You Can Thank Women For Dragon Age 3's Lack Of Creepy Sex Plot

Hearing that women make a difference in game development is one thing, seeing what it means in practice is another. Recently, David Gaider — lead writer on the Dragon Age franchise — posted a blog about how having women on his writing team affected something in Dragon Age 3.

The team was having a peer review about the game, and it seemed as if everything about a certain plot point was fine. Then, someone spoke up. A woman. The plot point, she argued, could easily be seen as a form of rape. Everyone became stunned — not because she was off-base, but because she was right. She was right, even though the writer didn't intend the scene to come off way, even though the team considers itself to be progressive.

In this case, it was not a long trip for the person playing through the plot to see what was happening at a slightly different angle, and it was no longer good-creepy. It was bad-creepy. It was discomforting and not cool at all. And this female writer was not alone. All the other women at the table nodded their heads, and had noted the same thing in their critiques.

What's curious about the team of writers on Dragon Age 3 is that it is primarily composed of women. Which leads Gaider to ask: what would have happened if that wasn't the case? Had the team been mostly guys — which isn't uncommon — would the scene have gone in? Gaider thinks so.

And this thought occurred as well: if this had been a team with no female perspective present, it would have gone into the game that way. Had that female writer been the lone woman, would her view have been disregarded as an over-reaction? A lone outlier? How often does that happen on game development teams, ones made up of otherwise intelligent and liberal guys who are then shocked to find out that they inadvertently offended a group that is quickly approaching half of the gaming audience?

Crisis averted, as Gaider says. Still, this example seems important in light of recent controversy surrounding the devastating things women in game development have to suffer just to be a part of this hobby we all love so much. They have to go through these things, even though they can often make our games better.

It makes me wonder too — how many creepy sex things in games have occurred because there wasn't a woman on the team that dared to speak up? Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about, but there are quite a few creepy sex scenes or things with awful sexual undertones that sneak their way into games. Things that I doubt were intended to be uncomfortable, or if they are purposefully that way, the intention is not worthwhile/good enough to warrant potentially triggering someone.

I think, for instance, of the Madison Paige's nightmare in Heavy Rain, where she is running away from an assailant in her own home. I think of how a different Bioware game, Mass Effect 2, has you "fixing" Jack — a character with PTSD — by having sex with her while she cries. I think of Quantic Dream's recent Kara video, where a female android begs a man to stop dissembling her.

Maybe these situations seem thrilling, seem beautiful, seem awe-inspiring. Or, they might seem disgusting. It depends, but it's not a stretch for either to be true. Would you realise it without someone telling you that was the case, without having, for one second, some empathy for the sensitivities of another human being?

Regardless of how absurd it might seem, sometimes it does take a woman to notice something is off. Hopefully development studios take this fact to heart.


    What are you saying though? That those scenes should not have been in those games at all?

    I've played Mass Effect 2 and I don't remember Jack being 'fixed' by that scene. And I think the game would have been weakened without her issues being present. In my ongoing save I always refused Jack's advances because it just seemed wrong, but....

    What I'm saying is that censorship because of fear of not being politically correct, takes away a lot of what makes life interesting. Creepy stuff can be interesting, because it's so weird.

    I definitely think games need to grow up. But why don't you talk about the games that are really the problem? Like the recent chainsaw zombie game? THAT's a big problem right there.

    The thing about Jack is that there really are people out there with those issues. And they do like to have sex, for all sorts of weird reasons. If developers just remove that stuff from games because someone will be offended, then it homogenises the experience for the worst. Sometimes good art does confront, and then it makes you think about the issues for yourself and come to a deeper realisation about who you are.

    If we remove that ability from games, then we stunt the art form and leave it as 'light entertainment', which in my view is a shame. I want to be challenged occasionally. And I want the choice to avoid art that I find distasteful. Not to simply have that art not be created at all.

    Last edited 01/12/12 11:07 am

      I can't say how much I agree with this post... well said.

      Don't be stupid! You can't have storyline in a game! If you have storyline in a game it's going to offend someone!

      I agree with this. Creepy people exist in the real world. They should exist in the virtual as well (when appropriate). Just handle the issues with maturity but leave that stuff in. Maybe that way games and gamers can grow up as a culture/subculture/society/industry/whatever.

      You're missing the point. This isn't about whether such things should be allowed in games at all, it's saying that if they are included they should be carefully considered to ensure they serve their intended purpose. In the case of DA3, it's clear the way the story was being interpreted was not how the writer intended and that's why it was cut. So lets ease off on the cries of censorship, that's not what this is about.

        Agreed, a little reading of what is being said helps. Instead of smashing the keys in perceived anger at what is, in fact not being said.

    So the next game might be an RPGS instead of a dating sim? Awesome.

    Unintentional rape scene? how does that even happen?

      Well they didn't supply any detail, but the writers may have overlooked concepts such a statutory rape, or perhaps one of the characters was unconscious or under the influence (and maybe the writers forgot)... or the character just didn't implicitly respond in a positive way, and that left doubts in some peoples minds.

      If I had to guess I'd say it was a scene involving a bad character pressuring someone into sex. SWTOR had a couple of scenes like that. They're intended for 'evil' characters as bad guy scenes, and they come off as reluctantly consensual rather than rape, but ultimately you end up having sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you.

