How I Realised My Dragon Age: Inquisition Character Is Gay

How I Realised My Dragon Age: Inquisition Character is Gay

Some hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition, long after I'd made it out of the Hinterlands, I realised something that really surprised me. My character had taken on a life of his own, and it turns out he's gay. Spoilers below!

Character creation in role-playing games like Inquisition seems to get more detailed all the time -- just look at all those beard options -- but for me that means just one thing: being able to make my RPG protagonists look more and more like me with every new game. They're idealised, with better posture, more muscles and fuller beards, but they're definitely me -- or how I'd like to see myself, at least.

Throughout these games my characters do what I would do and act like I'd act in the perfect world. We help the weak, thwart the cruel and show mercy to those who deserve it. I always go full paragon and, just like in real life, I feel guilty when I stray from that path.

My in-game alter-egos always romance the characters who I actually feel attracted to. In Dragon Age: Origins that meant I flirted with Leliana and ultimately wound up with Morrigan, her inner darkness impossible for me to resist. Throughout the Mass Effect series my Commander Shepard maintained an on-again/off-again, sometimes long distance love affair with the blue alien Liara. I loved her attitude and her squishy tentacle hair, and I felt a connection with her since she'd been around from the beginning.

I looked forward for a long time to finding out who my true romance would be in Dragon Age: Inquisition. But as I kept playing I found myself waiting longer and longer for the Right Person to arrive. I eventually learned that Cassandra and Josephine are the only romance-able straight females in the game. They're both great in their own ways, but neither jumped out at me. I felt no love-at-first-sight. I was frustrated.

I'm thrilled that BioWare created a more diverse and complex cast of characters. They aren't stereotypes, and that makes it more difficult to immediately glob onto one or another and say "this is the one for me." It forces players to go about their Inquisition romances more naturally; flirt a little here or there, but only get really serious once you've actually formed a connection with someone, as opposed to jumping straight to the redhead or the one with the most cleavage. Or you can opt out of a romance entirely, if you don't like any of the people in your protagonist's life. That's a valid option, and there is plenty more to do in this game besides get it on. I get that.

But it turns out there is a Right Person for me in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I knew it the second I saw him, even though it took me by surprise: that person is Dorian and my Herald of Andraste is gay.

How I Realised My Dragon Age: Inquisition Character is Gay

It all suddenly made sense. Just look at them -- they're perfect for one another! I usually try to avoid spoilers as much as possible for games I'm really looking forward to, so I had no idea Dorian existed until I met him in the game. It's an awesome coincidence that they look like they go to the same stylist, and it's easy to imagine them walking hand-in-hand down the street in my trendy hipster LA neighbourhood. I didn't design my character to be gay, but then it's never really a choice, and when I realised this I actually felt as if he'd come out to me, his creator. I was excited. I even tweeted about it.

People weigh so many different factors when they're designing their video game characters. One friend of mine always plays as a female character because he finds them more pleasing to look at, which is understandable. I play Destiny every week with Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton and his three Guardians, two of which are female -- and for no particular reason, he told me. But at least in RPGs he does tend to play as women because "those sorts of games feel more interesting when the main character is a woman, since we rarely get sci-fi or fantasy epics with women in the lead role," which is a fair point; and he always chooses female characters in BioWare games, because the female actors are usually better. Indeed, lots of Mass Effect players -- male, female and otherwise -- choose to play as the female Commander Shepard because they prefer the voice actress, Jennifer Hale.

I craft my characters to be like myself because it provides me with an easy way to mentally insert myself into the game world. When my character's moral compass is the same as mine I don't need to deliberate over what to do in most situations, and I can help him forge bonds with the other characters with whom I personally feel a connection.

But as I get older I find myself being able to empathise better with people whose life experiences are not like my own. I'm writing more and more about female game developers and people who identify as trans, and about people who suffer from things I don't have much experience with, like developers who use games to work through their depression. And that's opening me up to new perspectives.

How I Realised My Dragon Age: Inquisition Character is Gay

A younger me might have been frustrated by Inquisition's lack of romance options for straight male characters, as some of the game's fans are. Straight female protagonists have four romance choices (granted depending on their race as well), twice as many as straight males and some really appealing characters -- including Leliana, Vivienne and Sera -- aren't interested in romancing men (or anyone at all, in the case of Vivienne and Leliana).

There are countless topics about this on Reddit and GameFAQs and BioWare's official forums, and everywhere else people gather to talk about Dragon Age, and it seems for every five people who are totally satisfied with Inquisition's relationship choices there's at least one who feels ripped off.

