Mass Effect gameplay designer urges industry to push back against social injustices in games

Thursday, 20th March 2014 11:33 GMT By Dave Cook

Mass Effect gameplay designer Manveer Heir told his GDC audience to challenge social injustice in the games industry.

It follows Brenna’s impassioned opinion piece on the lack of female player-characters in Capcom’s Deep Down.

In an address that received a standing ovation, Heir said, “Wherever we may stand today as an industry,” he continued, “I am confident that we will stand somewhere far better tomorrow as long as you, right here, are willing to be an agent of change. I sincerely hope that you are ready for that challenge, because I sure as hell am!”

He added that characters – notably minorities, females and LGBT cast members – are being portrayed in a stereotypical light, and continued, “These negative stereotypes effect the identity of individuals in these groups. They affect the way people think and treat others in the real world, and [they] perpetuate the social injustices that occur in these different groups.”

BioWare series Mass Effect and Dragon Age have gone some way to open the floor to such issues through their portrayal of same-sex romance options and a string of realistic gay characters that do not bend to stereotypes.

What’s your view on the above?

Via Polygon.



  1. Fin

    Daaaaamn right.

    #1 9 months ago
  2. JoshuaOak

    Um, “queerphobia”? Is that a thing? Sounds like a insult tbh…

    On point, i think whats needed alongside a greater depth & variety in characters, is simple subtlety in the portrayal of non-hetro, male characters.

    I don’t need mini-skirts & doubleD’s to differenciate the ladies, or leather chaps & mincing to point out the gays.

    #2 9 months ago
  3. Legendaryboss

    “It follows Brenna’s impassioned opinion piece on the lack of female player-characters in Capcom’s Deep Down.”

    Thats it Dave, relight the fire: reawaken it!

    #3 9 months ago
  4. Michael Ireland

    @JoshuaOak Queer isn’t generally considered a derogatory term in LGBT circles.

    #4 9 months ago
  5. lexph3re

    Interesting, so why does mass effect have only 1 black guy but anyone can have a sexual preference? Honestly, games need to stop being stereotypical period. Write some stories into games that develop the characters as well as the plot. Don’t just focus on one group and throw in the cliches of those people. Looking at you prototype 2, make the cast diverse but let the player focus on what they are comfortable with don’t force feed people your agenda.

    Let people explore your games the way they want. And be shocked for the hidden elements. I hate when writers do things for shock value looking at you left behind

    #5 9 months ago
  6. ij 44

    Bioware are so far up there own asses they might choke – what are they really doing – in reality – they’re milking teenagers, and the pink dollar by churning out sub-pulp “human interest” narratives, rather than actually making up to date games.

    They’re the ones that are exploiting naive young people, not some imaginary misoginist, racist, ageist foe.

    Question – why are the leads in Bioware games always young and attractive? – if this blowjob wants to talk the talk they should walk the walk. Canadians are full of shit.

    #6 9 months ago
  7. MFBB

    I think its only a money question.

    Since creating characters and animations/text/voice actors/adjusting scenes (the whole game) for male and female characters etc….. so much extra work and money.

    So they rather use only 1 character for all story driven/voice heavy etc kind of game.

    Thats why in most RPGs we can pick a gender and create characters, they are not that cinematic and it dosnt matter who you are.

    Like if Nathan Drake could also be a woman or the woman from Remember Me could be a guy…they would have to adjust so much in the whole game and do a lot of extra work.

    #7 9 months ago
  8. Fin

    @ij 44

    Can I have some of what you’re smoking bro?


    You’re completely missing the point.

    It’s not “let’s give players a choice of playing male or female”, it’s “let’s be more inclusive with our character designs”.

    #8 9 months ago
  9. Llewelyn_MT

    @3: +1

    Ad rem. Let me state once more, that the male gay “romance” in ME3 might be the worst piece of derogatory crap in romance history. Porn movies have better excuses for sex.

    In some places in DA and ME gay “romance” is nigh-unavoidable, while your character is never able to be nice to party members without provoking romance.

    #9 9 months ago
  10. YoungZer0

    You know, if there’s one thing I love about the Witcher series, is how ballsy it is. I mean you have people on the “good side” actually calling female enemies ‘Whores’. Shocking, I know; you might actually have team members that are assholes or just plain ignorant.

