Dragon Age II Writer Defends The Game’s Sexuality Balance

Dragon Age II Writer Defends The Game’s Sexuality Balance

When a forum poster decided to criticize the developer for neglecting the core role-playing game market – straight male gamers – when developing romance prospects for Dragon Age II, BioWare writer David Gaider’s response was swift and elegant.

BioWare forum poster Bastal obviously feels strongly that the supporting characters in Dragon Age II were more geared towards women and homosexuals than they were straight males. In a forum post titled “Bioware Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer”, Bastal spoke his peace.

When I say BioWare neglected The Straight Male Gamer, I don’t mean that they ignored male gamers. The romance options, Isabella and Merrill, were clearly designed for the straight male gamers in mind. Unfortunately, those choices are what one would call “exotic” choices. They appeal to a subset of male gamers and while its true you can’t make a romance option everyone will love, with Isabella and Merrill it seems like they weren’t even going for an option most males will like. And the fact is, they could have. They had the resources to add another romance option, but instead chose to implement a gay romance with Anders.

Even from that brief excerpt you can see the main issue with the post. Bastal speaks for straight male gamers as a whole. Being a straight male gamer myself, I Isabella and Merrill were the two romantic encounters I experienced during my play through of Dragon Age II, and I was far from disappointed. Of course I am one and not most, but I wouldn’t dream of speaking for most straight male gamers, especially when it comes to matters of romance.

But Bastal felt it was his place to post this topic not once, but several times, the forum equivalent of jumping up and down and shouting, “Hey, look at me!”

BioWare lead writer David Gaider looked, and found the topic wanting. First he addressed the multiple postings.

To the OP: doing the same act repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. What you hope to achieve by posting the same thread over and over again I can’t honestly say.

He followed that statement up by calling out some of the other posters for calling the original poster a troll, discounting his opinion. Bastal case was eloquently presented, after all, even if it was scattered about a bit liberally.

And then Gaider got into the meat of the issue.

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. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.

The problem lies, as Gaider further explains, if the perception that the majority must be catered to.

And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

And suddenly I feel bad for being a straight male gamer. This wasn’t Gaider’s intent, of course, but after reading the words of someone claiming to speak for my demographic turned about in such a fashion, I can’t help but feel a little bit dirty.

While I deal with straight white male guilt, I leave you with Gaider’s sharp and poignant parting words.

And 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 Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer [BioWare Forums via Phyrra]


  • Woooow. That is truly an elegant smack down. I honestly hope the OP actually learned something from that post. Like was said above, he did make his point eloquently, so maybe he’s open to an eloquent response. Maybe.

  • Bastal completely missed the point Mr Gaider was trying to make about privilege. I’m not even sure he really understood what Mr Gaider meant by it either. Which is sad, in a way.

    This post here spawned another thread on the Bioware boards – “Companions Over-sexualized” (http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/306/index/6746572). The OP of this thread seems anti-romance in general, but specifically seems to have a problem with all the male characters “hitting on” his male Hawke. (In reality, only Anders hits on you (male OR female) without you first initiating a flirty dialogue choice.)

  • I partly agree with the OP but only the bit about none of the romancing options being particularly appealing. I solved that problem though by just not romancing anyone. Gaider’s right in that they have no obligation to cater for everyone (though that argument in itself is one that’s used a bit too often nowadays to justify many things that are wrong about a game). My biggest gripe with the game was its dumbing down but that’s an issue for another day.

  • There’s been a lot of these threads on the Bioware boards since the game was released and the worst thing about it is that they’re not little cheap shots, they’re actual rants, just walls of text showing a lot of ignorance and self-righteousness. I spend a lot of time gently discussing with those posters, not to bash them but for them to maybe realise these rants are mean and uncalled for.

  • Just saying “Hi” to Anders will literally force you into an “start relationship” or “Break his heart” conversation.

    Then there is Merrill. It’s possible to be at 100% rivalry with her, never choose a romantic response to her, have started a relationship with Isabella and in Act3 Merrill suddenly turns up at your house wanting to get you into bed?

