FemShep Mass Effect 3 trailer
After endless clamor from fans to have the female Commander Shepard a bigger part of Mass Effect marketing and universe, BioWare has released a trailer specifically depicting the chosen default FemShep, voiced of course by Jennifer Hale.
Submitted by wolfennights
[Image Description: a screenshot from character generation in Baldur’s Gate, a popular video game based on Dungeons and Dragons. A choice is given between male and female for gender. ‘Female’ is selected, and a blurb states “Females of the Realm can excel in any area they wish, and are easily the equals of their male counterparts in very skill or respect.”]
I’m filing this under “More Reasons I Love Bioware.”
It is a barely a question that the Mass Effect series, and its creator, Bioware, has been a gaming model for inclusiveness. Whether it’s by race or sex, or sexuality, Mass Effect goes beyond most other games to create a portrait of great diversity. However, as I played through Mass Effect 2 for the third time, I took more notice of the portrayals of sex and gender present in the game. We can look at characters like Tali, Jack, Miranda, Liara, etc. and see great diversity amongst their portrayals. But if we look at the galaxy as a landscape of what sex and gender is in the ME universe, we see a more complicated and contradictory idea of being female, and being a woman in the ME world.
[image description: three mercenaries with guns pointing to the right. Two are male-presenting humans, one is a female-presenting human]
One of the nice details that Mass Effect incorporates that makes it different nearly every other third-person shooters is that it features women not only as important characters with dialogue, but also as thugs and grunts and hench-people. This detail may seems small, but I find it to be a revolutionary concept in action games, because it shows women not only as agents of great heroism, but also as people willing to go down the wrong path looking for a quick buck or some action. You rarely see games in which women are not merely the seductive, maneating ringleaders. They can also be the thugs.
[image description: picture containing headshots of Jack, Ashely Williams, Miranda Lawson, Tali vas Neema, Liara T’Soni, and Kelly Chambers with the title “Mass Effect” on the bottomr right corner]
However, if we look, we can see that anyone in the game who is female or a woman is human, asari, quarian, or rachni (that’s right, I’m even considering the rachni as an example). There are no female or woman-identified turians, salarians, krogans, volus, elcor, hanar, drell, or batarians throughout the series at all. Essentially, even though the game tries to be gender-inclusive, the series still projects male as the default.
In the game, according to the codex and some male members of the respective species, Salarians are 90% male and the females stay on their home planet to be politicians and leaders. Female krogans are “passed around” based on fertility viability and also stay on their home planet in order to reproduce. Hanar females are said to be indistinguishable from the males. All other female members of a species are basically non-existent and seldom mentioned in the ME universe.
[image description: black-and-white concept art of the asari race in mercenary, casual, and military armor]
The asari are of course, a different case. The codex goes into detail how the asari do not have a gender or sex; they just are. This distinction means that the asari sit outside the gender binary and that binary labels should not apply to them, yet because they all look like cis women, they are an “all-female race,” and are referred to as women throughout the series. The asari could have been a very unique portrayal of what it means for an entire race to be non-binary, yet instead, they are just given the title “all-female” as a titillating fantasy of a race that is essentially entirely composed of cis women.
Although they are some of the most capable warriors in the game, the fact that the asari are considered all-female and the most human-like of the races makes them the most sexualized and exoticized group in the game. They are the exotic dancers, the strippers, and the race of choice as the Citadel consort and compose of the majority of her staff, which are all female. They basically function as the ME universe’s embodiment of femininity, as they fall prey to several stereotypes of cis women. They have never engaged in civil war and are diplomatic (because women obviously never engage in war), they have “stages” in life - maiden, matron, and matriarch, the only species to have such clearly defined roles (which correspond to prescribed roles projected to women today), and as pointed out above, are very sexualized.
[image description: asari scientist Liara T’Soni]
Even Liara T’Soni as the potential “lesbian” romance option in ME1 is essentially a cop-out. So, lesbians are okay so long as they are different species? In ME2, Kelly was the first character introduced who could be a same-sex romance for FemShep, but the romance is not as in-depth as the ones with the dossiers. Now, lead producer Casey Hudson confirmed that there will be more same-sex romance options in ME3, so hopefully this means that FemShep could romance someone like Jack or Tali (PLEASE PLEASE TALI), and MaleShep could romance someone like…um, anyone male.
As with every other game company, Bioware does not include female counterparts to most of the races due to insufficient memory, time, money, etc. on creating female characters. But does there really have to be a great distinction between male and female species? Does every female alien in ME need breasts, hips, and a slim figure? Does every female alien have to look attractive? I doubt anyone will run away from the game if they see a female Krogan with the body and scars of a male krogan; in fact, I think that would be awesome to see. Do there need to be distinct differences between a “male” and “female” of a species?
I’m hoping in Mass Effect 3, we see a more detailed portrait of sex and gender in the game. Some planets in ME3 include the turian homeworld and a return to Tuchanka, the krogan homeworld. Perhaps we will see turian or krogan women. Or some other woman of another alien race. Or some other exploration of sex and gender in the galaxy. Either way, I’m looking forward to ME3 and waiting to see the next steps they take in inclusiveness.
now if your anything like me this may at first sound like very bad news for gaming, but the good news is that there not talking about moving away from RPG’s. nothings solid and this is just early stage brainstorming for them but once they clear out some of what’s on there plate they may be looking at doing cop drama’s or spy stories in the style of bioware RPG’s. there’s definitely a lot of positive there but personally I hope they don’t abandon the sci-fi fantasy roots, I feel quality sci-fi is too rare these days and bioware is one of the few game developers doing both great.
One of my biggest complaints (though I really don’t have a lot of them) with the Mass Effect series was the lack of LGB-inclusive relationships the hero, Commander Shepherd could have. In both ME 1 and 2, there were not a lot of options for queer relationships, particularly for male Shepherd, who does not have any non-female love interests at all throughout both games.
Now, as lead producer Casey Hudson confirms, ME 3 will be the most LGB-inclusive game in the series yet! Hopefully there will be an equal distribution of LGB and straight relationships.
Bioware has been a leader among other game companies in consistently putting queer relationships and queer characters into their game content, and keep their queer fans in mind. Recently, Bioware defended Dragon Age 2’s gay content after complaints from a straight male gamer, saying, “the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least.” Bioware shows more understanding that gaming should be made more inclusive in order to have an inclusive audience, and that strictly appealing to the cis-male, white, straight gamer is not necessary, or even preferred, in order to be successful and make great games.
So LGB gamers and allies, let’s hope that we can trust that Mass Effect 3 will be a game filled with LGB inclusive content. So play on, and romance whoever you want: gay, straight, queer, genderless, no labels, or whomever.