BioWare writer stands up for inclusivity in games, tells entitled straight male gamer his privilege is showing.

Here is a great bit of news on the gaming front.

Recently, BioWare released their newest role-playing game, Dragon Age II. In it, you have five companions your protagonist (who can be male or female and any race) can start a relationship with: one is chaste and available only to women protagonists (!), and the other four (two men, two women) are available to protagonists of either sex.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has caused a stir among gamers for any number of entitled and backwards-thinking reasons. One such complaint showed up recently in the official BioWare forums, where a user claiming to speak “on behalf of straight male gamers” had this to say, in part:

In every previous BioWare game, I always felt that almost every companion in the game was designed for the male gamer in mind. Every female love interest was always written as a male friend type support character. In Dragon Age 2, I felt like most of the companions were designed to appeal to other groups foremost, Anders and Fenris for gays and Aveline for women given the lack of strong women in games, and that for the straight male gamer, a secondary concern. It makes things very awkward when your male companions keep making passes at you. The fact that a “No Homosexuality” option, which could have been easily implemented, is omitted just proves my point. I know there are some straight male gamers out there who did not mind it at and I respect that.
When I say BioWare neglected The Straight Male Gamer, I don’t mean that they ignored male gamers. The romance options, Isabella and Merrill, were clearly designed for the straight male gamers in mind. Unfortunately, those choices are what one would call “exotic” choices. They appeal to a subset of male gamers and while its true you can’t make a romance option everyone will love, with Isabella and Merrill it seems like they weren’t even going for an option most males will like. And the fact is, they could have. They had the resources to add another romance option, but instead chose to implement a gay romance with Anders.

I’m certain that some will declare “That’s only fair!” but lets be honest. I’ll be generous and assume that 5% of all Dragon Age 2 players are actually homosexuals. I’ll be even more generous and assume that the Anders romance was liked by every homosexual. Are you really telling me that you could not have written another straight romance that would have pleased more than 5% of your fans?

David Gaider, lead writer of the Dragon Age games, responds with the kind of epic smackdown we might only wish more game developers would give, calling the player out on his privilege and citing (gasp!) facts in defense of the game:

The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in [Dragon Age: Origins] and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.


You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

The truth is that making a romance available for both genders is far less costly than creating an entirely new one. Does it create some issues of implementation? Sure– but anything you try on this front is going to have its issues, and inevitably you’ll always leave someone out in the cold. In this case, are all straight males left out in the cold? Not at all. There are romances available for them just the same as anyone else. Not all straight males require that their content be exclusive, after all, and you can see that even on this thread.


And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least.

Other blogs picked up the response in a snap, pleased to have such a vocal ally. Some of my favorite reaction pieces:

Phyrra: Why Bioware Enforces They Deserve My Money.

No More Lost: “Straight Male Gamer” told to “get over it” by BioWare.

Joystiq makes a sort of Jonathan Swiftian proposal: if homophobes want a “no-homosexuality” option so badly, monetize it!

This all is awesome enough in its own right, especially given Gaider’s post came out at about the same time as developers of Duke Nukem Forever were bragging about the genius of a “capture the flag” mode where the player kidnaps and assaults women. (Note: don’t read the comments.) It just goes to show how atypical Gaider’s perspective really is.

And it helps that the game itself is a pretty strong one for feminists, of course! I’m currently on my fourth playthrough and I’m so pleased with how many empowered and multifaceted women characters are to be found here, from heroes to villains, corrupt cops to religious leaders, libertines and breadwinning wives. If you had any remaining doubt that Dragon Age II is doing things pretty differently compared to other major studio games, take a look at some of these response articles that have been written about it.

(Note: some of these include spoilers.)

I’ll get my own articles out of the way first, as I’ve written quite a bit about this game already elsewhere. First up, a look at some things Dragon Age II gets right, especially in the character Aveline Vallen, a refugee and self-made woman who has a really awesomely written interior life that doesn’t depend on the protagonist to enact it for her.

Next up, I want to share this piece I did all about Isabela, a WOC and pirate captain whose dialogue includes overt self-esteem messages to girls and women.

Moving on to others’ writing, Denis Farr has some fantastic articles up in various places, but your first port of call is his inclusivity review for Border House. Dragon Age II might have some great moments, but it falls flat on its face in other respects, and Denis gives both sides a comprehensive look.

Next from Denis over at GayGamer.Net, the case of Dragon Age II‘s romances.

There are a few dissenting opinions, obviously. A petition has been set up by, surprisingly, gay male gamers calling for Gaider’s dismissal, claiming he writes gay stereotypes. GayGamer has offered a rebuttal defending Gaider: Not All Gay Gamers Think Alike!

