Hags of Lag – Star Wars is about to get FABULOUS

You heard it here folks! The option for romances is being added to The Old Republic (which is now sadly free to play… I may actually get a copy if and when I get a new PC that can run it!) by Bioware and Thomas from God and the Machine is not happy.

Why you ask? Well it’s Bioware and when Bioware does romance it gives you the option to be… GAY.

Really? It lets you play as amoral bounty hunters and rage fuelled sith lords with a lust for casual genocide to achieve their goals and “Kisses Dudes” is your biggest problem?

Bioware has put romances into a variety of games, some of them are pretty naff and some of them are pretty solid. It hasn’t shied away from same sex relationships even though they have been mishandled. They are a step in the right direction.

The first time I played Mass Effect 3 it was stand alone and I ended up romancing Samantha Taylor with a female Shepard (I liked the idea of a female Shepard due to the better voice acting…) and you know what? I actually liked that choice I made. In my ME2 game it was Garrus and indeed during a second playthrough with an imported character in ME3 it was a romance with some sort of reptile/bird man from outer space and it was very sweet and very cute. Despite all the awkward computer modelled boinking and Garrus’s terribad dancing it was pretty romantic as romances go.

But here is the thing. It was a choice. All of these were choices you made. You didn’t have to woo these people. These were all choices. Choices you made to see what happened. You were in control and depending on what you wanted to do the little pixels responded.

Some will write this off as a desperation measure by BioWare and Lucas, eager to score some cheap free ink. I don’t see it that way. BioWare has been consistent in their efforts to put same-sex romance into their games whether it fits or not, in both the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series. We saw the same thing with Skyrim, with comical results like hulking brutes offering to court male heroes, marry them, and then sit around at home tending the hearth.

Real men don’t do the house work… Listen it’s a game where you can shout people to pieces and the biggest problem Thomas has is that you can gay marry some hulking brute then watch him clean your house because it’s unrealistic and comical. It’s also by a different company…

Whether it fits in or not? Mass Effect is in the future where people like Thomas are thankfully extinct because it’s a world where you can marry DIFFERENT SPECIES. You know what? My Shepard’s romance with Garrus is a bigger jump than any gay/lesbian romance! It’s a universe where inter-species romance is acceptable and somehow gay people are out of place? Like it or not Bioware games are actually a closed universe with the illusion of open ended play with a good emphasis on people and interactions. For every game produced there are massive amounts of script often happening in the background that shows people interacting which is essential for a good RPG. Betheseda’s games (Skyrim and Fallout) let you make your story. Bioware lets you play a story as a hero where you know your role but can go about doing it in different ways. In a Bioware RPG you are usually the leader of a group of like minded individuals and your interactions with them are what defines your growth and part of your growth is how you grow as a “team”. And one of the social interactions we as humans are capable of is “love” and “romance”, to ignore it would be to ignore a rich vein of interaction.

As games mature, we have to expect that more aspects of the human experience will be drawn into their narratives and design. There’s no reason to assume a fully fleshed-out Star Wars Universe might not include characters with same-sex attraction. The problem with current approaches is that–due to limitations of the medium–they tend to make everyone bisexual. The results are absurd, and role-playing games that include romantic subplots and quests can wind up populated with people who appear to be willing to hook up with anyone and anything. (Did I mention the alien-human romances of Mass Effect?)

What limitations? Oh dear no… It doesn’t make everyone bisexual. It gives everyone CHOICE. You see the character you play on the screen is compelled by you to act the way they do. If you play them as a bi-sexual then it’s your choices that make them that. Unlike us the characters in a computer game are blank slates mirroring our input. We however have prejudices that we bring to the game.

