Robert Chesley

Bioware Stands By Dragon Age II Romances.

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In response to a forum post over at the official “Dragon Age II” forum, there was a debate on whether or not that Bioware intentially tried to alienate the “Straight Male Gamer” demographic.

I’m going to list both posts completely and would ask everyone reading to read both sides completely before forming your opinion about it.

User Bastal initially started the thread by saying

To summarize, in the case of Dragon Age 2, BioWare neglected their main demographic: The Straight Male Gamer.

I don’t think many would argue with the fact that the overwhelming majority of RPG gamers are indeed straight and male. Sure, there are a substantial amount of women who play video games, but they’re usually gamers who play games like The Sims, rather than games like Dragon Age. That’s not to say there isn’t a significant number of women who play Dragon Age and that BioWare should forego the option of playing as a women altogether, but there should have been much more focus in on making sure us male gamers were happy.

Now immediately I’m sure that some male gamers are going to be like “YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ME! I LOVE DRAGON AGE 2!”, but you have to understand, the Straight Male Gamer, cannot be just lumped into a single category.

Its ridiculous that I even have to use a term like Straight Male Gamer, when in the past I would only have to say fans, but it is as if when the designers were deciding on how to use their limited resources, instead of thinking “We have fans who loved Alistair and we have fans who thought Alistair was annoying. We have fans that thought Morrigan was great and we have fans that thought that she was a ****. And we have fans who liked the combat and we have fans who hated the combat but liked the story. How do we make make all these groups happy?” Instead, it is as if they went “We have straight males, straight females, gays and lesbians. How do we make all these groups happy?”

In every previous BioWare game, I always felt that almost every companion in the game was designed for the male gamer in mind. Every female love interest was always written as a male friend type support character. In Dragon Age 2, I felt like most of the companions were designed to appeal to other groups foremost, Anders and Fenris for gays and Aveline for women given the lack of strong women in games, and that for the straight male gamer, a secondary concern. It makes things very awkward when your male companions keep making passes at you. The fact that a “No Homosexuality” option, which could have been easily implemented, is omitted just proves my point. I know there are some straight male gamers out there who did not mind it at and I respect that.
When I say BioWare neglected The Straight Male Gamer, I don’t mean that they ignored male gamers. The romance options, Isabella and Merrill, were clearly designed for the straight male gamers in mind. Unfortunately, those choices are what one would call “exotic” choices. They appeal to a subset of male gamers and while its true you can’t make a romance option everyone will love, with Isabella and Merrill it seems like they weren’t even going for an option most males will like. And the fact is, they could have. They had the resources to add another romance option, but instead chose to implement a gay romance with Anders.

I’m certain that some will declare “That’s only fair!” but lets be honest. I’ll be generous and assume that 5% of all Dragon Age 2 players are actually homosexuals. I’ll be even more generous and assume that the Anders romance was liked by every homosexual. Are you really telling me that you could not have written another straight romance that would have pleased more than 5% of your fans?

This is what Dragon Age II writer, David Gaider had to say in response

To the OP: doing the same act repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. What you hope to achieve by posting the same thread over and over again I can’t honestly say.

To some of the others on this thread: While an ignorant opinion politely expressed doesn’t make it less ignorant, I will say that the behavior of some of you is far worse. Calling someone a “troll” who expressed his thoughts in an intelligent manner and acting like hooligans suggesting if you just throw enough dirt that eventually that person will either go away or the thread will get locked will earn you a ban. No matter the opinion, I think how it’s expressed deserves the same in kind. If you can’t do that, refrain.

To the issue: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– perhaps a bit more eloquently, since it’s apparently of dire concern to some.

The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.

More than that, I would question anyone deciding they speak for “the straight male gamer” just as much as someone claiming they speak for “all RPG fans”, “all female fans” or even “all gay fans”. You don’t. If you wish to express your personal desires, then do so. I have no doubt that any opinion expressed on these forums is shared by many others, but since none of them have elected a spokesperson you’re better off not trying to be one. If your attempt is to convince BioWare developers, I can tell you that you do in fact make your opinion less convincing by doing so.

And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

The truth is that making a romance available for both genders is far less costly than creating an entirely new one. Does it create some issues of implementation? Sure– but anything you try on this front is going to have its issues, and inevitably you’ll always leave someone out in the cold. In this case, are all straight males left out in the cold? Not at all. There are romances available for them just the same as anyone else. Not all straight males require that their content be exclusive, after all, and you can see that even on this thread.

Would I do it again? I don’t know. I doubt I would have Anders make the first move again– at the time, I thought that requiring all romances to have Hawke initiate everything was the unrealistic part. Even if someone decides that this makes everyone “unrealistically” bisexual, however, or they can’t handle the idea that the character might be bisexual if they were another PC… I don’t see that as a big concern, to be honest. Romances are never one-size-fits-all, and even for those who don’t mind the sexuality issue there’s no guarantee they’ll find a character they even want to romance. That’s why romances are optional content. It’s such a personal issue that we’ll never be able to please everyone. The very best we can do is give everyone a little bit of choice, and that’s what we tried here.

And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least. And that’s my opinion, expressed as politely as possible.

In a wall of text. Sorry about that.

And I’m sorry if someone didn’t get everything they wanted out of the romances– as I always am. I wish we could do the ideal where there’s something for every desire and opinion, but as usual we make do.

Personally, I found the romances in Dragon Age: Origins a breath of fresh air. I don’t believe there are enough strong homosexual hero types in most kinds of mainstream entertainment options. The fact that all the romances were completely non-essential to the storyline of the game and you could play the entire game ignoring romantic involvements. I thought the choice to add these kinds of encounters actually made me respect the game more. I had a lot of fun just talking with random characters in Bioware’s games. It is the one aspect of RPGs that they get really right most of the time. I find myself agreeing a little too much with David. There is a stigma that all gamers are straight males, and they usually get catered to the most. In terms of action flicks, video games, or comic books you don’t see too many “alternative lifestyle” types as the main characters in these mediums. I’m not saying that sexual orientation should matter in the enjoyment of any entertainment, but I found myself intrigued more, as a straight gamer, to see romantic interludes with members of the same sex (male or female) during the course of the game. I liked that it wasn’t always just the case of “just flirt”. Everyone has a different personality and I thought they did that justice in the game.

I don’t think Dragon Age alienated the “Straight Male” demographic, nor did I think they particularly catered exclusively to a “homosexual” or “bisexual” audience. I felt they made a good game with a good story, and optional content that would appeal to the broadest spectrum of people as they could. It was a “choose-your-own-adventure” that also included a “choose-your-own-love-interest” aspect as well. They should be applauded for it.
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