Only a handful of scripted role playing games offers players the option to experience a same-sex romance if they so choose, but the Dragon Age series from BioWare might be the most progressive yet in this regard.
Set in a mythical land ravaged by war, the recently released Dragon Age 2 follows a young hero trying to escort their family to safety, only to find themselves caught up in the political intrigues and dangers of the city they seek refuge in. Over the course of the story, the player acquires a handful of travel companions, each with their own personalities and back stories, four of whom (two female, two male) are also potential romantic companions if you play your cards right.
As in the previous game, the player has the option of choosing the main character’s gender. Though in Dragon Age 2, it no longer has any bearing on who you can start a relationship with. In a true gesture of equality, the game’s developers have tweaked the script so that any of the four companions in question can be romanced regardless of whom you choose to play as. You can watch a scene from one of these scripted encounters below:
Unfortunately not everyone was happy with the game’s inclusiveness, as was the case with one person who detailed their problem on the company’s website in a post entitled “Bioware Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer.” In the post, he explained that he wasn’t happy with the two potential romantic options for someone who wanted to play their character as a straight male and that “[the developers] had the resources to add another romance option, but instead chose to implement a gay romance with Anders.”
Unfortunately for him, Dragon Age co-writer David Gaider decided to respond to this accusation with a post of his own, which has been making its way across video game blogs in recent days. What he wrote may come from his experience as a game creator, but his sentiments carry a much wider message as seen in these excerpts from his post:
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.
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.
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.
Mass Effect – another of Bioware’s tent-pole games that has feature the option of a same-sex romance – is expected to see its third installment released at the end of the year. With writers like David Gaider on the company’s payroll, many are hopeful the game will continue the developer’s commitment to inclusiveness.
Dragon Age 2 is currently available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.