BioWare Writers Talk Same-Sex Love In Mass Effect 3

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BioWare Writers Talk Same-Sex Love In Mass Effect 3

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Didn't want to be "writing lesbians for other straight guys to look at."

While several BioWare games now have flirted with allowing player characters to pursue gay and lesbian romances, Mass Effect 3 was the first to introduce characters - Esteban Cortez and Samantha Traynor - who could only be romanced by a same-sex partner. In a post on the BioWare blog, writers Patrick Weekes and Dusty Everman discussed the difficulties of trying to write believable same-sex romances that felt genuine and realistic without any life experience to draw on.

"I'm a straight white male - pretty much the living embodiment of the Patriarchy," said Weekes. Even though he had already had some experience with writing (potentially) same-sex love with Liara in Mass Effect 2's "Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC, he was keenly aware how being a male writing a lesbian romance could be perceived, if handled poorly. "I really wanted to avoid writing something that people saw and went, 'That's a straight guy writing lesbians for other straight guys to look at.'"

Similarly, Everman was all too aware that he was treading on unfamiliar ground with writing the character of Cortez and the ensuing romance realistically. "I've never been romantic with another guy, so I couldn't write from personal experience," he explained.

For both writers, the challenge lay in creating something - and someone - that felt genuine. Weekes' first draft of Traynor had her "identifying and overcoming" the challenges of being gay, but he had been so focused on creating a "positive" story that he hadn't taken the time to make the character behind it feel real. Subsequent drafts focused more on her characterization as a lighthearted lab tech trying to make her way on the front lines of combat, with her lesbianism present and overt but not announced.

"When Cortez says 'I lost my husband,' every player knows his sexuality," said Everman. "[P]recious word budgets aren't spent to establish that fact. Instead, the time is spent bonding over past losses and future hopes." By the 22nd century, gender preference "will just be an accepted part of who we are. So I tried to write a meaningful human relationship that just happens to be between two men."

Ultimately, both Everman and Weekes wanted to create believable, enjoyable characters for Shepards of both sexes and gender preferences. "Everyone, straight and gay alike, can get to know the character, and romantic feelings only surface towards the end of the arc," said Everman.

Weekes agreed. "If I've done my job right, I've made Traynor a character that people in the LGBT community will like not because we happened to put a gay character in the game, but because she's a great character even if you never romance her."

If you'd like to read more about the writers behind the same-sex relationships in ME3, the full interview is over at the BioWare blog.

Source: BioWare

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Hmmm, WAS anybody besides One Million Moms (and the other hate groups) upset about the homosexual relationships? I'd say this is one area where Bioware got ME3 right.

I applaud what their thought process was, and I think they were successful with Cortez. Hell, for my first two runthroughs, I had no idea he was gay, since I wasn't aware I could interact with him like I could with the other characters, but still liked him as a character enough to feel genuinely upset with what happened near the end of the game to him.

Traynor...not so sure, but I never really chatted with her, so I'll keep an open mind on that one.

I actually think they handled Cortex really well.

I really liked the guy, and felt genuinely sorry for the character's loss.

My first playthrough I had no idea Traynor was gay. I actually tried to romance her and was shot down. She did point out how she loved the sound of EDI's voice. Guess that was too subtle for me.

Still I thought both the characters were pretty well done. I could be a friend for Cortez without having to be a LI. Same with Traynor.

From what I could tell, Cortez was done pretty well. Traynor on the other hand?

I didn't even know she swung my way until she just .. hopped in the shower... and I got an option to join her. And some very awful innuendos were tossed in.

I had no idea who Traynor was, other than the fact that she is quite smart and comes up with apparently brilliant techno-babble solutions. No past, no traumas .. Wasn't impressed by Traynor as a character.

I liked the way Bioware handled the gay characters.

Simply put: not making a big deal out of it. Cortez is pretty much a normal guy, only difference being that he refers to his special someone as husband and not wife. There is some joking around with Vega that gives some context, but other than that, he never draws attention to it.

I don't know about Traynor. I guess she is cool, but I never notice her as being a possible love interest.

Hey, remember when gay/bisexual characters were the biggest concern anyone seemed to have with the writing in Mass Effect 3?

...Heh heh. Yeah. Good times.

(sigh...)

Mariena:
From what I could tell, Cortez was done pretty well. Traynor on the other hand?

I didn't even know she swung my way until she just .. hopped in the shower... and I got an option to join her. And some very awful innuendos were tossed in.

