Friday, March 25, 2011

65. bioware vs. homophobia

today we're talking about dragon age 2, the latest from bioware.  like most games in the rpg genre it shares, players have choices outside of the main storyline in what they want to do, and how they want to do it - side quests, extra items, bonus content and the like.  a lot of times games take the custom factor further, and like da2 allow users to customize the appearance of either a male or female protagonist for their journeys.  the first dragon age (dragon age origins) had all of these elements with a slight twist - they had a romance component of the game based on how you interacted with the other characters, ultimately leading to romantic encounters with the one you have an affinity for.  now this idea's not completely new - the mass effect games (also bioware's) have a romance portion as well.  even back in the late 90's final fantasy vii had a system where cloud would end up on a date with aeris, tifa, yuffie or barrett during a scene at the gold saucer.  granted, the "date" with barrett is more awkward bro time than romance but the point is that the system was in place.  where dragon age differed was that your character could, if desired, have a romance with a character of the same sex, which brought both wrath and praise following the revelation of a possible gay male love scene with zevran the assassin.  i thought it was a good idea - because guess what?  people aren't all straight males aged 18-35.  in an industry where developers almost pander to their audience with sometimes ridiculously proportioned female characters and cater to every kind of straight male fanservice (no one even blinked at the thought of a female character having a relationship with leliana the bard), it was about time that they take a look at society and at make an effort to include their entire player base.  that player base, in fact, not all being the same person.

bioware used the same romance structure in dragon age 2, and after talking a look at their social forums, it's unfortunate to see that some people are holding onto, shall we say, less than progressive social views.  the prime example comes from a poster going by the name of bastal, who posts with the heading "bioware neglected their main demographic: straight males."  he claims that (and i'm sure this is accurate) that the "overwhelming majority of RPG gamers are indeed straight and male."  he goes on in what can only be described as an eloquent passage of anti-wisdom:
"i'll be generous and assume that 5% of dragon age 2 players are homosexuals.  i'll be even more generous and assume that the anders romance was liked by every homosexual.  are you telling me you could not have written another straight romance that would have pleased more than 5% of your fans?"
an amazing analysis by a sharp mind, i know, but it's clear to see that eloquence doesn't always preclude ignorance.  in other parts of the post he talks about how easy it could be to add a "no homosexuality" option to the game to allow da2 players homophobes to play through the story without feeling yucky.  please, read the whole thing, it's magical.  the crux of his argument really becomes "but every other bioware game caters to me and how i live - and i'm selfish enough that i can only enjoy a game that caters only to me and people like me exclusively."  sir, just because you're polite doesn't mean i share your vision.  i'm sure many of "our" demographic don't either.

but how is he and his straight male justice force being neglected?  i could fire up the game right now, start up a male character, and still use the romance system to woo me a bonny lass.  no one's being neglected.  that's like saying  that even though a lot of women played the game bioware should make double sure that i, their "primary target," the straight male,  am happy.  oh... wait yeah he did say that too.

it was all enough for da2's lead writer david gaider to step into the forums and regulate.  he goes on to say alot, but it can all be captured in the beginning of his reply:  "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."  gaider went on to say a lot more about privilege and the majority, politely calling this guy an asshat, which you can see from the same links to the forum throughout this post.

this guy doesn't represent the straight male gamer.  i'm actually more than a little upset that there is a demographic cleavage that he and i share.  so i'll close with david gaider's words, because i really can't come up with better:  "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."

bioware social forum post here
dragon age 2 official site here
originally via joystiq

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