Let’s be honest though, the appeal of the Mass Effect series was NEVER the dateable humans. No one gave a fuck about boring-ass Kaiden or space-racist Ashley. People were excited about being gay with a Star Trek-style painted green girl, AKA Liara. I don’t know if you guys remember this, but this option was a HUGE deal for video games when ME 1 came out. Not only was it a queer relationship in video games, which gamers supported and FOX news hated, but it also embraced the idea of a weird alien relationship. Not only were you having sex with this character, you were MIND-MELDING with her.
And I’m sure there are people who’ll say, “Well, you could do that in this game ____.” Cool. Not at this scale. Not at this budget.
When Mass Effect 2 came along, it approached even more avenues of expression and opened doors to questions about how one would make love to an alien species. How do you kiss Tali let alone make love to her, a species who could possibly DIE if you expose her to other-worldly bacteria? How do you convince a woman who has lived for hundreds of years as their species’ Batman to RISK IT ALL? How do you kiss a Grasshopper man?
Some of the best scenes were not the actual romance scenes themselves, but questions the characters asked around that romance. You going to Mordin about how to do it, and he explaining, “Hey, don’t ingest THAT.” Or discussing to practice safe sex with a Quarian. Not only was this game approaching the idea of a Harkness-Test approved utopia, but it also embraced the idea of relationships based on trust, care, consent, and preparation.
I can’t just outright dismiss Bioware for their innovations here, because they were doing things for sci-fi that would inform a tone about how we would write future science fiction characters for years to come.