A big story this week was Bioware’s smackdown of a guy who complained that straight males were getting the shaft in Dragon Age 2 romances. Not only did Anders make a pass at this guy's male Hawke (gasp! The humanity!), but also he asserts that Merril and Isabela wouldn’t appeal to more than 5% of straight male gamers. (I’m not sure if he’s actually seen Isabela but, dude, if you don’t find her appealing? We need to have a talk. Even this female has to admit that she puts the va in va-va-voom.)
What was Bioware’s response to this guy? Basically it was, “Get over it; we’re not catering to your male heterosexual privilege.” Right on, Bioware!
The world of Dragon Age is very even-handed about gender issues. For example, the Knight Commander of the Templars is female, and she’s alleged to be the real power in Kirkwall, not the male Viscout. (She’s also a zealot and a bigot and possibly corrupt as hell, but hey – female!) Another example? The first whore I met in Kirkwall was male. Strike another blow for equality!
You encounter plenty of badasses that are male and plenty that are female. It isn’t like all the knights are male and all the mages are female, either, which is something that seems to percolate through fantasy a lot. In fact, you see the warrior Avilene defending her husband right off the bat. Heck, in the way I’ve chosen to build my Hawke, she’s the brawny warrior who protects her fragile mage lover. Nobody ever says a wrong word to Hawke about being a female warrior, partly because she’d smash their stupid faces, but mostly because it’s just not out of the ordinary for Kirkwall.
As you know, I’ve been a little down on Bioware for Dragon Age 2’s romances. They’re not as good as Dragon Age Origins, in either writing or gameplay. However, I’ve got to admit that Dragon Age 2 definitely has more and varied romance options and love interests than I’ve seen in other RPGs. How many other RPGs would let my female main character have a casual liaison with another female character, then settle into a serious relationship with a male character afterward? Not to mention that my character’s former female lover has made it perfectly clear that she’d be totally into a threesome with my character and her current lover. (Weirdly, I think Anders would balk at that. Maybe Isabela isn’t all that, after all.)
I could mix and match my lovers in a lot of configurations if I wanted to. It’s a great nod from Bioware that they understand that one size (heterosexuality) doesn’t fit all. But more importantly, it makes sense in the context of the world of Dragon Age 2 itself. In Kirkwall, nobody bats an eye at a female captain of the guard. A woman who visits a brothel isn’t held in any better or worse regard than a male who does the same. A frail male mage might hire a tough female warrior to protect him, and no one would think any less of him for being protected by a woman.
For all my kvetching, I have to admit that on this topic Bioware is doing it right.