Ann Lemay, the BioWare writer responsible for the franchise’s first female Turian character, has said she encountered little resistance when creating the potential all-female cast of Mass Effect 3’s Omega DLC.
In Omega, players adventure with Asari gang leader Aria and Turian agent Nyreen. Nyreen is the first female Turian to appear in the series, and was originally planned as just another Asari gang leader – but Lemay thought it would be interesting to make her a Turian instead.
“With a DLC focused on Aria and therefore likely to lean strongly toward a more Renegade storyline, it occurred to me that we could introduce a much stronger character with a definite Paragon bent as a foil to Aria if we made Nyreen a Turian instead,” Lemay wrote in an EA blog.
“This also meant we would have not just one strong character with Aria, but a new, equally strong character with Nyreen – both of them women.”
Creating an all-new character model from scratch is an expensive and time-consuming process, but those signing the cheques didn’t hesitate.
“The question made its way through management, and barely one week later, Nyreen Kandros was fully approved,” Lemay said.
“In all of my years in the videogame industry, this request process was the simplest and smoothest I’d ever gone through, particularly for the creation of a significant female character.
“We ended up with a DLC that, should the player choose to play as the female Commander Shepard, features a triumvirate of interesting, diverse, and powerful female characters. And it was never an issue.”
Although this all sounds very straight forward, you only have to look at recent headlines – like this one, or this one – to realise how often creators have to battle uphill to see their characters make it past financial gatekeepers.
“Creating diverse and engaging female characters – or any character that isn’t both white and male – should not be such an issue. If we can move beyond the resistance to such characters in our games, both as non-player characters and as main protagonists, I honestly believe that we’ll end up with richer narratives and a broader audience, and the industry ends up with a bigger and more interesting playground,” lemay concluded.
“It’s a win-win all around.”
Lemay’s comments echo those of Assassin’s Creed: Liberation writer Jill Murray, who also called for the industry to stop making such a big deal about how difficult diversity is and just do it.