My take: only one of the four bisexual romance options makes the first move, and he’s historically been shown as very open in his affection. I also find it interesting that players are only complaining about being hit on by a male companion, and only when playing as a man, but that same character hitting on a woman protagonist gets no mention, while Isabela’s passes and sex appeal are a major part of the advertising. Double standard, much?

I don’t think anyone at BioWare expected Dragon Age II to turn into the kind of polarizing discussion point that it has, but it’s interesting to see people’s reactions. How about you? Have you played the game or its prequel?  Found a cool article? Feel free to share your impressions below!


  1. says

    You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

    I just want to hug that quote. All these years, whenever we complain about movies not only not catering to us, but actually including content that repulses us, we’re told, “Sorry, wish it could be different, but corps gotta chase that dollar. Maybe if you spend more on movies, they’d chase your dollar.” (Which is actually a horseshit rationalization, because if we paid for movies that repulse us, that would indicate to them we like those movies, so they should make more – but I digress.)

    The INSTANT the shoe is on the other foot, a person who appears to be articulate and reasonably skilled at thinking fails to apply standards consistently and doesn’t realize it. That’s privilege, and Gaider nailed it.

    The truth is that making a romance available for both genders is far less costly than creating an entirely new one. Does it create some issues of implementation? Sure– but anything you try on this front is going to have its issues, and inevitably you’ll always leave someone out in the cold.

    Whatever BioWare’s reason, why not assume it’s a business reason? Why assume it’s “PC” just because it’s not the norm, and expect them to prove otherwise? After all, we’re instructed not to assume the deluge of stuff that excludes us is a rampant misogynistic attack on women, right? Gee, don’t take it so personally! It’s just a game! 😉

    Curious: what was “exotic” about the two female characters the person is objecting to having a romance with?

    • Kris says

      One was a WOC and the other is an elf, perhaps? Ironically the OP’s opinion seems to be in the minority– most straight male gamers I follow on Twitter LOVE Isabela and Merrill in equal doses.

      • Brand Robins says

        Most males = white males who don’t like girls who aren’t white. And blond. And have big breasts. And are dumb. And don’t make fun of our tiny little penises.

        And none of the female characters in Dragon Age are white, submissive, blond, large breasted, dumb enough to be nonthreatening, and most of them look like they would make fun of my lack of prowess in bed.

        Which means that most males wouldn’t like them. Any of them.

        Except of course that Isabella is HOTTTTTT.

      • says

        I had a feeling it was race. He may be someone who doesn’t believe in interracial relationships and therefore can’t even enjoy one in a game. And while I doubt the elf is serious unattractive to him, I think he’s miffed that he only has ONE choice of mate (due to his own personal restrictions, not the game’s), and had enough self-awareness to realize “But there’s only one potential lover for me!” really IS whiny in the face of people who rarely have ANY mate choices that suit their preference in games.

        • Elee says

          I’ve stumbled over this discussion somewhere else, and there was talk about Merrill being tattooed, quick Google fu shows, that her face at least is. I don’t play DA2, so I don’t know if tattoos are standard elvish apparel ingame, but I gathered that was what made the other choice of female companion equally undesirable for this douche.

        • Lindsey says

          The race issue has come up a few times, and it’s baffling and distasteful to see. PC versions of RPGs always get mods, some neat, and some the entirely-predictable nude mods–but fairly quickly after its release, someone made a mod to make Isabella white.

          It hurts my heart to see that kind of behavior, and these are the same folks who would yell ‘it’s just a game!’ if people protested a lack of POC.

          • Casey says

            “I just couldn’t stand her overly dark…EVERYTHING! So, I put my PS skills and patience to the test and started makin her a whole new kind of beautiful! The work was worth it cause here she is, in all her fair skinned, blonde haired and blue eyed glory.”

            WOW. That’s TOTES NOT RACIST~!![/snerk]

            The admins response to the mod being racist is equally disgraceful:
            “1. It’s not my mod
            2. Whats wrong with liking white women?
            3. How is it racist?
            4. Yes good for this guy who wanted something different in his game, I mean thats what mods are for…
            5. It’s a game who cares.”

            This is disgusting.

          • Casey says

            Also, the Bioware forum thread is a shit-fuck-murder-nightmare of privilege-denial, I think the mod even said something to the OP along the lines of “You should stop saying discriminating because YOU sir or ma’am whatever you are, are discriminating EVERYONE that has that mod, by calling them racist.”

            There were also people saying the white mod was okay because it was more true to how Isabela looked in DA:O? Because in that game she was paler with red hair? Well that’s all well and good but if that’s the case then WHY DIDN’T THE MOD HAVE RED HAIR?

  2. Korva says

    I was VERY pleased with this as well, especially in the light of previous offensive comments by Biowarians. But Gaider has always struck me as a decent fellow, and his reply to this twit is a textbook revelation and deconstruction of privilege. Thumbs up.

