Dragon Age Writer Trashes Romance in Video Games
Dragon Age Writer David Gaider has recently gone on record against romance in video games. What’s slightly ironic about that is that Dragon Age – along with most of BioWare’s other titles – all include romance as part of gameplay in some form or fashion. Citing romance in games as a “side show” and not necessary to the game’s storytelling, Gaider stated on his blog that romance was optional – just a little extra side quest thrown in to appease gamers and give them something else to do.
Say what? Has he never actually played Dragon Age? Some of the romances actually drive the story! For example, in my first play-through of Dragon Age, my character romanced Alistair (oh, Alistair…). And because of that, the end of the game was drastically changed as Alistair threw himself into the lion’s den (or dragon’s den, as it were) and took my character’s place in slaying the beast – resulting in his death. Would Alistair have done that had it not been for the romance? I don’t think so.
In my second playthrough of Dragon Age, I thought I would cheat Alistair from this noble act and kept him out of my party. Instead, my character died for him and that final speech he gave about what a wonderful person my character had become set the tone for the next game, Dragon Age II.
So, exactly, how is that a “side show?” The romance affects the story, which is the primary reason we play BioWare games, right? That makes the romance integral to the plot and storyline, even if it is optional.
Gaider also stated that not every character should be sexually available to the protagonist. Again, I disagree. This sort of choice gives us, as players, a chance to explore diversity within the game and see how being intimate with any number of characters affects the outcome of the story. You know, sort of like real life – but better. Gaider wrote that he feels that this “objectifies” those characters. I’m not entirely sure I see how -by making them romantically interesting? How is that objectification?
There was something, though, that Gaider stated that I did agree with, and perhaps that ties in with the above:
I would, however, resist making the romance elements of our games more prominent without also changing the nature of that content. Adding an element of failure, for instance, or by having not all characters be available to all player characters (they’re attracted only to certain types, for instance). Adding different types of romance: tragic romances, romances where your partner cheats on you, romances where the character is already involved in another relationship, characters that don’t know how to relate to someone else on a romantic level or aren’t interested in such.
I do agree that this would take the games’ stories in a new direction and perhaps this is something we’ll see in Dragon Age III.
But Gaider’s attitude that the romances don’t have anything to do with the plot is misguided: That is something we inherently disagree about. Sometimes romance can make the plot better – give it an emotional depth it did not previously have. To many players, that’s as important as slaying the mighty dragon at the end of the game.