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Sex is treated as just a reward, games journalist and developer Emma Kidwell tells me, which breaks the immersion.Kidwell has written extensively about Mass Effect’s romantic plotlines in the past for Polygon by ranking them from worst to best."As we all know, a romance doesn't just grow from positive interactions,” Garski tells me.“There must be negative interactions that challenge the couple or prospective couple to grow and see both themselves and each other in new ways." Instead, Mass Effect depicts romance as something that the player can “win” by searching for guides and inputting the right responses when required.But there's also the fact that homeroom teachers are more akin to parents in Japan.Depicting Kawakami as a flirty sex worker happy to spruce up her student’s place for 5,000 yen per night sounds a lot more like exploitation of a young teen’s budding sexuality than anything else.
Larisa Garski, a therapist who specializes in narrative theory and couple therapy, thinks Mass Effect focuses heavily on positive interactions because the game's main characters are constantly facing a life-or-death situation through the villainous Reaper’s threat to the galaxy.
“One of the things I think [Bio Ware] did well in later games–not just in Mass Effect 3 but in Dragon Age 3–is that once you had successfully romanced a character you could engage in more negative interactions if you so chose,” Garski says.
“You could challenge them sometimes to negative effect.
But even in Mass Effect’s best romantic storylines, the unrealistic messages the series sends about sex still stand out.
"Explicit consent is never really shared, if I'm remembering correctly, in the first three games,” Kidwell says.