    Of course that doesn’t fit into the PC World of Bioware. Naturally, their games suffer from it.

    #10 9 months ago
  11. zoopdeloop

    he’s more like rekindling it to get more Estus flasks :P

    #11 9 months ago
  12. roadkill

    I’m not sure I get it. I mean, women are like that. Most of them, ARE whores. Not that guys are awesome. They are not. But they are the way they are because women like them like that. Women love it when their are beaten or when their boyfriends cheat on them. Think about it, how many nice guys have girlfriends? and now think how many bad boys have girlfriends! And all this is not coming from me. I actually had girls telling me that. I was dumb struck. Always will. But this is reality. And the sad thing is, the better person you are, the better boyfriend, the more the girl will push you away. They like fooling around, because just like I’ve said, in reality, they are whores, but at the first “I love you, I want you to be the mother of my children” they’ll run away.

    #12 9 months ago
  13. Fin


    Dude, ever think you were the asshole?

    Enjoy your ban!

    #13 9 months ago
  14. YoungZer0


    Are you fucking mental?

    #14 9 months ago
  15. salarta

    @roadkill Shut up.

    Even though I support the right of people to say what they want to say, there’s using free speech, and then there’s being a colossal dick. Your comment is you being a colossal dick, and not even in a halfway redeemable way of “He said something harsh, but hey, it’s the truth.” You’re wrong, and insulting to boot.

    If you had girls that told you those things, that’s a problem with those specific girls, not all girls. Just like you being a colossal dick with no heart doesn’t make Dave a colossal dick because he has a penis too.

    #15 9 months ago
  16. Legendaryboss

    @roadkill Da Fuck did I just read?

    #16 9 months ago
  17. DarkElfa

    Question, if a game has a gay person not doing anything stereotypically gay or having gay interactions in the game, then how would you even tell him or her apart from a straight person?

    In other words, a gay person not behaving as a gay person would be just another character who’s sexual preferences are unknown and therefor unimportant to the story.

    #17 9 months ago
  18. DarkElfa

    @DarkElfa Unless of course you point out that the character is gay but why do that other than to announce you have a gay character unless it contributes to the narrative in some fashion?

    #18 9 months ago
  19. roadkill

    Wow! Guys! Calm down! Not aaall of them are whores! Just, most of them. How do you not know that!? You should talk more often to girls. Or, not! Most of them are too dumb to take part in a normal conversation anyway.

    And I didn’t have girls like that. I just talked, actually, they were talking to a friend of mine and I heard them. Kind of explain everything really.

    And about what Manveer said. What, does he want more girls into shooters? News flash! Wars are for men. We are the only ones that can do the necessary things. Plus, girls distract our attention. I would never, ever, fight with a girl by my side. That would mean I’m already dead. They don’t have that sense of honor, of pride, of protecting the one near them.

    #19 9 months ago
  20. JoshuaOak


    Its a well known fact gay people have to tell you their gay. Its a similar rule vegans live by :)

    #20 9 months ago
  21. OneLifeCycle

    He’s an idiot. Games focus on their primary audience. Here’s the deal. It’s hetero males.

    Brenna can continue to cry herself to sleep on her Deep Down game case for all I care. There are females in many games. They’re not in every one. Oh the horror.

    #21 9 months ago
  22. roadkill

    @OneLifeCycle Point!

    #22 9 months ago
  23. Michael Ireland

    I’m pretty sure roadkill is trolling. I’m also pretty sure his remarks are banworthy, but that probably won’t happen.

    #23 9 months ago
  24. DarkElfa

    @Michael Ireland Sadly there are many men who do believe exactly what he’s posting. They are sad people, but they do exist.

    #24 9 months ago
  25. Fin


    “Girls don’t like me, ergo all girls are whores.”


    #25 9 months ago
  26. salarta

    @OneLifeCycle Flawed logic is flawed. And questionable at the logic part. We’re not talking about penis pumps or tampons here, we’re talking about video games. The reality is that even if we presume the primary audience of shooters IS heterosexual males, it got that way because of how the games were marketed. When you deliberately create an atmosphere in which it’s implied you have to be a man to enjoy it, is it any wonder that you wouldn’t have a lot of women getting involved?

