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Romance has always been a cornerstone of any Bioware game and the Mass Effect trilogy does not disappoint. With a wide range of options from drell to turians to humans and asari, these Mass Effect romance options come with their own intimate and well-developed story that resonates with the players. Initiating romance options in Mass Effect is easy. Just a flirt here and there can lead to something more.

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Long gone are the otherings and dissension of modern-day Earth, as humans take their place in the stars beyond. In practice?

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Mass Effect is an unambiguously heteronormative franchise, especially with its first two games. The franchise is generally considered inclusive, but it took time to get there.

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In Mass Effect, a prominent same-sex romance between female characters is possible, and that relationship carries across the trilogy. Mass Effect 3 finally shows the series catching up with its reputation as a diverse and inclusive franchise, adding a new sapphic relationship and two romantic paths for queer men, which we re the only two in the franchise. Presumably, Mass Effect: Andromeda would have taken the lessons learned from a trilogy finding its footing and allowing queer sexualities to exist alongside straight ones and doubled down. And it did, eventually. The fourth game launched with close to equal romances for any pairing a player might want for protagonist Pathfinder Ryder — except for gay men, who had to fight their way to an equal shake of things.

Changes and additions would likely not have come had it not been for fans advocating for representation, and those fights have led to Mass Effect becoming a more inclusive franchise, even if it has tripped in myriad ways to reach that point.

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More recently, with the release of the Legendary Edition remastersthis notion seems to be dropped almost entirely. The company also allowed fans to customize the art to their liking to fit their relationship with the universe and the character at its center. Expressing your sexuality through romance is one thing, but what does Mass Effect actually capture about queer life?

That, too, gets complicated, as the series took three games to acknowledge queerness outright.

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Cornelia Cartwright, a fan who describes herself as genderfluid transfeminine, says the distance the series puts between queer identity and queer culture has been a sticking point for her. The great pain of being closeted is how it deprives you of community. Being out means that most of your community will be other queer people. Unfortunately, its attempts have been fraught. In AndromedaGil is a gay man part of a colonizing initiative meant to find a new home for humanity. Questions of repopulation come up as a result.

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Gil, who is in the midst of an identity crisis, wonders aloud about the prospect of being a father, a gay man, and what his place in the initiative is beyond his career as an engineer. Ultimately, the decision revolving around parenthood is taken from Gil and handed to Jill.

What at effect seems to be an interesting futuristic take on queer parenting and surrogacy ends up swerving into the most heteronormative version of itself, placing all his value on his ability to reproduce while sweeping his own internal struggles about whether or not he wants to under the rug. While Gil is already sure of his identity, Mass Effect 2 has an instance of a character coming to grips with what it means to be attracted to aliens — specifically alien women.

These Asari have a genetic condition that causes their minds to overpower anyone they telepathically link to, which is a key part of their mating. This initially made him resistant to some of its criticism. Sexuality is only one side of the queer spectrum. Regarding Hainly Abrams: pic. Conversely, Stacey Henley, a transgender woman and features editor at TheGamer, tells Fanbyte she had conflicting feelings on the scene.

In one scene, Commander Shepard and shuttle pilot Steve Cortez meet in a club. While this can lead to a possible romance between them, the conversation can also end with the two dancing platonically, without even touching the subject of a romantic relationship. For so long, Sex Effect stories, by de, touched on such few queer experiences. This monogendered race greatly resembles human women and, for the trilogy, at least, uses feminine pronouns. The series attempts to confront that in Mass Effect: Andromedain a scene where the player passes by an Asari and an Angaran character discussing pronoun usage within Asari culture.

It presented a relationship that was, in every way that mattered, queer, but the explanation was mass to excuse the lack of a male seeking male romantic relationship alongside it. The game was recognized as inclusive and groundbreaking, yet its developer weaponized the same relationship it received praise for.

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A female Shepard gets a lap dance from Kelly and cuddles with her. The dance music can almost drown out the sound of BioWare representatives telling fans and press that Shepard is straight.

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Inmass Executive Producer Casey Hudson tweeted that male Shepard could pursue men romantically in the final game in the trilogy. It was the end of a years-long fight for player expression that opened the floodgates for unambiguous queer representation in the Mass Effect universe. Happy to confirm ME3 supports wider options for love interests incl. His relationship with Shepard is all about living in the now instead of staying stuck in the past. As Kaidan is present in games, Mass Effect 3 does some retconning to make the relationship work, revealing him to be bisexual and looking for a new connection with someone he cares about at the end of the world.

