The Games We Play: The Straight Male Gamer's Privilege
Oppressing straight, male, gamers everywhere: Anders.
[Text reads: I can't give you a normal life. If you're with me, we'll be hunted, hated. The whole world will be against us.]
Gentle Readers! I love email! I love feedback! I love the gentle warm glow that emanates from these things.
So I was very excited to receive the messages that I did from several of you about the oppression of the noble Straight Male Gamer that has been going on so that Bloglandia could act swiftly upon it!
A player of BioWare's recently released Dragon Age II (a game that I am hips-deep in as of this writing) wrote on the BioWare Social Forum a complaint, stating that game devs "neglected their main demographic: The Straight Male Gamer." Essentially, the poster posits that the vast majority of RPG gamers are straight and male, and BioWare's progressive romance option was awkward to them all and ruined the gaming experience. I guess he is the representative of all straight dudes everywhere? I didn't know they had an election this year.
Apparently having Fenris (a fierce warrior male elf who is tattooed with a magic-infused ore that grants him arcane powers) flirt with you after shoving his arm through a street full of guards was off-putting. The thought of Anders, a male mage, grabbing you and kissing you right after insisting that he is too far damaged, ruins the whole game for straight men.
The point isn't even really numbers on how many queer or straight people are playing games, because I know plenty of straight gamers who explore the homosexual options allowable in BioWare games. This erasure of anyone other than the Default Gamer is, while not unsurprising, still a bit angry-making. I doubt that there's a lack of QUILTBAG gamers who want an inclusive experience, and who are still feeling the sting of other oversights BioWare has made to their personhood. The fact that any game company pushes past the expectations of straight, male, privilege is heartening. We have a ways to go, but it all starts somewhere.
David Gaider, a lead writer of the Dragon Age series and author of the Dragon Age prequel novels, didn't just ignore this rant. He spoke up, denying that it is a right of anyone to presume that they have dominion over in-game content that erases experiences of minorities for the comfort of the majority. Privilege he spoke of, and privilege, he said, is a premise that allows the majority to feel that they are entitled and should always be catered to. It doesn't hurt the privileged majority to allow a better experience for an oppressed minority.
The Dragon Age games are some of my favorites, and while they are not without flaw, I have played my money's worth of them for sure. Part of what has endeared them to me is the progressive feel of the character interaction and the way that they smartly raise political issues within story lines. Attentiveness to QUILTBAG issues is, in my mind, a welcome and refreshing thing to see and hear from the industry.
Video game companies that make heaps of cash don't need me to defend them, but when a lead writer for a game comes out in their message boards and publicly defends the concept of minority gamers not being erased, I will and do have to laud that.
Now if we can get them to be more attentive to trans issues in future games, I will be ecstatic.
Photo courtesy of the always awesome Twist_Shimmy
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