Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The most realistic thing about Dragon Age 2 was all of Hawke’s friends being bisexual

I’ve talked before about how Dragon Age 2 is a game that said ‘bisexual rights’, and how that upset many a straight man out there when the game first released 10 years ago.

During the lead-up to Dragon Age 2’s release, I remember checking on my computer almost daily, waiting for BioWare to announce on their forums just who would be available to romance. I’d known straight away that I’d be romancing Isabela, but when the confirmation came that the Dragon Age 2 romance options would be available to be romanced of a Hawke of either gender, I was ecstatic. It gave more options for people, so my assumption at the time was that people would be happy.

People were not happy. And when I say people, I mean straight men, just so that it’s clear. David Gaider, the Lead Writer on Dragon Age at that time, eloquently defended the balance of every Dragon Age 2 romance option being bisexual.

To sum it up, Gaider stated that “the romances in [Dragon Age 2] 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.” He continued, “we have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant.

One of the complaints about the game that still linger even today was that Dragon Age 2’s romance options all being bisexual was unrealistic. In a game about dragons, horned men and women, and necromancy that can make a woman flop around in the most horrendous way, some found a whole group of bisexuals to shatter their immersion.

Bisexuality in media has often been very hit and miss. Often they are portrayed as overly sexual to the point they’re characterized as cheaters, or in most extreme cases, they end up ‘swinging back’ to being just gay or just straight. While there’s nothing wrong with questioning and experimenting with sexuality, your media does not exist in a vacuum. People watching how you portray bisexuality will take notice, and preconceptions will be made.

In Dragon Age 2, there are stereotypes when it comes to the portrayal of bisexuality – mostly with Isabela and her overt sexualization, but that of course doesn’t make her any less bisexual. Outside of this lone example however, bisexuality in the other Dragon Age 2 companions is just there and well, that is that really. While arguments can be made that these romance options did need to be improved on in order to convey more succinctly that everyone is bisexual, I still wouldn’t go as far as to say that BioWare’s portrayal of these characters being attracted to Hawke – regardless of gender – is unrealistic.

An argument can be made, however, that a friendship group that’s full of straight people is absolutely unfeasible. Taking my own personal experience into account, and having talked to many friends about their other friend groups, it’s almost a running joke to have a token straight friend. Just the one that hangs around with us, nodding in support of all things gay. And well, Dragon Age 2 even did that by adding Sebastian Vael, the only straight character in Hawke’s friendship group.

Jokes aside, the argument against bisexuality in Dragon Age 2 has long since been slapped down by queer people. The fact that it keeps getting slapped down does say something though: that how we write bisexuality in video games needs to be improved and homophobes will really do anything and everything to screech that we aren’t real. The first problem can be fixed by mainstream developers listening to queer indie game developers that have thrived in conveying sexuality in a meaningful, poignant way, but the second… Well, that’s a problem that they’ll need to sort out themselves.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.