A new video game designed exclusively for the Xbox 360 is stirring up controversy for including an optional lesbian sex scene.
Mass Effect, from game developer BioWare, will allow players to engage in romantic interludes with other game characters, including same-sex relationships between female characters.
Spoilers on the game were published recently by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
The spoilers include details about the game’s content, including a sex scene “triggered by the player making a series of choices about becoming more than friends with a colleague.”
In Mass Effect, players can choose to initiate romantic relationships between male characters and female human NPCs (non-player characters) or female-appearing alien NPCs – although BioWare technically specifies the aliens as being non-gendered.
Female characters are allowed to choose to engage in relationships with both male and female NPCs.
Male-male romantic engagements are not currently an option in the game.
The resulting sex scene includes a flash of virtual breast and, as Eurogamer.net states, “some jazz saxophone wailing in the background”.
Previous video games such as Fear Effect 2 (for Playstation) have included lesbian or bisexual subtext.
The RPG game Jade Empire from BioWare allowed both male-male and female-female relationships.
More recently, the video game Bully featured kissing between two male characters.
Two opposing streams of protest are already being generated by the sex scene included in Mass Effect on gaming forums across the internet.
On one side of the issue are protesters against the inclusion of any sexual content in a video game potentially put in the hands of children, much less same-sex content.
George Walker, Midwest Contributor for Aeropause.com, stated yesterday on the gaming site:
“I would hope that Mass Effect could be the kind of game that any teenager would be able to play, but I now see that will not be the case.
“I know a lot of people don’t have a problem with this sort of content, but I do. If this stays in the game upon release, I can honestly say I’ll be boycotting the Mass Effect series.”
On the other side are those who question why BioWare would include same-sex content between females, but not as an option between males.
Based on the BBFC’s rating, in the UK, where Mass Effect is due to be released on November 23rd, children as young as 12 will be allowed to purchase the game.
In the United States, the game has been rated M for “mature” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, meaning that it cannot be purchased by anyone under 17 without parental approval.
As versions of games often vary from country to country, it is possible the sex scene or same-sex options will not appear in the U.S. version.