Open Letter to BioWare Part 2: I am a female who wants to give you money for your games. Please stop treating me like shit.

[This is an open letter to BioWare. Like the previous open letter I posted about this topic, this has been sent to the folks at BioWare. Unfortunately, my first letter’s only response was an autoresponder promising that it would be forwarded to a human. I have yet to receive a response, and considering that it’s been nearly a month I’ll assume that one isn’t coming.]

Hi, BioWare. This is wundergeek again. I haven’t heard from you since my last letter, but I was really hoping that you might have taken some of what I said to heart about the depth of loathing and betrayal that I feel about this awful Liara statue that Kotobukiya is producing.

You’ve made some pretty positive steps in recent titles. The variety of same-sex relationships in Dragon Age and DA2 was awesome, and I’m thrilled to bits that there will be a gay romance option for both men and women in Mass Effect 3. And while there were some problematic elements to the contest to choose the FemShep on the ME3 Collector’s Edition box, I’m willing to believe that your heart was in the right place and that you really were trying to reach out to the legions of fans, female and male, who love FemShep and want to see her get the love that she deserves.

With all of this positive progress, I really wanted to believe that the backlash that you received would convince you that this awful perversion of a great character by Kotobukiya was a mistake and a cheapening of a great brand. On the facebook page, you said you wanted to know what the fans thought, and we told you. There were thousands of comments posted in less than 24 hours. I would have commented myself had I seen the page before the comments were closed not long after the page was put up.

And I definitely wasn’t alone in my dislike of Kotobukiya’s vision of Liara. Thousands of us voiced our dismay, that you would take one of Mass Effect’s strongest characters – male or female – and turn her into an over-sexualized figure in a cheap grab for a few more bucks. Liara is an adult, a brilliant scientist, a powerful biotic, information broker, and total badass. This reduction of a strong, funny, awesome female character to a collection of sexy bits… this isn’t just a betrayal of your fans. It’s a betrayal of your own writers. I really feel for them, because if Liara was a character I had written, I’d be pretty pissed too.

The backlash was huge, negative, and spread across several fansites – including The Escapist, Daily Joypad, and even Kotaku. There was also a lot of backlash on your own forums – backlash that spread across multiple threads. Hundreds, if not thousands of people spoke out against Kotobukiya’s version of Liara, and most of their comments can be summarized thusly:

DO NOT WANT. This is not my Liara.

So after all of this, I had hoped that your desire to solicit feedback from fans was genuine and that you would take this anger to heart, that you would tell Kotobukiya to modify the design of the statue to at least partially mollify your many, many angry fans. Even after all the times you’ve let me down lately, BioWare, I still hold out hope that you’ll listen to your better nature. You have it in you to be so very good, it really pains me to see this kind of stuff.

But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that, nope, you weren’t really interested in soliciting fan feedback after all. You never intended to take fan feedback to heart in the first place; this was all a clumsy attempt to generate buzz for licensing tie-in to rake in cash from male gamers who would happily pay $55 bucks to stare at some random Asari with balloons tacked to her chest who happened to have stolen Liara’s Shadow Broker outfit. Because here’s the pre-order for the figure.

Were you trying to slip this under the radar? I hope not. I hope it’s nothing more than a simple case of the many fan sites I read being tired of the story and not picking up on the pre-order. I want to believe that, but after all of the awfulness you’ve put your fans through recently, I’m not sure that I can bring myself to believe in your good intentions anymore, BioWare.

I beg, implore you, even. Please reconsider. Scrap this awful, awful doppleganger of a beloved character. Consign the Kotobukiya statue to the trash heap and get it re-designed right, in a way that honors the spirit of the character. I’m not against a sexy Liara figure, when it comes to it. But I want a figure that honors the strength and intelligence of her character without simply putting her bits on display for horny male gamers.

Don’t just do it for me. Do it for all of your fans that you claimed to want to listen to who have told you that this is something WE DO NOT WANT. Mass Effect is a beloved franchise with thousands, if not millions of fans. We are not the people who think that video games are creating rapists, or making children stupid, or causing the moral decline of our society. We are people who love games, who specifically love your games and want to give you money for your games and merchandise based on your games. Rather than alienating your fans by asking for feedback and then ignoring it when it goes against an established marketing plan, how about you try actually listening to us? Because again, we’re the folks who are prepared to give you money! You have a vested interest in listening to us, right?

And if you decide that even after all of the hurt and anger your fans have expressed over this issue you still want to push forward and bring this godawful Kotobukiya Liara to market, then do us a favor. Next time, be up-front in your pandering. Have the balls to admit that you’re selling boobular figures to horny male nerds because you think they’ll buy anything with breasts and it’s an easy way to make some quick cash without having to do any of the work yourself. As much as I hate the pandering, this dishonest pandering is even more distasteful.

