Star Wars: The Gay Unleashed! (In Small Quantities)
Denis Farr laments the way in which gay characters are implemented in Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Dear Star Wars Universe,
I wanted to believe, which is why I defended you against organizations that give my Christian friends a bad name. With the latest news of the upcoming gay ghettoization, I have a few ways I could interpret what you’re doing.
The first is to wonder if perhaps you’re trying to give everyone a history lesson. By putting these NPC same-gender romances on Makeb, a planet that is part of paid content and available to higher level characters only, you are systemically placing the same romance options others have already experienced and continue to have access to out of easy reach. Pay money for equal rights. Feel what it is like to have to confine yourself to a single area to express love for someone of the same gender, because no other community will have you.
If that were the case, you could have something brilliant on your hands. Games, after all, love the story of the underdog, but actually using stories of how people have moved beyond systemic oppression via social norms or government interference is something they seem rather shy about approaching. Coding that into your own systems only to have it progress so that is no longer the case? That’d be brilliant!
As a history lesson.
For those of us who’ve lived that history? Perhaps those of us who grew up wanting to learn about who we were and why we were ostracised, and read up on how neighborhoods formed, but bars were raided? Maybe it even mirrors the political fight right now, where queer people who want the expected life that they were promised, including marriage and children, but must fight for the systemic right to do so? It’s a bit too on the nose.
Yes, you’re very supportive of these romances, and eventually we may even see companions (y’know, if that doesn’t squick out the straight people who don’t want to be hit on by us), but this also rings a bit with the hollow words of historical precedent.
Yet, it feels like that’s not why you’re going about this whole thing. Despite declarations and protestations that you are committed to bringing this to the game (which makes me want to bring out the ‘lady doth protest too much’ quip I always keep in my back pocket), it has already been how long since the game’s launch, and since you have been committed to this track? It’d be one thing if there were more transparency as regards where you are in the process right now.
As it stands, giving a planet where NPCs, rather than full companions, are permitted for same-gender dalliances seems a bit like, “Here, have civil partnerships. It’s not quite the same thing, but while you’re waiting for the real thing, it’s just as good!” It’s not. For those who wanted full civil marriages, it never was in real life, and this seems very akin to that, along with haunting images of gay people having no other choice but to live in a segregated area, punted to a ghetto if they cannot conform to the rest of the entire universe’s standards (really, the entire known existence?).
It also seems just a teensy bit odd in a lore full of ways to communicate that do not directly require being in the same place that everyone would all be geographically located in one spot. Even in the present day, gay men and women have many ways to reach out to each other that do not include needing to live in the same neighborhood (though those neighborhoods still exist in some fashion, as both a cultural and historical landmark). So, if you’re going ahead with this, I would recommend thinking about what this means for the lore, rather than just being a somewhat half-attempt that says something really disappointing about how your systems are in place.