EA stirs controversy by adding gay characters to Star Wars game

In a new move for the gaming industry, Electronic Arts adds characters in same-sex relationships to its games, which brings it under attack from conservative anti-gay groups.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Star Wars: The Old Republic GameSpot

Game maker Electronic Arts is adding more diversity to its new multiplayer online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic -- characters in same-sex relationships and plot lines.

Because of this, the company is coming under fire from some unlikely contingents for the gaming world -- anti-gay conservative groups such as the Florida Family Association and the Family Research Council.

"There were no LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] characters in any of the Star Wars movies," the Florida Family Association declared on its Web site. "So if BioWare, the maker of Star Wars video games, adds LGBT characters for kids to select as their action character it could be something like Darth RuPaula, a combination of Darth Vader, one of the most popular Star Wars characters, and RuPaul, the renown transgender cross dresser."

This conservative group has started a letter writing campaign urging people to write EA and say they will boycott the company unless it agrees to remove the same-sex characters. It also alleges that "queer activists" have pressured the game maker to include gay characters in the Star Wars game.

However, EA has said it has no plans to eliminate any of its characters or censor any of its games. EA is a wildly popular game maker, whose repertoire includes SimCity, The Simpsons, and Mass Effect. Star Wars: The Old Republic has sold more than 2 million copies. By making the decision to add same-sex characters to its online games, EA has become a pioneer in both the gaming community and the gay rights movement.

"EA has not been pressured by any groups to include LGBT characters in our games. However, we have met with LBGT groups and sponsored industry forums to discuss content and harassment of players in online forums. In short, we do put options for same-sex relationships in our games; we don't tolerate hate speech on our forums," Jeff Brown, vice president of corporate communications for EA, told GamesIndustry in an interview last week. "This isn't about protecting children, it's about political harassment."

EA plans to add same-sex characters to its mega-popular Mass Effect 3 game also.