    (Now I only hope that future Bioware games will appeal to me again, unlike the ME franchise, DA2 and the Awakenings expansion for Origins …)

  3. Sabrina says

    It feels like this is being posted everywhere – and I’m not getting tired of it. Gaider’s post is so awesome. :’D

    Also, am I the only one who’s enjoying a delicious slice of schadenfreude pie? I mean, it’s not just that this privileged gamer dude was pwnd royally. It’s also that with DAII the tables have been turned in a way that those privileged gamer dudes have to swallow a bit of their own medicine, so to say.
    For example: There is one male companion that doesn’t really take “no” for an answer. Either you flirt with him or you get rivalry points. From what I have seen there are primarily privileged gamer dudes that complain about this. Unwanted advanced that make you feel uncomfortable? Y hello thar, welcome to a woman’s ordinary life! Of course this is quite watered down to what women have to experience in real life (including being called a slut and other nasty things) since there are pretty much no negative consequences for the game play after you turn him down. But it’s still kinda nice to see that privileged gamer dudes have to deal with this shit at least for once.

    Anyway, I’m really thrilled to see so much positive feedback across gaming blogs and I hope that this is giving game companies a signal that yes, implementing options for everyone, not just privileged gamer dudes, is paying off! Gaider’s post generated a lot of positive buzz and I’ve read several comments of people who are now totally excited about the game and want to buy it although they initially didn’t plan to.

    • Sabrina says

      P.s.: David Gainer continues being awesome and tells that petition dude to GTFO (the consensus seems to be that this internet petition is just plain old trolling)

      “I kind of wonder if this is someone’s attempt to stir up more hate against BioWare by claiming to represent a group they’re not even part of? In addition to being misleading, I mean.

      Of the characters you can romance in the game, Merrill and Fenris will not make any kind of romantic overtures unless you flirt with them first. Period. Anders, meanwhile, does indeed come onto you in his first quest– if you are nice to him. If you turn him down then, you get some rivalry points (which are not a punishment– rivalry is a path towards a relationship just as friendship is) and that’s the end of it.

      If someone wants to paint that as sexual predation or an example of “all gays” when it’s not even an example of all the potentially gay relationships in the game — that’s pretty laughable. But there’s no shortage of ignorance, and evidently no shortage of people with an axe to grind. Which is too bad.

      If someone wishes to take out their anger on me personally, I suppose that’s fine. I’m an easy target, speaking as I do on these forums. I’m quite glad I get the opportunity to include more gamers in our content, and I couldn’t do so without the explicit support of my superiors — but that won’t stop some people from being very unhappy in general.

      So shine on, you crazy diamonds. But spreading hate on these forums is unwelcome– not just against me, but in general. I’m sure there are other places on the internet where such ignorance is welcomed.”

    • Azzy says

      The thing about being forced to flirt with that companion, however, is the fact that the conversation in question happens in Act I, if I remember correctly, and flirting doesn’t initiate romance until Act II. In this case, it’s just an easy way to gain friendship (or rivalry) points. They could have just as well replaced the romance icon with the diplomatic or humor one on those two replies, and it’d amount to the same thing. Except the homophobes would have had to find something else to complain about, I suspect.

      So, yeah, much ado about nothing.

    • Korva says

      You’re not the only one, no. For me it’s always a see-saw between Schadenfreude and bitterness when some Straight White Male(TM) complains about a SINGLE instance of ONE male character in ONE game making a pass at him. I want to tell them guess what, arsehole, that is NOTHING compared to what women have to live with every day, usually with zero sympathy or support from society or even friends or family who think that someone nearly running us over on a bicycle screeching “Hey BITCH!” in our ear is a compliment and we should be grateful. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of these complaining men have hit on unwilling women themselves (though possibly not so disgustingly) and thought nothing wrong with it. But if the shoe’s on the other foot and a guy makes a pass at them it’s a crime. They really either need to take their own advice and suck it up and smile and say thank you, or consider their own behavior towards women.

      But sadly I think that lesson goes way, way over their heads.

  4. Brand Robins says

    I was meh about Dragon Age Origins. I was not going to get DA II, as I just couldn’t see the series holding my attention.

    Now I am going to buy it. And my wife, who hates console RGPs, wants to play it.

    All because of the quoted response.

    So, fuck yea. Rock on.

  5. Harrrison Murray says

    I think this doesn’t even qualify as mere privilege, the opening couple of sentences of our “straight male gamer’s” email amount to basically an open declaration of war against all perspectives other than his own. It’s active, conscious discrimination against people he thinks less important than himself. Kudos to the BioWare writer for kicking his ass (now if only BioWare could make some decent PC ports. The PC version of Mass Effect is almost unforgivable).

    Although the mention of “political correctness” (in sneer quotes, where it belongs) brings me to something I’ve really come to realize in the past couple of months:

    Political correctness does not actually exist.