I had no idea who Traynor was, other than the fact that she is quite smart and comes up with apparently brilliant techno-babble solutions. No past, no traumas .. Wasn't impressed by Traynor as a character.

I liked Samantha Traynor well enough; she provided a neat contrast to Steve Cortez, who I'd say is unarguably the better written of the two. Traynor can come across a little strong with the witty (YMMV) dialgoue and trading of ineuendo with Fem!Shep, but she's not greiving over someone she loved and married. Cortez by comparison, as a result of his recent personal loss, is a more sombre person and requires a different approach.

Again, as a Fem!Shep player, its either Liara or Traynor, especially now since I can't bear the thought of breaking up Garrus and Tali.

I mean I'd be lying if I said a dark skinned girl with a British accent wasn't hot, but Traynor is still a nice person....even if she does shower in her underwear, the kinky strumpet :P

John Funk:
Esteban Cortez

According to the Mass Effect wiki, his name is Steve Cortez, I'm pretty sure Esteban is just a nickname or something that Vega uses for him. Otherwise I felt you and the two chaps who wrote him were dead on the money.

Daystar Clarion:
I actually think they handled Cortex really well.

I really liked the guy, and felt genuinely sorry for the character's loss.

Agreed. Cortez is my favorite new character in ME3 by far. I loved how they handled his character and did not make a big deal of his sexuality. Hell, I did not even know he was gay until he mentioned his husband.

As for Traynor... I didn't even know she was a lesbian until now. Which is good, but still, rather surprising. I guess it is just a testament to Bioware's skill with writing characters.

Weekes agreed. "If I've done my job right, I've made Traynor a character that people in the LGBT community will like not because we happened to put a gay character in the game, but because she's a great character even if you never romance her."

And Weekes definitely did his job right.

I was a little sad to find out that she was a lesbian in my [Male]Shep playthrough though. He totally would have gone for her.

Gordon_4:

John Funk:
Esteban Cortez

According to the Mass Effect wiki, his name is Steve Cortez, I'm pretty sure Esteban is just a nickname or something that Vega uses for him. Otherwise I felt you and the two chaps who wrote him were dead on the money.

Esteban is the Spanish version of Stephen:

Jose = Joseph
Ricardo = Richard
etc.

Daystar Clarion:
I actually think they handled Cortex really well.

I really liked the guy, and felt genuinely sorry for the character's loss.

Ehhhh, I have to disagree. I can appreciate the fact that he lost his husband and is having trouble getting over it. But it just seems like every conversation you have with him he has to remind you about the fact that he's gay. Traynor, on the other hand, only hints at the fact that she's a lesbian when she comments on liking the sound of EDI's voice. I think Traynor was pulled of wonderfully, but that Cortez was just a bit too strong in it.

As the article says, Cortez pretty much comes right out and tells you he's gay in the first conversation you have with him, but really it's not even his homosexuality that bugs me about him...I just don't really like his story. I can see the appeal to establish a connection there: he's lost a loved one in war and needs help coping with it. I just think they should have wrapped it up sooner rather than having it take his entire story arc. I mean it got to the point where I'd just stop going down to the shuttle bay unless I wanted to upgrade some weapons because I had no desire to talk to James (don't think anyone did, actually...admit it, you know you didn't!) and I didn't want to hear Cortez still moaning over his dead husband for the 500th time.

:P But at least now I know why Traynor was done so well and why (in my opinion) Cortez came up lacking: they were apparently written by two different people.

DVS BSTrD:
Hmmm, WAS anybody besides One Million Moms (and the other hate groups) upset about the homosexual relationships? I'd say this is one area where Bioware got ME3 right.

Quite a lot of commentators on Sterling ME3AGELS apparently flipped their shit comparing gays to pedos and saying gays shouldn't be allowed in their game.

Funny, my first reaction to the Asari was exactly "that's a straight man writing a species of bisexual women for other straight men to look at." Never saw much to challenge that initial reaction.

Eh, they were shoehorned in.

Traynor was cheesy and Cortez was lame. Both of them had to make themselves oblivious to the fact that they are homosexual. The first thing out of Traynor's mouth was "I am a lesbian" and Cortez was like *sniff* "I'm...Gay..Shepard" *breaksdown*.

My reaction to this? I GET IT!

Same sex relationships were fine.

It was the ending of the game that sucked:

* violated the entire premise of the series
* stole control of the outcome from the player
* cheated player of even the POSSIBILITY of a positive ending
* ghost kid was idiotic

...And then we realized we ran out of time for the endings and threw in a starchild.

