Alex Blaze

Bioware's Dragon Age II Has Gay Scene that Some Straight Gamers Don't Like

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 25, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: bioware, straight privilege

Dragon Age II has a gay love story in it that's cute that led some straight gamers to complain. You see, since the majority of people are straight, that means that everything has to be washed clean of homosexuality lest it befuddle their minds:

dragonageii.pngWhen 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?

It's a lot longer, but you get his point. While LGB people watch tons of movies, play lots of games, read lots of books, and watch lots of TV centered around heterosexuality, for a straight person to have to put up with a gay story (among straight love stories) in a video game is just too much.

But I don't have to respond. Bioware's response is definitely worth reading:

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.

Kudos to Bioware, since most of the entertainment industry is too busy catering to the homophobic need to live a life without ever noticing same-sex desire and love and cordoning off or neutering queer romantic representations.

And here's the steamy scene again. No typing comments with one hand, boys.

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That was really romantic but I'm going to miss the much naked-er scenes from Dragon Age: Origins (NSFW obvs). XD

ShipofFools | March 25, 2011 6:36 PM

That's why my co-workers are so exited about Dragonage- I have missed something ;-)

The reason why they put in gay male sex is the female gamers of course.

Bioware rocks. If you haven't played the Mass Effect games and are a sci-fi fan you should. If you choose to gender your player character, Commander Shepard, as female you'll be able to initiate a lesbian romance in that series (not sure if the male Shepard can do a same-sex romance as I've never played through it as male).

It's interesting, actually. Some game companies are very loose and liberal about this sort of thing, others not so much. When I played Eve-Online there was a gay male player who discovered that even just the word "gay" was banned from appearing in the game's discussion forums. I wrote a long post about it in a blog I used to write about the game.

The truth is that there are far more Queer gamers than most think. I've been in two LGBT gaming groups, one of Eve players I created and ran with another player and another in Star Trek Online which I just joined recently. There's plenty of us out there, it's just that the audience of most of these games is so heavily weighted toward young straight males that even straight women often don't get treated decently, much less LGBTs.

[T]he 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.

It's a bit difficult to argue with the logic - and that is why NOM and the rest of the anti-marriage-equality crowd are ultimately screwed.

Straight boys, GROW UP and accept the whole real world, not just your straight perception.

As a female Hawke Anders' dialogue gives off the impression that the only issue between you is that he's a mage. But as a male Hawke it all takes on a new meaning, an undertone reflecting the homophobia of other people. Remove the magic from the equation, it fits perfectly.

Hmmm. I might have to check it out. Anyone who's played it care to give it an all-around rating?