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BioWare Changing Criticized ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ Scene Featuring Trans NPC

The studio apologized for the tone-deaf misstep, and pledged to make things right in an upcoming patch.

by Patrick Klepek
Apr 5 2017, 7:27pm

People have lots of problems with Mass Effect: Andromeda, but one scene in particular really upset people, in which the NPC Hainly Abrams discusses being trans, without prompting or having anything resembling a close relationship to the player. Abrams even goes so far as to invoke their pre-transition name, often referred to as a dead name, to a stranger. Though the inclusion of a trans character was noteworthy, the clumsy execution was widely criticized, resulting in a tweet from BioWare today, where the studio said they're changing the dialogue.

You can watch the entire scene (as it stands now) in question here:

"In Mass Effect: Andromeda, one of our non-player characters, Hainly Abrams, was not included in a caring or thoughtful way," said the studio. "We apologize to anyone who interacted with or was hurt by this conversation."

Games journalist Laura Kate Dale, who's been open and public about her own transition, wrote a powerful editorial for Polygon about Abrams and other recent attempts to include trans people in games. (Both Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn have their own issues.) Here's an excerpt from her piece:

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.

For that reason I, and a great deal of other trans people, don't tell anyone my dead name. If people don't know it, they can't accidentally use it to refer to me. If they don't use it, I don't have to be hurt by it.

BioWare said Abrams' dialogue turned out that way through an "unfortunate byproduct of the iterative process of game design and a change in the structure of the character's dialogue."

In other words, what was written in the script was not what showed up in the game. It's impossible to know if that's actually the case, but such changes do happen in development. In an ideal world, such missteps wouldn't have happened in the first place, but given the situation, it's preferable that BioWare is responding to and actively engaging in the criticism, instead of ignoring it.

BioWare says it spoke with "members of the transgender community, both internally at BioWare and in the broader community," and the team is currently "working to remedy this issue." The result will be conversation changes, where Abrams will "only reveal certain information to Ryder after they have developed trust, and only if the player chooses to support her."

BioWare announced a series of patches meant to address complaints about Andromeda on Tuesday, and while one of them is going live on Thursday, that won't include Abrams' changes. That should happen in the next few months.

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