Fox News controversy impacted Mass Effect 2’s non-straight relationships

By Alex Calvin, Friday, 22 January 2021 19:26 GMT

Tweaks were made to stop the game’s audience facing further criticism, apparently.

Mass Effect 2‘s Jack was originally intended to be pansexual, but BioWare cut down non-straight romances over concerns of negative media coverage.

Speaking to The Gamer, Mass Effect 2 writer Brian Kindregan said that the decision to only allow Jack to be romanceable if users were playing as a male Commander Shephard occurred later in development. This came in the wake of a Fox News report in 2007 debating the depiction of sex in the sci-fi RPG.

That Jack was initially intended to be pansexual will no doubt make a lot of sense to Mass Effect 2 fans. The character makes references to romantic encounters with non-male partners, but is only a romance option if you’re playing as a male Shephard. The decision to cut down non-straight relationships came, in part, because BioWare didn’t want its community to be criticised. Part of the criticism Mass Effect faced was the one technically gay relationship that was possible with Liara.

“I was trying to chart out the arc of [Jack’s] romance, which for much of the development – it was actually very late that it became a male/female-only romance,” Kindregan said “She was essentially pansexual for most of the development of that romance.”

He continued: “Mass Effect had been pretty heavily and really unfairly criticized in the US by Fox News, which at the time… maybe more people in the world thought that there was a connection between reality and what gets discussed on Fox News. The development team of Mass Effect 2 was a pretty progressive, open-minded team, but I think there was a concern at pretty high levels that if [the first] Mass Effect, which only had one gay relationship, Liara – which on paper was technically not a gay relationship because she was from a mono-gendered species – I think there was a concern that if that had drawn fire, that Mass Effect 2 had to be a little bit careful.”

The first Mass Effect game attracted a lot of criticism – read: Pointless Pearl Clutching – but in the wake of the controversy, BioWare boss Ray Muzyka said that he was “proud” of the title’s sexual content. By Mass Effect 3, these romance options had become “wider.”

Mass Effect Legendary Edition – a remake of the original Mass Effect games – is in the works and coming out in spring 2021 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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