The Science of Space Hookers

Here is something that drives me up the walls. The Asari alien race in Mass Effect. I hate them. They are easily the most stupid, insulting and downright racist aspect of the game. Here is what I mean.

Asari Naked

“Don’t worry. That’s a totally natural pose for my species to be in. Now, embrace eternity…”

So the Ansari are basically blue people. They have these fins instead of hair. Otherwise, they look pretty much like humans. That’s already quite wonky. The worst part is that they are all female and you can have sex with them. But it’s not the normal, feely, sticky kind of sex that involves lots of rubbing and fluids. Oh no. You have mind-sex with them. See, they are also telepathic/magic/whatever. So they reproduce by having mind sex. I presume that’s a more pure, innocent, mind-alertering and transcendent way of having sex.

What really pisses me off is that the Asari serve more of a wish fulfillment device for some pretty fucked-up male sex fantasies rather than as a genuine piece of believable Sci-Fi storytelling. Something that becomes apparent when you start applying.. SCIENCE!

Let’s look at the fact that they appear so close to humans. Now we Humans look the way we are because we have been shaped over millions of years by the environment we lived in. We are perfectly adapted to the Savannah of Africa. But not all animals in the Savanah look like us. So it’s not only the environment that shaped us. It’s also the heritage of our ancestors that we brought into this new environment. In other words it’s an incredibly rare and quite specific accident. It is utterly and completely impossible for some other species to accidentally look EXACTLY the same as us – especially if they had different ancestors and lived in a different environment.

Asari - Homo Ergaster

So close, yet so far. A replica of Homo Ergaster, one of our closest evolutionary ancestors. Just a tiny genetical difference can make a huge difference in fuckability.

Now this is something that Sci-Fi had to struggle a lot with. In movies and in TV series there is just so much you can do with a human actor to make them look less human. Especially Star Trek is a good example of laughably minimalistic “costumes”. That’s the kind of suspension of disbelief you just had to bring with in order for such a project work at all. And at least Star Trek made an effort to retcon it, even though it felt forced.

But there are no such restrictions in a computer game. You can make the aliens look whatever you want. And in fact, most of the other species in Mass Effect distinctly un-human. Mind you, most of them are still humanoid and that’s pretty much how far you can get with flimsy excuses such as “convergent evolution”. The Asari operate on a whole different level. They all look like sexy ladies with a wig and blue bodypaint. Gee, I wonder why?

But first, let us look at the mind sex thing. How would a species evolve a form of reproduction that would allow it to have sex with other species anyway? The advent of culture usually freezes evolution in place as survival of the fittest is no longer a factor. This means that Asari had to evolve this feature before they went to space. Which in turn means that the only way Asari could have this feature would be to have a lot of sex with animals on their home planet. Yikes! Implied Bestiality on a massive scale. I knew Bioware is very forward in depicting minorities but that may be crossing the line for me.

But luckily that doesn’t really make sense either. You see, evolution is most easily understood if you look at it from the perspective of individual genes. Something that Richard Dawkins explains quite eloquently in the Selifsh Gene. Let us set the issue of Asari genes by side as they clearly don’t reproduce by exchanging genetic materials. What about the other animals the Asari had sex with? Their genes woudn’t get propagated by getting hooked up with the Asari. So while possibly pleasant for the animals, the mind sex would be eventually just wasted time from the perspective of the animal’s genes. There would be evolutionary pressure for some kind of defense against the Asari mind sex to evolve. Animals, which are immune to Asari mind sex would be able to concentrate more on having sex with partners of their own species and thus spread more widely. Which in turn, would make the universality of Asari mind sex quite pointless. Asari, who depended on it would produce less offspring and die out.

Asari - Dawkins

The Dawkins Dilemma – Do you take Liara, who couldn’t exist according to evolution? Or do you take Ashley, who is a right-wing racist nut? Trick question! Dawkins plays FemShep and took Kaiden for sure…

Of course, one could come up with some workarounds. It could be that ALL species on the Asari home planet reproduce by mind sex. But that would make them having genes kinda pointless and it would make compatibility with non Asari races even less likely. Generally, we would be starting to drift in VERY speculative areas when the real explanations are staring us in the face. The idea of a race such as Asari is just NOT compatible with the science of evolution. That’s because they actually haven’t been created by evolution. They have been created by intelligent design, or rather – by not-so-intelligent design.

Let’s go back to other Sci-Fi. Again, sexy ladies from space are nothing new. In fact, they were pretty common in the golden age of Anglo-American Space Opera. Even Captain Kirk had plenty of sexy time with green ladies. In order to explain that, we need to look at the roots of that specific brand of Sci-Fi. Quite simply, these stories were supposed to be just glorified space versions of the two world wars. No really. I touched upon this a bit my Space Battle article. Big empires at war, grand naval battles, politically volatile environments, colonization of the “wilderness”, unapologetic racism, tension from technological gradients – all elements that dominated the first half of the 20th century. The exotic sexy ladies ready to be taken by the heroic paragon of modern civilization is an image straight from the heart of that mindset. This thinking is still embedded into the very fabric of our language. “Exotic Dancer” means “foreign dancer” literally, but implies “stripper”. The same kind of image accompanied thousands of young soldiers into foreign countries where it made them may have contributed to some seriously unpleasant deeds.

