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Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”

Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”  (photo)

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BioWare’s “Mass Effect” titles offer a stunning amount of scale and ambition in the experiences they offer to gamers. The two installments in the sci-fi action RPG series have been space opera of the highest order, and unique in the amount of personal investment it generates in the people who play. That investment starts with the Commander Shepard you make as your avatar. Shepard can be male or female and loyalist camps have sprung up around the actors-Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, respectively-who give voice to the male and female versions of the character, called BroShep or FemShep by fans.

The investment continues in the agonizing storyline choices you make. Are you a hard-ass, take-no-prisoners Renegade, who lets enemies die even if you could save them? Do you let entire species become extinct? Or do you play as an altruistic Paragon, turning to diplomacy before force and pursuing justice instead of vengeance? The decisions you make ripple outward in the fictional universe, influencing how tertiary characters talk to you and interact with you.

But, the relationships that are arguably the most important of all in “Mass Effect” haven’t shown the kind of depth and openness that the rest of the game has. Romance options in the first two games have skewed heavily to the heteronormative. Shepard could only woo members of the opposite sex in “Mass Effect” and “Mass Effect 2,” with an exception made if you played a female Shepard and wanted to get with another woman. This situation came under fire for being exclusionary, and always seemed a dunderheaded move to avoid controversy.

Not that it’s worked, though. “Mass Effect”‘s handling of sex was the subject of an infamous, fear-mongering Fox News report shortly after the first “ME” game came out.

But the question’s always been why? Why no guy-on-guy? I don’t think prurience or titillation’s ever been the issue, as the groping displayed in “Mass Effect” romances never gets hotter than a PG-13 level. No, the why has always been a more philosophical question. In a wide-open universe where all kinds of races comingle, why isn’t it a romantic option for players to have their avatars involved in whatever relationships they wanted?

Well, we may never know the answer but we do know that that’s changing. Two days ago, Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the “Mass Effect” series tweeted the following:

Happy to confirm #ME3 supports wider options for love interests incl. same-sex for m&f chars, reactive to how you interact w/them in-game.

Now, character relationships in the “Mass Effect” games carry over so, if players do want to change their orientation of the romantic relationships, there ‘s going to be narrative dissonance between chapters. If your Shepard goes from girls to guys from “ME2” to “ME3,” the writers at BioWare might be hard-pressed to explain how or why Shepard switches teams. One thinks that they’ll likely be up to the task. Most importantly, your Shepard will be able to face the threat of the galaxy-destroying Reapers with the love of someone you feel he deserves. There’s no better reason to save the universe than that.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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