BioWare, the creators of popular game franchises such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age have been subtly showing their support for the LGBT community for years. As those of you who have had the pleasure of playing the titles in these series will already know, role playing games created by BioWare tend towards long, epic plots with a combination of action, humour and romance.
Romantic options aren’t unique to BioWare games but their titles do stand out by catering to players of multiple sexualities. In
Dragon Age II, for example, the characters in the protagonist’s party are all available for courting. Whether the player has chosen to play as male or female is not an issue, and the romance plots are the same for both genders. Dragon Age: Origins even had two openly bisexual characters which the hero could choose to start a relationship with: Zevran (think: Legolas, but with the voice and back-story of Antonio Banderas’ Puss-in- Boots) and Leliana, a bard.
Although optional romance subplots in video games are increasingly prevalent, BioWare seems to be handling them the most successfully, by offering well-written partners who exist as more than just objects to seduce. Often, these subplots will have the effect of developing the characters, which adds to the player’s investment. This sets it apart from games like
Fable III and Skyrim, which offer the player both heterosexual and homosexual marriage options, but the player’s spouse tends to be a generic non-playable character with five lines of bland dialogue.
David Gaider, head writer of the Dragon Age games, discussed romance options in a recent blog post [bit.ly/ W3O78N]. Even though Dragon Age II offered a wide range of romance subplots, he dislikes the idea of all of the characters being possible romantic interests. He says that doing that causes the player to objectify all of the characters and to see them differently than they might do otherwise.
He suggests that it would also be better to make future romances more complex by introducing doomed relationships with realistic obstacles such as adultery.
These ideas could be really effective if implemented successfully, but there could be a risk of detracting from the main plot. Narrative in BioWare RPGs is already end-of-the-galaxy dramatic so adding tragic relationships may affect the game negatively, causing too much melodrama or seeming downright petty in comparison to the bigger picture. So what does this mean for
Dragon Age III: Inquisition, which is currently in development? Were Gaider’s comments about the romantic subplots foreshadowing some trouble in paradise?
With games becoming increasingly cinematic and technically proficient, complete immersion should continue to be a priority, and adding romance to the game can make a real difference in terms of the player’s enjoyment. BioWare’s are industry leaders in this sense, acknowledging their wide demographic by making their RPGs accessible to players of all genders and sexualities.