RJ 17:

Daystar Clarion:
I actually think they handled Cortex really well.

I really liked the guy, and felt genuinely sorry for the character's loss.

Ehhhh, I have to disagree. I can appreciate the fact that he lost his husband and is having trouble getting over it. But it just seems like every conversation you have with him he has to remind you about the fact that he's gay. Traynor, on the other hand, only hints at the fact that she's a lesbian when she comments on liking the sound of EDI's voice. I think Traynor was pulled of wonderfully, but that Cortez was just a bit too strong in it.

As the article says, Cortez pretty much comes right out and tells you he's gay in the first conversation you have with him, but really it's not even his homosexuality that bugs me about him...I just don't really like his story. I can see the appeal to establish a connection there: he's lost a loved one in war and needs help coping with it. I just think they should have wrapped it up sooner rather than having it take his entire story arc. I mean it got to the point where I'd just stop going down to the shuttle bay unless I wanted to upgrade some weapons because I had no desire to talk to James (don't think anyone did, actually...admit it, you know you didn't!) and I didn't want to hear Cortez still moaning over his dead husband for the 500th time.

:P But at least now I know why Traynor was done so well and why (in my opinion) Cortez came up lacking: they were apparently written by two different people.

That's not his homosexuality being in-your-face, it's the loss of his husband. I don't think there's a single scene where he says anything about being gay, but plenty where he says that he lost his husband. It's interesting to note that people wouldn't have commented on his sexuality had the lost one been female - you would just be calling him 'that whiny guy'. Not 'that straight whiny guy'. His sexuality has nothing to do with... well, anything. Maybe it influenced the writers to make a bigger thing of it, but you could've switched the pronouns and his story would be exactly the same.

Anyway, I romanced Traynor, and... well. It was OK, I guess? The writing made no sense at some points - I mean, the way that she had one fling with Commander Shepard and suddenly wanted kids? Really? I guess that's Hollywood Romance, but it felt really jarring in a game like this, where characterisation is key. Especially when half of that characterisation is you.

Muckbeast:
Same sex relationships were fine.

It was the ending of the game that sucked:

* violated the entire premise of the series
* stole control of the outcome from the player
* cheated player of even the POSSIBILITY of a positive ending
* ghost kid was idiotic

survivor686:
...And then we realized we ran out of time for the endings and threw in a starchild.

Oh, how startlingly original.

Mariena:
I had no idea who Traynor was, other than the fact that she is quite smart and comes up with apparently brilliant techno-babble solutions. No past, no traumas .. Wasn't impressed by Traynor as a character.

I think that was the point, Traynor was a green, naive tech just who only just graduated from training. She lived a happy life and had no previous traumas. I think she was brilliantly written, and it was quite refreshing to come across a green, less experienced character, and I like how they subtly portray her awe of you and your crew, and her constant doubting of her ability due to her inexperience of combat situations.

Was a big fan of Cortez as well, Thought he provided a good contrast to Traynor. Though I romanced neither, so I don't know if the romance was well written, but loved em as characters. Never was their a more awkward moment in Shepherds career than when he was shot down, when flirting with Traynor, however.

SirBryghtside:

RJ 17:

Daystar Clarion:
I actually think they handled Cortex really well.

I really liked the guy, and felt genuinely sorry for the character's loss.

Ehhhh, I have to disagree. I can appreciate the fact that he lost his husband and is having trouble getting over it. But it just seems like every conversation you have with him he has to remind you about the fact that he's gay. Traynor, on the other hand, only hints at the fact that she's a lesbian when she comments on liking the sound of EDI's voice. I think Traynor was pulled of wonderfully, but that Cortez was just a bit too strong in it.

As the article says, Cortez pretty much comes right out and tells you he's gay in the first conversation you have with him, but really it's not even his homosexuality that bugs me about him...I just don't really like his story. I can see the appeal to establish a connection there: he's lost a loved one in war and needs help coping with it. I just think they should have wrapped it up sooner rather than having it take his entire story arc. I mean it got to the point where I'd just stop going down to the shuttle bay unless I wanted to upgrade some weapons because I had no desire to talk to James (don't think anyone did, actually...admit it, you know you didn't!) and I didn't want to hear Cortez still moaning over his dead husband for the 500th time.

:P But at least now I know why Traynor was done so well and why (in my opinion) Cortez came up lacking: they were apparently written by two different people.

