Same Sex Romance Comes to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Same-sex relationships are coming to the "Star Wars" universe, courtesy of video game developer BioWare and publisher Electronic Arts' new massively multiplayer online role- playing game (or "MMORPGs" or "MMOs" for short), "Star Wars: The Old Republic," and the decision is getting people talking.

MMOs are games that create immersive virtual environments in which millions of players can interact with computer-generated characters as well as characters created by fellow gamers. While this is BioWare's first MMO, the developer is known among fans for the emphasis they place on romantic relationships between characters in their single-player role-playing games. In the past, BioWare games have featured same-sex relationships between men and women, and in the case of the immensely popular sci-fi game "Mass Effect," relationships between men and women with an asexual alien.

BioWare originally announced that players and their companions in "Star Wars: The Old Republic" would only be able to experience mixed-gender romantic relationships. After many inquiries from fans asking the developer to explain the decision, earlier this week a new forum post by Stephen Reid, the senior online community manager for the game, showed up on the company's official website announcing that those fans had been heard and same-sex romance will be added to the game.

BioWare's statement explained that while the game will still launch with only male/female relationships, they will be adding same gender romance options in future updates.

"Due to the design constraints of a fully voiced MMO of this scale and size, many choices had to be made as to the launch and post-launch feature set. Same gender romances with companion characters in 'Star Wars: The Old Republic' will be a post-launch feature. Because 'The Old Republic' is an MMO, the game will live on through content expansions which allow us to include content and features that could not be included at launch, including the addition of more companion characters who will have additional romance options."

"Companion characters" are computer-controlled characters that follow player-created characters around the virtual world, aiding them as gamers maneuver through the story.

The response to BioWare's announcement has been massive. There are 326 pages of comments as of Friday afternoon on the official "Star Wars: The Old Republic" forum alone. They range from "thank you for listening to our requests" to "how dare you expose my children to this."

The game has no firm release date, only a release window of "holiday 2011." It has also already received an ESRB rating of "T for Teen," meaning the game is recommended for players 13 and older. Neither facts have stopped detractors from crying foul, such as John Nolte on the blog "Big Hollywood," who starts his post on the subject with "Say goodbye to your child's innocence," and ends with the inaccurate proclamation, "Announcing the gay relationships AFTER the game has been sold is pure bait and switch."

The game already has reportedly broken preorder records for publisher Electronic Arts.

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