I’ve been playing Mass Effect on my new (second-hand) Xbox 360. Wow! Videogames have sure come along a lot in the last two years or so since I followed what was hot and joined in on all the blog gossp. Just when I was feeling jaded (I went back and played some of my old favorites and they just didn’t charm me like they used to), I pick up a used copy of Mass Effect because I heard it had some themes in common with Battlestar Galactica.
Mass Effect is a thoughtful science fiction game. Sort of like a good book, only with a lot more choices than a linear story I sit back and enjoy.
I really appreciate that more games these days allow customizable protagonists. When I was a teenager, I pretty much had to access fantastical worlds through the eyes of a white male. Some of those protagonists were pretty rad (usually the quiet ones like Link and Crono because I had more room to imagine what they might be like) while others were obnoxious and oblivious (Squall, Sora). In Mass Effect, the default Commander Shepard is a white dude, but you can custom him to the point that he’s no longer a man. I’m playing the game as a butch black woman, and I bet I’m having an entirely different experience seeing her as a military officer and special agent than if I’d just gone with the default protagonist.
Only one thing about this game really irks me so far. (Well, besides having to kill biotic “terrorists” fighting for reparations that I thought were the good guys.) As a female Commander Shepard, I have the option of pursing a romance with a human male or an alien female. So I can play a queer romance, if I choose. I also can have a sexual encounter with another female alien. Awesome. But I hear that if I play a male protagonist, my romance options are with a human female or an alien female. There’s no option for a queer romance if I play a male character. I suspect the game designers
that their players are heterosexual males and want to indulge in a lesbian relationship through playing a female character. I understand games are a fantasy and indulgence, so why deny players the option of developing a romantic relationship between men? It looks like Mass Effect is an example of queer women getting a pass as long as they’re sexy and doing it for the indulgence of male players who watch. But because of homophobia, queer males get no airtime at all.
Is this inclusion of queer romances among women but exclusion of queer romances among men a trend in games these days, or is Mass Effect unique? The Sims is the only game I can think of that allows all around indiscriminate lovin’.