BioWare has issued a formal apology for the portrayal of a transgender character in sci-fi RPG Mass Effect: Andromeda. The depiction of Hainly Abrams drew sharp criticism from the LGBTQ community over alleged inauthenticity.
The response from BioWare comes shortly after the developer outlined plans to address the game's various issues including the dialogue called into question, as well as the strange animations, framerate drops and other bugs.
In one of Andromeda's side-quests, players interact with a scientific director on the planet Eos called Hainly Abrams. When asked about her past, however, she casually explains that she is transgender and reveals her masculine birth name.
This is often referred to as a trans person's "dead-name," something they are unlikely to bring, especially when first meeting someone for the first time.
In a statement posted on Twitter, BioWare apologised to fans saying its trans NPC "was not included in a caring or thoughtful way."
"At BioWare, we strive to make games that are representative of our players and the broader world around us," the statement read. "We do this by actively consulting within our diverse workforce, as well as speaking with different communities.
"We apologise to anyone who interacted with or was hurt by this conversation. This was never our intent, and was an unfortunate byproduct of the iterative process of game design and a change in the structure of the character's dialogue."
BioWare said it has had several discussions with members of the transgender community, both within and beyond the studio, and are working to address the issue.
"Once the changes are implemented, Hainly will only reveal certain information to Ryder after they have developed trust, and only if the player chooses to support her," the developer added.
In the game as it is, Abrams says: "Back home, I was filling test tubes in some dead-end lab. People knew me as Stephan, but that was never who I was. I knew what I could do. And I knew who I wanted to do it as. 'Hainly Abrams, Andromeda Explorer.' That's me. Feels good. Feels right."
Some players said the conversation did not accurately reflect the experience of the transgender community, given how quickly she divulges such personal information and her backstory to a complete stranger.
"She kind [of] throws the fact that she's transgender in your face without any prompting or prelude at all," one Reddit user wrote. "It's super hamfisted."
"That was a real awkward way to introduce that," another wrote. "Does she just randomly tell everyone she meets for the first time that she's trans? Kinda felt to me that it was just inclusion for inclusion's sake, just to earn brownie points. Give me a trans squadmate and we'll talk again, BioWare."
BioWare did not specify a timeline for when Abrams' conversations will be updated.
This week, the developer announced plans to address fans' complaints and fix multiple problems and glitches that have been found in the game since its release in March.
Over the next two months, the developer said additional patches to fix character animations and appearances, performance and stability issues and the lack of same-sex romances for Scott Ryder among others.
Andromeda's latest patch 1.05 features balance changes to single and multiplayer, lets players skip ahead when traveling between planets and fixes Ryder's movements when running in a zigzag movement among other fixes.
"This is just a taste of what's in store as we continue to support Mass Effect: Andromeda," BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn said. "We're listening, and we're committed to partnering with you as we continue to explore the Andromeda galaxy together."
Mass Effect: Andromeda is out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.