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BioWare details changes to controversial transgender NPC

The company apologized to hurt fans

Andromeda BioWare
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

In a tweet from its official account this afternoon, BioWare detailed changes the company would be making to Hainly Abrams, an NPC who appears in Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Yesterday, the company released a list of upcoming changes that would be coming to the long-awaited, recently released game, including both patch notes for an imminent update, and a list of further changes the developer wishes to make. The majority of those changes were related to the game’s oft remarked upon instances of odd animation, while others were quality of life improvements like the ability to skip certain cutscenes. A small minority of changes were about less mechanical aspects of the game and more narrative ones, including one described as “adjustments to conversations with Hainly Abrams.”

Like a lot of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s NPCs, when the main character meets her, Hainly will easily respond to Ryder’s request to know why she chose to join the Andromeda Initiative and leave the Milky Way forever. Hainly explains that she is transgender: She chose to travel to Andromeda to find a place where her identity would be recognized in a way that it wasn’t in the Milky Way. She explains this, in part, by offhandedly telling Ryder the masculine name she was given at birth.

The abrupt and casual nature of the conversation, despite its weighty content, bothered many Mass Effect fans who are of or familiar with the transgender community — and so did the implication that Milky Way society was an unwelcoming place for transgender humans. After all, in the Mass Effect games, the Milky Way’s government was co-founded by a species without an innate cultural idea of gender.

From Polygon’s post detailing the criticism of the conversation:

Why does Abrams tell you her pre-transition name out of the blue, the same name that she hated being called so much she willingly left behind the entirety of the world she knew to fly unfathomable distances away on a one way trip?

The fact that Hainly expresses discomfort at her previous name, yet willingly and unprompted reveals it to Ryder upon their first conversation, makes little sense. It shows a surface level knowledge that birth names can be harmful to hear, but fails to make the link that as a result the character would likely keep that information private. If you travel that far to make a new life, you often don’t bring up your old, painful existence as a way to introduce yourself.

“Hainly Abrams,” BioWare said in its tweet today, “was not included in a caring or thoughtful way. We apologize to anyone who interacted with or was hurt by this conversation.”

After “discussions with members of the transgender community, both internally at BioWare and in the broader community” BioWare plans to alter the conversation the player can have with Hainly, so that she will “only reveal certain information to Ryder after they have developed trust, and only if the player chooses to support her.”

To go by BioWare’s patch announcement yesterday, players can expect those changes sometime over the next two months. BioWare’s tweet, with its full statement, follows: