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The Games We Play: The Straight Male Gamer's Privilege

DragonAge2 2011-03-27 20-11-03-35

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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Comments

10 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Yay

Yay for Bioware, I guess. I'm glad that they had the gumption to stand up for not only their choices in making the game, but for the inclusion of non-straight characters/gamers, and I'm glad they seem to understand, at least in this circumstance, the idea of privilege.

Sweet

Mad props to Gaider for reminding the privileged jerk that not everything has to be made specifically for his pleasure. Its nice to know there are some people in the VG industry who aren't douchebags.

Dragon Age

I'm so proud of David Gaider for speaking up. Dragon Age: Origins is my favorite game. I enjoyed romancing Alistair and Leliana the first time around, and have several potential romances with both sexes in Dragon Age II. I'm not surprised to hear a bunch of people whining about this, but I'm pleased to see that BioWare and David Gaider are taking a stand.

Oh privilege denying dude, you never amaze me.

Okay, so this dude is upset because the gays will get him in a video game. Doesn't he realize it's just "a bunch of pixels" and nobody's actually getting converted? What are the chances are he used the "just pixels" excuse when defending the right to play other video games that depict the violent rape of women and children?

Plus, you really don't

Plus, you really don't stumble on any of the heavy flirting. If the characters initiate you always have the option to turn them down (often also quite harshly), but to get to a certain point, you really have to have consciously chosen certain options yourself.

This reminds me of when ME came out and some male gamers played a female Shepard and then got all upset that they were "tricked into" a gay (?) romance with Kaidan.

I must have missed that...

Because there is no part of that last statement that I don't understand (meaning that I can't follow that logic train -- how does f!Shep + Kaidan = gay romance? Zuh?).

Also, any way you play it, Anders and Fenris are really difficult to initiate romance with. You really have to follow that up, and I was exaggerating. They don't openly flirt with you unless you do it first (marked with a GREAT BIG GOLD HEART ICON), and Anders only initiates the first "move" after a lot of convincing way into the second act (I haven't done a Fenris romance yet, though he tried to "sneak romance" me, so I don't know how his plays out...only that Anders is the only LI in the game who will make the first physical move). You can't really accidentally stumble into it. Someone was being intentionally dishonest.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

Hmm

Having not played DAII, I figured that the other characters would have been initiating the flirting that got Privilege Denying Dude's Extremely Masculine Boxers (tm) in a twist. But it sounds like aside from fairly innocuous commentary that can be stopped, the game only gets as "gay" as the player allows. So either the player followed a dialogue tree that he realized too late had homosexual under/over tones, or he can't even deal with a casual come-on from a (fictional) character of his own sex/gender. This just got even weirder to me.

They put (as said) a big

They put (as said) a big giant yellow heart icon on all the flirt options.
Because the set place on the dialogue wheel and, you know, the text itself, aren't obvious enough already. Also there is no save option! You totally can't go back and unruin your game if you did, by some miracle, accidentally get to a really awkward part of a romance (after accident number 4 or so).

A thing I think has to be

A thing I think has to be said about Dragon Age II:

It is a ROLEPLAYING game. If you don't let the events and people of the game influence the choices you make for your character, you will find it mediocre, or even boring, I think.

When it came to romance, my handsome white-haired rogue archer Jebediah had a flirt with Isabela, but when Anders came along and expressed his feelings for Jebediah, I suddenly felt it. This relationship makes total sense. Throughout the decisions and battles of the history thus far, Anders had been a constant source of comfort and security for Jebediah, giving advice, healing and encouragement, and in turn deeply involving Jebediah in his own devoted struggle and emotions.

Anders was the person Jebediah was meant for, all along. I won't spoil anything, but in certain scenes of forgiveness and devotion and love towards the end, I felt cemented in this belief.

But see, if you go into this game without letting it affect you, go into the game thinking "I will root for the mages no matter what" (for example) and don't even consider the options when events come to pass that would make any person rethink their priorities, or atleast weigh the opposite perspective, then you are missing out on the epicness that this game can have. On the feelings it can communicate,

A great game by Bioware, I think. Not least the romances. I had to replay it to try different relationships and different decisions and mindsets. So, like you, I salute the lead writer, and hope for more of the kind. Great article, by the way.

For the record, I am a

For the record, I am a straight male, and this spectacular romance did in no way "ruin" the game for me.