The Road to Hell is Gamed with Good Intentions: Mass Effect
Another thing I did over the holidays was play Mass Effect1.
It's like being in a movie. I've played a bunch of the earlier Final Fantasies, and loved the big epic storylines (Aerith! Noooooo!), but they still felt a lot like: kill slime, go into dungeon, kill slime, kill weird bug thing, level up, kill dragon, exit dungeon, receive two minutes of overarching plot, repeat.
Mass Effect isn't some plotline cobbled onto a bunch of fight scenes – you're in a bigass epic transgalactic summer thriller. There's really creepy race called the geth (doing very creepy things to still-living victims) and snipers, and a secretive galactic police force humanity's trying to get in good with, and ancient alien artifacts so advanced their discovery and back-engineering tends to catapult Earth a couple of centuries ahead on the technology curve, and tragic betrayal, and moral ambiguity.
Also, in the truly most horrifying aspect of the game, there is TEH GAY.
And what, might you ask, is so horrifying about it? Surely teh gay is confined perhaps to a lingering glance somewhere? A pregnant pause?
No! I'll let Bob Waliszewski, media specialist with Focus on the Family fill us all in.
So, Bob, what's so bad about this game?
"We never shy away from sexuality in the media. It's just a question of how is that sexuality portrayed. One can use the media to portray some very healthy forms of sexuality. And when done wisely with taste and age-appropriateness, it can be done well."
"Unfortunately," he said, "Mass Effect doesn't do that and even goes so far as to allow homosexuality to be on par with heterosexuality and heterosexuality outside of its proper context of marriage."
I love the implication that if the lesbian romance was properly ranked, things would be just dandy. You know, maybe if one of the women died? And then the other one recanted her attraction? And then married a man?
The aspect of the game that's causing this tempest in a teapot is that you can choose the gender (and other aspects of the character, including skin color – you're not stuck with somebody white-as-milk!) of the game's hero. And there's a romance with an alien whose entire race happens to look female. If you happen to be playing a female character, and happen to pursue a relationship with Liara, then check it out, you're in lesbian romance territory. If you're playing a male character, then you have a heterosexual relationship. The relationship is well done, builds like a romance, and yes, does culminate in a well-done sex scene about as hardcore as the average PG-13 movie.2
I think it fucking rocks.
And what is it getting framed as?
A little more from the article.
"There are cultural implications for feeding porn to kids in this way," and "when you do this, you're teaching them a distorted lesson about human sexuality and human dignity. These are lessons that they will take with them into adulthood and ultimately society," Ruse said.
Talk about the epitome of the male gaze. Women having sex automatically equals porn.
Apparently, heterosexual sex is also dignified. I've always been under the impression that sex isn't particularly dignified for anyone. It's messy and fun and, well, sex - what, most people do it standing around in dress uniform and monocles and I just haven't heard?
And of course, there's the classic, "Please, think of the children!" rhetoric. If the kids start seeing homosexual relationships as on par with heterosexual relationships then… they will become porn stars?
Unsurprisingly, some other members of the population are taking this meme and sprinting as far out as their little legs can take them:
"It’s called “Mass Effect” and it allows its players… to engage in the most realistic sex acts ever conceived. One can custom design the shape, form, bodies, race, hair style, breast size of the images they wish to “engage” and then watch in crystal clear, LCD, 54 inch screen, HD clarity as the video game “persons” hump in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of…"
Dude. Breathe. I love the impression this paragraph leaves you with – as if you could queue up any physical combo of characters and the game would immediately render them for you. At the beginning of the game you can employ the very cool option of modifying the player character so that they can look like you, or very not like you (and, for the record the forms are not as pr0ntastic customizable as this guy seems to think). Much later in the game you have a romance, with an alien who appears female. In between, let's recall that epic transgalactic summer action movie, shall we?
The crack. Are you on it?
If you're designing your character in, "every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility"3 and playing all the way through, just to get to that one scene? Then really, you should spend your time googling or yellow paging your local adult video store, because my hunch is that it'd be a lot less effort to just stop by there.
So, anyway, people are idiots, news at 11.
1. Or rather, mostly watch it get played. Real-time and turn-based computer strategy games I can do, first-person shooter and the third-person shooter Resident-Evil style interface I am less good at. Somehow getting 1500 cannon, horsemen, and musketeers into battle formation and launching them at the enemy is more intuitive to me than the jump back-switch weapon-beat the crap out of a zombie with a golf club methodology that works so well in Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Also when playing Halo I tend to get trapped in corners. The power sword's cool, though. Actually, I wasn't doing so badly with KotoR, come to think of it. Stopping now.
2. And in terms of playing a character of any sort who has sex, the game is rated Mature, which means if you're under 17 you shouldn't be playing it.
3. …format possibility?