Ever your devoted fan,

wundergeek

New Liara Figure: DO NOT WANT

Or – An Open Letter to BioWare – Why this blatant pandering to the (straight) male portion of your audience represents a betrayal of your female fans.

(I realize the second title isn’t as catchy.)

Dear BioWare,

I think it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan, and that I’m slightly obsessed with the Mass Effect series. I’ve been a fan since the Baldur’s Gate days, but I think you guys really found your voice with the KOTOR series and have continued to hone your craft more and more with each game. Dragon Age: Origins snags the honor of the first PC game that made me cry, and I am so in love with the Mass Effect series that I’ve finished 3 games of ME1 and 2 games of ME2 and I cannot freaking wait for ME3. (Seriously. Hurry up, please.)

One of my favorite things from Mass Effect 2 (that wasn’t FemShep) was the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. At the time, here’s what I had to say about Liara:

Okay. So I’ll confess that Liara wasn’t exactly my favorite character in the first Mass Effect. … But I couldn’t escape the feeling that she was a bit fetishized for male audiences since her innocence and youth were constantly played up and the dialogue between her and Shepard is decidedly awkward in many places.

So I was definitely pleasantly surprised at the transition Liara had apparently undergone between the first Mass Effect and ME2. Rather than being some awkward innocent pining after Shepard, Liara had come into her own as an independent character with her own goals – goals that didn’t necessarily align with Shepard’s. That was great in and of itself – it’s always refreshing to encounter female characters who have goals of their own rather than just being like I WANT WHATEVER THE HERO WANTS TEE HEE.

Even now that the afterglow of having finished my first ME2 playthrough has faded (at least as much as it’s ever going to), the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC remains one of my favorite parts of the game. Liara is an awesome, competent, not-sexualized female character who has her own agenda – which is exactly what I have been asking for by writing this blog. I can’t emphasize how important the not-sexualized aspect of that is, either. See, Liara should look like this:

See? Awesome sci-fi female character in a non-sexualized pose displaying emotion that’s not OH GOD PLZ SAVE ME HALP or I AM TEH SEX.

But that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t also look like this:

Again, awesome. Again, non-sexualized. Competent? Definitely. Badass? Yup. This, too, is acceptable.

But not this. Never ever this:

WHAT THE CRAPPING CRAP. THIS IS NOT MY LIARA AT ALL.

Seriously, what the hell is it? What is this pose? Her back is arched, her ass is thrust out, and she’s squeezing her tits together to make her cleavage look huge – none of which, I might add, will help you aim better. In fact, I’m going to go on a limb and say that it would present a bit of a handicap.

Honestly, let’s do a little comparison between Liara in the game and this b.s. Liara statue:

Let’s review. You didn’t do so hot when it came to female crew in Mass Effect 2. There was Miranda of the ridiculous ass cleavage, Jack of the absurd leather nipple-strap, and Samara the Space MILF. Besides Tali, Liara was the only female who wasn’t Shepard who got to wear some damn clothes without having to fork out extra cash for a DLC that would fix their various wardrobe issues.

So what happened? Were your male fans upset that Liara wasn’t sexy enough? Because I just don’t understand this blatant pandering. Even after you said that FemShep would only be on the collector’s edition cover of ME3, I was still encouraged and elated that you were making such a step at all. You’ve been talking with your fans this time around – letting us choose the FemShep we wanted on the cover, promising a FemShep trailer… It made me think that you were maybe, finally turning over a new leaf.

And then this. I feel upset. I feel angry. I feel betrayed.

I mean, come ON! You guys aren’t Atlus, here.

You said on your facebook page that you wanted to know what we thought of this statue? Well comments are closed, otherwise I would have commented, but I hate it. I hate the design, I hate the concept, I hate everything it represents.

I think the most upsetting part of all is that I can’t refuse to vote with my dollar because there’s nothing else to vote for. This kind of pandering is the sort of bullshit that tells us female fans that we do not count, that we are not welcome. This Others us, pushes us to the margins. And I can’t even ‘take my ball and go home’, because there’s nothing to go home TO. As angry as you make me, as upset as I am with you, you’re the folks who make games that insult me the least.

So, come on, BioWare. I don’t want to be this angry with you. You guys are masters of your craft. The art, the writing, the game play – you guys are industry leaders in all of these things. When are you going to see that you don’t need bullshit sexism to push your titles? Your games sell because they’re good games, and anyone who says that they’re not going to buy ME3 if it doesn’t have enough hawt T&A in it is lying. Anyone who has played ME1 and ME2 is going to buy ME3 because we know it will be awesome and we want more Shepard.

Please, I implore you, if you sell a Liara statue – make it something true to the design and the character that you created, not this dumbed down, sexualized version of an awesome character just so you can make a quick few bucks. BioWare, you’re so much better than this.

Sincerely,

~wundergeek