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BioWare Lead Writer Defends Dragon Age II Romance Options

by Phil Kollar on Mar 24, 2011 at 07:56 AM

Are you not interested in starting a love affair with the sexy, possessed mage pictured in the foreground above? Then maybe you're among the handful of BioWare fans who have expressed some disappointment at the limited number of straight, male romance options in Dragon Age II. If so, the game's writer has some words for you.

Forum poster Bastal posted a topic in the Dragon Age II forums titled "BioWare Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer." Bastal starts by writing off the number of females who play games as insignificant:

"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."

I would like to note here that I actually know more females who are happily obsessed with Dragon Age than males. Bastal then gets into the main portion of his complaint: He believes that none of the party members in Dragon Age II really appeal to "the straight male gamer":

"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."

Bastal goes so far as to suggest that BioWare should have implemented a "no homosexuality" option that would prevent male companions from making passes at a male hero. He also says that Isabella and Merrill -- the primary female romance options in the game -- are too "exotic," and, as such, "it seems like they weren't even going for an option most males will like."

I'm going to go ahead and say it: This dude sounds like a close-minded, self-obsessed jerk of a nerd who's getting upset about not having the privilege of only having people he's interested in flirt with him in a video game. Despite the seeming absurdity of this guy's opinion, BioWare and Dragon Age II lead writer David Gaider wrote a smart, cool-headed response. Rather than summarizing, I'm going to post the main part of the response here:

"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."

My opinion? Well, I'm a straight, male gamer, but when I played Dragon Age II, my male Hawke struck up a romance with Anders. Does that make me gay or bisexual? Nope, because it's a video game, and I don't have some overwhelming need for virtual people to match my real life sexual preferences. It's a game, everyone. Get over yourselves and just enjoy it.

[via Kotaku]