The relationship is altogether better for itskipping over the sloppy hookup nature the series is known for and instead leaning into the tragic, fatalistic themes of Mass Effect 3. But it is a effect for a group of people BioWare made calculated efforts to exclude. So what was the holdup? According to some people at the story, the team was worried about sex potential scandal — something the first game was no stranger to. The game was successful in spite of this, but the impact still lingered.

Kindregan, who also wrote Jack, a squadmate in Mass Effect 2explained the character was envisioned as pansexual and would have been a romance option for male and female Shepard. Should I kill you first? Can I trust you? How much do I trust you? But it was still that concept in my mind.

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Though originally framed as pansexual, the development team was wary of the potential controversy with same-sex romances. Jack became a strictly heterosexual romance despite making references to male and female sexual partners in the final game. Kindregan says he may have given the wrong impression by pointing out the Fox News segment specifically.

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That was one of the concerns. Was told at the time "America isn't ready for it". Perhaps it still isn't. While these romances never made it into the final game, remnants still exist in the code. The same can be said of the original Mass Effectwhich features nearly complete romance voice lines for a same-sex relationship with Kaidan and female party member Ashley Williams. Instead, they were just part of the recording sessions for Commander Shepard actors Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer, which had both actors record the entire script, with gender-specific lines only being used where the team intended.

The remaster would remain in step with the originals, aside from mechanical tweaks or scene edits like simple camera shifts. In a post-launch interview with Electric PlaygroundWalters explained further that altering romances, even for one character like Kaidan, would pull at thre further on in the trilogy beyond voice lines, which required coding around and compensating for.

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Some queer fans have taken onus with the decision. One group created a petition asking for some of these romances to be restored via a post-launch patch.

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The petition is part of an online campaign to make the Legendary Edition inclusive, and those behind it have consulted with modders to compile an extensive tech write-up breaking down what changes or assets are missing to make those same-sex romances compatible within existing code. Certain characters like Kaidan have more content than others, making it possible for fans to use some voice lines to mod the game. Voice recording sessions would be required to make any additional romance work, but modders argue editing tools to switch pronouns in voiced dialogue could be used as a workaround, along with some animation alterations.

Even after moving on from many of the regressive views of the original trilogy, Mass Effect: Andromeda still needed a fan movement fighting for equal representation for queer men. And the fear is that these same technicalities might show up in the next Mass Effect game BioWare teased at the Game Awards. Wright believes getting more mainstream media representation is one of the first steps for queer identities to become normalized.

And popular video games like Mass Effect are part of that vision.

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The future is inclusive. Because the end result is the same: this is a culturally acceptable queerphobia. After so many years of messy queer representation, Mass Effect: Andromeda tried to make amends. Between the male and female versions of Pathfinder Ryder, queer romance options were near equal to their heterosexual counterparts. They were among the first to use the MakeJaalBi tag on social media before it became the rallying cry for a larger movement of queer fans seeking representation in Andromeda.

Eventually, other fans took notice of the MakeJaalBi tag, and a larger movement sprouted. Just under three months later, BioWare patched Andromeda so Jaal would be a romantic option for male Ryder. Davidson says they were emotional when the announcement was finally made, as it was proof that when queer fans banded together, they could make a difference.

We rank all of the original trilogy's relationships

It was a celebration. The addition of Jaal helps make a more even playing field for most sexualities. Both male and female Ryders have three full-fledged same-sex romances, though a fling with an Asari reporter does give queer women another option.

Playing as a female Ryder attracted to women means you can romance Peebee, an Asari researcher interested in the new tech the Milky Way citizens have found in Andromeda, as well as Vetra, a Turian smuggler. Beyond squadmates, a queer lady Ryder can also enter a relationship with scientist Suvi, who is strictly a lesbian option similar to Samantha in Mass Effect 3. After the series largely assumed players were heterosexual until spoken otherwise for two games, Andromeda shows a bit of maturity in how Mass Effect views its players and the characters they may choose to woo.

This raises questions about what ground the series still has to cover.

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But there are still sides of queer identity the series has yet to touch on. Both Shepard and Ryder are referred to by either male or female pronouns, so as far as the games allow, they cannot be outwardly non-binary and go by alternative pronouns. But BioWare does at least seem open to the idea of allowing players to create non-binary protagonists in the future. Acknowledging a trans background in a game like Mass Effect where protagonists are malleable would require a dialogue option or some kind of character creator slider that reflects a character as transgender or cisgender.

I get to decide what I like, to an extent. Not just physically, but have a way to address that in the story and have it be canonical as in, this character is trans and have it be a choice that you make somewhere along the way that feels organic and fitting. How BioWare could integrate any of the above into the next game is unclear because we know so little about it.