    Political correctness is when someone accuses you of being offensive and you object to the accusation. When you accuse someone else of being offensive, that’s just being offensive. It’s a snarl word (often used by people who say things that are genuinely offensive) thrown about to try to shut down accusations of being offensive (rather than attempt to demonstrate how there is no real case for such and such comment being seriously offensive, like a rational person arguing in good faith would do). The term is handy for bigots and privileged majorities because it allows them to dishonestly turn the tables and present themselves as being the ones who are treated unfairly.

    Also the Duke Nukem Forever thing is appalling. At least with Duke 3D you could laugh at Duke’s total stupidity and buffoonery and hope that maybe, just maybe, the joke is actually on people who look up to Duke as a role model. But THIS? ARE GEARBOX OUT OF THEIR FUCKING MINDS?!

    It makes me want to throw up.

    • SunlessNick says

      The term is handy for bigots and privileged majorities because it allows them to dishonestly turn the tables and present themselves as being the ones who are treated unfairly.

      And calling it “political” taps into the general disdainful view of politics/politicking as detracting from real concerns, and obscures the fact that the derided position is usually based on a sense of moral correctness.

      • Lindsey says

        Interestingly, the term “political correctness” originated among liberals as a term for conservatives who talked the talk about racial tolerance but did not walk the walk. It has since been appropriated as the trump card for creeps, a claim that they are only dispensing righteous truth that is suppressed by political forces oppressing the poor hapless majority.

        • Korva says

          Really? As a non-native speaker, I did not know the origin of the term, but it’s interesting — and as a term for “pretend tolerance for the sake of looking good but sneer about the subhumans in private” makes perfect sense.

          As it is used now, though, I have to agree with Harrison. Whenever I see the term used, usually oozing extra contempt by the inclusion of quotation marks, I read it as “I am an abject ass and proud of it too”.

  6. Dina Bow says

    okay, a few things about that Duke Nukem thing really bug me…
    1.Everyone seems to claim that its only a joke. I always hear that “jokes” like this are funny (if the women were replaced with a race of people; they probably wouldn’t be as funny). However, no one can explain the punchline to me. Why? Because there is nothing funny about it.
    2. Everyone claims that the “humor” is meant to be edgy even though everyone makes “jokes” like this. How long can this continue to be edgy? Because its really getting annoying.
    As someone who wants to be a cartoonist, I can’t see how any of this is seen as funny!

    • Elee says

      Correction: Everyone who doesn’t care about sexism and oppression thinks its a joke.
      People also claim it is a parody on existing sexist society because it is so over the top. Except it is … not. Because a parody doesn’t reinforce the same old stereotype, no matter how over the top.

    • SunlessNick says

      However, no one can explain the punchline to me. Why?

      For the same reason that when they tell you you’re taking it out of context, they can never explain what the context is. Because imagining a real woman being abducted and slapped is the punchline and is the context. But we’re supposed to pretend that it isn’t, so they can have their laughs in peace.

      • Korva says

        And NO ONE could pretend that hitting someone on the rear is “socially acceptable”. It’s either punishment or sexual assault.

        … on, wait. Men punishing and assaulting women is in fact socially acceptable. And no, there’s not a drop of irony in that sentence — I wish there was.

        • Keith says

          Clearly you’ve never watched a televised American football game.
          (Or perhaps you have an simply never noticed that men are slapping each other in the butt all the time)

          Please don’t take this as a defense of Duke Nukem, or slapping women you don’t know on the butt. It’s more my interjection that I’ve always found the male-athletes-slapping-each-other-on-the-butt kind of… odd

    • Dani says

      The sad thing is, people are differentiating between the “type” of slap. They say something to the effect of “If it would be a slap on the face, than that’s not cool, but I heard it’s just (JUST?!) a slap on the rear, so that’s okay.” My favorite was the “Well, I slap my girlfriend’s butt, and she slaps mine, and we both like it, so it’s okay.” They have no understanding of context, and no understanding of consent. The idea that it’s okay to invade a woman’s space and spank her, as long as it’s on a “socially appropriate” part of her body, is absurd to an infuriating degree; add onto that the idea that it’s okay to to slap a woman to shut her up when they are forcefully KIDNAPPING her, as long as it’s not on her face and…this is just really disturbing and depressing.

      • SunlessNick says

        Yes it is. So is the fact that it’s described as a “reassuring slap,” because nothing eases my mind less than a conflation of reassurance and intimidation.

  7. says

    This reaction is awesome but its really not surprising if you do a close read of the game itself, which is basically a 40-hour-long deconstruction of privilege; particularly if the PC is a mage (even the issue of “passing privilege” gets addressed in-game; most people assume it’s a case of bad/lazy writing, but later on it’s obvious that it’s quite deliberate).