Asari - Geisha with an American soldier

The IRL Asari – American soldier dancing with a Geisha during the occupation of Japan.

So naturally, Bioware seems to have thought it would be a good way to unquestionably resurrect that old classic. After all, it fits so well into the gamer stereotypes, doesn’t it? Instead of making up complicated excuses why every woman in a game is a sex object, why not create an ENTIRE RACE solely for the purpose of fulfillment of sex fantasies.

But what exactly are they selling here. The Asari are supposed to be a different species. Isn’t having sex with them pretty much the equivalent of Bestiality? You see, that’s where everything comes together. Asari look like humans so you don’t even think of having sex with your dog when you chose that dialogue option. The function of the mind sex is not to even have you sweat the dirty details. “It’s cool because I’m not even sticking my dick into it”. A narrative fig leaf for the horrors that lurk beneath.

Asari Bestiality

Let’s face it. This is what you are really doing here.

The Asari are the embodiment of fossilized racist stereotypes and infused with the fresh blood of male-dominated gamer culture. They are a race of space hookers. And if that wasn’t enough, Bioware deliberately chose to abandon all scientific plausibility to have them. In Science Fiction, a genre that was born to do the very opposite – to reveal the human condition by contrasting it with the alien. “We don’t need other worlds. We Need mirrors” indeed.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

24 responses to “The Science of Space Hookers”

  1. Matthew

    It’s totally deliberate; that’s exactly what they were meant to be. The Art of Mass Effect has this caption: “To capture a familiar element of science fiction ‘fantasy’ fulfillment, one of the main species of Mass Effect was to be a race of beautiful ‘green alien girls’. An extensive exploration of ideas was needed to make them appear exotic and alien while still retaining human qualities allowing them to be desirable as potential love interests.”

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yes. I know. I have the book you mean. My problem is not with the execution. I think they did a good job. My problem is with the very idea.

  2. Mike Klaas

    First, I could be misremembering, but I thought the Asari manipulated your mind so that they appear as an ideal sexually-attractive female of whatever species you are. Since Shepard is human, they look humanish.

    Second, presumably these aliens are sentient and can consent to sex, so I don’t see how it has any relationship to bestiality.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yeah, you remember it right. There is a conversation on Illium that many people quote. The thing with mind-control is bullshit. Because Asari don’t appear as males when you play FemShep. Also, it wouldn’t trick a camera. It was a half-assed effort to retcon this mess.

      Good point with being sentient. I didn’t go into the pro/contra bestiality discussion but I heard that argument being mentioned in this regard. I think sentience is a difficult term in this regard because it’s not something that can be measured. So animals have no sentience but humans do? What about the myriads of in-between states? What about being drunk? What about being mentally impaired? Are some animals more sentient than others? Where do you draw the line?

      As for consensual that’s a problematic term too. If a dog humps your leg isn’t that a form of consent?

      In any case, that’s not the kind of dilemma Bioware dealt with here. That would have been actually quite awesome. But instead they dodged the problem by making the aliens specifically in such a way to avoid those kinds of questions. So we aren’t interacting with an internally consistent world but with a sex fantasy fulfillment contraption. It’s not unlike the kind of fantasy the Furries use to engage in a form of “cleaner”, anthropomorphic bestiality.

  3. Evad Niuges

    Hey Krystian,

    I really enjoyed the article and agree with pretty much everything you’re saying. Although as a biology student, I have to disagree with one thing (don’t worry, it’s a small thing).

    Animals can absolutely develop unhelpful repreductive behaviours. Just look at dolphins: they will stick their wang into virtually anything (even blowholes of othe dolphins). They’ve also been known to kill other organisms solely to screw their bodies. I guess you could call it necrophilic bestiality.

    Anyways, you’re right. Bioware should really admit that they’re just capitalising on their male audience.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Oh, I don’t mind conter-arguments at all. Especially when it comes from an actual biologist. Thank you!

      Yeah, I guess there are some instances of unhelpful reproductive behaviors. Mastrubation among Primates being another one. I wonder why there has been no evolutionary pressure to reduce them. Perhaps they are a harmless side-effect? Or perhaps it helps elsewhere (sperm-count, etc…).

  4. Rhue

    While I agree that the conception of the asari is problematic from a cultural irl standpoint, I think they are sufficiently plausible within the ME universe. Remember that each of the races in ME ‘evolved’ within reasonable sublight distance from a prothean artifact. (right? Isn’t that how humans discovered mass effect technology in the first place?) I think one of the comics indicated that the turians had one on their own planet! I think it’s very possible that a little bit of interplanetary cross pollination happened before the last reaper purge, either through intentional tampering (asari specifically designed by advanced species for mind sex?) or through unintentional spread (some kind of ancestor stowing away on a craft of some kind) It still doesn’t seem highly likely that everything would end up the way it did, but at least it’s plausible enough for suspension of disbelief, I think.

  5. Krystian Majewski

    Not really sure I follow how Prothian artifacts would case the Asari being able to mate with everybody. Care to elaborate?

    1. Rhue

      Well, the protheans were active somewhere between 50000 and 100000 years ago, from what I can gather. This is incredibly recently in evolutionary time. The presence of prothean artifacts implies that the protheans were active in our solar system while recognizably modern humans were wandering around. More importantly, they were active ON the turian homeworld around that time, and the turians and asari supposedly became civilized far earlier than we did.