    These are arbitrary restrictions, and the ongoing boom in women buying guns and going hunting is proof that these presumptions about how things like shooters are “only for men” are complete bullshit. Makeup is heavily suggested as a market primarily for women, so is it any wonder that men don’t wear makeup? Especially when Western society is deliberately set up to shame the idea of men “girlifying” themselves by doing things like wearing makeup?

    #26 9 months ago
  27. DarkElfa

    @salarta Maybe studios are afraid to create triple A games targeted fairly at both sexes and have not enough female players care and their bread and butter, males, turned off.

    In the end, creating and selling games is about making money and you try and limit the risk involved by squarely aiming at a known quantity. Not many studios will get investors to pony up a hundred million when they’re purposefully targeting an unknown demographic return.

    #27 9 months ago
  28. DarkElfa

    @salarta If you go back to politics in America, politicians didn’t really give much a of a crap about women’s rights and such until women started voting. Then they had a reason to start caring. Women were complaining about their plight long before that happened but didn’t listen or take action till women were a large part of who decided their election.

    In parallel, while many women are vocal about games becoming equally targeted at both sexes, women still make up a small part of the buying power of these kinds of games. Until that changes, they have no reason to change their current targeting because it will net them little proven return.

    What they want is fair, but business is not about fairness, its about what sells.

    #28 9 months ago
  29. roadkill

    Actually, girls like me, or not, depending on the their whore level. In real life, most of the girls around here are massive whores, so very few would actually talk to me, if I’d like to talk to them that is. Online though, nearly half of my GW friends are girls, but they are much smarter than the average cunt.

    And Michaela! when are you going to learn that I’m not trolling? And more importantly, when are you growing to grow some ballz? Or your wife keeps cutting them every time they dare to grow even a little bit? Fuck me man you have remained the most whipped male around here.

    #29 9 months ago
  30. Michael Ireland

    @roadkill Ell ooh ell.

    #30 9 months ago
  31. JoshuaOak


    Actually, girls *do* like me. FTFY.

    Unless of course you are a girl..?

    #31 9 months ago
  32. salarta

    @DarkElfa I understand that line of logic, and while I think it’s incredibly stupid and insensitive and a very vividly displayed evil aspect of business, it makes sense. The problem is that OneLifeCycle at least framed the matter in a way to suggest that it’s not about what demographic they’ve marketed to in the past, but about intrinsic interest each sex has in certain things. There’s nothing about any genres that inherently restrict them to one sex or the other, which is the suggestion I was rebuking.

    Also, saying “Brenna can cry herself to sleep” doesn’t do any favors toward dissuading that interpretation of what he said, considering it’s part of gender assumptions of women being emotionally weak and weepy; based on Brenna’s writing in past articles, a more accurate insult would’ve talked about her raging about deep Down, not an imaginary inconsolable depression. But I’m nitpicking at this point. :)

    Your example of women and voting is a very good illustration of where things currently are. In order to become able to vote, women had to do a lot of campaigning, and a lot of women ended up getting jailed and essentially abused and tortured for trying to gain the right to vote for their whole sex. Obviously women don’t have that level of severity for opposition when it comes to video games and modern day, but there are definitely still things done to try and keep women from speaking out. It’s just that these days, it involves being called a slut and receiving a ton of death threats from pathetic excuses for men, along with the risk of losing their jobs and the like. It’s easy to end up letting things slide when it seems like it’s all being done just for a form of entertainment.

    #32 9 months ago
  33. salarta


    #33 9 months ago
  34. ududy

    Bioware, stop preaching your PC drivel to your admiring colleagues. Write good stories instead of the self-flattering “we are so sensitive to current issues” fluff that you produce in your factory. Until then, you are only marketing guys dressing up as authors.

    #34 9 months ago
  35. Druined

    Mass Effect is great game.

    #35 9 months ago
  36. roadkill

    I like it how everyone understands exactly what they want to. vg247 community, I have not missed you! Sometimes, having internet only 2/6 months is a good thing. :D

    #36 9 months ago
  37. DarkElfa

    @salarta Nicely said. Yes, it is a bit of chicken or egg here isn’t it? They won’t play fair till they know it will pay off and it won’t pay off unless they play fair. Catch 22 always bugs me.

    #37 9 months ago

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