    One of the weaknesses of DA2 to the original game is that in the original, you actually needed to do some work towards the friendship before getting the romance option. In DA2, it’s almost like everyone expects to die soon (say in about 20 odd hours when you complete the game) so feel the need to sow their seeds ASAP.

  • My issue with it was that they made it possible to flirt with EVERYONE other than Varric. I still recon they should of had another female interest and I was like w/e with Anders, like with Zephran, but the fact that there were romantic comments for Fenris, your sister blah blah regardless of your sex didn’t make sense in terms of real life relationships. You dont just flirt with a good male friend when you’re male it doesn’t make sense (Like with Fenris) and even with Anders when you expressed that you didn’t want to flirt with him you get 15 rivalry with him :S like wth, I’m being punished because I like women over men and just want to be friends with him. Not having a dig but there was a high level of homosexual themes throughout the game, I mean w/e floats your boat, but take it down a notch Bioware we are not all into same sex relationships, take an example from Mass Effect 2, thats got a good even balance imo Mass Effect 2 nailed it and Dragon Age 2 was rushed, but thats just me.

    • I’m sorry, what!? I was ready to ignore your comment right up until you mentioned Mass Effect 2 as your even romance options example. Don’t get me wrong I LOVED Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. But there are 0 (repeat – absolutely 0 ie. none at all) guy/guy romance options in it. There is also no complete girl/girl options in it. Yes you can flirt with Monrinth, Kelly and Samara as a girl, but for their own reasons each of these “romances” is not as full or complex as the other options and they are considered sub or secondary romances. (Monrinth will kill you if you sleep with her, Kelly’s flirting is not as detailed as that with companions, and Samara will choose her duty over you.) Out of all the DA and Mass Effect games Mass Effect 2 would be the LEAST even in the category of romance options. The game you are criticizing is the MOST even in romance options of any other game I can think of (which isn’t every game ever, but certainly includes ME2). It has 2 male and 2 female love interests and they are all open to anyone. How is that not fair and even? I know it is a little annoying that you have no option than to flirt with Anders or score massive rivalry points with him, but NEWSFLASH: that happens with a MALE OR FEMALE Hawke it’s just his personality, if you don’t like it don’t be friends with him. Plus, it is realistic that he gets pissed at you after you reject him, some people just can’t handle rejection. And if you so badly want to be friends with Anders it isn’t that hard to make up the rivalry points.

  • Was very happy with Merrill as a non-straight female. I’m sure I’ll be very happy with Isabela too when I replay it.

  • I gotta say, I was pretty gutted when I first loaded it up and the hottest girl was my sister :/ and as a (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY) very lucky person, I felt that this time around, there wasn’t anyone I particularly wanted to romance. Of course, the fact you can make your character practically naked and move the camera wherever you wanted kind of dismisses the claim it wasn’t made for us “lucky” people.

  • Ruined the Anders character for me.
    Perhaps when making our characters we should be able to set sexual alignment.
    Merryl’s body was pretty horrid too

  • Merrill is awesome. The cute innocence is charming. I agree with Samwiseburks, its a little too much Gay for a game that’s supposedly for everyone.

  • You can try and be all egalitarian about it, but the poster was entirely correct. The coregamer demographic is mostly male and thus they should be more closely catered towards.

    Just another fault in a disappointing game.

    • I agree, maybe if the guy was Black, Middle-eastern or even asian then I’d be inclined to agree with him. As it stands, he’s just plain ol’ vanilla… and nobody likes that.

  • Almost every companion in DA2 sucked balls. About the only half-decent characters r Varric, Bethany and Isabela. Everyone else looked like shit and have the worst personalities. You dont really feel any connection to them unlike in Origins where all the companions (except for that gay elf) r pretty well designed and u actually do form strong bonds with them due to their personality and ur interactions with them.

  • Straight male gamer wants to play an RPG game that caters to him? That’s what the Witcher is for.

    Anyone else get the feeling there’s going to be a “Bastal” mod for DA2 in the near future, where you play as a Gaymancer – like a Necromancer who only raises the gay dead?

  • Applying class analysis and cries of “straight white male privelige” to his complaint is frankly stupid.