      It’s very possible that the protheans were responsible for traits (or even the creation) of at least some of the species we meet in mass effect. The Hanar built an entire religion around this theory. They thought that the protheans were “enkindlers” who had breathed life into the hanar at some point. Is it possible there is some truth to this?

      The keepers of the citadel were also specifically designed (by the reapers, instead, this time) to have their current shape, form, and function.

      I can think of a couple of ways contact with the protheans or some other pre-reaper-extinction could lead to the modern state of the asari.

      1. The asari are either created or heavily modified by the protheans as either some kind of experiment, or for a functional purpose. Maybe they wanted to create a race that could breed telepathically as an experiment. Maybe they were trying to make the race more able to fulfill some other function and the mind sex was a byproduct. There are many instances, even in very short term evolutionary manipulation. where tweaking one aspect of a species can have completely unintended side effects.

      I saw an interesting documentary about how people were trying to breed foxes to make them more docile. This worked fairly quickly, but surprisingly, there were several changes they weren’t breeding for at all. Namely, instead of the uniform color that wild foxes have, the docile foxes were more varied in color. They had patterns of gray and black, somewhat like the differences between a domestic dog and a wolf. Here’s a short clip!

      Anyway, maybe the protheans wanted to modify a species to have more powerful biotics, or maybe they wanted to modify one to be better at information storage and transfer, like a biological computer. Both of these are traits unique to asari. Unlike most species, all asari are natural biotics. They also seem to be able to transfer and gather information telepathically in a way that other biotic races seemingly can’t. It’s possible that by modifying them for one or both of these traits, (and maybe another one involving reproducing asexually to make it easier to create more of them in a lab environment?) they also inadvertently gave them the ability to have mind sex.

      It’s also plausible they were designed SPECIFICALLY to have mind sex, but the implications of that are a little bit creepy, so lets skip that one.

      This theory shows up in other sci-fi sometimes. KOTOR implies that the wookies were supposedly created by an earlier spacefaring race in order to perform manual labor while they were doing something or other on their homeworld.

      2. The asari are actually a descendant of a prior spacefaring race. In this theory, the asari may have genetically modified themselves while they were at the height of their civilization. (Were the protheans the only spacefaring race using the citadel and the mass relays?) The mind sex makes more sense here. Who wouldn’t want to change themselves so that they could do something like that? Then, there was some kind of huge disaster that knocked them back into the stone age, and they built themselves back up from there.

      This is pretty much exactly what happened in the Halo universe. It’s also sort of what happened in Battlestar Galactica. (Unfortunately.)

      If we were arguing that all of life in the universe had independently evolved and learned all it’s technology by itself, I’d agree that the asari (and all of the other very human-like species) are incredibly implausible, but that isn’t the case with mass effect. There is a lot of historical gray area that the writers left (I think intentionally) blank, from which you can fill pretty much any plothole you would like to fill, if you put your mind to it.

      On an aside, many of the supposed plotholes that people mention about the mass effect universe are easily mended through similar thinking. I wrote a very long post doing something similar for the ammo changes (Heat sinks make perfect sense! Really!) between the first and second game when ME2 was coming out. I was hoping they had put as much thought into it as I had, so I was a little bit disappointed when it released and I looked into the codex and found that they hadn’t seen fit to address the oddity at all. Was it laziness, or do their writers genuinely not think some of their universe seems really inconsistent on a surface examination?

      Of course, whether it’s at all plausible or not, Bioware did go out of their way to fill their sci-fi universe with a race of psychic space strippers (and didn’t feel the need to justify how odd that looks), which kind of sucks.

      1. Krystian Majewski

        Ok, I know what you mean. If you go down that route, you pretty much have carte blanche for doing ANYTHING you want. Which kinda misses the point of speculating how actual aliens would behave and look like.

        But yes, this would be a perfectly reasonable explanation. And I actually expect some variation of that kind of retconing to appear in Mass Effect 3.

        Oh yeah, post the link to your heat sink article. I’ll gladly pick it apart. ;)

        1. Rhue

          You’re right about the fact that setups like that miss the point of sci-fi a bit. However, I do kind of understand the draw of creating easily relatable human like characters.

          The only thing that truly aggravates me is when a franchise completely ignores the fact that they’ve set up their universe in a way that on the surface is incredibly implausible and then don’t feel any need to try to rectify the situation. I think that Bioware is smart enough to fill in a plot hole like that far more elegantly than I could, but it seems like they’re generally happy to ignore issues like that.

          At least, that’s how I’ve felt since the whole ammo situation. Here’s the post I made, justifying (in the lore at least) the switch to heat sink reloading. (I apologize for the weird formatting, this is an extremely old storage blog.) I won’t post the other parts since they just boiled down to a gameplay defense of the change, which has been done to death.

          I think my lore argument still stands, although I’m a little bit appalled that I didn’t address the fact that the low end of my formula makes no sense. I think that can be safely ignored though. The only other major flaw is Jacob’s loyalty mission. Seriously, how did they not notice there was an issue with that?

          I think Bioware could have come up with a far more elegant solution, but they didn’t bother to come up with one at all. Shepard wakes up and picks up a pistol and immediately knows how to use it. In an ideal world, someone would have handed him a thermal clip, and he would have responded “what the hell is this?”, which would have neatly coincided with most player’s confusion and dovetailed well with a tutorial on how the reloading system works. (A friend was reading this over the shoulder and helpfully added “Maybe they uploaded the relevant information into his head!” Which is aggravating for exactly the same reason the rest of this is aggravating.)

