Thursday, March 1, 2012

That Thing About Sexism and Mass Effect

In a recent article at, they accused the Mass Effect series of being sexist. The accusation is about the portrayal of the Asari race and characters Miranda and Jack. I think the writer stretched too much to fit the sexism on the game. Here are my counter arguments. Since I hadn't played the entire Jack's story I will not enter in her portrayal. She always felt an uninteresting character to me, so I will start with Miranda. 

Miranda is the result of bio-engineering. She was created in a lab to be the perfect woman by a billionaire to be his successor. She is the fan service of the game. She even gained the nickname of 'dat ass' by the community (albeit I like Tali's ass more, since it is beauty and cute). Miranda is a capable fighter, intelligent and strong. But most women in games are like her. She lack at character development and any kind of deep or twists. She dress with tight clothes, but basically everyone, even males, seems to like to dress in tight clothes in Mass Effect.

Yes, this is her most well known feature.
There is an abuse on camera angles used when she is on scene, but the camera doesn’t define the character. It define that Bioware always wanted to give the fans that one female character that everyone would want to hump. Yes, they could explore her more, but that don't make the game as a whole sexist. If she were the only woman in scene or all females were portrayed like her, maybe. But there are several other female characters around and most of them are not just 'dat ass'. Tali, many secondary characters and even FemShep herself aren't there just as eye candy. 

Now let's talk about the Asari race. They are a monogendered species that can reproduce by 'absorbing' genetic material of almost all species and mix it with their own. They avoid breeding with their own species because of a high risk of developing dangerous characteristics. They can live hundreds of years. The writer at 1up accuses Bioware to create a race of eye-candy girls who are eager to have sex with anyone.

'Keep your alien boner away from me!'
Except they aren't. Sure, you see many of them in bars with 'exotic dancers' and many in sex clothes. Exact the kind of thing you can see many women using in the real world. Because some woman work as strippers do not mean all are. The same go to the Asari. If you explore the cities in the world, you will find many that are mercenaries, police officers and politicians. Also, you will find many in clothes that are hardly revealing, with long dresses. They are not just the sex driven creatures who loves to tease the gamers. They are very diverse, in fact. And putting a whole race in one single 'role' is in fact more problematic. 

So, that is my answer to that 1up article. This is just how I saw the whole thing. Many people want games to be perfect written, with all sensitivities take in account. But I don't think games should be like that. Being forced to take care with all sensitivities would just kill creativity. And that would be a shame.


  1. This is arguably the most fucking idiotic piece of writing I have read in the year of 2012. Congratulations.

    1. Do you mind being more specific? What is the points you disagree and why? What is your opinion? Because just saying my article is idiotic will not help me improve.

    2. Well, while not the worst article, it certainly does have some pretty bad grammar, with little to no expansion on any arguments. The extensive typos and missed words make it hard for me to take this article seriously. While i really agree with your feelings that Jack was an uninteresting character, Jack was not the point of the article. I also do not agree about your assessment of Mirand. i found the camera angles hilarious while you (the player) would be deciding a response, the camera would stay at low "ass level" in conversations with Miranda and Miranda only. I don't feel these were ploys to entice players to JUST be attracted to a perfectly sculpted butt, but as purposeful tools for comedy. Miranda is far from an unexplored character. Her backstory is well rounded, from her family issues with her father and little sister, to her dedication to the Cerberus organization.
      With FemShepard. I understand that it is difficult to choreograph cutscenes and behaviors so that they appear unisex enough for either male or female shepards to perform. I also understand the information and time required to have two separate animations for a female and male... but i can't help but feel that Bioware, failed at achieving this in many situations. Shepard always sits in a distinctly male pose (legs spread wider, often with hands or elbows on the knees), Shepard dances in a distinctly "awkward male" jig, and Shepard takes drinks in a very masculine "snatch and shoot" manner with arms wide on the bar. There is sexism in the Mass Effect series, greatly because game designers are majority male and come with a male perspective. This does not excuse the blatant sexism within the Mass Effect universe.
      This response should have more meat to it. Albeit, it's a blog, so it can have whatever the author wants on it. But you take no account into the fact that the other races in Mass Effect 1 and 2 are represented with exclusively MALE characters, and the females are always restricted to the species home world. Again, however, this IS a blog, and blog are always opinion based, and you can choose to make yours as extensive or general as you please. From an objective stand point, its a weak argument/response to the subject with general statements and little evidence. i just do not think this warrants a first page google search on the topic.

    3. Thanks for your points. I am sorry about my bad grammar (English is not my first language), so I will try to improve upon it.

      I think Miranda would be better explored if they really delved a bit more in her development and her attitude, specially after her sidequest.

      And you are actually right about FemShep having some masculine attitude, albeit I disagree that is done because of sexism, but more because of laziness.

      I also agree that finding females from other races than humans are something weird and they could have improved a bit. But again, laziness seems to be the cause and not really sexism.

      Thanks for your opinions and constructive criticism. Both are very welcome.


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