In Thomas’s case it’s xenophobia and homophobia. His actual complaint is that there were some missions whose endings altered due to the Romance options. To which I say “That’s Life”. Does Thomas go around thinking of every woman who refuses to date him because of “the lost possibilities”? No. Likewise when you pick a romance option you lock yourself to a story path and get to play that story. Thomas literally is bemoaning the idea of CHOICE in a video game. Of Free Will. Something we as gamers have long demanded. And none of the games on this list have ever hidden game content based on romance but the romances do effect the plot because that’s the point. You want a romance to mean something in game otherwise it’s just a pointless little fling that doesn’t mean anything to anyone.

Would you rather a romance be something akin to the romances of Fable where you have some faceless person live in your house or would you want something akin to reality? There is a reason why Garrus has a fucking fan base of women despite being a bird man from space. It’s because the things he wants are understandably “human”. Because he is a genuinely nice person.

If you cannot grasp the point of that sort of world and instead chose to play a game where you judge the characters in it based on human prejudices then you haven’t grasped the point of Mass Effect since the running theme throughout is PREJUDICE. Prejudice against artificial life forms. The Geth were introduced as a genocidal race of AI, then you realised the way an AI would think is different due to meeting Legion and finally you can do something no one has ever done and stand up for the Geth and prevent a genocide of two different species and end a centuries long war of bigotry. The entire point is that you have to give up some of your “human” notions of how things work and see things according to different cultures.

The best example is brainwashing is a monstrous crime to most sentient beings, but to an computer software based “life” form it’s how agreements and disagreements are solved. Reprogramming each other is the basis of a conversation. That any stance against that is based on our prejudices as human beings. It’s a lovely little part of the game that genuinely makes you think about what your stances are and what it means when put up against another culture’s way of looking at the world.

It actually makes me sad that there are so many people who didn’t see such a relatively interesting question just because it’s in a “game”.

If we’re looking (in the US) at a gay population in the neighborhood of 10 million out of a population of about 300 million, we’re looking at a very small population indeed. Let’s be optimistic and say that 500,000 people are still playing SWOR. If we assume that 3% of the population is gay or bisexual, that means BioWare is devoting money, time, and resources for a failing game to cater to about 15,000 gamers. By comparison, there are about 245 million Christians, roughly 78% of the population. If the percentages of the population mirror those of MMO gamers (and, by and large, they do), then that’s 375,000 gamers.

I am straight and male, yet I played a lesbian and a straight Shepard. Maybe I am secretly a woman.

Not every Christian is a homophobic bag of douche particular in a galaxy far far away where space Buddhists fight with laser swords and gain access to magical powers through vaguely eastern “religious themes”. The Jedi are not “Christian” they are heavily based in Buddhist/Hindu philosophy and are akin to Shaolin Monks and Sword Saints and Samurai rather than anything christian despite using the term Knight to describe their militant rank.

It’s an entire ethos dedicated to control of passions through meditation and self denial which are very Buddhist/Hindu concepts. Not Christian. If a Christian can play as a Jedi or a Sith (who are what happens when you cannot control your passions and let them turn into obsessions) then they can seduce people of the same gender without it meaning they are gay in real life. What? It’s okay to accept other philosophies and motifs but kiss a dude and your Christianity suddenly crumbles?

Not all christians are bigots.

And again I must say “It’s a choice, no one is forcing you to get into a gay hutt marriage”.

BioWare says this is “broadening” the audience to include gays. Fair enough. I’d argue, however, that it’s narrowing the experience for much-larger audience which has no reference point for, or interest in, same-sex romance. It really wouldn’t take much to implement a “sexual preference” switch to turn-off these same-sex advances for straight gamers, rather than having to field a same-sex proposition and decline it. I somehow managed to get through 3 years at an art school in Greenwich Village in the 1980s without getting propositioned by a single gay person (yeah, yeah: keep your comments about my appearance to yourself), so we’re not talking about a universal experience. Must we assume that no one in the Star Wars universe (full of characters with all sorts of extraordinary powers) posses gaydar, or even a long ago and far far away version of Grindr?