          I think their thought process was to just ignore it and have everyone and everything act as if ammo always worked that way, in a massive global retcon. The level of intellectual laziness that a choice like that indicates deeply bothers me. Did they think it wouldn’t bother enough people to matter? It all reeks of a last minute barely thought out gameplay change, which understandably made long time fans feel like they were watering down the universe in a bid to appeal as much as possible to shooter fans. It’s unfortunate because it seems like it could have been easily avoided.

  6. Lev

    Firstly, Racist?? What?

    The concept of this article is absolutely moronic. The universe is FICTION. They do not have to justify any descision scientifically for that very reason. The quote that Matthew posted absolutely sums it up, the key demographic for the games are male, in the late teens and twenties. They exist to look attractive, (and for that matter, human) but just different enough to be slightly alien.

    Also, since for some reason you are trying to justify them by focusing on their means of repoduction, I feel I should say this: for all intent and purpose, Asari reproduce (almost) Asexualy. No DNA is taken from the partner, the “Mind Sex” as you so subtely put it (It’s called Melding) serves as a means to randomise the genes of the child, which is why the mother and daughter are not identical (and why it’s not “true” Asexual reroduction). The whole Idea is of course, ridiculous, which is why they do not exist in real life (as far as we know, obviously. Though if we ever found out something similar does exist, modern Biology would be blown apart.)

    Lastly, I like how at the very end you basically just thought to yourself “fuck it, if i’m wrong at least I can say It’s beastiality because they are not human LAAAWWWWLLL”.

    I’m sure that in the entire (FICTIONAL, remember that) Mass Effect universe, there will be people who are against inter-species relationships from every race. (Racists, if you will). Most normal scientific rules do seem to apply to them though, so you’re not going to get a half Turian half Elcor running around.

    So I ask if, in our lifetimes, we meet an alien race (I know it won’t happen but hear this out), who are physically similar, and at least as intelligent as us, and some people build a very real, loving relationship with a member of this species, who are you to deny that they can be together? THAT is racism.

    I’ll say one more thing. It’s a videogame. Get over it.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      The universe is FICTION. They do not have to justify any descision scientifically for that very reason.

      It’s SCIENCE-Fiction. So that’s why they do justify decisions scientifically. They do it poorly. It’s amazing that I this is even a point I need to argue.

      Also, since for some reason you are trying to justify them by focusing on their means of repoduction

      Yes. Because all living beings are shaped by evolution. And thus, any of their traits can be traced back to improving means of survival. This is ESPECIALLY true for sexual behavior.
      As for the racism / bestiality thing – you just don get it. Ok, one more time. Just for you. I went some lengths explaining how the Ansari are actually not a plausible supposition supported by scientific theories. They are highly implausible. Thus, they are NOT part of this fiction because science predicts them. They are part of this fiction because the game developers thought it was cool. In fact, they thought it was SO cool they completely abandoned all scientific plausibility just so they can have them. With that, they are no longer aliens. They are not characters informed by actual speculations of how aliens could be. They are characters informed by the racist and sexist biases embedded within Science Fiction from the 50ies. Flimsy excuses to have stories about having sex with foreign ladies. Which the developers assimilated without questioning.

      …people build a very real, loving relationship with a member of this species…

      What we call “love” is something we humans value because it’s something we share with each other as part of the same species. There is an agreement on this among us because we are all biologically the same. It’s not something that can be shared with other species because they are NOT the same. That’s not racism, because other species are not a Human race.
      By conjuring a scenario like that you are doing the same thing as the developers of that game do: to anthropomorphise alien beings. Instead of thinking of them like intelligent animals, to think of them as a very exotic race of the Human species. To superimpose the Human way of thinking and having emotions onto them. As if the the Human mind was something universal. That’s arrogant, self-righteous and stupid. When applied to human emotions like love, it’s narcissistic and ethically wrong.

      It’s a videogame. Get over it.

      So what. Couldn’t you just as easily say “It’s just a book” or “It’s just a movie”? How is a videogame different? Or are you implying videogames get a freebie because they are not culturally significant? If you enjoy videogames, that’s shooting yourself in the foot.

      1. Lev

        Personaly, I think you are getting too hung up on the science in Sci-Fi. Yes I said it. The fact is that the writers are telling a story, and nothing should get in the way of that. If something has to be implausible scientifically, thats fine as long as it helps further the main story of the universe it is set in. What I look for in Mass Effect is the telling of an amazing story in a “futurustic” setting, not a 100% plausable universe. If you are mad about the plausability of Asari, I can’t imagine how insane you must have gone over Reapers. A race of machines with seemingly infinately intelligent intelligence, with the ability to psychically control a host on the other side of the galaxy, that are created and powered by molten organic beings. I mean, seriously? THAT is just as implausable (in my opinion at least, maybe not in yours), but without it the story would suffer in a huge way. I’ll link to this great article in which sci-si writers give their opinion on the subject of plausability: .

        On another note, I still don’t understand why you are using the term Racist. Sexist I MAY be able to understand, but not racism, as you said yourself “That’s not racism, because other species are not a Human race.”. Is it sexist to create a race of beautiful females that any member of any race can persue a relationship with? Possibly, especially as there is no “male” counterpart. I can understand an argument for that, even if I don’t personaly agree.

