Those of you who listen to the podcast or follow me on social media know that I have been looking forward to Mass Effect Andromeda ever since it was announced. I had it pre-ordered on Amazon thanks to some gift cards I had received, and every new video that came out demoing gameplay was getting me more hyped. I even talked about those videos when we recorded the podcast last night, and Jay Sims, Chris Maeurer, John Danforth and I geeked out over them. I had hit that point where I was just about counting down the days till release.
That was until this morning.
This morning, a set of tweets from Bioware’s General Manager Aaryn Flynn making sarcastic comments about Andromeda being “softcore space porn” went viral. He has since come out and said that was sarcasm, but this came on the heels of unconfirmed reports that the ESRB Partial Nudity rating for Andromeda was changed to Full Nudity. You can read more about it by clicking on this link (thanks to PC Gamer for the article).
I first read about this in The Reformed Gamers’ Facebook Group, and as you can probably guess, we had a discussion about whether as Christians we should be playing this game. Many have decided to cancel pre-orders, while others have mentioned that, since the nudity is more than likely tied to the romances and they are optional, they are still going to get the game.
Now I am not here to tell anyone else what they should decide in reference to Mass Effect Andromeda or any other game. What I am here to do is explain why this has lead to me cancel my pre-order and how this ties into the previous podcasts we have done on gaming with convictions. For reference, you can check out those discussions here: EDG Podcast Ep. #147 – Convictions and EDG Podcast Ep. #308 – Reformed Convictions.
I loved the Mass Effect Trilogy. I have continually said the trilogy is my favorite game series of all time. I even wrote an article defending the original ending of Mass Effect 3. I think Bioware did a masterful job of creating a story where your interactions with your crew drove a narrative so much deeper than any RPG I have played.
While there was sexuality that did not need to be in the game, I was actually impressed with how the romances were handled overall in the trilogy. Some of the best character development was revealed in these scenes, especially when it came to Tali and Jack. Granted, some of them were a little gratuitous, but they were not over the top in any way.
The fact that they did not cross the line into full nudity was an important thing to me. As I have shared on the podcast (just listen to Episode 308 as referenced earlier), I struggle with issues of lust. As such. I do have to be careful what games I play. In 308, I mentioned I was not going to be playing The Witcher 3, despite the fact I was certain it was a great game that I would enjoy, because I knew that, while most of the nudity in the game was optional, I am not strong enough to avoid it. At that time, I knew myself well enough to know that if I was given the option to choose nudity or avoid it, I would choose it more often than not. As a Christian, I cannot justify that, so I avoid the game.
So here I am, extremely excited about the newest Mass Effect game due out in less than a month, and the news that the rating has been changed to Full Nudity hits.
And suddenly, I have a dilemma on my hands.
Paragon or Renegade
It is amazing how much we will try to justify choices we want to make. When I first heard about the change to the rating that, while unconfirmed, has not been denied, I started to try and find ways to excuse it. I found myself stating that it was not a big deal, was more than likely skipable content and that I was going to hold onto my pre-order till I had more information.
But I knew better.
Saturday night, I reached out to three brothers in Christ, asking them to help me deal with my lust issue once and for all. I promised to be 100% accountable to them, being up front about the struggles I had and my successes/failures in fighting my addiction. A lot of this came on the heels of getting through the first half of Sex and Money: Pleasures that Leave you Empty and Grace That Satisfies by Paul David Tripp. This book really challenged me to see my struggles as a failure to submit to God, and I knew that I needed to ask for help to make sure I did so going forward.
And now less than 48 hours later, I was trying to justify keeping a pre-order for a game that had the potential to sabotage the progress I was trying to make. When I sent a message to these friends telling them I had a difficult decision on my hands, one of them put it in the proper perspective that, in this season of my life, the answer was quite clear.
I did not want to hear that. I wanted to keep my pre-order. I wanted to use other people’s reasons for still playing as my excuses, knowing that they would not work for me. I wanted to find any number of ways to justify keeping my order for what was my most anticipated game of 2017.
In the end, however, I could not. While the decision was a difficult one, my friend was right: the answer was clear. I revoked my pre-order for Mass Effect Andromeda and put the money towards Horizon: Zero Dawn instead.
And then depression set in. I really wanted to play Andromeda. I had been looking forward to this game for years. Everything in me was crying out to find a loophole.
