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BioWare apologizes for mishandling Mass Effect: Andromeda's trans character

Mass Effect: Andromeda has more than its fair share of problems, but only one has a proper name: Hainly Abrams. As Mass Effect's first trans character, Hainly should've been a triumph for diversity in video games. However, BioWare's depiction of the trans experience is being called a misrepresentation at best, and an example of "empty tokenism" at worst.

BioWare is listening. The developer revealed plans to overhaul Hainly's dialogue, and the company posted a formal apology on Twitter.

"In Mass Effect: Andromeda, one of our non-player characters, Hainly Abrams, was not included in a caring or thoughtful way. We apologize to anyone who interacted with or was hurt by this conversation," BioWare said. "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."

At the heart of the controversy is a conversation between Hainly and the player that occurs shortly after Ryder meets the scientist. While speaking to Ryder (a person she barely knows) Hainly 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."

The problem, according to members of the trans community (including Polygon's Laura Dale, who has an excellent overview of the whole thing), is that revealing a pre-transition or "dead" name can be a very personal and emotionally fraught issue for many trans people, and just casually throwing the reference into one of Hainly's first lines of dialogue comes across as tone-deaf and unsympathetic.

In response, BioWare says that after an upcoming update, "Hainly will only reveal certain information to Ryder after they have developed trust, and only if the player chooses to support her," which should help address the community's concerns—that's the hope, anyway. At the very least, it's nice to see a video game developer trying to do the right thing after fans pointed out some very real insensitivities. The people behind these similarly offensive games certainly didn't.