I have been hit on by gay men. To be fair it’s because I have a gay friend and for a long time he was the “only gay in the village”. So me and a few other friends would actually go to a gay bar with him to give him some company. A few gay people got angry but after a while they saw what we did for our friend. We were willing to go sit in a place which as youths made us deeply uncomfortable in order for him to be himself. He met his civil partner there… When the UK legalises gay marriage he will marry him and it was because we were willing to go sit and keep him company till he found some gay friends. Some days he wants to go there and so I still go along because it’s where he gets to be himself. It’s where he doesn’t have to fear some wanker picking a fight with him because he is gay. It’s where he and his partner can go sit and be human. And if it means getting hit on by a few gay men then I don’t really mind keeping my friend happy for all the times he has come and sat with the rest of us in a bar surrounded by men who would have beaten or even killed him for his sexuality. In comparison it’s not an annoyance and nearly every person I have met there has been nothing but supportive and friendly.

Did you ever consider that the Jesus flogging and unwillingness to treat homosexual romances as anything but super icky may have been the reason that gay people didn’t want to talk to you let alone ask you out? I don’t see many gay people asking out members of the Westboro Baptist Church just as I don’t really date members of the BNP. There is a great chance that Thomas has met gay men who fancied him but they didn’t act on that because he is a horrible homophobe.

And what? Are you so traumatised by a computerised homosexual asking you out that you request a sign that says “I AM NOT GAY” on your character? What next? A switch which stops aliens from talking to you or existing because you believe that all life in the universe was created by Jehovah and therefore no Aliens can exist and it is an affront to your world views to acknowledge their existence? A switch that eliminates all Jedi and Sith from the universe because they use “hindu chakra magic” and hinduism is a false religion?

The problem is that the scenarios are just absurd, as are most romantic subplots. Game romance–and game sex–has never risen above merely being awkward, and it’s usually just silly. BioWare has handled it better than most, but even they’ve created some truly eye-rolling moments of pure cheese. Most of the romance in Mass Effect (which included SSA) barely rose above the level of bad Mary Sue fanfic.

Then don’t involve yourself in one. It’s really as simple as that. And hey! I liked Garrus! I am actually surprised they didn’t mention Thane Krios whose romance and life are based on religion and his story is a religious one too, of a sinner making amends through a suicide mission and whose greatest wish is for his son to not follow in his footsteps. Faith is a small part of it but it’s integral to his life.

A bigger problem–and one not lost on BioWare and Lucas–is that we’re talking about Star Wars, a cultural touchstone. If Star Wars is perceived as “going gay,” that’s one more bastion that falls in the culture wars. In reality, romance in the Star Wars movies has always been either a minor feature (the old-fashioned Hepburn/Tracy romance of Han and Leia) or universally derided (the annoying Anakin and Padme courtship). This has very little to do with the dramatic integrity of the game or the Star Wars universe, or with catering to some kind of overwhelming consumer demand. It feels like yet another cultural “eat your spinach” moment in which we’re being schooled on tolerance for our own good. That’s certainly their right as creators, but could they give the rest of us the option to turn it off?

Actually this was an issue that in 2009 got Bioware slapped about by geekdom in general. There are a lot of Gay Star Wars fans. And they didn’t like the fact that they aren’t represented and were actually banned from asking about it. Since then Bioware actually apologised.

And indeed there is a single GAY couple mentioned in Star Wars. The names elude me but they are Mandalorians. There are gay people in Star Wars (even if you exclude the horrific parody of Ziro the Hutt) but the thing is the mandalorians weren’t called gay. They were just treated as a normal couple. No one classified their relationship as anything different. It was another relationship.

As it should be. I know every single gay person lives for the day we don’t need to classify our relationships as gay or not and instead people treat such a relationship as normal.