        I assume you also hate Star Wars at this point? Twi’Leks, Zabrak, Sith and others all have relationships with humans, and each other. Sith even seem to be able to repoduce with other species and there is always debate as to whether or not Twi’Leks can too.

        As for your last point, yes, I would also say“ It’s just a book” or “It’s just a movie”. Heck, I just did it with Star Wars didn’t I? That is a universe spread across all of the mediums mentioned. I could also say the same thing about the Warhammer 40,00 universe, how much of that is truely plausable? And if you wsnt to stick with reproduction and “love”, i’ll give you some more examples that are just as implausable.

        In the Alien movies, why can the Aliens take characteristics from the host that they where born from?

        How did the (original) Superman have children?

        In Dragonball, why is it possible for Sayans to have children with humans? Or why do the Namekians exist at all? ( Race of MALE warrior people who reproduce Asexualy).

        In Arda (the world in which Middle-Earth (from The Lord Of The Rings etc…) exists) why is it possibe for Humans and Elves to reproduce? Would this not equate to beastiality the way you describe it?

        In fictional settings like the many D&D universes, why is it possible for almost all of the races to breed with each other? Sure, you could just explain it away as “magic” bbut there are many D&D settings and worlds where magic does not exist, and this is still very possible.

        The existence of Bretons in the TES series (descendants of Elves and Humans).

        In Star Trek, there are a LOT of inter-species relationships, and even children, should it not also abide by your rules? Or should it be let off by saying “It’s just a movie”?

        I think it must all boil down to what your individual perception of Science Fiction is (and should be). If you enjoy ANY of the fictional settings I have mentioned, and don’t pick them apart for all of their scientific implausabilities, then you should not do the same to the Mass Effect universe. They are all Fictional universes, and should not sacrifice story telling for the sake of scientific plausability.

        As a final, off topic note, did you realy study games design? If so I am shocked that you would think games have no cultural significance.

  7. Krystian Majewski

    The fact is that the writers are telling a story, and nothing should get in the way of that.

    Writers can tell any story, yes. But that’s not an argument against critique. That doesn’t mean that any story is good just because a writer wanted to tell it. There are standards by which one can analyze, judge and value a story. This is one. The writers of Mass Effect brought this up themselves by introducing scientific explanations for what is happening. They could have left it out.

    I can’t imagine how insane you must have gone over Reapers.

    The Reapers are cheap, yes. But they are much less implausible. They are very un-human after all. They also aren’t modeled after Racist / Sexist stereotypes so that’s certainly way better than the Asari.

    Of course, that last boss of ME2 is another thing. But let’s just not get into this discussion:

    I still don’t understand why you are using the term Racist

    Ok, let’s do an analogy that’s perhaps easier to see. Let’s suppose a game called “Moss Effect”. In this game, there is an all-female species you can romance with. They are all indistinguishable from human children. They all look like 4-year old girls, except they have no belly button. They look like this because.. whatever – high gravity or something. A detailed codex entry has a contrived experimentation. Oh yeah, and this species also behaves like human children. They have biologically evolved to be naturally curious, kind and in some regard a little naive. But in spite of their appearance, they are full-grown adults. They keep their appearance until an age of 800 or so. They are sexually mature and in fact, sexually very active. They prefer to mate with older males. They like their companionship because they can learn so much from them.

    If you say that Moss Effect is not a pedophile Phantasy because hey, it’s aliens! The missing bellybutton is the proof! It’s a different species. It’s totally fine to have sex with them – That’s the same as if we say Asari are not racist.

    From all the possible ways in which an alien can look, from all the possible kinds of relationships one could have in a game, Bioware specifically selected the one combinations that perfectly fulfills the fantasy of having clean, guilt-less sex with very exotic, promiscuous, foreign women.

    If there was a perfectly reasonable Scientific experimentation, this would have been an excuse. But the opposite it’s true. It’s all a deliberate, contrived construction with this one goal.

    I agree that the racist aspect is not quite as easy to see because normal inter-racial relationships are a lot more common nowadays. But one still prominent example is sex tourism.

    I assume you also hate Star Wars at this point?

    Not that much. The original trilogy didn’t care about being scientifically plausible, so there is no point calling them out on that. It was otherwise rather harmless anyway. The Sexy Slave thing with Jabba was probably questionable, especially because it was so out-of character of Leia not to even say anything. But I consider this Future Fantasy anyway. And I’m completely disinterested in the expanded universe.

    As for your numerous other examples. Yes, there is a lot of Fridge Horror ( ) in pop culture. For example, there are some who argue that Lord of the Rings is a racist phantasy. I feel like he they may have a point there:

    But the above article focused on the Asari of Mass Effect. And in fact, I clearly established that this is not an isolated case but a tired cliché. I single them out because I have been thinking a lot about Mass Effect recently. The Asari are higly visible in this game. And also, it’s a very recent series that had the opportunity to end this outdated trope – and it failed.

    Now as for how much Science there needs to be in Science Fiction, I pretty much agree with what that one Extra Credits episode says. I think you should go either one way or the other.

    If so I am shocked that you would think games have no cultural significance.

