Mass Effect 2’s LGBTQ+ relationships suffered as a result of Fox News’ infamous and high profile segment on the brief sex scene included in Mass Effect 1.
That’s according to Mass Effect 2 writer Brian Kindregan, who told TheGamer, the controversy had contributed to the curtailing of pansexual romance possibilities for his foul-mouthed but kind-hearted character Jack.
Back in 2007, bullshit broadcaster Fox News took aim at the first Mass Effect for its 30-second romance scene where you are able to see blue alien Liara’s buttocks. In an awful and ill-informed discussion segment, the network suggested this optional coda to the near-60-hour game was potentially dangerous to its audience and that copies of the game should not be allowed into family homes.
If you want to watch all of that, here it is, including a valiant attempt at a defence of the game from a fresh-faced Geoff Keighley:
When it came to Mass Effect 2, development of which was already underway when this Fox News skit blew up, Kindregan says BioWare bosses felt pressured not to risk another controversy – however ridiculous it may have been.
“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 told TheGamer. “She was essentially pansexual for most of the development of that romance.
“Mass Effect had been pretty heavily and really unfairly criticised 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.”
When Mass Effect 2 was eventually released, Jack was only romanceable by a male Shepard. Still, if you spend time getting to know her, she’ll tell you about past relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends and a thrupple – a three-person couple.
“She says there was a guy and a woman she was running with that invited her into their robberies and into their bed,” recalled. “She definitely references those things. That was explicitly to start sending the message that yes, this is a character who is pansexual. In the eleventh hour revision of cleaning that up, she’d already been partially recorded with voiceover. Not all of that could be changed.
“I’ve worked with lesbian developers who have come up to me and said like, ‘Why is Jack not into me?'” Kindregan says. “And I have to say ‘I’m so sorry, it’s partially my fault.’ But I still stand by the thing of keeping her with a more varied background. Maybe someday Jack will be portrayed as pan.”
As well as cutting down Mass Effect 2’s non-straight romances, it’s notable that none of the game’s romance scenes include any kind of nudity. The closest the game gets is in showing male Shepard’s romance with Miranda, where the latter is briefly shown in her bra.
While the first Mass Effect featured one ostensibly non-straight romance option (female Shepard and Liara), Mass Effect 2’s bigger cast offers no full non-straight romance for female Shepard and no gay options for male Shepard at all. (It’s still possible to spend a night off-screen with Kelly Chambers as female Shepard, where intimacy is implied, and female Shepard can sleep with Morinth if you recruit her, though this also results in an instant game over as she will kill you during sex. Neither of these unlock the game’s romance achievement, available to the many straight romance options.)
BioWare finally introduced an array of non-straight romance options in Mass Effect 3, with multiple gay and bisexual characters among that game’s crew. These included the series’ first gay male relationship choices and the first characters established canonically as gay and lesbian, rather than as a choice for both male and female Shepard. But, even then, nudity was left out – and it has only been used sparingly in BioWare games since.