Unlike in games such as Skyrim, romancing another character doesn't give you any sort of stats advantage in Mass Effect. In Skyrim, marriage means you have a home base and a portion of your spouse's income. In Mass Effect, romancing someone provides a relevant cutscene and extra dialogue options, but mostly, the reward isn't intrinsic to the game.
But in-game romances provide pairing options that other RPG fans might need to search media produced by their own community to find. Adding an emotional side to their games is a very smart move for BioWare, who have now grabbed people by their emotions as well as by their desire to shoot aliens. Fans are clamoring for Joker as a romance option.
|Joker and Mass Effect 2's EDI.|
But the suggestion that EDI and Joker engage in a physical romantic relationship disturbed a lot of fans, myself included. It seemed like pulling the rug out from under us to suggest that instead of romancing the player character, Joker would end up with an inanimate object. Other fans pointed out that Joker and EDI having an inevitable in-game relationship would send the message that disabled people and able people can never have successful relationships. I was uncertain about the whole thing. Then I saw some concept art.
|This is concept art for the new EDI.|
It was hard for me to really get on the feminist soapbox when I saw the art for another new character.
|Concepts for an as-yet-unnamed prothean squad member.|
Whether the Joker - EDI relationship is going to turn into a romance is still something I have to wait until March 6 to find out. I've shown so far how Joker has been used in Mass Effect and its sequel, and that it looks like EDI will be set up as a more human, more sexual character in the third game. This seems like an entirely unnecessary bit of gloss to me. EDI functioned well as a character who, like Legion, straddled the line between human and organic. Unlike Legion, she was clearly constructed. She had been built, somewhere in the Cerberus facilities. She may be intelligent, but intelligence in a science-fictional universe does not equal sentience, and a game pairing a character with a non-sentient construct in opposition to a biological human disturbs me. It's just uncomfortable on a certain level that the story could allow human-alien romance and human-computer romance, but not human-disabled human romance.
I like EDI as a character and am fascinated by the idea of AI having to deal with exactly how human they are and aren't. I think the voice actors can pull it off, I think the writers will do well and won't give an artificial character short thrift. She'll be well-characterized. But I also think that pairing the two of them would be a disservice to fangirls and give off the attitude that people can never change, that Joker will always be antisocial, and Shepard will always see Joker as just her crew.
Because this is in opposition to the Shepard-Joker relationship. I'll talk more about that in my next post. For now, I hope I got across the idea that the Joker-EDI relationship comes off initially as salt in the wound for the fangirls.