    I have no clue where you got that from. But I’m glad we seem to agree at lest in this regard. That’s why I suggested for you to refrain from arguments like “It’s just a game”. Sure it’s just a game. But a game expresses certain ideas. Explicitly and implicitly. Deliberate or accidentally. It’s perfectly valid to scrutinize them. That’s cultural significance is all about.

  8. Andrew

    Agreed with everything you’ve said, Krystian. I really like Mass Effect but the Asari are ludicrous, poorly written wish-fulfillment of the worst kind.

  9. Aleshia

    Wow, for a bunch of sci-fi fans you’ve obviously never read the actual sci-fi book that takes a human colony down a very similar path to the Asari (minus the biotics). The all female colony reproduces in a fashion that appears somewhat similar to what I imagine Asari reproduction would be like. Seriously, do yourselves a favor and go read Ammonite by Nicola Griffith. The writers at Bioware aren’t the only people to ever think up a monogendered society that has an unusual method of reproduction. Griffith wrote her book more than a decade before the Asari ever appeared on our screen. I don’t see anything wrong with Bioware putting in a monogendered society because it throws all our preconceived ideas about gender out the window. Sure it gives the shallow members of the video game’s audience something to drool over but for those of us who actually think about more important things than sex the Asari also bring up a lot of interesting ideas on gender and the role it plays in our society because other than being easy on the eyes the Asari are also the most advanced race and in a culture where gender bias and sexism is alive and well, the Asari are a nice change of pace. So are the Quarians actually, with their female Admirals.

    Personally, I could care less how realistic it is for the Asari to exist. The fact that they do exist in the ME universe is a good thing IMO, and let’s face it, what are the odds of any of the species in ME existing? Or even the biotic powers the games use? Because it’s their natural ability to use biotics that led to the Asari’s unique form of breeding. It’s a given that a new sci-fi universe is likely to have some sort of hot alien chick with oddly colored skin, at least the Asari are actually more than just strippers, hookers or slaves in the ME universe.

    Honestly, equating mating with an Asari to bestiality is the dumbest thing in this entire post because Asari are not animals. If you’re going to go there with it you have to say the same for all the relationships possible in the series that do not occur between 2 humans. And you really don’t want to go there, because that covers just about all the most popular romances and some of those fans can be scary.

    Oh, and as a side note just because the Asari reproduce through their melding ability it doesn’t mean they don’t actually physically have sex. Did you miss the furor on Fox News over the FemShep/Liara “sex scene” (how much do they ever really show during those scenes?) when ME1 came out? That scene has a fair bit of physicallity in it, as do all the Shep/Liara scenes and even the Shep/Consort scene from ME1.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Thank you for your lengthy comment Aleshia. I shall take a look Ammonite some time.

      However, I wanted to address some of your concerns as I feel you seem to be missing the point in some of your arguments. First of all, the fact that there are other books that do it doesn’t mean that it’s fair game to do this. In fact, I pointed out in my article how this is a Sci-Fi trope that has been with us for almost 80 year snow. It needs a revision badly. Bioware did the opposite.

      Also, the problem I describe doesn’t really have to do with the all-female society. It’s the fact that they are Asari are constantly sexualized and can have sex with everybody. This simple fact exposed them as not a serious analysis of what an all-female society would be like. They are here for cheap titillation only. It doesn’t really compare to the book you cited.

      In fact, we rarely even see any other Females except for the Quarians… and yeah, there is that one Female Krogan in ME3. Guess what her job is? Having babies. Don’t even get me started with EDI.

      And no, I refuse to accept as “a given that a new sci-fi universe is likely to have some sort of hot alien chick with oddly colored skin”. We have been swallowing this crap for so long, most of us can’t even see how wrong this is.

      Asari are not animals.

      But they aren’t Humans either. So why do they make them look like humans and why can you have sex with them? In fact, genetically speaking Humans should be closer to Animals than they are to Asari. I call bullshit on this. Again, long-time Sci-Fi trope that is in dire need of serious reconsideration.

      Oh, and as a side note just because the Asari reproduce through their melding ability it doesn’t mean they don’t actually physically have sex.

      Exactly my point. It’s a device to deliver cheap titillation for the cost of plausibility or consistency.

      1. Aleshia

        Just because something has become a trope of sci-fi doesn’t make it bad. Yes the Asari suffer from a few sci-fi tropes but they are still the more than just those tropes. It’s a pretty narrow view to see only those tropes. The Asari may be over sexualized by the other races in the ME universe (Liara makes a point of saying that males are obsessed with her race in the first game) and there are a fair number of Asari dancers that we run into during the first 2 games you seem to keep forgetting all the other things the Asari are known for in the ME universe, like the fact that they are the most advanced race of any of the races to have discovered the Citadel, that Asari Commandos are some of the most deadly fighters that aren’t Krogan in the galaxy, that Asari owned companies make the best biotic amps in the galaxy and that the Destiny Ascension is their ship and its one of the best in the galaxy. We face far more Asari in combat situations or in other non-sexual situations throughout the series than we see dancers yet you fell into the same trap as the males of the races of the Citadel of focusing on the sex.

