The past year has seen a great deal of discussion about the existence of same-sex romance options in EA and BioWare's Mass Effect franchise and their MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic.
One recent, particularly irrational anti-gay "family values" campaign has kicked off a wave of thousands of letters to EA disapproving of the addition of same-sex romance options to The Old Republic, reports GamesIndustry. The letters chide EA for being "pressured" into adding LGBT-friendly content and claim that the availability of options for players somehow forces homosexuality onto impressionable young children. One such example letter reads:
The overwhelming number of players on Star Wars games is children who do not need to be forced as a captured audience to participate in homosexual content.
We ask that you please adhere to your long term policy of omitting and steering clear of this type of advocacy representation in your games.
Please do not include LGBT content in Star Wars video games that will impact so many children.
Thank you. Remember Sodom.
Aside from BioWare clearly having no such long standing policy — the Dragon Age franchise includes both male and female same-sex romance options, and the Mass Effect franchise has always included female same-sex romance — the letter-writer is also incorrect about The Old Republic being primarily marketed to or played by children.
Speaking with GamesIndustry, EA VP of Corporate Communications Jeff Brown accurately called out the letter-writing campaign, saying, "Every one of EA's games includes ESRB content descriptors so it's hard to believe anyone is surprised by the content. This isn't about protecting children, it's about political harassment." Brown also added:
EA has not been pressured by any groups to include LGBT characters in our games. However, we have met with LBGT groups and sponsored industry forums to discuss content and harassment of players in online forums. In short, we do put options for same-sex relationships in our games; we don't tolerate hate speech on our forums.
GamesIndustry also spoke with a representative from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Matt Kane, about the letter-writing campaign. Kane confirmed that campaigns driven by hate are now generally outweighed by support from the LGBT community and allies, citing the recent brouhaha over Ellen DeGeneneres being selected as JC Penney's new spokeswoman as a recent example. Specifically regarding video games, he added:
A lot of game makers are realizing that in order to create a believable universe it has to be a universe that is very diverse, and in some ways it sort of reflects the make-up of the culture we live in as well. I think it's very logical that you'll start to see more LGBT characters appearing in games."
This is also not only a reflection of the culture, but also in part of their consumer base - at least a segment of their consumer base. Certainly Star Wars is a good example. EA listened to the people who were intending to purchase the game and saw that there was a real desire to see same-sex relationships included within the romantic options.
And the same-sex romance options in The Old Republic, which have still not actually yet been added to the game and have no set date for appearing, are just that: options. As are any and all romance options in the Mass Effect franchise. No player is forced to choose any particular partner for their player characters any more than they are forced to purchase the game.
EA may be the worst company in America, but in standing up for diversity and standing against hate speech, they're doing the right thing.
EA defends itself against thousands of anti-gay letters [GamesIndustry International]