There’s Nothing Wrong with BioWare Adding Same Sex Relationships to SWTOR
If you have read what I wrote about Mass Effect 3 and the ending controversy at my other blog, The Lowdown Blog, I’d understand if you thought very poorly of BioWare. I think of what I wrote as tough love. I really like BioWare games. My first love from BioWare was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Despite the ending, I still love the Mass Effect series.
That’s why I’m stepping up to bat to defend them from some of ridiculous criticisms over the addition of same-sex relationships to Star Wars: The Old Republic.
First, let’s start off by pointing out that I’m not a BioWare fanboy. I went on record as not particularly liking my time with SWTOR. It was ambitious to do an essentially fully voiced MMO in the Star Wars universe, complete with BioWare’s trademark morality system and dialogue wheel. However, the execution was lacking. It felt like more a grind that anything which is not a good thing for a game to be… Unless, of course, you’re trying to milk subscription fees out of the users.
Now, the problem I have with the criticism of adding same-sex relationships (or same-gender relationships, as BioWare refers to them) is that they are outlandish and are being done to generate page views. For example, the International Business Times, a respectable publication when I last checked, ran with the headline “Star Wars game segregates gay characters onto ‘gay planet’.”
There’s no way that the headline wasn’t deliberately phrased in the most inflammatory way possible to make it seem as though BioWare is anti-homosexual. In reality, BioWare has been at the forefront of bringing same-sex relationships to video games in Mass Effect 3, the Dragon Age series and now SWTOR. Hell, the press and gamers made a bigger deal about SSR in ME3 than the characters themselves. Sexual orientation wasn’t a big thing to the characters of Mass Effect but rather a fact of life that doesn’t define a person. That’s the sort of advanced perception of sexual orientation that we’re sadly a long way from.
Assuming you give IBT some credit in that they aren’t trying to troll for page views with that headline, using terms like “segregation,” as the International Business Times does, shows an utter lack of knowledge about the subject matter they’re writing about. In a state of the game blog post, SWTOR executive producer Jeff Hickman said about same-sex relationships (emphasis mine):
First of all, I want to apologize that this is taking so long to get in the game. I realize that we promised SGR to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character. Unfortunately, this will take a lot more work than we realized at the time and it… has been delayed as we focused on the changes required to take the game Free-to-Play. As we have said in the past, allowing same gender romance is something we are very supportive of.
Secondly, I want to reveal today that we are adding SGR with some NPCs on Makeb and do intend on pursuing more SGR options in the future. More details to come!
Saying that BioWare is segregating homosexuals onto one planet in the game is technically true but that’s not what IBT wants you to read. Despite the fact that the game’s executive producer says that adding same-sex relationships on one planet is the start, the International Business Times and writer Edward Smith want you to infer that BioWare’s work in adding the planet Makeb is a homophobic rather than a progressive move.
BioWare wants to expand option for same-sex relationships but can’t get what they want done fully implemented right now. They should be lauded for adding it into the game after launch when it would have been a programming nightmare, whether BioWare admitted to it or not. IBT basically implies that “segregation” is an active choice by BioWare rather than a necessity given their resources and the fact that they’re adding it to a completed game. Who knows how long it would take and how much it would cost to program same-sex relationships into the whole game, assuming that the addition is even possible without making the whole game unstable, glitchy or otherwise unplayable.
In his article, Smith also very selectively quotes an article on PC Games N (never heard of it before now, to be honest) by saying that PC Games N said that adding SSR in an add-on/expansion pack was “an oddly regressive move” when the actual quote referred to BioWare not allowing same-sex relationships in the game from the get go. The IBT article also quote some homophobic comments from the BioWare/SWTOR forums without any additional analysis whose inclusion makes no sense other than to fan the flames of what appears to be a simmering war between people who do and do not support same-sex relationships, both in real life and in video games.
However you or your publication wants to spin the addition of same-sex relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the fact remains that they’re going into the game. I firmly believe that BioWare has the best of intentions in doing so. While the effort in adding them might seem too little and too late, remember that adding them at this stage of the game is a result of poor planning from the start. This was a game that seems to have been a bit much for the start-up BioWare Austin studio to handle and it shows throughout the whole game, not just in character relationships. Same-sex relationships should have been their from the start but at least BioWare is trying to make amends.
If BioWare stops here with adding same-sex relationships to SWTOR, then I think we can say that they didn’t do enough. With plans to expand SSR in the game, BioWare is doing the right thing. Reprogramming the whole game would be cost prohibitive so they’re doing the best they can under the circumstances.
As for people who don’t want same-sex relationships in SWTOR, video games or even life, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, an avid game himself, put it best when he said (emphasis mine):
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails.