Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bisexual Characters in upcoming Video Game?

Mass Effect
Nowhere is the cultural difference more evident between US and Europe then in the field of entertainment. Typically US shys away from obvious descriptions of sexuality while having a tolerance level for violence in entertainment. While in Europe it is just the opposite, the ban hammer is dropped on violence and sensuality flows freely.

The latest example of this divsion is seen in two ratings of BioWare's forthcoming Xbox 360 role-playing Mass Effect. In the US, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board or ESRB gave the game a M for Mature rating for "Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, [and] Violence" this means no one under 17 should buy or rent the game without parent approval.

While the British Board of Film Classification BBFC known in the news for its recently banned Manhunt 2 explained that American reason for the M rating comes from a single sequence depicting a risque encounter.

"[Mass Effect's] single sex scene is brief and un-detailed, although there is breast nudity in one version of the scene,". "The sex scene is triggered by the player making a series of choices about becoming more than friends with a colleague. If playing as a male character the scene can take place between him and a human woman or a humanoid female alien. If playing as a female character the scene can take place between her and a male human or a female humanoid alien." (Emphasis added; Quotes coming from the British Board of Film Classification.)

The mention of extraterrestrial bisexuals raises the eyes of an outer space version of the "Hot Coffee" scandal from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas two years ago which by provide a code in the game you unlock a mini sex game. However, any controversy will likely be waved by the fact that the BBFC gave Mass Effect a "12" rating basically saying it is okay for preteens to be able to play the game unsupervised.

Mass Effect isn't the first BioWare game to involve bisexual characters. The PC and Xbox title Jade Empire had several non-graphic cross-gender love subplots,"including one storyline which leads to an implied three-way liaison between a male hero and two non-player characters, Silk Fox and Dawn Star". Depending on the choice of being a male or female character can also "lead to some same-sex crushes in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games".

The Europe and US rating comparison is interesting because Europe easily bans games such as Manhunt 2 for its violence but will slap a soft rating on games with strong sexual content in them such as Mass Effect. You decide is this just?