I’m sure a couple of you remember this clusterfuck from a few years ago. A commenter on a forum expressed irritation (and by that I mean he went on an ignorant, whining diatribe) that Bioware had neglected their main demographic—i.e. The Straight Male Gamer—in the creation and implementation of the romance options in Dragon Age 2. Basically—the women were not up to his standards (‘exotic’, he calls them) and he wanted a No Homo option. Apparently, Anders coming onto him really freaked him out.
Bioware lead writer David Gaider wrote a response, pretty much telling the commenter to check himself before he wrecked himself. “The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone.”
In a way, I am sincerely grateful to the commenter for spouting off, since it’s because of Gaider’s response that I picked up Dragon Age: Origins in the first place. I wanted to support a game company that made it a priority to include diverse options, and was not clinging to the tired myth that gaming is still an impenetrable Boy’s Club that’s only real concern is how jiggly the boobs are. Although by no means a perfect game, Dragon Age 2 was basically everything I could have wanted in regards to writing, story, and diverse options, and I could go on for pages about why I think the Dragon Age games are so awesome and important and why everyone should just STFU and play them already, but I do that enough in real life, so I’ll here restrain myself. Slightly.
With the upcoming release of the third game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, there’s been a lot of chatter about the potential romance options, and whether or not they will still all be bisexual—as in, you can romance them as a male or female protagonist. I have heard a lot of people say they hope this isn’t the case, if only because it’s unrealistic. And to this I always cock my head in a quizzical fashion, because…what?
Leaving aside the fact that this is escapist media and I should be able to vicariously canoodle with the brooding, scar-covered elf with the voice like melted chocolate in any guise I so choose, I am just kind of puzzled that people find the notion of four bisexuals in a group of nine friends so hard to swallow, especially in a fictional world that does not appear to have much internalized homophobia. It certainly makes more sense than everyone being straight, which is still the default in a lot of games/media in general. And if you play the game and actually get to know the characters, it’s pretty easy to buy that they could swing in either direction.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is unrealistic to have four bisexual romance options. My next question becomes—so the fuck what? Your high fantasy, dragon-slaying, elf-befriending, potion-guzzling video game isn’t realistic? GASP!
When people say this isn’t realistic, what they mean is, this does not fit in with my perceived version of reality. But for those who are the member of a majority, reality means having most mainstream media created specifically with them in mind. So when they find something that doesn’t treat them like a super-special snowflake, some people behave like our butthurt little friend from the Bioware forum—as if they are being neglected.
Really, it all comes down to suspension of disbelief. On the whole, people are much more comfortable with changes in history, reality, or physics, than they are with changes in morality. That’s why people can be perfectly fine with hordes of marauding monsters and characters who shoot fire out of their fingertips, and then try to call bullshit on, say, a sexually liberated woman in a medieval society. Or a female captain-of-the-guard. It’s why there are mods for turning characters of color white. When there are a myriad of ways to remain in your comfort zone, why bother even trying to step out of it?
Dragon Age, and other games like it, are fantasy. They’re fiction. They are meant to be absurd and fun virtual experiences. So save your accusations of unrealistic for plot holes or uneven characterization, or for when every mansion in Kirkwall has the exact same floor plan, or when corpses lie in the street unchanged for seven years. Don’t waste your time getting bent out of shape over the fact that someone else has the same options that you do, just because it skews your sense of the world. Live and let live, my friend. We are all the Maker’s children.
Also: David Gaider did a great talk on this subject last June. You can watch it here.
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