    The reason he complained is, essentially, he didn’t find either Isabella or Merrill hot. Look at his own words;

    “The romance options, Isabella and Merrill, were clearly designed for the straight male gamers in mind. Unfortunately, those choices are what one would call “exotic” choices. They appeal to a subset of male gamers and while its true you can’t make a romance option everyone will love, with Isabella and Merrill it seems like they weren’t even going for an option most males will like.”

    So, in other words, he admits his demographic was catered for. He simply didn’t find the choices avaliable to his taste.

    His fundamental error was to assume that HIS taste in women is the “norm.” No, it isn’t. Heterosexual males are a varied lot and they do happen to have a variety of preferences (surprise!). What works for one straight male will not necessarily work for another straight male.

    I think the OP of that post is thus being stupid by assuming his specific tastes are the “norm” for all heterosexual males. This kind of assumption is the same kind of class analysis that the people screeching “privelige!” are employing.

    The OP of that thread should realize that his tastes are his tastes and thus do not necessarily prove anything about “heterosexual male gamers” as a whole.

  • I thought this was an RPG, not “Who do you think is the most attractive person IRL to settle down and have kids with”. Seriously, bitching and moaning because you can’t get hard over your videogame romance? Please. I play RPGs to, I dunno, ROLEPLAY, not be some creepy idealised version of myself and my ideal life.

  • Wow… He kind of made an unfair sweeping remark about a LOT of people.

    So… Being a straight male automatically means that I’m over-privileged, self-righteous and inconsiderate?

    I play what I like, and have ABSOLUTELY no problem with games being geared towards other groups than my own.

    Truth be told, I am a “chubby-chaser”. There are a lot of guys that like chubby girls. When are game developers going to cater to US? In all honesty, I don’t expect them to, nor would I get my panties in a twist about the fact that the only overweight people in Dragon Age are slobs.

    I enjoy the game. I enjoy the relationships among the characters.

    That is all.

  • People like blackwater are making the same mistake Bastal did – assuming that they know a damn thing about the demographics. As a feminist who hangs out in feminist circles, let me say that this has sparked a TON of interest among people who otherwise don’t play this sort of game. DA2 is being mocked for the same reason people mocked the Wii – that it isn’t going after the “core demographic.” But the reason why the Wii did so well is because they went out of their way to target people who DON’T think of themselves as gamers, because there are more of those people than there are of gamers to begin with. By being “casual-friendly” and the like they’ve made money hand over fist, and now Sony and Microsoft are trying to catch up with their own motion controls. Given that, why WOULDN’T someone try to entice that huge untapped market?

    tl;dr version: if you make games that only appeal to straight white male gamers, you will only get straight white male gamers as customers. Make a game that appeals to a broader range of people and you’ll get way more customers, even if you lose a few sexist/racist/homophobic assholes from the straight white male gamer base. And they’re jerks anyway, so fuck ’em.

  • The writer was wrong, but I still could care less about David Gaider.

    “To the OP: doing the same act repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. What you hope to achieve by posting the same thread over and over again I can’t honestly say.”

    Well, now he understands what it feels like being trapped in Kirkwall and the repetitive environments.

    “The majority has no inherent ‘right’ to get more options than anyone else.”

    Oh, really? You want to explain to me where all the colored people are in this damn game. Being a gamer of color you want to help me find the option to make a character of color that doesn’t look like they belong on Jersey Shore because the way the game is set up I only have the option to play as a white human, white elf, or white dwarf.

  • It seems like most people play through as their gender, and their gender only.
    Anders falls in love with you no matter what your gender is. ALL the romances are bisexual. So how is this being unfair? You want a straight m/f relationship? Flirt with Isabella.
    Personally I fell in absolute love with Fenris. And Anders. And Isabella.
    Merrill not so much, since I hated her in origins anyway and that hate transferred over to 2…
    Also, I am more offended by the people saying that games are for straight white men, than the fact that bioware made relationship options open to EVERYONE. While I agree that Anders is a little needy and clingy, thats simply his character. A female Hawke gets rivalry when she turns him down just as much as a male Hawke does.
    If you have a problem with equality, dont support and play the damn game. Simple as that.

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