    If I had to make a guess, I’d say someone at BioWare had a “hey, how can we do a portrayal of social oppression without resorting to tired good/evil cliches”, investigated the issue in the Really Real World, stumbled across Social Justice 101 then buried it deep underneath exploding corpses and dragons and sex.

    Good on them. May my purchase dollars happily pad their pockets in encouragement of future journeys down this path.

      • says

        It’s not scary at all, IMO; some of the monster models are a bit grotesque, but it plays down the body horror elements that were in DA:O. There is one quest that may qualify, but most of the game’s WHAM-factor comes from it being, well, pretty emotionally brutal.

        Fair disclaimer: I’m a horror fan, but I’m also really easily scared, so… rake that as you will. 😛

  8. says

    I’ve liked what I’ve tried of Bioware’s output before (mostly Neverwinter Nights and expansions) and I’d already picked up Dragon Age: Origins for the XBox. However, realising that the developers for the Dragon Age series are actually capable of telling the differences between chairs, invisible pink unicorns, and people who don’t happen to inhabit the One True Demographic[1] (chairs are furniture, invisible pink unicorns don’t exist, people who aren’t part of the One True Demographic are still people) makes me a lot more enthusiastic about buying more of their product. In fact, it’s bounced them straight up onto my list of “game companies to look out for in a good way” (a short list, which has now doubled in length[2]).

    In one respect, it’s slightly frustrating to find it takes so very little for a game company to stand out from the norm – all they have to do is be willing to step slightly outside the prescribed range of options for the One True Demographic that the marketers and bean counters get all nervous about protecting. As a long-term gamer (approximately 20 years now) I’m finding the contraction of the product range on the shelves (as the marketing and accounting departments get more and more power over what can and can’t be created) rather frustrating to start with – it gets annoying when the only thing I can find out there are three variants of the same plotline, each dressed up by increasingly skimpy costumes by the visual design team in an effort to disguise the lack of variety available.

    [1] Straight white suburban middle-class Christian-identified American male 15 – 25 years of age; the demographic so much of the entertainment industry appears to believe is the only one out there, or at least the only one which legitimately owns money.
    [2] For the curious, the other company on there was Square Enix, the behemoth behind the Final Fantasy series of games.

  9. Lindsey says

    40% of gamers are female, according to the ESA’s own numbers, and they play for 7.4 hours a week versus 7.6 hours for the boys. The initial ‘privilege’ poster was perhaps aware of this and tried to qualify it as ‘RPG Gamers’, but that seems unlikely when the RPG is the most story- and character-centric genre. He certainly didn’t cite a source.

    I’ve also heard the the claim that guys “pay for most of the games” despite being a shrinking majority; the same ESA numbers contradict that notion in stating that only 54% of purchases are made by men. has the data. is a gaming marketer who might have some level of clue, and writes exasperatedly about the fixation on the mythical 18-25 male in an industry whose average consumer is closer to 35, and with a growing female component.

    Geider’s response was an excellent understanding of the actual data of his industry, as well as being a firm stance against unearned privilege.

    • says

      It’s the same numbers coming from the same uncited sources as the film industry’s been spouting for years. It’s just rationalizations based on lies, because some men have found that spouting lies followed by, “It’s just numbers! Numbers don’t lie! I have spreadsheet, REAMS of spreadsheets!” is enough to intimidate some people into shutting up. Me, I just always asked them to show me the spreadsheets and, amazingly, that data was not for public viewing. Oh. Right. Gotcha. Well, I have a giant invisible ogre who protects me – trust me, I have spreadsheets to prove it.

      Interestingly, when they first started with the mythical “18-25 male”, my generation was about 18-25. Now we’re about 35-42. This clearly suggests that if there was ever any truth to it, the truth is not that all 18-25 males are a good audience, but that my generation consumed pop culture like we were on a mission. And that was probably because the 80s economy was largely founded on pop culture: blockbuster movies, MTV and the birth of music videos as something seen outside British pubs, the second British invasion, cheap shitty clothes that sold strictly because of whose name was slathered on the back pockets, Nancy Reagan never wearing the same hugely expensive gown twice, etc. It was a decade of opulent consumption and waste, and I think it influenced us.

      But since then, pop culture makers have just assumed 18-25 male is the demographic to target, and clearly that’s not really warranted. In fact, I don’t think there’s ANY single demographic that’s really reliable as consumers anymore. Smart companies like BioWare are widening their nets. Stupid companies like Warner Brothers are not going to be here in another 30 years unless they figure out they need to entertain more people to get more profit.

      • Harrrison Murray says

        I’d say at this point they may need to pursue a fleeting, ever-changing age group to replenish customers after all the people they’ve pissed off by treating as criminals by default with their “intellectual property” schemes. Or maybe I put too much faith in people not to buy from companies that screw them.

