Dragon Age 2 and the possibility of gay relationships has been a fairly hot topic recently on both the DA forums and in the blogsphere in general (see article regarding ‘DA not catering to the straight male gamer’ on rock paper shotgun). I have to say I was pretty impressed by the inclusion of the possibility. I had originally been irritated by the fact that I had a romance option with other female characters as I had assumed (as in some other games I have played) that it was mainly there for the gratification of the male gamer. I felt quite shamefaced that I had jumped to the wrong conclusion when I found out that male characters could also have same-sex relationships. I was also incredibly impressed by David Gaider’s response to the whole furore on the forums.
This quote from his response, particularly interested me:
“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.”
I’m glad that the gaming industry is moving on and pushing boundaries and I think, crucially, offering players the power of choice. I remember a time when the RPG games I played didn’t even allow me to choose gender. In the Sega games (Sword of Thunder, Ring of Power) it was fairly easy to ignore as the graphics weren’t that clear so I mainly just considered my character as a Sonic the Hedgehog type in human form. Moving on to the Final Fantasy games (on Sega Megadrive also I think, possibly a later model of console…) I had a slightly harder time ignoring the fact that was I stuck with playing a male character. It was probably the excruciatingly awful romantic dialogue I had to scroll through as quickly as possible (the ‘romance’ was generally with a pukingly vapid female with a ridiculous outfit which somehow made it even worse). I did still enjoy the games though and just grit my teeth through those bits.
But then came Daggerfall… Baldur’s Gate… Oblivion, Everquest II, Dragon Age, Lord of the Rings Online… Where I could not only play a female (with no stat penalties for doing so AND I was paid the same amount for quest rewards as a male character who did the same job :P), but she also either had proper armour to fight in (i.e. no chainmail bikinis :P) or it was possible to change the appearance (and so, I could control how revealing her outfit was). I have to admit, part of the reason that Rift drifted off my radar was partly down to spotting some chainmail bikinis on npcs (see cool article over at Spinksville) plus, as far as I could see, my female rogue elf had no choice but to start adventuring in a shoulder & midriff baring top AND a face full of garish makeup. If I’d had a choice to tone down the make up, wear different clothing, it wouldn’t have bothered me one bit. To be fair I didn’t feedback that during Beta as there were a whole lot of other reasons as well why I decided not to play (nothing wrong with the game, just didn’t appeal to me more than eq2 or lotro ).
So for me, if a game offers me choice and equality – its far more likely that you’ll find me in their world.
for those who missed the early 90s, the title references a Blur track