The BioWare Romance Trap

In a new column for The Escapist titled "The BioWare Romance Trap", writer Shamus Young argues that BioWare progressively moved away from romance plots that fit seamlessly with the overarching game plots to a large number of extraneous romances that still can't satisfy their player base, in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to please its fanbase. While he doesn't believe anything will change on this front, Young hopes BioWare might eventually go back on this decision, which he feels adversely affected their games' companion rosters:

Not only do these romances take place apart from the story, but they limit the writer's ability to design interesting teams. What if the writers want add a character who would be inappropriate as a romance option? Perhaps someone old, or underage, or celibate, or faithfully married, or grotesque. They're already having a difficult time pleasing everyone, and every un-romanceable character makes the job that much harder. This would naturally push the character designs towards a "Fast and the Furious" approach, where everyone on the team is young-looking, sexy, and available. That runs counter to the sci-fi theme of strange aliens and characters from all walks of life.

This also pits the fanbase against each other and breeds animosity. After all, the characters are all made from the same finite game budget, so having one more option for straight ladies means one less option for straight dudes. If lesbians make up 2% of the player base, then it might seem unfair to some people that they get a third of the romance options. But if you're in that 2%, then it probably seems pretty damn unfair that straight guys get so many more options than you do. People on all sides can feel frustrated and to them it feels like BioWare could make it all better with just a slight change in their favor. So BioWare ends up with everyone demanding they do contradictory things, and the only way to solve this is to spend less on the core game and more on these side-romances that only a tiny fraction of the players will see.

While it's easy to blame BioWare for this mess, it's worth noting that they got here simply by giving fans what they asked for. I don't think anyone is in the wrong here. Everyone is just saying what they would personally like from the game, and our preferences are inherently incompatible. A gay man and I can both enjoy another zone where we shoot some more bad guys, but we don't both benefit from the option of romancing Tali. The content in the main story is ostensibly there for the benefit of everyone, but romance options only appeal to a sub-section of the audience, and therefore exclude everyone else.