Mass Effect: Andromeda's launch hasn't been quite as smooth as BioWare might have hoped. Aside from the lack of surface-level polish that longtime fans were expecting, there are numerous problems with its treatment of LGBTQ content.
The more high-profile issue has to do with its lack of male-male romances, but there's also an issue with Andromeda's transgender character, Hainly Abrams, that BioWare is addressing through a patch in the coming months.
Here's what's going on.
Mass Effect: Andromeda: The problem with Hainly Abrams
Once you establish an outpost on Eos through the main campaign missions in Andromeda, you can talk to all of the scientists, soldiers and citizens now living there. One such character is Hainly Abrams, a scientist.
The default conversation with her has to do with science chit-chat, but if you ask her one of the optional follow-up questions about why she traveled to Andromeda from the Milky Way, she gets incredibly candid. She tells you she's a trans woman, even going so far as to drop her dead name — a term that typically refers to the name a trans person no longer uses. Here's the full transcript of that particular portion of the conversation:
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.
If you want to see the interaction for yourself within the context of the game, we've got a clip of the dialogue:
On the surface, it seems like representation of a demographic that typically gets overlooked in gaming, which would normally be a good thing, but many have criticized this particular character as being unrealistic, empty tokenism that doesn't reflect the way a trans person would actually interact with a total stranger.
For example, here's what Laura Dale wrote on the topic for Polygon:
There's one aspect of my life I am often asked about, but do not talk about. The name my parents gave me at birth wasn't Laura. A lot of people like to ask me what my dead name is out of polite curiosity. When I respond that I would rather not say, the usual follow up question is 'Why not? Why is it a problem for us to know?'
Having their dead name brought up isn't a problem for some trans people. For many, myself included, it is. Hearing my pre-transition name is an emotional gut punch that reminds me of how bad I felt during that part of my life. It's often used as a way for people to try and hurt me, to make me feel like I am a liar or deceiver by transitioning. Whatever the reason, it usually hurts to hear.
To be absolutely fair here, this kind of unusual amount of openness in the game is not exclusive to this character. You can ask this question of nearly every minor character in Andromeda, but the added complexity of Abrams' identity as a trans woman requires more thoughtfulness that simply isn't there right now.
Ideally, there would be several trans characters you meet within the game so that the pressure for Andromeda's only trans character to be somehow universally representative and tasteful wouldn't be so immediate — but that's not the case either.
Bioware posted the following tweet in response to the outcry against Abrams on Wednesday, indicating that it will modify Abrams' such that players will have to earn her trust before she divulges details about her background:
Here's the full text of its statement:
At BioWare, we strive to make games that are representative of our players and the broader world around us. We do this by actively consulting within our diverse workforce, as well as speaking with different communities.
In Mass Effect: Andromeda, one of our non-player characters, Hainly Abrams, was not included in a caring or thoughtful way. We apologize 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 broader 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 player chooses to support her.
As always, we appreciate the help, feedback, and support from the Mass Effect community.
BioWare has not given a precise timeline for Abrams' update, but we'll let you know as more information becomes available.
April 5, 2017, 1:44 p.m.: This story has been updated.
More Mass Effect: Andromeda news and updates
For more on everyone's favorite space opera, check out the rest of what Mic has to offer. Here's an essay on the troubling history of colonialism in Mass Effect, a story about the horrifying harassment campaign carried out against a former BioWare employee, a look at the #MakeJaalBi fan movement and an overview of the historic lack of gay romance options in Mass Effect.