    Also, from what I've been reading on other sites I don't think this is about segregation. It seems there's a lot of new functionality being added, none of which has been getting anywhere near as much publicity as same-sex relationships. For the short-term all new features will be available on the only new planet being added with the next major update. And these features will be added to all new planets after that, and also (I think) eventually worked back into the original planets.

    That was the gist I got, but I could be mistaken.

    This is pretty much what BioWare are doing in general with SWTOR now that it has a "Free to Play" model. Whatever the fans want, they will put a half-assed solution behind a paywall instead of going about things properly.

    Since the game's launch, people have been clamouring for a hood toggle option (for those not in the know: All of the Jedi Knight class specific armour have hoods which are permanently up over the head, obscuring the character - it actually hides the hair model, kind of making it pointless to even choose what kind of hair your character has. Meanwhile all of the advertising materials show Jedi with their hoods down on their backs so their faces aren't obscured, and this is the same with most Jedi NPCs), but instead of putting a proper system in where you can toggle between having the hood up or down, after a year of the game being out, they have simply added one or two sets of armor to the in-game store, that you have to spend real money to get.

    I'm sick of videogames denying me my natural human right to take a shit. This is really highlighted when they have characters eating, drinking and screwing but who never duck off for a grogan. I hate having to get up and do it in real life instead. As a person who craps, I feel so insignificant and under-represented. Bioware, how could you be so insensitive!

    I play this game a lot....

    As an Aussie gamer I really couldn't care less about this patch. What I do care about is this:

    If theres a mod from Kotaku reading this please make it front page news on the AU Kotaku. 120,000 views and 1800 posts from angry APAC players and Bioware are spending time on same gender relationships? They don't listen to their players anymore but maybe some bad press in a forum they can't moderate might get them to do something.

    Creepy neckbeards playing scantily clad twi'leks jeez this is going to end well isn't it.

    Also, snarf.

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