Gaymers are abuzz as a major new video game promises its first-ever gay characters with groundbreaking depth. Meet Dorian and Sera, virtual players setting off a real-world debate.
The sword-and-sorcery “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” due out in October, is one of the year’s most anticipated games, promoted as one of the biggest and most lavish fantasy games ever made. It’s also the latest installment of a hit series beloved by gaymers for allowing the player to enjoy same-sex romances – complete with modest sex scenes – with their virtual sidekicks.
But in those earlier games, the same-sex “romance-able” characters were all essentially bisexual – or in joking fan-speak, “playersexual.” Whatever gender or orientation you chose to play as, the sidekicks were ready and willing to fall in love with you because hey, you’re the hero.
“Inquisition” will be different. Game-maker BioWare’s announcement in April that some sidekicks will be strictly gay or lesbian set its web forums ablaze with thousands of fan responses. Most everyone praised the lesbian and gay representation, but in an interactive medium, the reaction is different from, say, more diversity in movies or TV shows.
Among “Dragon Age” fans, a schism has opened between those thrilled by the romantic realism, and others disappointed by the inability to get it on with every hot-looking “playersexual” sidekick. And the responses aren’t falling along any predictable gay-straight lines. A poster with the handle “Welsh Inferno” was among the straight men who said that if the woman sidekick he digs turns out to be lesbian:
“I’d deal with her life choice. Not everyone wants what’s in my [character’s] pants, so I’ll move on to someone else. I certainly would not be throwing any hissy fits because I can’t romance here.”
Meanwhile “Vatican Vice,” a self-described “member of the LGBT community,” said they prefer “playersexuality” as a way to fully explore the game, even though they once found it offensive.
“I was of the opinion that [playersexuality] implied that sexual orientation is not an important enough part of one’s character to be fixed [in place], but honestly…these days it seems like the preferable option to me.”
“I’m bisexual, but I think I prefer the set sexualities,” countered “brightblue ink,” saying the realism would deepen her emotional investment in the characters, even if she couldn’t romance them.
The real message in the fan debate is the dearth of authentic LGB characters in video games, and BioWare’s pioneering history in filling that gap.
The Canadian company has produced some of gaming’s biggest critical and commercial hits, from “Baldur’s Gate” to “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” to “Mass Effect.” And increasingly, it has written LGB characters into its titles.
The character-driven “Dragon Age” series has become its gayest. In no small part, that’s thanks to game designer David Gaider (second image). Openly gay but long reluctant to discuss how that impacts his work, Gaider delved into the topic in a revealing blog post earlier this year.
I’ve said many times before that no single game can be everything to everyone, and that’s absolutely true. The opportunities we get to include stuff like this, even if they’re few and, yes, even if it’s just in a game and thus not the most important arena for effecting change, are very gratifying to me as a developer—and, I think, for the developers with whom I work.
It may not be much, but it’s not nothing, and people tell us all the time its not nothing. We receive heartfelt messages of how much our efforts mean all the time, and it galls me to consider how the assumption out there is that we should consider these individuals less important than those who say hateful things, that placating the hateful should be more of a priority for us or any developer.
His “Dragon Age” work has similarly gone gayer with each installment. The first game, “Dragon Age: Origins” (2009), featured four romance-able sidekicks: two straight and two bi. In “Dragon Age II” (2011), all four romance-able sidekicks were bi.
As for “Inquisition,” the number of available love interests and their various orientations have yet to be announced. But two queer characters have been revealed in recent weeks.
Sera, a pointy-eared elven thief, is lesbian (bottom image). Dorian (top image), a human wizard with a hipster moustache, is gay. Details about Sera remain scant. But in an interview on BioWare’s site, Gaider dishes about Dorian – a character he personally wrote with a background that includes a painful coming out.
“Dorian is gay – he is, in fact, the first fully gay character I’ve had the opportunity to write. It added an interesting dimension to his backstory, considering he comes from a place where ‘perfection’ is the face that every mage puts on and anything that smacks of deviancy is shameful and meant to be hidden. Dorian’s refusal to play along with that façade is seen as stubborn and pointless by his family, which has contributed to his status as a pariah.
“I suppose this aspect of Dorian will make him controversial in some corners, but I was glad to include it. It made writing Dorian a very personal experience for me, and I'm hopeful that will make him seem like a fully realized character to fans in the end.”
That interview sparked another frenzy of fan comments. There are gloating gays (“Damn son, I’m so loving that moustache and eyeliner”) and straights boys considering going gay with the intriguing wizard. Meanwhile, the playersexuality debate rages on.
“NOPE, sorry, this is unfair. He could be the same cool insurgent guy even in a bisexual mood [sic],” complains the jilted commenter “jenius.”
But fellow straight girl “Cassandra Young” takes the philosophical view:
“I will admit, I read that he was gay and gasped at the injustice of it all. But I’m honestly very pleased that they’ve done this. It’s all well and good to have bisexual characters, but having homosexual characters like Dorian and Sera add[s] WAY more depth to the game, the story, and the bond I share with all of the characters in [the game’s fantasy world] Thedas. Thank you, ‘Dragon Age.’ You make me proud to be a fan.”