Note: I have kept this entirely spoiler-free of any plot or character specifics for Dragon Age Inquisition, but will be referencing the sexual orientation of characters in the game. If that qualifies as a “spoiler” to you, please read this article after you’ve taken your journey into Thedas.
Dragon Age Inquisition is finally out. It’s been getting stellar reviews, and seems to be meeting a lot of the hype that was bestowed upon it–which is rare for this year’s releases at this point. It is currently perched to be one of the best games of the year, and I could not be more excited to dig deeper into it.
Now, I’m not here to talk about the game from a mechanical standpoint. The quality of the gameplay, graphics, or audio experience is something for another time. What I’d like to talk about is romance. Yes, romance. One of life’s most terrifying and exhilarating pleasures, romance, love, affection, adoration, and other words describe the act of two people forming a bond that transcends friendship and becomes something…more.
One of the trademark features nearly all Bioware games (including Dragon Age Inquisition) share is the option to “romance” a character in the game. Usually this involves simple actions such as picking dialogue choices a certain character likes, bestowing upon them gifts, and generally spending time with them. Most of it is extremely superficial, and could easily be described as “gamey” or mechanical. GameInformer had an excellent feature a couple years back wherein Bioware acknowledged some of their faults, and promised to be working on improvements.
Now I can’t speak on changes that have been made to romance as a gameplay element, as I haven’t played the game enough to know for sure. What I can speak on is the noticeable change of balance in sexual orientation of romance options (Yes, I know referring to “romance options” so clinically sounds a little weird, but this is where video games are right now.).
In prior Bioware titles, the potential romance options were skewed towards a straight male player character; In almost every release, the available options for a straight male was equal to or greater than a straight female character–with an even smaller group of potential romantic partners for gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters. In Dragon Age II‘s case, the majority of romanceable characters was available to both genders. I believe their intentions were good, but also it also lacked conviction; instead of taking a stance and accurately portraying LGBTQ characters in a video game, Bioware kept most discussions of “romance” in the games neutrally gendered.
With Dragon Age Inquisition though, everything has changed. As of now, there are eight characters available for romance, and only two of those are accessible to straight males. I am a straight male myself, and I think this is a good thing.
Games are finally growing up; the industry-at-large is finally waking to the idea that video games aren’t just the straight dude’s pastime anymore. While most games are aggressively marketed and skewed towards male gamers, according to the Entertainment Software Association, 48% of gamers are female. This statistic doesn’t speak to the sexuality of gamers, but is it so wrong to think that other demographics than our own should get a chance to be the hero? Bioware is taking a bold step towards a more welcoming environment for gamers of all sexualities, and I believe straight male gamers should welcome it with open arms.
I’m proud to play video games (which is why I write about them), and I think it’d be fantastic if more developers would follows Bioware’s lead. So what do you think? I want to know how excited you are to dig into Dragon Age Inquisition. Do the romance options make you more excited? Let me know what kind of Inquisitor you’re going to be in the comments below!