It was with some interest that I read that there were people complaining about there being too many gay people in Dragon Age 2, no doubt preceding their words with the phrase “I’m not homophobic, but.” For all of Dragon Age 2‘s problems, that shouldn’t be one of them. By my count, as a male protagonist, there are three girls you can mess around with, and only two boys who are up for sausage sandwiches. And it’s easy enough to simply not pursue any saucy flirts with anyone you’re not into. Are there men so insecure that they’re offended by fictional gay men coming onto their fictional avatars? Surely at worst it’s just a nice compliment and you can then politely set them straight, if that’s not an unfortunate choice of words.
David Gaider’s statement that the romances in DA2 are intended for “everyone” struck a chord with me, because I already intended to write a column about my personal experience with the romances in the game. I think David’s statement goes deeper than he may have intended – any player of any sexuality can enjoy any of the romances in the game.
I’m going to repeat what I said to the developers of Silent Hill Shattered Memories: the person you are in a game is not the person you are in reality. You reinvent yourself for every new world. I know some people try to play their RPG protagonists as close to their own personalities (and even appearances) as they can, but I like to create a new character, building an image of their personality in my mind that grows with each dialogue and story choice. In other words, I like to role play. I assumed that was the point of a role-playing game. And while playing Dragon Age 2 my Hawke ended up being gay. Now, I am absolutely certain that I myself am into chicks. I like to joke about it but I’m secure in the knowledge that I like having sex with ladies best. I’ve thought about it and find little appeal in the idea of doing the various things one does with another man’s old chap.
But that’s just sex. I’m of the opinion that this societal notion that you can only have strong feelings of affection or romance for someone you want to bone is a severely restrictive one. Even though I’ve only ever stuck it into things that I’ve been 80-100% certain were vaginas, I will say without qualification that David Bowie was an extraordinarily sexy man in his youth. I could see myself becoming infatuated with another man, assuming we were all clear that I definitely wouldn’t take it as far as horizontal spelunking. I mean, I was examined by a proctologist once and it didn’t exactly set my world aflame.
So I like to think I’m sexually secure enough to role play as a gay man. But here’s the part that I find most interesting. I didn’t consciously decide going into DA2 that Hawke favoured the bologna over the clam chowder. It wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Early on I took the flirty conversation options with everyone I could, just for a laugh, or because I suspected there’d be rewards later on if I got them all on my good side.
But then there was Anders. Anders, with his coquettish rosy cheeks and his slightly dodgy voice acting and his well-groomed hair that all the other characters say is blonde but is blatantly ginger. Oh, Anders, why did my spirit leap so when you revealed yourself, early in the game, to be a friend of Dorothy? Why did you quickly become an almost permanent mainstay of my regular adventuring party? Well, I can answer that one: because he was the only character with Healing magic, but shut up, I’m role playing.
With no apparent conscious intention on my part my Hawke’s relationship with Anders swiftly scooted all the way up to maximum affection on the Friend/Rival bar. And at one pivotal moment after an Anders-specific quest, I made some flirty talk and Anders complained that he never knew if I was serious or just teasing him. I once (IRL) had the same conversation with a girl, and we started dating very soon afterwards, so maybe this is what drove it home for me.
The option to plant a big wet one on his quivering pout popped up, and I thought to myself, yes. Thinking about it, there is nothing about this that doesn’t make sense for my version of Hawke. The signs were there. The lengthy use of Anders as a party member, the immediate prioritization of Anders quests over all others, constantly running to Anders’ aid before anyone else in battle (yes, he was just useful in combat, still role playing here). And Hawke’s preference for using slightly hateful comedy quips was obviously a defense mechanism he was using to hide his burning desires. Plus, obviously gay floppy hairdo. So I gave the go-ahead and cheerfully watched two burly men make out on my big screen TV.
What’s even odder, and this is virtually unprecedented in my experience with BioWare RPGs and most games with romantic options, is that I, the player, suddenly also had a weird attachment to Anders, once he and my avatar became bum chums. I delighted in his every embarrassed smile when the other party members brought up our relationship. I eschewed all flirty conversation options with everyone else, because I didn’t want to break his little heart. I decided that Hawke was an old-fashioned, monogamous old queen.
At the end of the game, Anders played a rather large part in a significant story event that I won’t spoil, but it tested our relationship to the limit, I tell ye that. I found it in me – I mean, Hawke – to forgive him, and then got the ending where the two of them ran away together, which was all the payoff I needed. Then, even having finished the game and moved onto Pokemon White, I named my starting Tepig “Anders” to keep the magic of his memory alive in some small way.
I suppose it’s a significant point in a game’s favor that it can provoke this kind of emotion, but I wonder how much of it was intended by the developers and how many blanks were filled in within my crazed mind alone. The long and the short of it is, if you honestly can’t find something beautiful in the self-sacrificing devotion between two people just because they’re both trouser-wearers, then I pity you, I really do.
By the way, if you also pursued the Anders romance in Dragon Age 2, then please don’t tell me about it. I … I don’t think I’d be able to look at him the same way again.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.