Minor Feature? The romance between Leia and Han was one of the corner stones of the series and extended universe. The Anakin and Padme romance is mishandled because George Lucas is awesome at special effects but terrible at Script. We know that Anakin Skywalker became a Sith Lord due to some horrific event in his past, it’s just that Lucas told a shitty story despite being given some of the most visually stunning technology and villains to work with (the design of Dooku, Grievous and the Droid Armies was beautiful and droids form an excellent modern version of storm troopers because you can kill millions of them and not feel sad! Rather than utilise this to produce a grand story about the fall of the Republic to the Sith and a desperate struggle to fight a frankly unstoppable war machine that churns out faceless, soulless killing machines and the depths to which the Jedi have had to sink blinding themselves to their inevitable demise (oh yes, the books explore the morality of the Clone Army as being worse than the Droid army) at the hands of the Sith. Oh a lot of fans have beautiful ideas about the first three movies but to simply say the romance at the heart of it was unnecessary is foolish.

You can have the romance, you can have the fall to the dark side because of it but just not the way it was done. Because love is one of the themes explored in the original trilogy with the love of Anakin Skywalker for his son allowing him to fulfil his destiny and bring balance to the force. That in the end Anakin was a good father and saved his son and traded all the power in the universe for his son’s life. And indeed the series was retconned heavily to imply that the only way the Jedi would change to once again be the heroic jedi of Luke’s era is by destroying themselves and suffering the massive casualties that they had to realise that their ascetic lifestyle was more harmful than the immersive lifestyle of the old Jedi. That passions were good, obsessions were not and their ascetic lifestyle made them prone to being blind sided by reality and not understood by the people around them.

If you don’t want to have sex with gay wookies then don’t have sex with gay wookies. It’s as simple as that. Demanding that gay wookies be banned lest one ask you out on a ornithopter ride leaving you to clutch your homophobic space bounty hunter pearls is just stupid. If you don’t want to ride the ornithopter then don’t fucking say yes! The wookie isn’t holding a bowcaster to your head. Say no. Move along with the game and ignore the gay wookie.



  1. A. Noyd says

    “If we assume that 3% of the population is gay or bisexual, that means BioWare is devoting money, time, and resources for a failing game to cater to about 15,000 gamers.”

    Oh, because only gay and bi people would want to play gay characters. Mr. Thomas McDipshit apparently has never heard of slash or BL or yaoi or yuri. Which is nearly unthinkable given that he mentions fanfic. I guess it would so blow his tiny mind to realize that legions of straight people get off on gay romance and sex all the damn time that he’s blocked it out.

    “It really wouldn’t take much to implement a “sexual preference” switch to turn-off these same-sex advances for straight gamers, rather than having to field a same-sex proposition and decline it.”

    Given how stupid people get about same-sex advances in real life, I’d say a game that lets them practice declining without being a douche or a violent bigot is more than necessary.

    “It feels like yet another cultural “eat your spinach” moment in which we’re being schooled on tolerance for our own good. That’s certainly their right as creators, but could they give the rest of us the option to turn it off?”

    This dude is his own argument against allowing that option.

    Also, I see that some assbag in the comments thinks Thomas is being tolerant. On what fucking planet is “Waaah! let me take out all the gayness so I don’t get any on me!” tolerance?

  2. Perchloric Acid says

    I am terribly offended by this post.

    Mark Meer was a friend of mine in university, and I am appalled that you think someone else is a better voice actor.

  3. otrame says

    Hmmmm. SWTOR is allowing gay relationships. And free to play. Maybe this straight grandmother will look into playing it. I love me some slash.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot. No Macs allowed.

    I’ll go back to Guild Wars 2 then.

  4. Ysanne says

    apparently has never heard of slash…

    Oh yes.
    If they ever had even a cursory look on fanfic featuring Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Bioware would have to be idiots not to allow gay relationships — and if there’s any bedroom action, the single most important move would be the padawan braid pull.

  5. latsot says

    The Star Wars universe has some reasonable form in this area. Some of the books feature two ruthless bounty hunters in an openly gay relationship with nobody else batting an eyelid.

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