Why Bioware’s Approach To LGBT Issues Benefits All Gamers
With the upcoming RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition set to release in November, Bioware is expected to deliver an epic, story-driven, role-playing experience rife with tactical combat and numerous locations to explore. The Canadian video game developer, known for critically acclaimed franchises such as Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect, among many others, has a lot on their plate with the recent departure of Casey Hudson, and the reveal of their new IP, Shadow Realms. Bioware has recently come under fire by the press due to the inclusion of an “exclusively” gay companion character, Dorian, in their next installment of the Dragon Age series, thus “catering” to the LGBT demographic of gamers. The company is no stranger to such contention, with other Bioware games (the Mass Effect series and Dragon Age: Origins, to name a couple) having a number of gay or bisexual characters to pursue a romantic relationship with. Similar accusations were thrown around back in 2008 by bloggers and news channels, stating that the (optional) gay sex scenes in Mass Effect contained full-frontal nudity and explicit acts of sodomy (The accusers apologized after EA refuted the allegations).
The opinions of gamers are sure to be heterogeneous in relation to having the option of pursuing a homosexual relationship in Bioware’s latest Dragon Age game, with many for, and many against, the opportunity to do so. However, regarding a role-playing game, gamers should rejoice that Bioware is embracing a universal approach to their games that strives to meet the needs of the entirety of the gaming population (LGBT or otherwise). Many will ask why, but the answer is quite obvious. The RPG genre of video games is, ideally, about the freedom of choice. While many comparable RPG’s give players the option of choosing gender, race, abilities, statistics, and attributes, very few give the ability to specifically choose their player character’s sexual orientation, and if they do, it is often ambiguous in nature. Not every gamer is going to opt into that opportunity, but the fact that it is available exemplifies a mature step forward in terms of the sociocultural dynamics and gameplay systems of video games as a whole. It shows that Bioware is truly committed to allowing players to create a character that conforms exactly to who and what they want their character to be.
Look at it from this perspective: There are many reasons to play video games, but in terms of an RPG (provided it has full character customization), the majority of gamers desire to achieve some sort of vision with their created character, whatever that may be. Role-playing games are inherently about fantasy fulfillment. Yes, there are a multitude of other mechanics within RPG’s, but they are essentially about the character the gamer creates, the world they inhabit, and how their actions shape the world around them. Games shouldn’t cement players into a prescribed idea of their character (i.e. forcing players to be a specific gender or race). They should allow gamers to be completely free to create an character that harmonizes with the idea the player has in mind for them.
In truth, same-sex relationships in video games (and the public’s reaction towards them) are more of a sociocultural affair, rather than a gameplay/story issue. There is always going to be an opposing side, no matter the topic. The fact is, Bioware’s decision to indulge every type of gamer (LGBT, homosexual, heterosexual, it doesn’t matter) is objectively a good one. If you look past the social and cultural dynamics, and focus on how Bioware’s election to provide universal choice to players contributes to the comprehensive advancement of video gaming, the benefits are easy to see. As previously mentioned, role-playing games are all about the freedom of choice. You don’t have to be a male character, but you can. You don’t have to be a female character, but you can. You don’t have to be a warrior, but you can. You don’t have to be a mage, but you can. You don’t have to be a good character, but you can. You don’t have to be a morally ambiguous character, but you can. You don’t have to seek out a same-sex relationship if you choose not to, but those who do, can. You get the point. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below! You can follow Erwin on Twitter – @DesertFoxJr