        As for their mating habits I have one word for you, Protheans. The Protheans are responsible for the Asari’s natural biotics through genetic alteration/engineering which led to the development of the how they mate. They weren’t naturally evolved that way, Javik admits as much if you take him on the Thessia mission. So even the writers of Bioware have made the Asari’s methods of reproduction not a naturally occuring one. Their ability to reproduce with any of the other races was because of how this engineering for natural biotics altered their nervous systems either directly or over time and while it’s not realistic within the universe it does make sense. The Asari also choose to mostly mate outside of their race now because of the Ardat-Yakshi. The Protheans meddling helped create a genetic abnormality among their people that causes their methods of reproduction to kill the partner and the problem only occurs within the offspring of purebloods which is why children between Asari are frowned upon.

        The genophage among the Krogan made it a given that any female Krogan we saw was going to be tied to childbirth. Their whole race has been nearly stripped of the ability to have children so is it very likely that we are going to run into a fertile Krogan female on the battlefield when their race is nearing extinction? Eve showed she was plenty capable of handling things herself when she took out those 2 Cerberus goons and when she talked about becoming Shaman. But we were curing or not curing the genophage, what else would we be talking about than the ability to bear children?

        I still think the comparison to bestiality is stupid and that if you are going to make that comparison you have to make it for all the possible human/non-human pairings, the Asari aren’t the only race humans are hooking up with in the ME universe. If this were more realistic, the aliens would likely not all be so human-like in appearance but the main races that have discovered the Citadel in the ME universe were all the subjects of Prothean meddling early in their development which is the in universe explantion for the similiarities between the races even though they are still vastly different. Humans would naturally be genetically more similar to the animals on our planet but Asari mating doesn’t share genetics between the partners. I doubt it’s a coincidence that all the Council races are fairly human-like even though Turians are based on birds and Salarians on lizards. The Protheans were trying to turn the primitive versions of the currents cycle’s races into the the ones that would defeat the Reapers, they just seem to have meddled more with with the Asari and it had far more effects on their development on them. Which is likely due to where the Asari were in their evolution compared to the other races before the Protheans left them all alone after the Reaper invasion in their cycle started.

  10. Krystian Majewski

    Just because something has become a trope of sci-fi doesn’t make it bad.

    Tropes themselves don’t have to be bad. This one is because it is rooted in the Imperialism, Sexism and Racism of the 1st half of the 21st century. It is also bad because the game relies so heavily on it.

    We face far more Asari in combat situations or in other non-sexual situations throughout the series than we see dancers.

    That’s not something you can compare because:

    1. It’s not something you can actually quantify. What counts as a “situation”. Is two lap dancers in a bar one or two situations? What if you visit a bar multiple times?

    2. It’s not clear what the “normal” ratio of dancers vs. soldiers should be. But I think it’s enough to point out that ALL of the exotic dancers in the first and second game are Asari. I think they added human exotic dancers in the 3rd one because it was getting awkward even for Bioware. There are no Salarian, Quarian, Turian, Krogan, Drell, Elcor or Hanar exotic dancers.

    you fell into the same trap as the males of the races of the Citadel of focusing on the sex.

    That’s not how it works. That line you are pointing out is completely undermined by the way the game presents the Asari. Players are never given a choice in this regard. Simply the fact that the developers included so many choices to watch Asari dancers or to “romance” already justifies this as part of how the game works. Or quote LaChapelle, “they may not be whores, by they are all wearing a whore’s uniform”

    I still think the comparison to bestiality is stupid and that if you are going to make that comparison you have to make it for all the possible human/non-human pairings

    I’m sorry, but I think in this last paragraph you aren’t really making any sense. Why do you thin I need to consider the other human/non-human pairings in order to judge whether or not this is kinda Bestiality? Of course, all human/non-human pairings would be bestiality. I point out the Asari because they stand out. They were specifically made for this kind of wish fulfillment.

    As for their mating habits I have one word for you, Protheans.

    The Protheans are not real. It’s not like there are ACTUALLY Prothean out there and this is a faithful documentary about them. You are putting the cart before the horse. Bioware really wanted to have exotic sex chicks in their game. They even flat-out admit it in their making-of:

    The Prothean bullshit is the flimsy excuse they came up with afterwards to rationalize it. There is no point discussing it because it’s a carte-blanche excuse that could justify ANYTHING. The question is what Bioware CHOSE to have in the game and rationalize this way. And it’s sexy aliens you can fuck and have a lap-dance with. It’s amazing that I still need to argue this point.

    But here is a question from me: clearly you are somebody, who is not very sensitive to this issue. Where would YOU draw the line? Describe to me an alternate Mass Effect universe where YOU would say that the Asari are more of a sexist wish fulfillment rather than a believable alien race?

    1. Aleshia

      Everybody who has paid any attention to the development of the series knows that physical design of the Asari was done because the developers wanted to put in the hot alien chicks. But you are using one facet of their design and their sexuality to discount and write off their entire race as Racist and Sexist. The writers do have characters point out more than once throughout the series that there is a fascination with Asari sexually and that is actually not good, Liara mentions that males have an unhealthy obsession with her people, Ashley can comment on how sad it that humans travel all that way to reach the Citadel to still walk into a bar and see a dancer shaking her ass, Matriarch Aethyta makes a point of mentioning that she believes the Asari should put their daughters to work at more productive jobs as maidens than as dancers or mercs.

