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Mass Effect brings diversity vote to fans

July 25, 2011

For as long as the franchise has been in existence, advertising for BioWare’s Mass Effect series has portrayed the main protagonist, Commander Shepard, as male and white. Destructoid.com recently included Mass Effect in a long list of modern video games games featuring the prototypical white male action heroes with brown hair and stubble.

Yes, yes, we know that players can choose gender, race, and facial features in character creation, and sexual orientation in game play. But the default setting for Commander Shepard in character creation (not to mention in all marketing thus far) is a white male. According to BioWare 82% of Mass Effect 2 players choose to play as male. About one out of five players go with the default model.


Given the option to customize Shepard’s appearance, 83% of players created their own face for Shepard. (This is Barack Shepard.)

After fans rallied for an official female Shepard to be used in advertising, BioWare’s PR people have announced a contest to let fans vote for the official female Shepard to be used on the Collector’s Edition packaging. Fans can vote on Facebook to like their favorite model.



The chance for fans to vote for a woman of color as the official default character in a video game is really exciting. Beyond that, this opportunity also has potential ramifications for the future Mass Effect movie in production, and the democratization of representation in general. Stats like these can inform and influence future game development.

Fans who prefer a white version of Shepard will still have the opportunity to buy a box with his face on it in every store. Even though the winning female Shepard will only be a limited edition box, this is still a groundbreaking chance because non-sexualized women of color rarely, if ever appear in the foreground of video game box art.

Although voting is not over, the Shepard with long blonde hair and blue eyes Shepard has a commanding lead…for now.

Anyone with a Facebook account can “like” Mass Effect 2 at http://www.facebook.com/masseffect and place “like” votes here.

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About the Author

Marissa Lee is one of the co-founders of Racebending.com

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  • Kat

    I actually like the blonde and blue eyed version most out of the three women shown too, but not because she is white and blonde. It’s because I like her hairstyle the most (the messy and loose, partitioned to the side, and somewhat lengthy).

    • http://www.facebook.com/grainne.gillespie Grainne Gillespie

      I’d say, given fan comments on the FB picture, that if blonde Shep wins by the time the game roles around she’ll be redhead Shep

  • Thawhtet8

    You can racebent in Masseffect
    If you didn’t finish mass effect, you can change the race or sex of your original character!

    • Ogawa

      Actually, you can import a completed game and alter your Shepard’s appearance, too. Makes sense, since [spoiler]Shepard’s blackened corpse is reconstructed at the beginning of ME2[/spoiler].

      • Thawhtet8

        That’s the point! You didn’t complete the game from mass effect 1 therefore cannot import to  Mass effect 2.

      • Thawhtet8

        That’s the point. You didn’t finished the masseffect therefore you cannot import to masseffect 2!

  • http://mystady.com/ MY STADY

    They gave the black Shepard white people hair. Voting for me is almost pointless. It’d be nice to see a sister get mainstream representation, but that straight hair is straight up oppression. 

    Yet again, just another reinforcement of that European image of beauty. We can’t escape this shit! Actually no, if you go to Africa the women there actually don’t do all that straightening crap. That’s something Americans do. What happened to wearing it natural? That’s why people wore Afros in the sixties. It wasn’t to be stylish, it was a political and social statement. It was a hair protest!

    I bothers me that black women in America regressed and went back to hair perming and wearing weaves and wigs.

    It would be one thing if they did it for fun but that’s obviously not the case. These women don’t occasionally do the fake hair thing, they do it all-year-round. Their go around hiding their natural hair and fighting against it all their lives. And it starts EARLY. They get these kiddie perms while they’re still in single digits. Why?

    I really hope that by 100-200 years from now brown women in the U.S. learn to accept they way they were born and stop getting brainwashed by the media to be different.

  • Thawhtet8

    http://www.nerfnow.com/comic/556
    Nerfnow have a solution.