  10. Cinnabar says

    I read this somewhere else first and was JUST thinking it would be an awesome thing to post on Hathor, and HERE IT IS! 😀

    Daivd Gaider makes me squeeeeeeeeeee. MOAR EPIC BIGOT SMACKDOWNS! The bit about privilege shows that he actually GETS IT. Too bad he isn’t writing for Mass Effect or I’m sure he would’ve pushed for same-sex romances there too. DA and ME are two entirely separate, self-contained teams (for anyone who wondered).

  11. megs says

    David Gaider is pretty terrific. I read and enjoyed the heck out of the Dragon age novels he wrote and I usually, well, disdain tie-in franchise novel stuff. I’m on my second playthrough, and while I didn’t love it immediately like I did Origins, it’s really growing on me. My 1st playthrough I ignored Isabella completely based on the marketing – I didn’t want a sexed up “for the straight male gamer” gal in my party. But getting to know her, she’s actually awesome. I’ve also imported a different save from Origins and I’m starting to see some major differences in the world. The game may be much better than I initially thought.

    I don’t know if it’s the same guy, since I stopped frequenting the forums as soon as the patch came out that allowed me to play it, but there was a guy spamming every post about the overt homosexuality, which it looked like everyone was ignoring. Because we care about the game! But it was so annoying.

    I also usually only play women PCs in games like this because I GET TO BE A LADY OMG, MALE ISN’T THE ONLY OPTION!!!! sort of excitement, but I’ve loved playing a guy in Origins and will def roll a dude in my 3rd playthrough. A game so progressive I will play a male PC is really something.

  12. Chai Latte says

    They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance.

    This. So much this.

    I think this also may explain a lot of the vitriol aimed at the “Sex and the City” movies, esp. the first one. I remember that summer, we had….guy movie, guy movie, guy movie….’Sex and the City’ was the only one directed at women. AND YET?!! Every single guy I ever knew made it a POINT to loudly complain about it, because somehow, ONE FILM that was NOT directed at them was offensive.

    • says

      Good point. Women are trained to disregard things not aimed at them and/or put themselves in a man’s shoes. Men, not as much. (Well, that goes for any minority/majority.) Therefore men have less practice accepting that this option just isn’t aimed at you, now go watch one of the other 19 movies in the cinema…

      • Chai Latte says

        True, true. And I was studiously ignored when I pointed out that EVERY OTHER FILM was directed at them. Like they had a Logic Shield or something.

        • says

          They needed the Logic Shield up to protect them from Female Shallowness. Its mere existence bombards their superior male brains with vacuousness, don’tchaknow.

  13. says

    The irony of this is ASTOUNDING.

    Check out the following post, which talks about Gaider himself employing “political correctness” as an excuse not to be inclusive of people of color in the Dragon Age world:

    The post was originally praising Bioware, but after an exchange with Gaider in particular, he nearly retracted it. That Gaider would bring up political correctness from the other side of the privilege divide is interesting. Has he since evolved in his thinking since DAO, or is he, in fact, being “politically correct”, given that he has demonstrated a complete disregard for inclusion in the past?

    • says

      @Maria: Well, I just told myself that DA2 is the work of many different people, and the final product is really quite great on a number of levels independent of its shattering of heteronormativity.

      At this point I’ve come to terms with the fact that most games will not be inclusive, will be “mainstream”, and I just try to enjoy myself in spite of it. So really my criticism is more of Gaider than DA2.

      • Elee says

        Though, to be fair, people ARE able to learn (empathy) and modify their world views. True, in my pessimistic opinion they usually do it to such a minimum extent that it isn’t worth it, but the ability is there. And Gaider didn’t need to formulate his smackdown as he did, he could have said something along the line of “we try to cater to all our audience, not just the SMG, because we need these customers as well, also your number-skills suck”, if he was just toeing the party-line with PC.

        • Cinnabar says

          Yup, that’s what I mean at least. He already gets the idea of privilege, clearly. I’d hope that applying it to different forms of privilege is not that far a leap.

        • Anemone says

          Even if someone lacks empathy, they can still learn to be more inclusive/fair for purely practical business reasons. Inclusion is profitable – there’s a natural logic to it. It’s enlightened self-interest.

          Personally, the ones I worry about are the folks who are too insecure to share power, rather than the ones who lack empathy per se.

          At any rate, all hail increased inclusiveness!

          • says

            Inclusion is profitable – there’s a natural logic to it. It’s enlightened self-interest.

            Yes, that’s absolutely true! I’ve never gotten why so few people seem to be able to logic that one out for themselves. In the short-term, you can generally grab more if you don’t care who you step on to do it. But long-term, all the people you’ve stepped on (or who’ve heard about you) gang up, and no single person can beat a gang.

