After having watched nearly all of the trailers for Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2, I must say that I’m pretty disappointed with some of the characters and the way the games are being marketed. There’s a disconcerting focus on sex, gore and bad attitudes that feels out of character for BioWare. I’m worried that it signals a shift toward catering to a younger, more “mainstream” audience.

Sexualized female characters and subtle (or not so subtle) innuendo is nothing new to the gaming industry or to BioWare.  In their previous titles Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, its sequel, and in the first installment of the planned Mass Effect trilogy there have been female characters you can form a “relationship” with and eventually get an opportunity to bed.

Oh baby, your normal mapped bra texture gets me so hot!

Oh baby, your normal mapped bra texture gets me so hot!

While not being the first game from the studio to have such content, Mass Effect went a little further with its content than games before it had and as a result garnered much attention from sensationalist media and parents with heads firmly implanted in ass. The source of misguided moralist rage was a single, short-lived “sex” scene which can barely be classified as such. The scene in question takes place between the main protagonist and one of two female characters. All are consenting adults with one of the two females being a blue-skinned Alien. The scene consists of suggestive camera pans, side-boob and excessive fades to black. News outlets got their ratings spike and outraged parents retreated to their moral fortresses to hibernate until the next pox on humanity rears its ugly head.

If you keep trying to immitate a Fish while we have sex I'll have to grab a paper bag.

If you keep trying to imitate a Fish while we have sex I'll have to grab a paper bag.

Since the release of the original Mass Effect BioWare has clearly made an even more deliberate move toward including “gritty” violence and sexual themes in their games in order to cater to the core gaming demographic of angst-filled, hormone-enraged male teenagers and young adults. A move immediately visible in the multitude of trailers for the upcoming game “Dragon Age: Origins” which go out of their way to show that you’ll have the opportunity to sleep with most, if not all of the main female characters. Even more so, the characters can’t seem to go five seconds without being splattered with blood and a large portion of the trailers feature “This Is the New Shit” by Marilyn Manson. The promotional material for the game could hardly be called subtle, something they’ve even proudly admitted by proclaiming that one of the trailers was the “most brutal and blood-soaked video we’ve ever created… a ‘no holds barred’ look at the most intense action ever seen in the history of BioWare games.”

BioWare: Appealing to the sadomasochist in all of us.

BioWare: Appealing to the sadomasochist in all of us.

A recent Mass Effect 2 trailer further shows the new, more “hardcore” direction the studio is taking its games by introducing a criminally insane, scantily clad female character whose upper-body clothing consists of a few thin leather straps held together by metal connectors. Her body is covered in Tattoos and she is apparently incapable of forming a sentence without using an obscenity. I’m hoping that because the promotional video features heavily condensed, cherry-picked dialog arranged by the marketing team that during the course of the game her absurdity is spread out a bit more. But even if that’s the case the character itself—no matter how they try to justify her demeanor through back-story—only exists as a service young males with a horribly backward idea of what constitutes “mature” content.

    The only thing that could add more 'tude to this shot is an explosion to be apathetic about.

You couldn't add more attitude to this shot if you tried.

Of course, it’s probably unfair to demonize BioWare for these decisions as I’m sure they aren’t entirely to blame. EA’s marketing team surely had a large amount of say in how both Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 would be advertised, and the average mainstream gamer also plays a role for being attracted to such things in the first place. However, when it all comes down to it BioWare is the developer; they created these characters, situations and dialog. EA may be to blame for exploiting specific material from within the game for promotional purposes, but the fact remains that it’s still in the game and that it feels out of place with how they generally handle themselves. It all carries an insultingly deliberate feeling that I don’t really care for. From a business standpoint I can understand the decision, but from a creative standpoint it’s embarrassing pandering coming from a company I once held to high standards in characters and storytelling (reused plot points and character profiles aside…¬_¬).

I'm so rebellious and badass I don't need protective armor. Incoming projectiles just get scared and curve around me.

I'm so fucking hardcore I don't need protective armor. Incoming projectiles just get scared and curve around me.

The games themselves will no doubt be fun to play and have their fair share of well designed and well written characters, but both also seem to have at least one token “edgy” character—one who reaches beyond the typical overly aggressive male or suggestive female character commonly seen in games and crosses a line into the grotesquely exaggerated. Luckily, as is the tradition with BioWare’s games, you should be able to avoid undesirable characters by simply leaving them out of your party whenever possible. Unless they’ve severely limited control of your party, I know that’s what I’ll be doing when I eventually play through each of them.

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