Star Wars: The Old Republic and Gay Lovin’

BioWare, the company that made the Dragon Age series and the Mass Effect series and runs Star Wars: The Old Republic, has been under fire for their views on homosexual relationships. Me being a writer who deals with social issues in video games, I was all ready to tear into BioWare for their recent decision involving SWTOR.

A longtime issue with the popular MMO is the inability to engage in same-gender relationships. This led a lot of people to feel that BioWare had a hate-on for gay people. It didn’t help that TOR forums censored the words “gay” and “lesbian,” or that when the issue was brought up, the official word from a forum moderator was “As I have stated before, these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars. Thread closed.”

Now, with the latest release Rise of the Hutt, they’re finally giving players the ability to engage in same-sex relationships. But only on one planet. If you pay for the expansion. I heard this, and I immediately prepared to go to war. I had such a scathing article planned out, with comments like “Just like Rosa Parks, I know that me and my kind should remain in the back of the bus, where no one has to deal with us if they don’t want to,” and “As long as they make sure everything’s equal, what’s the problem with being separate?” Oh, I could smell the singed hair on BioWare developers from my secret work station in the back of Knife Guy’s Casino!

Then I thought about it like an adult instead of a knee-jerk reactionary. The TOR forum incident happened in 2009. Do you remember what’s happened since then? BioWare issued an official apology. Then they released a new Dragon Age game. And Mass Effect 3. My point is that BioWare has shown that they’re ready, willing, and able to put all the gay lovin’ your heart desires into their story-driven games. Upon realizing that, the question becomes “So why are they only introducing it on one planet?”

I have an answer for that. Have you ever coded a game? Made sure the graphics of the characters fit the voices and mouth movements of the characters’ speech? It’s a crap-ton of work, is what I’m getting at. TOR is not currently set up for same-sex relationships, and given that the development team is working nonstop to get the game’s Free To Play system set up (and given their F2P system is the laughing stock of the MMO world, they’ve got a lot of work left to do), when exactly are they going to find time to get all the other coding and work done?

Now, I’m sure you’ve seen Hickman’s quote floating around about how allowing SGRs was a lot more work than they were planning. But most of the articles fail to show you Hickman’s full quote. Allow me to remedy that.

“Secondly, I want to reveal today that we are adding SGR with some NPCs on Makeb and do intend on pursuing more SGR options in the future. More details to come!”

At this point, there are really only two fair questions. One is whether or not they will actually release more like they say they will. Lucky for you, I put on my journalist hat and tracked down a writer for TORWars.com, who, though they preferred to remain anonymous, had this to say:

“When all is said and done, I believe BioWare is going to ignore the haters. SGRs are going into TOR whether the haters like it or not. It’s a done deal. Bear in mind, the writing for the game is several months ahead of what actually gets released. There are folks who were laid off in May who wrote content that only got released in November and December, so the fact that SGRs are starting to hit in-game sometime in the next few months means they were probably writing it back last summer and into autumn. The strong feeling I get from talking privately with my friends at BioWare is that they want to get it right and be respectful rather than release it early and have it be crap.”

The other fair question is “Why did they disallow those relationships in the first place?” Once again, I go to my source:

“That I don’t know the answer to. At least, none of the folks I know have said why. I have my suspicions, however, and none of them relate to them not wanting to have it in there. I’d look more to the suits than to the actual content-creators when asking questions like that. We know BioWare is a gay-friendly company (versus many other video game studios). We know that Lucasfilm is gay-friendly. We know that Disney, LFL’s new owners, are gay-friendly. EA… I’m not so sure, I’ve heard people say they’re somewhat gay-friendly, but I dunno. Regardless, there’s a big long line of people who have to sign off on any content that gets added to the game. There’s also gonna be stuff in the game that the low-end of the food chain, the creators, were asked to put in but they didn’t want to, but it came from upon high, so it’s either come up with a better argument why not or do what the boss says.

“I do know that SGRAs were supposed to be in-game well before now, as in months ago. But, the whole F2P conversion and going into crisis mode put it on the backburner in lieu of things that the suits felt were more ‘core’ to a generic gamer’s experience. Eh, when you have a muchly-diminished staff, you get less stuff done.”

So, look. Is it a little problematic that they essentially segregated gay people to one planet? Sure. I understand the gut reaction. All I’m saying is, let’s remember what company this is. Let’s remember how gay-friendly they’ve been thus far. Has it been perfect? No, of course not. Nothing is. Will they try their hardest and do their best? I think the answer is yes. So let’s hold off on the hatred and rage for a few months or so. Give them some time to make good on their word. If, by this time next year, they haven’t started making significant headway? Then maybe bust out the torches and pitchforks.

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