Folks, humanity has been counting down the days, and we've finally reached that inevitable moment: the Reapers are on the horizon, and will invade the planet Earth this March. Mass Effect 3 will be upon us, and all of the galaxy's Shepards - both male and female- will begin their journey to conclude the current gen's most definitive RPG franchise. This blog series will pay tribute to the franchise as we brace ourselves for the upcoming finale by chronicling my own journey and experiences with the Mass Effect series. We'll continue this series with a look at my own personal observation of the struggle for increased representation in the Mass Effect series with more same sex love interests. DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE REVIEW, SPOILERS MAY BE PRESENT.


We're winding down now, to the final unveiling of Mass Effect 3, and with it, the long-awaited showdown against the Reapers. It's a battle that Shepards worldwide have fought for several years since Mass Effect first debuted, and one that hopefully, will be won, after many sacrifices. Nothing compares to the sacrifices we've made, let alone the radical changes this series has introduced to the RPG world, from dynamic and involving storylines that made player choice and consequence a fundamental tenet in its approach, to conversations that engaged the player and keep them enthralled, and most importantly, a hero that could be virtually anyone and anything: any race or ethnicity, any appearance, any personality, any gender and any orientation.

Except homosexual.

Sure, players in the first could romance Liara, but aside from that, there wasn't much else. There weren't any same-sex choices for male Shepards - although one was supposedly scrapped, based on the available evidence. The controversy surrounding the first entry's overrated sex scenes already was a hassle, but the disappointment players felt when some discovered that the Shepard they customized couldn't express themselves in the way they identified or simply desired to explore certainly did. Muzyka's gaffe in an IGN interview only added to the inconsistency, using the game's third-person approach as an excuse to claim aspects of Shepard's character were predetermined. This contradicted the very core of what made Mass Effect so appealing: Shepard was who we defined Shepard to be as a character, through our choices, and no Shepard was the same. In essence, the only thing predefined was the fact that Shepard was a human with Alliance military experience, a Spectre, and, following Muzyka's strange logic, never a homosexual man.

The ability of Liara, a member of an all-female race, to be romanced by either sex also brought about questions of latent sexism that had patriarchal undertones: lesbian romances were acceptable, yet male homosexual ones were not, and given the already highly-sexualized image of women in gaming and the larger society - and the predominantly male audience - many interpreted this bias as a form of objectification, something Bioware would joke about later in Mass Effect 2, and, according to rumor, the latest entry. It was obvious that Bioware considered displaying same sex romance scenes too much of a risk, due to the "PG 13" route they sought to approach. The risks were already high due in no small part to the edgy romantic scenes they'd included, although previous entries like Jade Empire and Dragon Age: Origins had offered same sex love interests and in the case of the latter, were especially successful marketwise. Nonetheless, concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears and life continued, as players of same sex orientations and sympathizers hoped for a change in Mass Effect's second entry.

Nothing to see here, after all.

Players who wanted their Shepards to reflect a same sex orientation were disappointed again, especially when Tali, a character that male Shepards could romance, seemed to express latently intimate thoughts to female Shepards as well, though such a romance never developed. While some have tried to use Samara also, I have not included her since she ultimately doesn't pursue a relationship with Shepard regardless of their sex. However, Bioware would not hear the last of this vocal "minority," and in their forums was born a movement which I, as a pansexual, can safely say I was proud to be a part of: Fight for the Love.

Fight for the Love began as a thread in Bioware posted by a group devoted to support players who wanted to have more love interests available for those whose Shepard identified as same sex, especially males, either through Mass Effect 2's DLC or in Mass Effect 3. However, we were far from a monolithic group. Our constituency contained a diverse spectrum of orientations and walks of life, some gay, some straight, although characters we were interested in tended to interweave: Tali, Garrus, Kaidan, and Thane, to name a few. Through persistently vocal campaigns for inclusion, the group helped to push the glaring lack of player choice in orientation and same sex character romances to the forefront in dialogue on the subject. Our concerns also brought to light the glaring lack of representation and choice players had. Fight for the Love however, did face opposition, and homophobia in the worst cases, which led to numerous locked threads and vicious arguments so powerful that a moratorium was eventually placed on threads dealing with the topic.

Aside from the typical homophobic trolls one would expect populating such a thread, the most common criticisms dealt with continuity issues: it would be unreasonable for characters that didn't originally express a romantic interest in a same sex Shepard to be available for romancing by said Shepard, thus a "retcon,". These critics were usually open to new same sex LI's in Mass Effect 3 however. Another argument concerned feelings that the story and relationship impact would in essence lose its value if Shepard could romance every character this way. While something worthy of consideration, I have to say that there are some flaws in the arguments these people presented.