The Mass Effect Legendary Edition will allow fans of the franchise to experience the original trilogy with a new coat of paint when it hits later this year, including the most critically acclaimed game in the series Mass Effect 2. Fans are excited to see team members like Garrus, Thane, Jack, Kasumi, and more, though in a new interview some interesting details about changes made to Jack's character came to light. In a new interview with The Gamer, Mass Effect 2 lead writer Brian Kindregan revealed that Jack was actually supposed to identify as pansexual, but that was changed after a substantial amount of development had already been done on the game thanks to criticisms from Fox News.
“I was trying to chart out the arc of [Jack’s] romance, which for much of the development - it was actually very late that it became a male/female-only romance,” Kindregan said. “She was essentially pansexual for most of the development of that romance."
That changed after Fox News started discussing the game's approach to sex and the fact that it included a non-straight romance option.
“Mass Effect had been pretty heavily and really unfairly criticized in the US by Fox News, which at the time... maybe more people in the world thought that there was a connection between reality and what gets discussed on Fox News,” Kindregan said. “The development team of Mass Effect 2 was a pretty progressive, open-minded team, but I think there was a concern at pretty high levels that if [the first] Mass Effect, which only had one gay relationship, Liara - which on paper was technically not a gay relationship because she was from a mono-gendered species - I think there was a concern that if that had drawn fire, that Mass Effect 2 had to be a little bit careful.”
Jack actress Courtenay Taylor also confirmed that the character was pansexual, and that's how she played her.
“It’s funny to me because my understanding was always that she was pansexual," Taylor said. "So I don’t know if that’s just something I inferred from the character or something that she said that maybe got cut. I was surprised there wasn’t a female romance possible because that was my understanding. I think it was the time, you know? That was, what - 2008/2009? The industry has changed exponentially since then, and BioWare was leading the charge on that. I don’t know if it came down to a budget constraint or maybe someone being like ‘this is too obvious’ because everyone was like ‘of course she’s a lesbian.’ But my sense was always that she was [pansexual] and it just didn’t get followed through. Of course, the community modded it immediately so you can have it your way.”
Kindregan said “It wasn’t like some anti-gay person high up on the Mass Effect 2 team saying, ‘we’re not going to have that’. The short version is, a lot of us were asked pretty late to focus the relationships on a more traditional kind of vector".
The decision was made in the midst of development, so there are still pieces of dialogue that reflect the original version of the character, and many were surprised to find out that their female Shepard couldn't end up in a relationship with her.
“I’ve definitely heard a lot from people who were surprised that Jack turned out to not be open to that,” Kindregan said. “I understand why. I would say that there were a lot of seeds planted in her conversations that certainly implied that she was pansexual - she once specifically references being part of a thrupple. She says there was a guy and a woman she was running with that invited her into their robberies and into their bed. She definitely references those things. That was explicitly to start sending the message that yes, this is a character who is pansexual. In the eleventh hour revision of cleaning that up, she’d already been partially recorded with voiceover. Not all of that could be changed."
“I would say even with the things I could change, and I don’t know if this was the right decision or not, I still saw her as a character with an edge,” Kindregan says. “Not edgy, but with an edge of not following traditional norms. I think I might have, even during the revision process, kept some of that stuff in there with a sense of like yeah, this is a person who’s been around and done a lot of things, went off the farm and down to Paris.”
“I’ve worked with lesbian developers who have come up to me and said like, ‘Why is Jack not into me?’” Kindregan said. “And I have to say ‘I’m so sorry, it’s partially my fault.’ But I still stand by the thing of keeping her with a more varied background. Maybe someday Jack will be portrayed as pan.”
Should Bioware honor the original vision for Jack in the upcoming Legendary Edition? Let us know in the comments, and as always you can talk,k all things Mass Effect with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!