BioWare holds a long tradition of developing games with romantic, story-rich content that all gamers can appreciate. The LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer) gaming community and its allies, especially, tends to take special notice to many of BioWare’s games because of the way in which the developers introduce and develop LGBT characters, NPCs, and relationships. BioWare isn’t afraid to create worlds and societies that focus on love and equality between all races and genders.
Most romantic relationships in BioWare games tend to be more realistic than in many games, and romance-able characters themselves tend to have fully-developed personalities and aren’t just stereotypical tacked-on additions. This is also the case for LGBT characters in BioWare games. LGBT content in video games is still fairly rare, although other games like Skyrim, Fable, the Sims, and others have joined BioWare in creating it. Same-gender representation in the gaming world is not only good for the LGBT community but is one step closer to equality.
BioWare’s Mass Effect universe and Dragon Age universe both have same-gender content, as does 2005′s Jade Empire. Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic 2, which are both Star Wars canon, have it as well. Given this information and the fact that Star Wars: The Old Republic introduced companion romances, the community was quick to assume that SWTOR would also have same-gender content, even before beta began.
In 2009, we were assured of this fact after a large debate on the forums erupted over a moderation issue regarding the terms “homosexual”, “gay”, and “lesbian”. It seemed that not everyone agreed LGBT terminology had a place in the Star Wars universe, but there was no doubting the fact that LGBT content itself, did. LGBT relationships have been rare canon, but the terminology for them did not appear. The explanation for this is simple– if something seems natural, there is no need to label it as something dramatically different.
Some players question the addition of same-gender content, but the fact remains that SWTOR is a Teen-rated game, containing a large amount of violent and sexual content. Characters are able to take part in torture, random slaying of innocents, and repeated sexual acts shown off-screen. It’s not a game for young children. Players who are uncomfortable with same-gender content don’t have to partake in it, because all companion romances and NPC flirt options are initiated by the player.
In September of 2011, we told that same-gender content would not make it into SWTOR’s launch, but would be added post-launch. That’s the last update the community has received on the issue. Here is Stephen Reid’s official statement regarding same-gender content, said at this time:
“Due to the design constraints of a fully voiced MMO of this scale and size, many choices had to be made as to the launch and post-launch feature set. Same gender romances with companion characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a post-launch feature. Because The Old Republic is an MMO, the game will live on through content expansions which allow us to include content and features that could not be included at launch, including the addition of more companion characters who will have additional romance options.”
Now we find ourselves post-launch, and still without a clue as to what BioWare’s plans are regarding the same-gender content additions, or even an inkling about how the content will be added. Another quote by Reid around the same time provides a small clue:
“We can’t guarantee that a character you play at launch would have romance options ‘unlocked’ for an existing companion. It’s something that will be taken into consideration when making design decisions. Not a promise it’ll happen, but we’ll take that feedback and relay it through to design.
We fully intend to do justice to the story in our storylines.”
From this, it almost sounds like they’ll most likely go the new companion route with the content. This is disheartening for many members of the LGBT community who have become accustomed to their current companions, and find it difficult to truly become immersed in their storylines without the ability to actually engage in a same-gender romance. Even worse, it makes it difficult for us to immerse ourselves into the class storylines at times, because the option to flirt presents itself so often in many of the class and world quests.
Many LGBT players have put their main characters on hold until BioWare provides some sort of ETA on the matter. They prefer to wait to enjoy the story quests until they’re able to enjoy them as they’re meant to be enjoyed– complete with romance. The issue is also frustrating upon considering the fact that there are many, many cases in The Old Republic’s story where LGBT content could be easily added. It almost seems like some of it was intended to be easily added.
The NPC flirt options, for example, are largely written without the usage of personal pronouns. Even some of the companion romance lines are free of pronouns, making same-gender additions not entirely difficult. Other lines, of course, would have to be added, and all of the coding changes. Some companion characters seem naturally bisexual or homosexual in nature. Kaliyo, an Imperial Agent companion, seems extremely bisexual, and even within her storyline are hints of such a past.
Other fan favorites would be Kira (female, Jedi Knight), Malavi Quinn (male, Sith Warrior), Jaesa (female, Sith Warrior), Vector (male, Agent), Iresso (male, Jedi Knight), Risha (female, Smuggler), Torion (male, Bounty Hunter), and Elara (female, Trooper). Many of the The Old Republic’s companions have awesome personalities and stories that accompany them. It’s difficult to pass them all off as 100% straight when the Star Wars universe is every bit as diverse, and actually more diverse than our own world.
On the flip side, if we do end up getting a future addition of new companions that might be considered homosexual or bisexual, a bit of math shows us that BioWare really does have their work cut out for them. Let’s look at the options here. BioWare could possibly add in two new companions per class, one of each gender, that could be considered bisexual or homosexual. That’s 16 new companions, and that’s not even including any additional heterosexual companions they wish to add.
We could end up seeing a more limited number of additions. A player seeking a M/M romance on Empire side, for example, may have to roll a Bounty Hunter. That route seems extremely limited, and doesn’t do their awesome class system justice. Another possibility would be to make all of the new companions, or current companions, a term loosely-coined “hero-sexual”, which basically means they would have the ability to be straight for one player, and gay for another, all depending on which route the player chooses to take.
At first glance, this seems as if they would all be bisexual, but this isn’t necessarily the case in an MMO’s game world where immersion possibilities often clash. Even now, the appearances of our companions can be heavily altered due to customization items. One player’s Corso Riggs, for example, can be light-skinned, and another’s can be dark-skinned. Which is the real Corso? There is no “real” Corso. Every player has their own creative freedom in MMOs. Companion sexualities would not be a large stretch from the system already in place.
BioWare even has some practice with this “hero-sexual” concept. Most of the main party characters in Dragon Age II can all be straight, bisexual, or homosexual for the player, all depending on the player’s choices throughout the game. Most of these characters will not relay their personal pasts regarding their sexuality to the player until the player tries to initiate a romance with them, which keeps true to immersion and is also realistic.
Most people don’t go around saying “I’M GAY, HEAR ME ROAR” unless they have a reason to divulge their sexuality. Again, in a world where sexuality isn’t an issue, there isn’t a reason to attach easily-recognizable labels. In the universe of Dragon Age, sexuality isn’t an issue. The same philosophy should apply to the Star Wars universe, and as seen in KotOR and KotOR2– it already does.
This would grant BioWare the opportunity to add 16 new companions and not more, and would also be an ideal way to make the necessary adjustments to some of the current companions if that’s something they are considering. It would give all players the most amount of choices, and in the MMO world, choice is always good.
There are several issues with the addition of new companions altogether, however. The most logical way to add in new companions would be to make them accessible at level 50. This wouldn’t allow players to get to know these companions while enjoying the leveling adventure, and would also make it difficult to create companion stories that are as rich as the ones currently in place.
An addition like this could always be added during a level cap expansion, which would grant players some time to enjoy the new companions. But it also means that it’s going to be a while before we see same-gender content. Unfortunately. I know personally, I’d rather see the current companions and flirt options given same-gender options, and I know I’m not alone with that wish. It may sadly be too late for that wish, however.
Whatever the route BioWare takes, it’s important for them to keep in touch with their playerbase regarding their plans and decisions. There hasn’t been much communication regarding the same-gender content, which is both confusing and frustrating for the community. It would be nice to know if players should level their intended mains to level cap without the content in place, or if it really is possible that the current content will see coding and voice acting additions. For players wishing to keep updated via the official forums on this issue, check out this thread.