But I recognise the unique opportunity this has given me: to for the first time see a role-playing game protagonist as something other than an avatar for myself. I still feel a connection with my Inquisitor, but he's also taken on a life of his own. As I continue trying to save the world in the latest (and possibly greatest) Dragon Age game, delivering people's letters and chasing Dorian's well-moustachioed tail, I'm not stepping into the game world itself, but into the shoes of a gay man who already lives there. And for that I am thankful.


Comments

    Yeah, good for you. The rest of us straight men have to mull it though with the religious fanatic and frency-girl.

    SRS: Really, roleplaying as myself it is incredibly difficult to even see a friendly relationship with Cassandra (Let alone a romantic one) and whats-her-frenchy doesnt seem to actually have a character.

    Yeah, the relationships in this game are terrible for straight characters - male and female, i find - because a good half of them seem to only work though the "Lol" factor. Lets romance the giant horned grey dude! Isnt that funny and zany? Or the weird moustache gay dude - arent all his jokes funny and totaly appropriate? Theres no real serious, basic, normal love storys to be had.

    Sure, thats good for many people, but for those who still think that relationships are srs business, the lack of choice is nearly insulting compared to the Gay, Bi, Inter-special romances.

    The cynic in me thinks that Bioware spent much too much time on creating relationships that would be lauded by LGBT and Tumblr groups and only threw in straight couplings afterwards. At least women get Blackwall, who is a reasonable character.

    Seriously. There are eight characters to romance, of which three are women to romance, and only one of them is straight. Come on.

    But in the end, i agree that choice is important, and for those who dont want a basic, straight relationship have more than a few choices. You got everything from weird bumpkin elf-girl to broody/mysterious (I could never tell what they were going for) elf mage.

    It just sucks having to be stuck with the Religious Fanatic.

    ...That makes me think that might have been biowares point, actually.

    Last edited 11/01/15 3:51 pm

      Feeling left out? it doesn't feel very nice does it....honestly I'm not 100% across the frequency of gay/bi relationships in games, but I don't think that I'm going out on a limb when I say that there are almost certainly vastly fewer out there currently than there are straight relationships. This game comes out, which does the reverse of the norm (not only being inclusive but actually having more options for gay/bi characters than for straight), and you come out and bag it like they've done you a personal disservice, essentially because you're straight and you haven't been catered for in the manner you feel accustomed to. Nice one.

      Anyway, on the plus side, hopefully you can now begin to understand how i'd imagine many gay/bi/trans people feel when they play games which have no options for them at all. No-one likes feeling left out.

        Yeah, you are right. How dare i have an opinion relating directly to the topic at hand?

        In fact, your argument has convinced me that next time i'm eating a steak, i should feel bad because some Ethiopian child never got the opportunity.

        Because thats the same argument as the one you are forwarding.

        I shouldn't feel... "Left out" because someone else is.

        And come ON. Am i really not alowed to voice my opinion when it coincides, or is at least related to, the vast of peoples experiences? Not everyone is gay. Get over it. Not everyone is straight. Get over it. Bemoaning the lack of choice for either orientation is a fair argument.

        Be at least fair, dude.

          Relax dude, I was in no way implying that you can't have an opinion (I honestly don't know how you picked that up from what I wrote), I simply disagree with your opinion, and the privilege upon which it appears to be based.

          In any event I think you may have misinterpretted what I was trying to say - to use your example to explain, it would be like eating steak every night for years while other people are starving, then when the starving person gets a steak and you don't, you criticise the person giving out the steaks because you didn't get one. Bemoaning the lack of choice for your own orientation doesn't seem fair to me if there isn't an actual lack of choice for your orientation (or more accurately, that the lack of choice you experience is several orders of magnitude less acute than the lack of choice others' experience) - there is a lack of choice for you in one, single game. It's not the end of the world.

          But hey, I certainly don't want you to feel left out. In fact I don't want anyone to feel left out. That was my whole point in the first place. If I had my way everyone would to be able to have a steak for every meal if they wanted to. But if going without a steak once in a while helps the regular steak eaters to better understand the experience of those that rarely get to eat steak, or challenges the oft unchallenged privelege demonstrated by those regular steak eaters, then that's a pretty good silver lining I guess.

            Whoa dude, this game cost way to much to be lacking in something bioware is known for, "romance choices" that's one of the reasons I've played there games, connecting to the npc's it was always a great experience... In the past they have good choices, but I spent 60$to see how they have advanced in all this... Good game... Horrible choice in romantic interests... It kills some of the Fun in this game. It's like I paid for a gourmet meal and got.... Cafeteria food..

      It's not all sunshine and rainbows for GLBTI gamers either though... those looking for a Male/Male relationship are given the choice of a flamboyant stereotypical gay character or a sado masochist who's into BDSM two extremes of the spectrum that doesn't suit everyone.