      Just because we were not informed of the Prothean involvement in the early development of the Asari until the third game does not mean it is has not always been a part of their back story for the wrtiers. Prothean involvement in the evolution of the Council races has been hinted at since the first game when Shepard stumbles across what appears to be a recording of a memory of an early human who was experimented on by the Protheans. You are using the fact the developers admitted to making the Asari look like hot alien women to make assumptions about what information the writers put in the lore for the background of the Asari and then discounting everything else about them and writing them off as sexist and racist. You’re also completely discounting story reasons that the Asari might have been given such a unique method of reproduction, they needed someone to help Shepard sort out the visions from the Prothean beacons and the Asari ability to meld is the closest the current cycle has to how Protheans communicated.

      It actually is easy to say that we see far more Asari who are not dancer’s than those that we do because the Asari are the most populous race in the galaxy and if you walk through the Citadel in 1 or Illium in 2 or the Citadel and Thessia in 3 you’ll see more Asari just standing around talking than the comparative few handfuls there are in the bars dancing or in Azure during Lair of the Shadow Broker and in each game it’s not likely that you would visit the bars more than a handful of times unless you are going just to sit and stare at a dancer because there aren’t that many missions that require you to visit the bars. That’s not even counting the number of Asari you face in combat through merc groups in the first 2 games. And I hate to burst your bubble but there was a human female dressed up just like the dancers in the first game, her sister sends you to try to talk her out of working in Chora’s den.

      I actually am sensitive to this issue which is why I think you are taking one comment about the physical design of the Asari and blowing it way out of proportion to express your hate for them and discounting everything else in the lore of the ME universe in regards to the Asari. If the Asari’s only purpose in the ME universe was to serve as some kind of wish fulfillment there wouldn’t be characters like Shiala or Benezia or Matriarch Aethyta and there certainly wouldn’t be a Liara. Liara is far more important to the overall plot of the trilogy than any of the other characters that travels with Shepard yet if you are to be believed her sole purpose is to be there for sex, which is ironic since Liara had never actually had sex with anyone before we meet her in ME1 and if Shepard doesn’t hook up with her likely still hasn’t by the end of ME3. Personally, I’d say Miranda’s appearance in ME2 (gratuitous ass shots were everywhere) was far more sexist than the overall presentation of the Asari. The Asari are sexualized in the game but they are also shown as far more than that as well and I think it’s a disservice to only focus on one thing.

      I still think your bestiality argument is stupid. The non-human races of the ME universe are not animals, they are still people even if they aren’t human. A human having a relationship with one of these other races is not that same as someone deciding to get it on with a goat. It’s a cheap argument to belittle the personhood of the alien races especially since no one forces you to have a relationship with any of the alien races. If you don’t like it ignore it, you’ve got Ash, Miranda, Jack, Kaidan, Steve and Samantha to keep your Shepard company. It might not be realistic in the real world but in the universe of ME there is nothing wrong with a human hooking up with an Asari, a Quarian, a Turian or a Drell.

  11. MDKairo

    The Asari are nothing more than a fanboy’s wish fulfillment garbage.

    You simply can’t or won’t get it. That is why it is offensive. You think that some retconned foolishness on the part of Bioware negates the fact that they are nothing but bimbos with guns?
    They are not only exotic colored space hookers but they are also categorically representitive of the Feminine Other. They embody all of the feminine traits in the galaxy with their sensuality, diplomacy, emphasis on ‘culture’, and most tellingly their affinity for biotics which is a bs word for magic. They’re not the most scientific or militaristic because those are male traits. No they have to regulated to being the space hookers that make nice with everyone with their bodies and ‘diplomacy’. Stereotypically feminine attributes.

    1. Aleshia

      I find it interesting that you seem to consider all of this a retcon when almost everything I’ve stated except for Javik confirming that the Protheans were meddling with the Asari could be learned from the Codex of ME1. And even Javik’s comments only confirm what many suspected about the Protheans due to the side quest in ME1 where the trinket Sha’ira gave Shepard hints at Prothean meddling with early human civilization. It’s been established since ME1 that the Asari are the most advanced race in the ME galaxy, if you bother to read the Codex. They’ve always been more than bimbos with guns, you just choose not see it because of a comment made about why they have their physical appearance and the relatively small number of Asari dancers we see. If you actually paid attention to all the Asari you see in the games you’d see that there a far more Asari in the games who aren’t dancers than those that are, they are certainly more varied than the Krogan, Turians, Salarians and Quarians are portrayed. Just because they look a certain way and have a different way of reproducing does not make the entire race a group of bimbos with guns. Honestly if you listen to the Asari that actually talk about their culture, especially Liara and Aethyta, they actually seem to be making a comment on the stereotypical male obsession with hot women.

      1. Krystian Majewski

        Hello Aleshia. Thank you for posting here. I would like to ask you two things.

        First, it would be really helpful if you actually quoted the codex entries and discussions you reference. For example, Liara has a lot of dialogue in all 3 games. It’s difficult to follow your argument without being clear what exactly you mean. Perhaps what you think you heard is actually not as convincing as you think it is. Or perhaps it’s really something that should be considered. Hard to tell without a quote.

        Second, I would like to ask you to refrain from personal attacks. By saying “Everybody who has paid any attention” or “if you listen to” or “if you bother to read” you are passive-aggressively implying that the other person has been negligent or ignorant of the game’s content and therefore, their impression was invalid. I’m pretty sure we all paid a great deal of attention, just walked away with different opinions of it.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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