I joked about the lesbian sex scene in Mass Effect 3 to anyone who would listen at the time, whooped about it as if it was the novelty porn my flatmates and I had watched in our first shared apartment. I thought it would be a scene I cringed through, a cynical product of my calculated romance option selections set deep in the Uncanny Valley. As it began, though, it hit me that I was watching an actual lesbian sex scene in a video game, between two characters I had grown to care about over a long period, whose relationship felt important to me. It felt too big to laugh at.
That was 2012. The Mass Effect trilogy was the first experience I had with LGBTQ characters in a video game since my grandma bought me a Gameboy in 1990. Nothing has measured up to that experience for me since, and of course, nothing could. It was revelatory to me in the way late-‘90s queer films like But I’m a Cheerleader were — my palms sweating, clutching the side of the couch and furtively glancing at the door in case my parents came in.