I ran into this post by Beau Hindman yesterday and I’ll be damned if it didn’t sit well with me. Initially, I was ready to dismiss it as just another “Game Company X shuns the LGBT community” rant, but it got me thinking about what really could be going on.
At issue here is a “Bioware Pulse” question and answer session at Gamescom. In it, Cory Butler (Live Producer for The Old Republic) essentially blows off a question about same gender romance opportunities in the game. Basically it was just a hard “no” without any elaboration on why they made this decision.
Disappointing to say the least, but I can’t blame him for shirking the issue. He’s got a job and project to protect. It’s definitely not an easy question to answer, because the implications are harsh. However, before we go down the dreaded “Bioware hates gays” path or the “lazy development” path, let’s take off our rainbow colored glasses and get down to the nitty gritty.
First, we’ll start out by making a couple of logical assumptions about TOR.
- In his post, Beau is quick to point out that there won’t be any hardcore sex in the game and I feel he’s spot on. Yes, we can have “relationships” with opposite-sex companions in TOR, but if you think Bioware is going anywhere but the PG (Golly. I hope I get a kiss.) relationship route as opposed to the R (Ohhhhh yeah! Sexy fun time!) route you’re kidding yourselves. They’re going to tone it down tremendously. We’re not going see any of those cheesy virtual sex scenes like we’ve seen in the Mass Effect or Dragon Age games.
- The violence in TOR won’t be any more violent than what we’ve seen in World of Warcraft, Rift, or Lord of the Rings Online. Cartoonish violence. No real blood or limbs flying off. Pretty harmless stuff.
- Surely there will be some suggestive themes, crude humor, and perhaps even some simulated gambling. Again, nothing that we haven’t already seen in numerous MMORPGs before.
So what do all of these things point to? A “Teen” rating from the ESRB.
Now this is important. Why? Because EA/Bioware/Lucasarts loves money. The Star Wars brand is a money making machine and a “Teen” rating ensures that TOR reaches it’s largest potential audience.
This is also why they will not and cannot introduce same-sex relationships into The Old Republic.
Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, then I’m just going to lay it out for you plainly.
It’s my belief that EA/Bioware is afraid that the ESRB will slap the big ol’ M rating on TOR if there is the possibility that the player can foster a gay/lesbian relationship with a virtual companion.
My bet is that gay, lesbian, or transgender characters in videogames are currently placed in the same category as your typical content descriptions for a Mature title (“intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content/and or strong language”). You’re not going to find that on the official ESRB website because that would be politically incorrect and an industry “dirty little secret.”
It’s like that big elephant in the room. Everyone knows that it’s there, but they’re too embarrassed to talk about or address it.
What other reason would Bioware have to exclude same-sex options in TOR? Because of manpower? Please. It’s Bioware. They have the resources. Because of time constraints? Nope. They don’t seem to be in any rush to get this thing done. Because they suddenly turned their backs against the LGBT community? Very doubtful given their recent track record with games like Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2. Because Lucasarts said no? Possibly, but if they had a problem with it why didn’t they stop it in Knights of the Old Republic?
All signs point to the ESRB and EA/Bioware’s unwillingness to risk a Mature rating for one of the biggest MMORPG releases of all time.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m just having a crazed conspiracy theory nut job moment, but something tells me that I’m not so far of base here.