Recently, it surfaced out of Gamescom that Star Wars: The Old Republic would not be allowing its players to engage in same-sex relationships with their “companion” characters (something that has previously been allowed in Dragon Age and Mass Effect series). This “news” created a virtual sh*t-storm on the internet, with LGBT and homophobes battling in a forum version of the Thunderdome. Tina Turner was there, so was Master Blaster (who I’m convinced were in a mutually beneficial relationship, by the way), and Mel Gibson put down the booze and stopped burning the Torah long enough to take part as well.
Okay, not seriously. This is going to get rant-a-licious, so bear with me.
But in all honesty, I guess I just don’t get the hubbub. I won’t go into the reasons BioWare has for not including this option (did they give one?), but I’d like to comment on why it’s such a big deal in the first place. I’m straight, not narrow. And while there wasn’t (that I know of) any same-sex relations in either trilogy, I’m willing to bet there have been a few instances of such things in the bazillion books which have been written. Is there then precedent?
Moreover, provided BioWare and EA instituted some sort of “parental controls”, who could this feature really hurt? Why should someone who’s either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in a role-playing game be forced to play a role they don’t want to play? Now I know I’m just adding to the fire, but are we really that behind the societal curve as a country that we can’t allow this sort of choice?
Believe it or not, there are MMOs that openly accept the LGBT community and incorporate them into the game’s mechanics. Recently western-ized Lucent Heart is the first that comes to mind. The entire game is built around the idea of player relationships, and the company bringing it to North America went so far as to include the ability for same-sex relationships while the Japanese version was missing them. So it’s not as though there aren’t games out there doing this.
Is the issue with The Old Republic, from a company who has put this sort of interaction in their game before, simply one of “high profile”? Is TOR too big of a game, and isn’t that sort of reasoning in and of itself condescending to entire community of people? My guess is that Mass Effect and Dragon Age are solo experiences, whereas The Old Republic is going to be online with thousands of others. At the thought of all the flack and controversy in simply allowing players the choice they capitulated and caved to the pressure of having to deal with this on a wide-scale level.
I can’t see this as an “age rating” thing either. As stated above, parental controls can take care of this. The Sims allows LGBT relationships and has a perfectly squeaky Teen rating. I mean, I find it silly that BioWare and EA and LucasArts aren’t worried about all the lightsaber killing and impaling and shooting and explosions… but they are worried about one player’s choice to become romantically involved with a male wookie.
There are much bigger fish to fry in regards to The Old Republic. I’d rather be worried about the unannounced “Legacy” end-game system, and the world PvP info we’ve yet to hear squat about. But that doesn’t mean I can simply turn a blind eye to this. It poses a really interesting question for community management and the freedom we’re allowed in MMORPGs. If a big game like The Old Republic can’t get on board with the 21st century (I know, it’s a “long long time ago”), what hope do the smaller games have? Will the inevitable Ultima Online revival avoid this too, in a game and world where freedom of choice is absolutely the point of it all?
Really, though. Why not just leave sexual relationship out of the mix entirely? Why not let players "organically" find one another and create their own love relationships as they used to do back in the days of persistent worlds in Neverwinter Nights? By eliminating relationships wholesale, players deal with other players to make their own love connections person-to-person rather than person-to-pixel.
In any case, we are curious to hear whether you folks would even us this sort of functionality, and why if at all you think the mere option could hurt your enjoyment of a game. Just remember to keep things civil, or this thread will be locked much quicker than the linked one in the opening paragraph.