That's not his homosexuality being in-your-face, it's the loss of his husband. I don't think there's a single scene where he says anything about being gay, but plenty where he says that he lost his husband. It's interesting to note that people wouldn't have commented on his sexuality had the lost one been female - you would just be calling him 'that whiny guy'. Not 'that straight whiny guy'. His sexuality has nothing to do with... well, anything. Maybe it influenced the writers to make a bigger thing of it, but you could've switched the pronouns and his story would be exactly the same.

I can see where you're coming from and even while I was typing the above quoted response I had a feeling that's how I was coming off. It's kinda hard for me to explain, but it's the fact that his story is about him having lost someone in a horrific way that FORCES his sexuality to be front and center to me. Now, had he been honest when he said "I'm good with things" regarding his husband in the first conversation you have with him, alright, that's fine, lets move on. But every time you talk to him it's "I've got a dead husband. I've got a dead husband. Oh, by the way, I've got a dead husband."

You're right - and that's what I was trying to explain - that it's not really even his sexuality that bothers me, it's just the way his personal story demands that he constantly remind you about it. That's about as good as I can explain it.

Protip: when you write people in stories you do it by writing the character as a person, then as their gender and then as their sexuality. Most writers fall into the pitfall of writing their gender first, the sexuality second and then the person risking making the character a stereotype.

Also having a few conversations about somebodies dead husband does not make a good gay character. Cortez is simply written as the openly gay dude who is sad about his dead husband and after three conversation events Cortez is down to fuck before the final assault.

Either you have some tact with these events and write the characters as people first or you make the character romances easter eggs and much much harder to achieve. Nobody in the real world reminds people of their sexuality with every conversation (unless they are tumblr users) and with that Traynor is written much better with her only hinting at her sexuality when she likes EDIs voice.

RaikuFA:

DVS BSTrD:
Hmmm, WAS anybody besides One Million Moms (and the other hate groups) upset about the homosexual relationships? I'd say this is one area where Bioware got ME3 right.

Quite a lot of commentators on Sterling ME3AGELS apparently flipped their shit comparing gays to pedos and saying gays shouldn't be allowed in their game.

But no gays were up in arms over their portrayal in the game right?

mad825:
Eh, they were shoehorned in.

Traynor was cheesy and Cortez was lame. Both of them had to make themselves oblivious to the fact that they are homosexual. The first thing out of Traynor's mouth was "I am a lesbian" and Cortez was like *sniff* "I'm...Gay..Shepard" *breaksdown*.

My reaction to this? I GET IT!

You wan't to see Shoehorned See: Diane Allers (Jessica Chobot)

Okay, I found out Cortez was gay when I heard the message while customizing my armor in my male shepard playthrough. That surpirsed me (I thought it was James...)

I DID NOT know Traynor was gay. Hmm... guess thats why she shot down my male shepard...

Personally, I want to hear Bioware talk Same-Sex Love in SW:TOR. I'm not demanding buttsecks this instant, but a progress report would be a good start.

Cat of Doom:

mad825:
Eh, they were shoehorned in.

Traynor was cheesy and Cortez was lame. Both of them had to make themselves oblivious to the fact that they are homosexual. The first thing out of Traynor's mouth was "I am a lesbian" and Cortez was like *sniff* "I'm...Gay..Shepard" *breaksdown*.

My reaction to this? I GET IT!

You wan't to see Shoehorned See: Diane Allers (Jessica Chobot)

Was I the only one who was like "No. Get the hell off my ship"

At least they weren't written like Hepler's fapfiction version of Anders in Dragon Age 2. Massive improvement.

Still does not fix that fact that I did not get my gay Garrus.

I thought Cortez was an interesting character, and I liked talking to him to hear his story. Traynor though? She was a pretty boring character, never really said or did much at all. Plus, I didn't realise she was supposed to be gay, since for some reason the romance dialogue didn't come up at all in my playthrough.

I didn't even know Traynor was a lesbian. And I talked to her a lot, to the point where I out dialogue with her. I didn't flirt with her though, so maybe that's why that conversation never came up.

So I guess she was handled well. I thought Steve was handled well too. If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't like James. Their banter was great. And his story was very human. It fit the theme of the game well.

Thats nice. No one cares. You botched the ending you chumps.

STEEEEEEEEEVE

I'm fine.

ARE YOU SURE?!

That's how I feel about those two. Oh, and the lesbian went from "Hi, I like women" to "LET'S FUCK UNDER THE SHOWER NOW" in a matter of hours.

Kinda stunned how many people didn't know Traynor was a lesbian; I'll have to pay attention to it on my next play through, but it was clear enough to me. I concur with the dominant opinion that Cortez was the better character though.

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