Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins and Buttsex

I have always loved fantasy. Be it high fantasy a la Tolkien or Lewis, or B-list magic pony fantasy of the Tamora Pierce variety. I also love gaming... so, naturally wherever the two shall meet I'm so there. I was even a fledgling 10 year old D&D dungeon master... before my mother accused me of witchcraft and watched as I burned the manual.

So naturally, I have been chomping at the bit, awaiting the release of Bioware's new dark-fantasy RPG, Dragon Age: Origins. The publisher has a long history of extremely successful RPGs, including Mass Effect and the D&D-inspired Baldur's Gate series (which consumed roughly the entirety of my eighth grade existence).

Demian Linn of bitmod recently posted his spoiler-y run down of the steamy action your character can engage in. Evidently in addition to the standard hetero pairings with NPCs, there's also possibilities for gay, lesbian, and even trans relationships with NPCs.

Demian makes some great observations on the game design and Bioware's approach to sexual inclusivity:

"What you learn about the characters, however, isn't so interesting -- all of your romantic prospects adhere to parochial stereotypes. Both females seem wildly different at first, but are ultimately only interested in monogamous relationships, while the gay male character prefers a no-strings-attached open relationship."

"So what's the point of all this? Good question. Sex is a very difficult game design challenge, no surprise there, and Dragon Age does it right when it incorporates sex directly into the narrative (the aforementioned spoiler I don't want to reveal). But the casual sex, which could be used as a tool to deepen your understanding and empathy for the other characters, tends to reinforce the idea of women as alternately jealous, catty, smothering, and weak-willed (easily taking back a lover that has strayed), while perpetuating the stereotype of the promiscuous gay/bisexual man. I guess what I'm saying is...the sex could be better."

I find it interesting that even inclusive game publishers like Bioware find themselves playing into tired archetypes of sexuality and gender. Gender theorist Donna Haraway (the author of such works as The Cyborg Manifesto) wrote a lot about the exciting possibilities for video games and virtual reality to be spaces in which we are able to rewrite the rules of society as we see fit, i.e. without oppressive sex/gender/sexuality schemas. Granted, while Haraway is the bat-shit crazy bag lady of gender academia, I did resonate with the idea that virtual worlds were one such space in which gender and sexuality lines can be blurred and reformed. But when the creation of these virtual worlds are tied to profits generated by human social interaction, a truly revolutionary schema of gender/sex relationships is inhibited.

Problematic virtual sex schemas aside, I can't wait to get my hands on this game and get myself some hot elf booty. Way to go Bioware and satisfying me and every other fangirl who wrote Aragorn/Legolas slashfics!

5 betches:

Darren said...

Sex in video games is really in a transitional area. I have to give props for them including it, and having various options available for your fantasy stud to pursue.

But, I have to agree... the scenarios and sexual dynamics do seem to be phoned in and pat.

I'm wondering if Mass Effect 2 will see this issue and add some more interesting interactions. Hm... though I wonder if these cliche sexual interactions are there so the player finds them 'familiar' and easy to navigate?

I mean... what if an NPC *only* wanted one night stands. Would it drive players crazy if there was no way to get that NPC to fall hard for them, instead of having them laugh as they walk out the door, untameable regardless of the dialogue tree chosen.

I'm going to try and envision a perfect sex-coupling scenario in a video game... Hm...

Kuhnsy said...

I was wondering what Wil Wheaton and Felica Day were tweeting about; this game sounds awesome!!! But next time they need gay marriage; nothing says squee like mushy man-on-man romance. #thinkMidnighterTheNightElf

Jason said...

Fable 2 definitely allowed you to marry someone of the same gender. but when you did, you couldn't have kids together... Evidently same-sex adoption didn't exist in Albion.

Kuhnsy said...

Now that's just laziness. If your fictional world involves magic and/or advanced science, then not allowing your queer couplings to pull a Scarlet Witch and "plot-device" up some children is a failure of creativity.

Jason said...

well, in the game designer's defense... programming a whole new mechanism for same-sex couple to have children takes resources and staff time. It may not be that the publisher is opposed to gay parents, just they prioritize things like combat gameplay over Gay Harvest Moon side stories.

Like for example, the New Mario Bros. platformer that's coming out include mario, luigi and toad as playable characters. But no Peach or Daisy. The programmers said in an interview that they really wanted to put Peach and Daisy in, but they just ran out of time and resources to spend on the characters, who would have needed complete ground up rendering and physics engineering/animation b/c of their skirts.

It's not necessarily homophobia or sexism, it's economics.

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