Restoring Same-Sex Romances in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition
To: BioWare, EA, and Mac Walters - Project Director for the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
From: James W. (MShenko2187 on Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter); Craig N. (Quarian Otter); Cory P. (Estalfaed); Charles S.; and, Peter M. (JustGottaHaveIt) on behalf of ourselves and other LGBTQIA+ fans
*Updated as of 6/2/2021
When we first wrote this petition in February/March 2021, it was in anticipation of the Legendary Edition's release and based on several news reports that had dropped in January and February. Now that the game is out and we have new information on the existing material for the trilogy's unfinished same-sex romances options, we've expanded our asks. It's since come to our attention that in addition to Kaidan's unfinished ME1 romance with Male Shepard and the cut ME2 romances for Female Shepard and Jack as well as Male Shepard and Jacob, material also exists for same-sex romances with Ashley Williams, Tali'Zorah, Miranda Lawson, and Thane Krios. These have all been discovered and explained in detail by a group of dedicated modders who have been working on restoring these romances for years. They've also recommended placing the characters in tiers based on how easily their romances can be finished and added in post-release patches - the top two being Kaidan Alenko and Ashley Williams.
So as not to invalidate or disrupt this petition, which contains many comments asking about these other four characters, we're keeping it as-is instead of starting another which could confuse fans and signers.
To further explain why these changes have occurred, we'd like to direct you to three documents:
1.) A new open letter succinctly explaining these romance options and EA/BioWare's executive culpability in their continued queer erasure;
2.) A technical write-up explaining which characters have the most useable material and how the studios can finish and integrate them with minimal effort; and,
3.) A response to a recent interview from Project Director Mac Walters in which he gave typical EA/BioWare-approved non-answers which are fundamentally inadequate and demonstrate the studios' clear disinterest in doing better with queer representation.
In light of this new information, our movement is evolving. We've teamed up with key members in the Make Jaal Bi movement from back when Mass Effect: Andromeda was released without a male same-sex squadmate romance option. The studios proved they can do better with queer representation when they added his relationship in post-release patches - which is exactly what we're asking them to repeat now. Our partners include @magic_robins and @dgcatanisiri on Twitter, and our main tag is #MakeMELEInclusive. Magic_Robins created a Master Post on Tumblr which also contains the entirety of these documents and further explanation of these changes.
At this point now that the game has dropped and Pride Month has begun, it's crucial that y'all Tweet and share all of this with Mac Walters (Project Director) and Jay Ingram (BioWare Community Manager) as they're the ones who have the most power in this situation to sway their executive leadership to listen to our concerns. But they won't know about any of this unless we all tell them.
So keep pushing. Keep making noise. The studios have done better before, and we believe they can now. In the meantime, stay strong and clear.
- James W. aka MShenko2187
We the initial signers are an LGBTcrew of avid sci-fi fans who have connected across social media platforms over our mutual love for the Mass Effect universe. The last four months have been a rollercoaster for us. Growing excitement over the rumors of the Legendary Edition turned to joy at its announcement and then dismay when it became clear there would be no update or improvement to the lacking same-sex romance options. This sadness turned to anger and distrust in January when news broke that Jack and Jacob also had planned same-sex romances which were ultimately cut from ME2 [Source 1; Source 2]. And that distrust only grew when various reports gave contradictory reasons for why this happened [Source 3]. Finally, when fuller details emerged in February about the extent of the work being done on ME1 led to questions about including Kaidan’s same-sex romance, we got more excuses about his romance never being planned - despite already known evidence to the contrary in the form of unused dialogue and animations left behind in the game’s code [Source 4].
Given the numerous reports and contradictory information coming from the studios and developers over the last few months regarding ME’s same-sex romance options, we are asking for:
- A full, detailed explanation of the reasons why these characters’ same-sex dialogues and romances were originally planned on some level and had dialogue written and/or recorded, but were ultimately excluded from the games;
- A formal apology from the studios for the deliberately exclusionary decisions made regarding all three characters, both in the original version and Legendary Edition;
- A Legendary Edition post-release patch for an MShep-Kaidan romance using and filling in existing material so we can have one trilogy-spanning male same-sex romance;
- A frank and open assessment of the possibility of finishing the same-sex romances for Jack and Jacob and the potential for Legendary Edition patches;
- A detailed, public plan of concrete steps the studios and creative directors will take to ensure diverse, accurate, and comparable LGBTQIA+ representation in future ME projects.
For the following reasons:
- BioWare made the fantastic decision to normalize FemShep’s face model throughout the trilogy and implement a better character builder! Modders already made some of those changes possible, often using existing material in the source code. Modders also used material in the source files to generate same-sex romances in ME1. While claiming to have consulted fans and the modding community during its planning and completion of the Legendary Edition [Source 5], BioWare has apparently elected to stop short of also increasing LGBTQIA+ representation. This is a deliberate decision with harmful consequences, regardless of intent.
- Kaidan Alenko’s same-sex romance especially doesn’t reinvent the wheel. An MShep-Kaidan romance following the same story arc as a FemShep romance largely using existing material changes neither Kaidan’s canonical bisexuality nor any major trilogy plot points.
- Likewise, Jack and Jacob’s same-sex romance arcs could also follow the existing tracks for their respective Shepards and still work without needing to make drastic story changes.
- Post-release patches give the development teams enough time to do these treatments right without adversely affecting their working conditions under a looming deadline during an ongoing pandemic.
- BioWare has previously demonstrated both their ability and a willingness to edit their existing games to fix this lack of representation. After fans showed a need and desire for increased same-gender romances in Mass Effect: Andromeda, the studios released a patch to add a romance for Jaal with Scott Ryder. The patch notes specifically state “The relationships with your crew are some of the most loved and cherished parts of our games, so we wanted to make sure we got it right. We consulted with members of the LGBTQ community, both externally and within our own studios. After carefully considering all feedback, we decided this was an important change to make, and one that made sense for Jaal, Scott, and the angara.” [Source 6]
- Addressing and fixing these issues demonstrates we’re a valued fanbase who face real-life consequences when we’re not represented well and have to ask for it. After all, we’re all signing with new usernames or initials out of concern about targeted social media attacks.
- Restoring this content in 2021 when LGBTQIA+ representation has never been more visible and expected in mainstream entertainment will only serve to bolster the studios’ reputation moving forward.
It is our hope that BioWare and EA will give serious consideration to addressing these concerns in your endeavor to revamp interest in the Mass Effect universe. We recognize that these games have helped make strides in LGBTQIA+ representation easier, and we are now asking the studios to do better as a show of good faith in anticipation of future projects.
And to our fellow LGBTcrewmates, supporters and allies, thank you for signing! We will update you as the situation changes.