Remember a little while back, say, a year ago to this day, when I made a rant about Mass Effect 1's sex scene's inequality, complaining about the fact that the game gives you the option to pursue a heterosexual or lesbian romance for main character Shepard, but does not allow for a gay male relationship? My statement, which I continue to stand behind, more or less was that it cheapens the entire thing to have one homosexual option but not the other, when the one you do include is the one that will be considered "hot" by more of your intended audience than the other option. Now, I ain't a squealing yaoi fangirl, and I preferred in ME1 to play as a female and liked Liara (the female character who will romance your protagonist regardless of gender) the best as a character out of the potential romancers, so I wouldn't really have taken advantage of a guy-guy romance option anyway. But there WERE a lot of people who would have and wanted it, and either way, not having the less marketable one for no reason save the obvious implication that it's not a selling point cheapens what options ARE there. Instead of being a step forward in RPGs for same-sex relationships, it just becomes stupid fanservice.
I fucking hate fanservice, particularly the crude, sexual kind, which it usually is. It cheapens everything around it that might have been worthwhile. It's a fucking blight on the gaming industry, and every other form of the entertainment industry.*
Mass Effect 1's creators, Bioware, must have taken some note of the many protests like mine, however, when making up the romantic possibilities for their newest RPG, Dragon Age Origins. For any given protagonist you make in DAO, you've got two heterosexual options and one homosexual one for initiating a romance, whether you're a girl OR a guy. Not only does this game give you 3 potential love stories for your protagonist over ME1's 2, but it also has made a REAL step forward for equality in love instead of ME1's careless half-step. A big thumbs-up to Bioware for correcting themselves in a worthwhile way, going for story-telling integrity over simple marketability.**
Of course, it does bear mentioning that the sex scenes in DAO are a bit...off. ME1's PG-13-ish scene used nice camera work and lighting and whatnot to make the implied act and implied nudity believable and even tasteful, while DAO's approach to the whole thing is more direct--the participants are shown more clearly, and they avoid nudity not by implying-but-not-actually-showing it as in ME1, but rather by just having the characters wearing their underwear in each shot during the sex scene. This...well, it just seems awkward and less engaging in most cases, rather than smooth and elegant as ME1's scene was. And there's always the fact that the male character who can fall in love with your male protagonist is Zevran the Tolkien-esque elf...gay elf jokes are already easy enough ever since Legolas hit the big screen; now they'll practically write themselves. I'm just saying, the game's bisexual girl character is a human who just comes off as a regular (albeit very cool, deep, and interesting) person...why did the bisexual guy have to be a pretty elf?
Regardless of these largely trivial quibbles, though, I'm very, very pleased by this development.*** Bioware's really done good by me on this issue with Dragon Age Origins, and I can only hope that the upcoming Mass Effect 2, should it continue Bioware's tradition of giving gamers varied romantic possibilities, will follow DAO's example of equality.
* With the exception, I guess, being outright porn. Kinda hard to cut fanservice out of the marketing decisions there.
** Not to say that I don't think they had some thought of what the fans wanted when they decided to give the option for a guy-guy love story, since, as I mentioned, there were many people who did complain. But that vocal minority wouldn't affect sales figures in a significant way; all Bioware would have needed for that was the girl-girl option. So I do think it's safe to say that this is an action involving some integrity.
*** Hell, I'd even have to say, having pursued all 4 possible love stories, that the sex scene seems at its most natural and believable when both the participants are guys. Not sure why (although I'd guess it's because the guys have fewer undergarments to wear during it and thus fewer articles of clothing that are there for the whole time, which is a bit odd and distracting), but that's how it seems.