Wednesday, April 24, 2024

So nobody in Mass Effect has a working gaydar, huh?

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition may have stuff that I take issue with – the lack of same-sex relationships for gay men up until the third game being one of those things. But it’s hard to deny that the sci-fi series is a masterpiece that’s fun to play, and often leaves me finding out new things. In my last playthrough of the first game, the thing I discovered was that nobody in Mass Effect has a working gaydar.

I unearthed this particular morsel the moment that, after flirting relentlessly with Liara and merely being polite to Kaidan – a genuinely nice chap, if a bit boring at times – I was asked by Liara if myself and Kaidan had anything going on. I wouldn’t have minded, but I’d already told Kaidan 10 minutes ago that I was interested in the only ‘woman’ – who isn’t a woman, but that’s a whole other thing that I’ve not got time to unpack – aboard the Normandy that BioWare had so gracefully given me access to. Thanks, Casey Hudson.

Now to be fair to Kaidan, he isn’t the only one who seems to want to jump my bones at every opportunity. Mass Effect is very much built on Shepard being a war icon and as such, everyone really does think the sun shines out of your ass. Because of this, everyone seems to fall over themselves around you. Liara is immediately attracted to you, despite you only having just rescued her literal minutes before and yet, outside of Kaidan himself, everyone is convinced that you’re into him because…woman plus man plus standing next to each other and talking a few times equals romantic relationship? Like seriously, even Doctor Chakwas gets in on it even though I’m only asking a question about Kaidan’s past. I just think he is neat, that’s all!

mass effect gaydar
Kaidan Alenko when asked about the relationship between Shepard and Liara: “I think they’re in lesbians with one another.”

The lack of a gaydar in Mass Effect really starts to shine through the moment you commit to a relationship with Liara. It’s a lot of ‘even though she’s a woman?!’ or ‘you’re both women, though!?’ which is expected considering the original game released back in 2007, but to see it in the Legendary Edition is just plain hilarious. Like yes, I’ve been gay this whole goddamn time, game!

The lack of a gaydar only gets worse in Mass Effect 2, though. There’s no gay person in sight, and all the women you do meet keep telling you that Jacob’s hot, is into Garrus, or is emotionally unavailable to anyone but men apparently – seems a bit like promotion of heterosexual propaganda if you ask me.

That’s not to say Miranda, Jack and Tali aren’t great characters and friends. I mean it’s actually real heartwarming of Miranda, Jack, and Tali to assume that I’m just being a good friend to them, but every conversation I’m reminded of that one Twitter post where women don’t know when another woman is hitting on them. Like no Miranda, I’m not saying you’re pretty to be nice, I’m trying to ask you to on a space date so you can then be my space girlfriend. Or space wife…If you’re interested.

I did not make my female Shepard a hot butch lady only to be perceived as a straight gal

Yet as much as I complain, it’s even worse for queer men. While there isn’t inherently anything wrong with trying to shoot your shot with someone, it does get a bit tiresome when you’re simply standing there, existing, and every asari within a 5-mile radius starts to hit on you. Like, we get it Sha’ira you’re supposed to be sexually appealing and tempting to Shepard but what if I’m just too gay for your bullshit? Get your hands off me already, goddamn.

Joking aside, the reason why nobody in Mass Effect has a gaydar – despite it not actually being a thing that exists outside of straight people using it to out us or through fellow queers trying to identify whether to let their guard down or not – is ultimately because this series is unfortunately written with a straight, male Shepard in mind. The only difference between a male and female Shepard outside of romantic interests is that female Shepards get the ‘benefit’ of experiencing sexism thrown their way.

That said, playing Mass Effect as a queer woman is still very fun due to your relationships with Liara and even Samantha Traynor, but it feels downright strange to have these small microaggressions of automatically being conceived as a straight person and then the whole world either acting surprised or ignoring it completely shoved into my face 24/7. Like, it’s fine, I don’t need everyone to throw a bloody party every time I look meaningfully into Liara’s eyes but I’d also like nobody to ever perceive me as a straight person, as well. Surely there’s some balance in there somewhere? Surely there’s a way I can let the game know that no, me being a woman doesn’t mean I find Jacob’s abs appealing or that I want to lick Thane like he’s a weed lollipop?

Maybe not, or at least, not in this trilogy. For as much as fans disliked Mass Effect: Andromeda, in regards to player sexuality and its queer world, it got more right than it got wrong.

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