For the most part Dead Pixels is a place TJ and I try our damnedest to make a fun, stress-free corner of the internet. This is a place where you can get caught up on the most recent happenings in the industry and perhaps sip some tea while reading one of our many delicious features. Rarely do I feel the need to put on my serious face and talk about things that really matter, or more specifically to what I’m about to talk about here, issues that fucking bother me.
An out and proud ‘straight male gamer’ (a term this individual uses often) has taken offense to BioWare’s inclusion of gay romance in Dragon Age II. His long-winded post in the game’s forum has been making its rounds on several gaming sites over the past week so I thought I’d take a minute to discuss this as well. Plus, one of the game’s writers responded to the post and his polite retort is so beautiful I just had to show you it. Like any good debate, there’s more than one side to the argument. So to honor this let’s dive in to one internet user’s argument against homosexuality in video games.
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?
Dragon Age 2 did have its faults no doubt, objectively; combat that was fun initially but quickly got tedious as a result of constantly respawing enemies and too many random encounters, not so well disguised re-used environments, a flawed equipment system in which most of the loot you got could not be used. And subjectively, I’ve seen complaints of the new faster combat, the new dialogue wheel and so forth. But truth to be told, I wasn’t happy with every single aspect of Origins either, but still I loved that game. The gameplay elements are only a part of an RPG, theres the story and characters that drive it. If the same amount focus and attention to characters were given for me as there was in Origins, I’m sure that even with all those technical flaws, I would have found Dragon Age 2 a good game, a flawed game, but still good. As it stands right now, with mediocre characters and mediocre gameplay, Dragon Age 2 is a mediocre game and I’d rate it as such.
So that’s one person’s opinion on what he considers to be an issue with the game. Usually this is where I would love to take the opportunity to pick apart his ignorance and lay it gracefully on the table so everyone can see it for what it is. I’m sure there’s a very good chance if the only homosexual options that were offered in the game included two women this creep would’ve had no issue with it. If you haven’t yet experienced the hot man on man or woman on woman action of Dragon Age 2, here’s a rather saucy scene between Hawke and Anders.
Instead of sharing more of my opinions on this post I’ll let David Gaider, a writer at BioWare, share his response as it’s far more eloquent (and polite) than anything I could ever hope to offer. Gaider saw the post, responded, and quite possibly made all ‘straight male gamers’ in the world feel just a little bit guilty.
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.
With all that said, who here couldn’t look at Anders and feel even the slightest tingling in the nether regions? That mage is one scrumptious manmuffin.
Oh, and look out for our review of Dragon Age II where I recount my adventures as a promiscuous Blood Mage in the midst of a sexual crisis, a crisis only Aveline can conquer.