Bethesda Softworks' VP of Marketing and PR, Peter Hines, tweeted some exciting news for LGBT fans of the hugely anticipated fantasy RPG Skyrim yesterday when he responded to a Twitter message asking whether players could marry someone of the same gender, since it hadn't be publicly addressed before. Hines replied there was nothing "hush, hush" about it, and that "players can marry anyone." Unfortunately the same can't be said for the upcoming Lucas Arts and Bioware game Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has its own LGBT fans asking developers why only straight relationships will be allowed.
The gaming equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, Skyrim is the long-awaited next chapter in the Elderscrolls series following the award-winning fifth chapter Oblivion, which has sold millions of copies since being released in 2006. Since its announcement, the game has generated a near constant stream of press over every new image or bit of information released, not to mention the fan-dedication it has already inspired. Bethesda is also the manufacturer of the Fallout game series, which have featured supporting gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters in the most recent iterations. The option for any kind of marriage or romantic relationship was not included in the previous Elderscrolls game or the Fallout series, making this a great step forward for the company in terms of both play options and LGBT inclusivity.
Including same-sex romantic options and LGBT characters has become increasingly common for developers of games seeking to create a large and thriving play-setting. The Fables games were famously pioneers in this area, as well as games like the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. The latter two are from developer Bioware, who have not only made same-sex romance options more viable and characters more detailed with each new game, but also publicly defended these options via Dragon Age co-writer David Gaiter, who countered internet hostility with a passionate statement about the importance of inclusivity.
In fact it's Bioware's own good track record that has partially inspired the hurt feelings of a number of LGBT gamers who had been hoping for a similar inclusion of options in the new game Star Wars: The Old Republic, as they are developing it alongside LucasArts. Developer Corey Butler confirmed in an interview that the "massive multiplayer online" game set in George Lucas' Star Wars universe would not feature the option for same-sex relationships, setting off an immediate storm of debate on the game's forums. The discussion continued so heatedly that the forum's community manager, Allison Berryman, was forced to issue a statement that answers would be forthcoming:
We understand that this topic is one that's very important to many of our community members, and we appreciate everyone posting their feedback. At this time, there are no same gender romance options available in the game, as was mentioned in the interview linked earlier. We know you're interested to hear more on this subject, and we will provide more information as soon as we are able.
So far the issue has generated tens of thousands of forum pages, though no official explanation seems to have yet been given. And the discussion is likely to continue for some time as users seek to convince the game's developers of the importance of LGBT inclusion in advance of its expected December 31 release date.
GLAAD hopes that LucasArts and Bioware will reconsider their position and create a more accommodating game world for ALL their players, and continue the terrific example they've set with previous games.
Meanwhile, Skyrim will be released more than a month earlier on 11/11/11.