Mass Effect, but with FEMALES!
One of the things I’m looking forward to most in the upcoming Mass Effect 3 (not coming out soon enough) is the homeworlds. For the first time in the series, we will be seeing the turian and salarian homeworlds, as well as the human one, Earth itself. And while this is awesome from an epic, shit-is-getting-real, perspective, there’s another side of this:
Women and children.
In every Mass Effect game so far, they’ve done a great job of describing the different species and their cultural and political history, but no time has been spent on diversifying the species; there are no young turians or salarians*. In an action game, I can see why that might be. But the real problem is that, in a verse where the women kick as much ass as the men do, there are still very few women.
The main bone of contention in this case is the turians. There are female quarians, and all asari are female. Volus have no gender, and salarians and krogan were handwaved mightily; they’re either kept on their homeworld (out of respect, **rolls eyes**), or in another camp. They won’t be able to get away with this on homeworlds, and for that reason, if no other, I’m looking forward to it. A lot.
This leads me to the impetus for the article: rho at Borderhouse has just published an article about the importance of gender diversity in game design, and how it can be done well. Or in this case, how Mass Effect has failed to do it well. In their own words, they have failed to show a female turian in the games thus far.
“[Turians are] all males in the game. We usually try to avoid the females because what do you do with a female Turian? Do you give her breasts? What do you do? Do you put lipstick on her? There’s actually some of the concept artists will draw lipstick on the male one and they’ll say “Hey, it’s done” and we’ll go “No, can you take this serious?””
In fairness to them, it sounds like one of the reasons for that was for fear of fucking it up. But this is one of those cases where failing to do anything also constitutes fucking it up.
They explained Faster Than Light travel in-universe. They explained telekinesis and force fields in-universe. They’ve explained why krogans hate salarians, and why it’s not mutual. So why can’t they explain the simple lack of any female turians in any of the games? Considering how much effort they’ve put into making the game internally consistent, and into making the cultural interactions right, they need to sort the genders out sharpish, if only for completeness’ sake!
Furthermore, it does, as rho points out, take much more than just taking a turian and giving her boobs.
How do you tell the difference between a male gibbon and a female one? Or closer to home, what’s the difference between the sexes in domesticate cats or dogs?
The point I’m making is that in actual real animals, the differences between the sexes can be extremely pronounced or virtually non-existent, and it can take all sorts of forms. So when you’re inventing a new species from scratch, how do you decide what differences to use?
And no, sexy fanart doesn’t count.
It’s nice that we’re entering the stage whereby this sort of thing is becoming a real issue that needs to be dealt with – I mean, it’s proof that the medium is growing, and that we’re thinking more sensibly about gender issues, or at the very least realism. Double win, right?
Once we’ve handled that, it might be nice to know why there are no kids. AND THEN, maybe we could look into why all humans are the same height and build. But handle the women thing first, OK?
* The latter for good reason – they have a lifespan of 40 years, and no sex drive.