Late last month, we mentioned that BioWare’s new action role-playing video game Mass Effect: Andromeda included same-sex romances and a non-playable transgender character named Hainly Abrams. Despite BioWare’s attempts at inclusion, LGBTQ gaming fans criticized the same-sex romances for being more limited that heterosexual ones and the transgender character for being unrealistically scripted. BioWare has listened to the criticism and pledged to make improvement to Abrams’ character to make her more realistic rather than just a prop.
The game takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy during the year 2185. Players control a male or female military recruit named Sara or Scott Ryder (depending on your preferred gender) as they help establish a new human colony. Right now, Abrams appears in the game as the colony’s scientific director.
When the Ryder meets Abrams, Ryder can ask her why she came to the Andromeda galaxy. Abrams responds, “Back home, I was filling test tubes in some dead-end lab. People knew me as Stephan. But that was never who I was. I knew what I could do and I knew who I wanted to do it as. ‘Hainly Abrams, Andromeda Explorer’. That’s me. Feels good. Feels right.”
Any transgender person will attest that her dialogue rings unrealistic for two reasons: First, it asserts her transgender identity as more important than her job role. It would be like asking a transgender engineer why they decided to take on a certain project space and them responding with, “Well, as a transgender person…” It feels odd and somewhat forced.
Second, and more importantly, transgender people rarely, if ever, reveal their “dead-name” (that is, the birth name given to them before their transition). It’s an incredibly personal piece of information that anti-trans people sometimes use to hurt and undermine trans identities. A trans person would never mention this when initially meeting a person.
Video game critic Sam Greer wrote an excellent piece explaining Abrams’ weird dialogue and looking at trans characters in other BioWare games. Either way, BioWare recently issued an apology via Twitter and explained how they plan on fixing Abrams in a future update.
Regarding Hainly Abrams: pic.twitter.com/nFpUKihqOj
— BioWare (@bioware) April 5, 2017
Their apology reads:
“In Mass Effect: Andromeda, one of our non-player characters, Hainly Abrams, was not included in a caring or thoughtful way. We apologise to anyone who interacted with or was hurt by this conversation. This was never our intent, and was an unfortunate byproduct of the iterative process of game design and a change in the structure of the character’s dialogue.”
“We have had several discussions with members of the transgender community, both internally at BioWare and in the broad community, and we are working to remedy this issue. Once the changes are implemented, Hainly will only reveal certain information to Ryder after they have developed trust, and only if the players chooses to support her,”
It’s a gracious and forward-thinking move from a game developer who is one of the few who tries to incorporate gay, lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, asexual and transgender humans, aliens and people of color into their narratives.