In a recent interview with VGN, David Gaider (who has been lead writer for Dragon Age for years) touches on the importance of the representation of sexual and gender minorities in video games.
We’re putting out something that appeals to players who don’t traditionally get represented in games, so maybe more of them come to play the games. Maybe it’s just enough to make up for the ones that are turned off by that. But, ultimately, it hasn’t really affected our sales insofar as we can tell.
So, the idea of how commercial a consideration it is kind of goes out the window and we can focus on just doing the right thing.
Gaider has even responded to ‘the ones that are turned off by it’, asserting that:
The romances in the game are (…) for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention.
This focus on representation extends beyond sexual orientation. Gaider goes on to talk about BioWare’s explorations of gender identities in their games as well.
Serendipity (Dragon Age 2)
Serendipity is a city elf and a prostitute. She can be found at The Blooming Rose and is available as a premium service.
According to Gaider, Serendipity was originally intended to be a drag queen, but ultimately was read as a trans woman by gamers. As a result, there were fans that took issue with the way that Serendipity was portrayed, pointing out that she was primarily used for laughs which seemed very cheap.
Gaider acknowledges this and agrees that they made a mistake.
Yes, we had used her for laughs. (…) That is completely fair. That’s something we should think about.
He goes on to talk about creative responsibility regarding characters like Serendipity.
Because it’s not that we couldn’t have a Serendipity. I think the thing is that that was our only presentation of that type of character. That was all we had. (…)
If you look at the breath of your presentation, if there’s only a very select amount of those characters, or one, then what they are sort of does become a statement.
Gaider’s awareness of and sensitivity towards this is exactly the kind of attitude that results in the ability to learn from past mistakes and to progress.
Cremisius Aclassi (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Cremisius Aclassi, also known as Krem, is a member of the Bull’s Chargers mercenary company. He serves as the Iron Bull’s lieutenant.
The approach to Krem’s character as a trans man was informed by previous experiences and thus was more carefully executed.
Writer Patrick Weeks made the initial suggestion, and it was carefully discussed by the team. Gaider mentions quite a lot of in-depth considerations of plot developments and how Krem’s gender identity would be perceived by the societies within the game.
The fact that the rest of the team just sort of jumped on it – I think we ultimately made a character that might not be perfect in every sense, but that was indicative of more thought going into the process than we’d used previously. Because I think when mistakes get made it’s hardly ever intentional but more often than not is just born of ignorance.
A great deal of credit is due here for how writers like Gaider will not allow themselves to grow complacent. There is always progress to be made, discussions to be had. David Gaider and the rest of the team understand and embrace this as a part of the writing process because, as Gaider says:
Just the moment of having that conversation is not a limitation. It allows for more creativity.
For instance, Gaider seems to express some regret that a trans male voice actor was not found for the role of Krem. Still, Gaider looks to the future.
I think the next step would be to see if we could actually find a transgender performer. I think that should be our first stop.