Update: This piece has been updated to include Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s new same-sex romance as part of its patch 1.08 update. Sadly, the one extra romance doesn’t change much.
Original story (29 March 2017): An in-depth look at the romance options available in the Mass Effect franchise has revealed that gay males have, by far, the least number of possible pairings.
Data gathered by Nic Watt, gay male Founder and Creative Director at the Sydney-based Nnooo games development and publishing studio, shows that those who play as a gay male in the four available Mass Effect games can only romance 4 non-playable characters. Straight female Shepards or Ryders can romance 12 love interests, followed by gay females at 14 and finally straight males with 21 potential companions.
Stevivor has double-checked the figures and found them to be accurate, going a step further to also cross-reference by squadmate status.
Gay males were not presented with the opportunity for a same-sex romance until Mass Effect 3, when shipmate Kaidan Alenko (above) was made available alongside Alliance pilot Steve Cortez (below). Gay female relationships have been possible since the original Mass Effect and bisexual squadmate, Liara T’Soni. Females of any sexual orientation had equal numbers of suitors in the first three Mass Effect titles – 1 each in the original, 3 each in ME2 and 5 each in ME3 – until gay relationships managed to outnumber straight ones 5 to 3 in the recent Mass Effect: Andromeda.
In total, 14 males and 23 females can be romanced in the entirety of the Mass Effect franchise. Of those amounts, gay males can access 35% of the male population, gay females can romance 61% of females and straight females can connect with 83% of males. Straight males can almost sleep with everyone, offered up a whopping 91% of females.
More damning is the amount of squad members gay males can sleep with: two. Mass Effect 3’s Kaidan Alenko and Andromeda‘s Jaal are the only romance options that can be taken on missions alongside your player-character. Of all characters straight men can romance, 76% can be taken on missions, compared to 50% for gay females and 92% for straight females.
This data is presented at the same time gay fans have taken to social media to voice their displeasure over romance options available to the LGBTQ community. Stevivor has earlier reported on fans’ reactions to Mass: Effect Andromeda‘s romances, with many directly comparing the heterosexual coupling of Cora and Ryder to the homosexual one of Ryder and Gil.
“I fell in love with Mordin and Garrus in my first play throughs of Mass Effect and was saddened to not be able to take it further,” Watt told Stevivor. “Instead I felt like I had to make do with the only gay on the ship.
“I realise that in real life we can’t always have what we want but in video games we are trained for that not to be true. The worlds in most video games are bent and shaped to make us feel great, powerful and a saviour. So which is it — is Mass Effect going for realism, because if so there are a lot more flaws we can pick up on the relationships, or is it going for a space fantasy where the player is the saviour of humanity and can have fun sexual encounters with the crew?”
Watt said BioWare’s goals for in-game romances were unclear.
“If it is for titillation, then why is it a big deal if people can sleep with who ever they bond with?” Watt asked. “If they are going to play the realism card then is it realistic that gay men would be assigned to those roles? That gay/bi women would have more jobs and be more present than straight men? Is it also realistic that in the future these species would all have the same hang-ups and sexual mores that humanity has currently, would humanity even see this as an issue.
“If I play Mass Effect 1 to 3 and Garrus and I develop a deep bond, one that goes beyond friendship, wouldn’t there be a possibility that he would be open to exploring the further reaches of our relationship? Even if it was enough to say, ‘I’ll try but I’m not sure how this will work out?'”
Most fans said they simply want parity.
“[Look at the double] standards for some of people commenting here,” said SoulEaterFan13 our Gil romance YouTube video. “I think the [Gil, Ryder] romance is very cute but really would be nice if it received the same care as Cora’s romance.”
BioWare has started to respond to complaints, with Mass Effect Lead Designer, Ian S. Frazier, saying, “We take the concerns very, very seriously.”
Stevivor has reached out to BioWare for further discussion. Our research is available upon request.