  14. Cinnabar says

    Whoa, I had no idea they actually *prevented* you from making a dark skinned character! I thought it was more like they decided to make Fereldans generally not dark-skinned for the pathetic excuse of wanting them to “stand out from other nations” or whatever. (Like skin colour is the ONLY THING that differentiates cultures?? Seriously, come to my country – we practically run though the palette here.) But I thought you could still make any kind of character you wanted. This pisses me off! >:(

    Gaider certainly has a lot more to learn about inclusivity then. I hope he does. It would make him MORE kickass.

    • Azzy says

      Is Gaider really responsible for that, though? As head writer, what kind of control does he really have over the guys who programmed the character generator?

      • Cinnabar says

        Of course in all likelihood the writers are not responsible for it, but I’m sure they could have pushed for it a bit. The main issue is his reponding to people wanting more inclusivity with the “political correctness” argument.

        In a strange way, I can *sort of*, *maybe* parse what they might have been thinking. Fact is that on earth, different skin colours and facial features evolved as an adaptation to varying levels of sunlight and other environmental factors. According to the game’s mythology, Fereldan is a cold country situated towards the south, so it probably made sense *to them* that lighter shades would dominate. Of course, this is also a game where people turn themselves into spiders and dragons and magic exist, so there’s no pressing need for the science of our world to apply so thoroughly. 😛

        There’s something else that I’ve been mulling over, which I want to throw out there as a question. I don’t have any lived in experience of being in a majority white country with racial minorities, so please pardon me if I sound ignorant about this. I don’t mean any harm, I swear. >_<

        Is there a belief, however faint, that skin colour directly correlates to cultural background? I know the use of "White" and "Black" are pretty much clear social identifiers. I suppose "Brown" is a bit more complicated since many different ethnicities could fall under it. I ask this because if there is such a notion, then it makes more sense to me (in a "twisted logic" kind of way) why they would think that to preserve the mythology of their fictional country, they had to limit its inhabitants' skin colour. It also doesn't make sense to me at all in a different way because my real life country is one where, while there are a number of different communities, each having unique culture, places of origin, language, and a whole lot more, people within each of those communities themselves can come in literally all shades from light to dark. So skin colour is probably the LAST thing you could use to identify someone's background here.

        Of course I'm simplifying a complex situation just a bit, otherwise I'd have to write a page or two more in explanation (I wouldn't mind, but the comment would get too big :P). But my point is that it's not so out of the realm of reality to have a single country with a common history and background AND have its people run through the spectrum of skin colours and that all being NORMAL. PLUS! Hello? MAGIC and DRAGONS? Women fighting with swords and killing things instead of being in the kitchen all day?? Surely we can suspend our disbelief *just* a bit more?

        • says

          @Cinnabar: In the U.S. and Canada, yes, there is that belief, and it is not in the least bit faint. Skin color and/or its qualifiers – i.e. “black” and “white” are regarded as interchangeable with ethnicity/cultural background. The reasons are complex, but on the level of everyday exchange, skin color (and associated physical features such as nose width, lip thickness, hair texture, etc) are enough for a person to assume much about you.

          But although there are those assumptions and generalizations, it seems that labels are more significant than physical qualifiers in many cases. By that I mean mere identification with one group or another may come with more baggage (not your own, but what’s projected upon you) than what you look like. As an example, a “white” man may be interested in a “black” woman, the latter whom for her appearance *could* possibly identify as something else. But once she identifies herself as “black”, specifically, he loses interest. This is something separate from appearance or language or anything outwardly observed, and I’ve yet to figure out what it’s about.

        • says

          But shifting it back to Dragon Age, like you say, this is a world populated with magic and dragons and darkspawn. The argument that it’s a “middle age European-inspired fantasy” (and Gaider said as much) is not a legitimate excuse for exclusion, because there were no darkspawn in Europe, either.

          The other thing that bothers me about it, and this is a relatively common thing, is that these media developers see fit to appropriate the culture and/or history of people of color (like India’s caste system in DAO, or arguably the African enslavement and legacy), but have all sorts of justifications for not including those people’s likenesses in their product. Comic books are a prime example, with X-Men borrowing from the Black Civil Rights struggle in the U.S. but having only one Black feature character – whom certain artists do their damnedest to downplay by making her as pale and Euro-featured as possible.

          There’s also that “rule of three” – which is almost the Bechdel rule discussed elsewhere on this site, but about race. It’s that if there are three or more black characters in a media product, it then becomes a specifically “black product”, even if those three characters are the still the minority.

          It’s a rule that’s seldom broken, I guess, for marketability reasons, or so they say. If we assume the views of the privileged gamer above represent any significant cross-section of the market, then maybe it’s true. I still don’t accept it as a legitimate reason for exclusion, though. White gamers complained about not being able to “relate” to Carl Johnson from GTA III: San Andreas because he was black, yet that game went on to be the best selling in franchise history.

