Mass Effect and Sexism

Or… Why I uninstalled Mass Effect after one day of playing.

Before I get into this I just want to say that I really wanted to like Mass Effect. I’m talking Mass Effect 1 here, and yes, I realize that I’m about four years late. This game seemed to have it all. A science-fiction FPS (first-person shooter) with an interesting story, characters, and world. Shepard (the main character, who is chosen as either male or female at the beginning), in particular was very interesting to me. She was very strong and assertive. Seeing a female badass in a game like this is sort of rare (a problem in and of itself, but let’s move on). Still, as I played my first few hours I started to get this sinking feeling that Mass Effect wasn’t as progressive about women as I’d originally thought.

Basically, the “world” of Mass Effect brings nothing new or challenging to the table when it comes to sex and gender. The Mass Effect universe is stuck with the same, tired, hurtful stereotypes about women that are being pushed onto us currently by the media and our culture. Female characters in Mass Effect are either hyper-sexualized… or they don’t exist at all. The developers chose not to include female models for most of the races in the game. The reason? The art director/designers/developers don’t know how to render a female character of an alien race without gendering her as overtly and very female (We’re talking lipstick here). How uncreative and downright stupid is that?

Read this article by Alex Raymond over at for a very good write up that hits all the points much better than I could have hoped to.

Further reading:
Designing non-human females (and how Mass Effect failed)

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