      The bottom line is though not everyone is going to connect with the available characters... and sometimes we make in game decisions we wouldn't in real life, ie I had to romance Isabella in DA:2 to keep her around for the third act, and Mike chose to romance Dorian.

      All that being said kudo's for Bioware having a stab, better than just ignoring everyone.

      Firstly, Josephine is Antivan, which is Fantasy Italy, not Fantasy France (that's Orlais). Secondly, why does it matter that Josephine is also into women if you're romancing her as a male character? Not that I would, not a huge fan of the character.

      Secondly, you think the Blackwall is a reasonable option? I've not played through or watched video of that romance, but considering his personal quest I very much doubt it plays out ok.

      Thirdly, you've got "basic, straight options" in Cullen, Cassandra, Solas, Blackwall, and I would argue Josephine. That's five out of eight options.

    We all know that its not the character thats gay. It's time to come out of the closet.

      My character is almost always black when the option is presented, it hasn't turned me black. And also if I happen to go the straight romance option it hasn't turned me straight, I just liked the dynamic more for the characters.

    The character is not gay. The choices made by the player made him gay aka yourself :)

      "I am not gay, never have been, never will be!"

        What is a closet? And how did he get in one?

      If i roleplay as a woman, does that make me able to give birth?

        Well you definitely can't give birth BUT it might be your inner desire to do so if you picked a woman or just because the character model looks nicer but it is not the case with dragon age.

          Well sure, it might. Might not be too - Maybe I choose all of my character's attributes using a random number generator, then play the character as befits their randomised background and see what happens (you know, like....role-playing?)

          read @transientmind's comments below - sums up my thoughts pretty succintly

            Yeap he is right. At the same time you cannot deny what could be the reasoning in choosing a female character. Unless you blindfold yourself and random, there are always a reason why the decision is made. Personally I think female models look 100x better than male, not to mention the end game gears. I like to stare at the butt in 3rd person and occasionally swing the camera around to see some boob physics.

            Just guy things. I know some people that chooses female characters because they can't be female in real life, sort of a true self online or something.

    I played a game the other day. It didn't have any social commentary in it what so ever. Frankly I was disgusted!

    But I recognise the unique opportunity this has given me: to for the first time see a role-playing game protagonist as something other than an avatar for myself.
    I find it incredibly strange that people don't do this by default. You are not Commander Shepard. She is her own person, a character whose decisions you influence to see the story you would prefer.

      There's an article kicking around somewhere from a while back, where a couple of academics researched the personality traits of people and their characters that they create in video games.

      Turns out Introverts tend to re-create themselves, or an exaggerated/superhero/idealised version of themselves (prettier, more moral, stronger etc.).

      Extroverts tend to create characters separate of their own identity.

      *The more you know* *Rainbow*

        Was that published/reposted here? I might have to look for it. This is interesting to me, because I'm a massive introvert and thus an exception to those findings. But I am, however, irrationally confident in my personality, which I suspect may not be a common introvert trait. I'm thinking maybe they thought they were measuring one thing, but actually just measuring an overlap.

        Tangentially-related, if you hang out in role-playing communities (which I did for a while), you tend to find a really disproportionately high (compared to the rest of the population) number of trans folk, for whom identity issues and self-insertion RP avatars are a really big deal.

        Hell, I know one girl actually refuses to play a game if it only has a male protagonist instead of a non-human to not have to relate to or a female shell to force into being an avatar; developer-dictated scripted personalities be damned. (Behaviour explained by some really impressive logic jumps.) Anything else tends to aggravate her dysmorphia.

        But I've always thought the self-insertion route was the exception, not the rule. So it's weird to see so many people assuming the opposite. (Like the sophomoric examples who consider it weird for a guy to play a girl in an MMO, or think playing a gay video game character is a sign of being closeted yourself.)

          Ok, found one:

          On avatars as an expression of identity: http://www.gse.upenn.edu/~kafai/paper/whyville_pdfs/DIGRA07_avatar.pdf

          Let me have a hunt around during lunch and I'll find the one I'm thinking of, but there are a number of articles on that DiGRA site - and most (if not all) are available to the general public!

    I prefer following the story of a fleshed out character, rather than following a lifeless character that I (the player) basically invent through decision making process during the game.
    I think written characters make a game much more memorable. Kind of why Halo is still so much better than Destiny.
    Still, I can't wait to give this game a crack.

    Last edited 11/01/15 11:28 pm

      I think this is why I really enjoyed Mass Effect. Commander Shepard strides up to her SO & specialist and like... your very first dialogue option allows you to ask, "Protheans?" and instead of asking about something you really probably should already know about like some sudden amnesiac, she asks something related and pertinent, just oozing with personality and experience. And in that moment you realize it's not a blank slate. This character has a history and a personality, you just get to nudge it some.

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