          • Shaun says

            Amusingly, Marvel explicitly links the X-Men tropes to “gay” issues now, and then completely neglects that there are actually gay (and queer) issues in the world. This pretty much sounds like how they handled the civil rights movement in the 60s/70s, co-opting it under a fictional auspice and then completely neglecting the actual movement or, for the most part, people of color.

        • says

          In the USA, yes, physical appearance is almost always assumed to be directly related to culture.

          More than that, racial minorities who are perceived to have “sold out to the Man” and perceived to identify more with the majority culture than their assigned minority subculture are called Oreos, apples, bananas and coconuts – X color on the outside but white on the inside. I’ve heard both Whites and minorities apply those labels to other minorities perceived as deviating from their assigned box.

          Just in case there was any doubt as to how screwed up USA’s racial culture is. >_<

          • Casey says

            I have some POC friends online who get a lot of gunk from white folks/TROLLS because said friends enjoy listening to hard rock/metal when APPARENTLY THEY SHOULD ONLY LISTEN TO HIP-HOP/RAP/R&B…seriously, it’s fucking stupid.
            I think Renee (or maybe it was someone else…I think it was on another black/anti-racism blog) said something about racial policing along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter what you do or wear or style your hair or listen to or how you talk, if you are Black and living in the US, you are still Black no matter what.” So yeah, all these presumptions are bullshit (but I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know :P).

          • Cinnabar says

            Thanks for the answers, Kermit and Sylvia! :) And believe me, it’s just as screwed up and divisive here, if not more, just in slightly different ways. Humans can’t seem to resist being horrible to each other. 9.9

  15. Patrick McGraw says

    From the Straight Male Gamer’s original post:

    “Its ridiculous that I even have to use a term like Straight Male Gamer, when in the past I would only have to say fans”

    Yes, it is ridiculous to be forced to acknowledge that there are people out there not Just Like You. That’s real oppression.

  16. Tristan J says

    So how did the fandom in general react? I’d look, but I can’t access the site for some reason.

  17. says

    Regarding fan reactions:

    It’s interesting that this artist recognizes things like standards of beauty…

    Note that the early concept art says “distinct racial physiology is an opportunity to explore different standards of beauty”, but then that caption is removed in the same revision that changed the brunette human to a blonde.

    But then the same fan goes and makes Isabela pale in her own artwork:

    As I’ve mentioned it’s pretty common for fans to render characters of color in ways that deny that they even are characters of color, but this one’s particularly odd given that she recognizes beauty standards as it applies to brunettes vs. blondes, just not with regards to skin tones.

    But then, can we really even blame this artist, when the official final concept art for Isabela looks like this?×1024.jpg

    • says

      But, then, interestingly enough, the same artist blogger in her most recent post, totally recognizes the subtle racism in the character creation options:

      “I was pretty excited to mess around in the character creation bit for an extended period of time, only to discover that the character I wanted to make, who would have been black, could only attain a sort of Spanish-style tan. All of the hair choices are only Caucasian textured, and the most horrible part is that even if you do choose a darker skin colour all the model bodies are white as a day lily. This goes for in-game characters as well. In close up dialogue it becomes particularly obvious, as the stark contrast between the colour of their chin and the pale Scottish white of every character’s neck and hands becomes embarrassingly obvious.”

  18. says

    Switching gears back to the original subject of this post (the entitled straight male gamer) – he’s actually also completely wrong about the male teammates hitting on Hawke, because that doesn’t happen at all unless you flirt with them first. I found it strange that he referred to Fenris and Anders as the “gay” options, when you could easily play through the game without any indication at all that either has any interest in men.

  19. Tristan J says

    My wrongly-placed comment is definitely because I clicked on the wrong Reply button, if that helps.

  20. Juliana says

    “In Dragon Age 2, I felt like most of the companions were designed to appeal to other groups foremost, … Aveline for women given the lack of strong women in games,”

    Okay, in my opinion that’s seriously messed up. According to this guy having a strong female character in games instantly means your catering to women instead of you know, just writing a strong character who happens to be female?


  21. Casey says


    The Entitled Male Gamer’s Dipfuck Manifesto against Dragon Age 2 reminds me of one of Angry Joe’s criticisms of the game; he claimed that it came off too much like the characters were designed via focus group in order to appeal to as many demographics as possible and thus came off as being watered down and unfocused. He also complained “BAWWW GUYS IN YOUR PARTY HIT ON YOU AND THAT’S ICKY AND GROSS!” I have NO sympy towards guys who wank about that.
    Aside from that he had some legitimate grievances regarding the game play and storyline and how he thought it just wasn’t as good or compelling as DA1 and it was too linear.

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