As we previously reported they would, BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic has finally included the option for same-sex relationships in their game!*
*Oh, what's that? You didn't think there'd be an asterisk tacked onto that? Well, good reader, there is always an asterisk for these things. It turns out, you can enter a same-sex relationship in the game, but it's only available as paid downloadable content, whereas heterosexual relationships are . . . oh yes, free. Those are free.
The controversy that has bizarrely popped up now, over a week after the announcement, is that the same sex romance will take place on a specific planet for now—Makeb—and you have to pay money to go there. Some have jokingly dubbed it 'pay-to-gay.'
Most are confused as to why Bioware would do this: aren't they, like, progressive or something? Why are they stumbling? This reaction puzzles me, for it asserts that the actions of one studio will predict the successes or predilections at other studios.
Kotaku's Tina Amini points out that if, for Bioware, inclusion is a business thing, then having to pay to access Makeb should not be surprising. In order to supply fans' desire for the extra content, BioWare would take on the development and resource costs in exchange for a price. [SOURCE]
Look, I'm willing to extend BioWare the benefit of the doubt here: this isn't a political or homophobic thing. As a previously unavailable part of the game, these parts no doubt required a lot of coding, rendering . . . all that jazz. That being said, would releasing a patch that would have removed gender barriers from relationships be that big of a deal? Gender is a pretty simple binary construct, so I can't imagine a program that works around that part exclusively would have been terribly difficult.
That being said, this is probably more indicative of the fact that the LGBT community is being treated as a bankable consumer group. Marketing to the gays is no longer considered political or moral; it's simply a matter of good, reliable economics. It's a mixed blessing: on one hand, it's a rather cynical ploy, and it's pretty shameless pandering. On the other hand, money is one of the most, if not the most, powerful displays of public opinion in North America. If the LGBT community has decent economic influence, then that means we have more say. Soooooo . . . take the good with the bad.
[Image source: NatalieDee.com]