    And this is why Bioware games suck now. They're too concerned about social issues with their writing to actually come up with anything worth playing.

      Because good writing always getting in the way of gameplay is the primary problem with the gaming industry right now...

        Bioware just has "writing", there's not much of it that qualifies as good

        BioWare games are basically turning into 'progressive social lesson of the day.' Homosexuality, racism, anti-semitism, religious fundamentalism, etc are all big issues that are crammed into the most cookie-cutter packages then shoved down our throats.

        I have a fairly liberal outlook myself, but this indoctrination is so heavy-handed and jarring. I play games for escapism, I don't need to have poorly-handled real world concerns on my screen, especially when it's so transparent and ripped wholesale from reality (3 guesses who the Qunari and Quarians are supposed to be).

          You know how I know that you're not really that 'liberal' at all?

          Of course you may have meant 'Liberal', in which case carry on with your mouthbreathing outrage.

            Sure buddy, because the person who's all for gay rights, equal pay, drug legalisation, separation of church and state, hate crime laws, and has exclusively voted for centre-left parties must be a fascist. You seem to live in a childish world where people can conveniently move the goalposts on pushing an agenda. I find it distasteful, even if it's supposedly from 'my side.'

            BioWare's cramming of social issues down our throat is any less subtle than Star Trek TOS's transparent black/white face alien people. And yes, while it's not as disgusting as right-wing indoctrination, let people develop their own ideas about social good without the need for a poorly-rendered and wooden sex scene with a twinky elf.

          The thing is, all media "fills in the gaps" on what is current issue. In the 80s it was films about perceived threats like Russian invaders and Palestinian terrorists - Red Dawn, The Delta Squad Movies, Rocky 4 (well any movie with Stallone) and even in comedy with films like Stripes, Spies Like Us and The Experts. Video games where the same - Raid over Moscow, Green Beret and of course the Rambo games. So it's nothing new and it will not go away as it is a reflection of our times. And of course - Art imitates life.

          Hey man. Not cool. I'm a queer romani girl who adores BioWare games because they give ME escapism. Do you think it's relaxing or stress relieving to play every game I'm interested in and be constantly reminded that straight white men are the norm? I love games like The Last of Us and The Witcher but there is something so incredibly liberating about playing a game where I not only get to be myself, but see the issues that affect me addressed rather than glossed over and ignored like they were in Skyrim (No offense to Skyrim of Bethesda. I love that game regardless).

          tl;dr: If you don't like it, for godssake, don't play it. There are a bazillion other gaming companies out there and a bazillion other games where you can play the macho heterosexual white man you want to play. But the rest of us want escapism just as much as you do.

      This a million times over. Expect your only love interest to be a gay tranny elf because everything else would be sexist.

    "Like the recent chainsaw zombie game? THAT's a big problem right there."

    Oh no you didn't! Man everybody is ragging on this.

    I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the "She's right. It IS rape!" brain-storming session. The dialogue and relationships in BioWare games are getting more heavy-handed and awkward.

    Reading that story it seems there were several women in the room who agreed with it... but didn't mention it being rape until someone else did.
    At least, that's the way I'm reading it...

    Some context would have been nice. What I see here is a (poorly written) feminist rant against a perceived nondescript evil. Lets not discuss things or analyze them, lets instead dismiss them because they don't fit a emotionally convenient idea we have come to take for granted. Namely that there is some sort of illusive prejudice lurking in the hearts of men and then it ought to be brought to the light and stomped out by righteous blog posts on gaming websites. Another victory to be sure.

    Now if only they could spot the rest of the crap writing before it gets into the game...

    Seriously, Hawke was an irrelevant character by the third act of DA2, and I'm pretty sure making the player's presence in the game superfluous is a big no-no.

    I'm always glad to see a company push the envelope, and Bioware have always tried interesting and new things with their characters, but I also think that there needs to be a balance between doing something different and being offensive. I'm glad to see that they have an equitable solution here which accounts for differing view points and allows the game to be stronger without being over the top. Bravo to the team.

    I am interested, but I would like to know, what WAS the scene? and why was it seemingly so carefully omitted from the article?

    It's difficult to form an opinion on this without knowing what the scene actually was. From what the original blog post says, it was a situation like the somewhat famous optical illusion of the old lady and young girl ( Look at it one way, you see a beautiful, young girl, but then someone else may see the old hag and suddenly you see it too. The truth is, both are actually entirely valid viewpoints and no matter who views it, there is always going to be more than one way to interpret it.

    What if this scene was vital to character development though? A morally grey person who sees their actions as acceptable and valid while others with a different set of morals may view it as distasteful, bordering on obscene. (Again, not knowing anything about the original problem) Should it be changed? It's part of who the character is. From the sounds of it, the author was intending something that made the viewer feel a little uncomfortable and perhaps feel like this character was not actually a nice person. I guess we'll never know now.

    It's difficult to opine on the issue without knowing exactly what the scene was but this idea of censoring out unpalatable ideas and concepts isn't a good trend. That is what a ratings system should be for to prevent minors from accessing mature content, which isn't to say the mature content shouldn't be present in games. Even topics as contentious as rape shouldn't be excluded - especially in light of the fact that a great deal of video gaming centers around murder, of all things.

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