I left work to get get my food for lunches for the week, and that was when it hit me. Sure, I had canceled my pre-order, but the way I was acting was not honoring God. The more I thought about it, the better I felt about making the choice, not out of some sense of self-righteousness, but because I was choosing to not let anyone talk me into playing a game that went against my convictions, not even myself. I was taking a stand I knew I needed to take, and this was a good thing, not something to be mourned.
Stand By Your Convictions
Both times we have talked about gaming with convictions, we have been clear on one thing: stand by your convictions. Do not let someone else talk you into playing a game that is against your convictions or convince you not to play something because it violates theirs. We have mentioned it was okay to say you were going to play something or not going to play something, even if that went against the norm.
How could I say that if I did not stand by it?
And so I stand by my decision, even with the clarification made by Aaryn Flynn that he was being sarcastic. Because of my convictions and my struggles, I am going to wait till someone I trust has a chance to play the game and can honestly tell me if they think I will be okay playing it. I am not going to let anyone talk me into doing something I know could trigger a response in me that disgusts me, and I am going to hold fast to my commitment to beat this addiction once and for all. To paraphrase Captain America: Civil War, even if the rest of the world tells me to play the game, I will plant myself like a tree and refuse to move. I will flee from sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 6:12-20), and, as Paul cautions in Romans, I will not confirm to this world or to any outside pressures in this decision (Romans 12:1-2).
Now I know that not everyone reading this is Christian and does not necessarily have the same convictions I have in regards to this issue. I am not here to tell you that you need to adopt my stance. What I am here to tell you is that it is okay to not give in to the convictions of others just to fit in. Whether people are telling you to play a game that bothers you or not to play a game that does not, you have every right to stand your ground and make the decision that is best for you.
I have taken my stand. I encourage you to take yours as well, and I will respect you if you do, even if it does not match mine.
I wanted to add an update to this article focusing on a couple of different items.
First, I want to thank the overwhelming majority of you who have read this article and replied back to me or discussed the issues on various podcasts/social media platforms. Most of you have been very respectful, even when you disagreed with my stance, and for that I am grateful. This article has lead to some great discussions with people from all walks of life and with very different sets of convictions than mine own, and I really appreciate that. There have been a few interactions around this that have not been the best, but the majority have been very positive. I cannot thank you all enough for letting me be transparent about my flaws and still supporting me.
Second, now that the reviews are coming out, I can see that my decision was correct. In case you missed it, Dan Stapleton’s review on IGN made it clear that the rumors of nudity were in no way exaggerated. Here is an excerpt from his review:
Everyone getting along, for the most part, is a little boring, regardless of how flirty and naked they get.
And my stars, do they ever get naked. I’m not just talking about Liam’s apparent allergy to shirts, here. You have plenty of romance options for either gender, including same-sex and interspecies, and when you’ve gone out of your way to talk to them and run errands for them (which often involve blowing up robots or killing outlaws) to kindle the flames of your budding relationship, you’re treated to a full-on R-rated sex scene the likes of which the Mass Effect series has never seen before. My wife’s reaction as I sealed the deal with human biotic commando Cora was to state, matter-of-factly, that, “This is porn. And it looks weird.” She’s not wrong on either count – especially since male Ryder appears to have painstakingly removed every hair on his body below the neck – but I’d call it tasteful porn thanks to the context of the conversations leading up to it.
I find myself really disturbed by this. Yes, you can avoid these interactions, though as I mentioned before, I know myself well enough to know I would at the very least have a very tough time doing that, but the fact BioWare felt it necessary to include nudity in the game just bothers me. The team that made the game can argue all they want to that the sex scenes are needed for the story, and I have even mentioned that Jack’s in Mass Effect 2 added depth to her character. The difference is there was no full on nudity in Jack’s scene; in fact, the gentleness with which Shepard approaches her when she is at her most vulnerable is truly touching, and it probably would have been ruined had there been full nudity. Saying the nudity is needed is just an excuse.
In the end, the choices made by the team have made it clear to me that I will not be playing this game anytime soon, if ever. That is really too bad, as I know I will not be able to join my friends in the multiplayer, which is being praised even amidst the problems with the games singleplayer. Still, even if I am missing out on some good times and great bonding, it is not worth bringing this temptation into my house.
One last thing to mention to the team or others who may try to argue this is needed: Horizon Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have been two of the best reviewed games released this year. Horizon is rated Teen, and Zelda is rated E-10. Neither have anything approaching this content, and both have very strong stories.