Video game publisher EA is currently experiencing a vitriol-filled avalanche of letters and threats of a boycott for its inclusion of an optional same-sex romantic feature in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Initially, game designer BioWare had balked at such inclusions, stating in 2009 that homosexuality doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe, but then reversed itself and added such an option for romantic non-playable characters in a future update. Other BioWare games such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age have also included LGBT characters and themes, and the idea of an optional same-sex romance is at least as old as the date scenarios in Final Fantasy VII.
EA has reportedly received thousands of angry emails and comments in various forums about the decision to embrace other sexual preferences and identities, but two groups in particular have taken center stage. The first is the Florida Family Association, that also waged a 2011 crusade to get sponsors to pull their ads from the TLC program All-American Muslim. The FFA claimed that the show was harmful to viewers as it failed to portray followers of Islam as radical jihadists and that this would leave viewers misinformed.
David Caton, the founder and sole employee of the FFA, related on the group's website, "Enough is enough with LGBT activists trying to capture the minds of our children through the intense emotions children encounter when playing video games."
Caton also points out that there are no LGBT characters in any of the Star Wars films. However, there is at least one official homosexual couple recognized in the expanded universe, that of Mandalorian hunter named Goran Beviin and his husband Medrit developed by author Karen Traviss. Their marriage was recognized as in-universe legitimate in the 2008 Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia.
Joining Caton in leading the charge against LGBT acceptance in Star Wars: The Old Republic is the Family Research Council. The lobbying and activist group was founded by James Dobson in 1981 as a division of Focus on the Family, but is now a separately run entity helmed by Tony Perkins that has been recognized as a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perkins weighed in on EA and BioWare's decision on the FRC website saying...
In a new Star Wars game, the biggest threat to the empire may be homosexual activists! Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. In a galaxy not so far far away, Star Wars gamers have already gone to the dark side. The new video game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, has added a special feature: gay relationships.
Houston Press would like to point out that the Galactic Empire is actually the villain in Star Wars.
Both companies have made it a point to urge followers to write, comment, and otherwise express displeasure to the game makers. However, at least one group is fighting fire with fire.
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AllOut.org, an activist group that uses social networking to spread awareness of homophobic crises has launched a counter movement. The group developed a petition of support for EA and BioWare's support of the gay rights movement to be delivered by members decked out in full Star Wars costume regalia. The initial goal was 50,000 signatures, which was easily surpassed with some promotional help by openly-Gay English comedian, actor, and occasional video game narrator Stephen Fry who encouraged his fans to sign the petition.
Unfortunately, the petition came under the attack of spambots somewhere after the 60,000 signature mark, and AllOut.org was forced to suspend the ability to sign while thousands of false supporting signatures and comments were removed. Currently, there is a rumor that EA itself may have been behind the attack as a means of building support for its decision. The company was famously caught staging fake protests against its title Dante's Inferno. Such a rumor is pure speculation at this point, and Community Manager, Tile Wolfe of AllOut.org has released a statement saying that they have not had any contact with EA.
AllOut.org still intends to have its message hand-delivered to EA's headquarters in Redwood, CA by costumed characters including Master Yoda himself. EA does not appear in any hurry to bow to the work of the anti-gay factions.
"EA has not been pressured by any groups to include LGBT characters in our games. However, we have met with LBGT groups and sponsored industry forums to discuss content and harassment of players in online forums. In short, we do put options for same-sex relationships in our games; we don't tolerate hate speech on our forums," Jeff Brown, EA's VP of corporate communications, told GamesIndustry. "This isn't about protecting children, it's about political harassment."