Representation of different genders and sexualities is a difficult subject in the games industry. Attempts at inclusion are still relatively rare, and the ones that happen are often subject to cynical claims of pandering or becoming politically correct. BioWare is a company that has pushed the envelope of diversity in these areas, and it doesn’t see any reason to stop, or for other studios not to do the same.
Speaking at the Sweden Game Conference, Åsa Roos, BioWare UX lead, took a question on the difficulty of implementing trans or non-binary characters in videogames generally. There is the question of workload, she says, that has been an ongoing issue for BioWare. “If you add, for instance, a non-binary player character, you also have to add the dialogue for a non-binary player character,” Roos said. “That’s a lot of content, so in some cases I think it’s a question – it’s crass, but it’s true – it’s a question of content. However, we’re working on that.”
She doesn’t see it as a tough choice on principle, however, re-iterating for groups that criticise these ideas that inclusion doesn’t hurt anyone’s experience. “I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to support the most marginalised groups and then ignore the groups who are going ‘oh my god, what are you doing’, ‘social justice warriors’, and blah blah blah,” Roos explains. “‘You’re so politically correct’ and ‘you’re just doing it to get more audience’. I say, well, ‘these people are marginalised, they don’t really have anything to represent them from the start. So, having one person who is non-binary or trans in the game is not, really, impacting on your gaming experience.’”
BioWare is a studio known for its diverse approach to sexuality. The same-sex romance options in both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series have been integral to many people’s enjoyment of the games. Prominent former Dragon Age writer David Gaider has long contended that diversity just makes good business sense.
Roos is aware that there’s plenty more that could be done, though, and says that BioWare is still working on improving. “I think we should spend more time trying to be more inclusive,” she said. “And I think that, at least, BioWare as a company is trying to. We’re trying.”
BioWare just rolled out the new Anthem event Season of Skulls, and you can play it now.