Robert Yang, about whom we've written before when his Half-Life 2 mod was covered by The Escapist, recently finished Dragon Age. Playing it on PC, he used a mod that allowed him to romance Alistair. He wrote about it.
After noting such subtle differences as Alistair's text being remarkably gender-neutral for most of his dialogue (even of the romantic type) and noting the other instances of queer behavior in Fereldan, he goes on to posit that Dragon Age poses many of the questions we currently face in the political battle for same-sex marriage rights. Through the power of mods.
First he goes through the romance, realizing that as the game treats him, Alistair's professed inexperience in sexual matters reads differently for someone in the LGBT community. Namely, that Alistair's confession rings closer to that of a closet case, rather than an awkward, and bumbling romantic fool. Then the dry humping. Then the game.
Then the Landsmeet.
It's here that Alistair calls into question the relationship. This is hardly a surprise: unless one is a human noble female, he refuses to keep a relationship with the player once he becomes king. What if you're male, however?
Plus, you're happy that your virtual boyfriend is the king. That's gotta mean all the lyrium potion you can drink, right?
... Until he breaks up with you for precisely that reason. A king needs to produce an heir, to continue the bloodline -- and since you're supposedly a female Grey Warden also tainted with darkspawn blood, a child would never survive... But I'm not a female Elven warrior or a female Dwarf rogue. I'm a dude.
(Yeah, that "darkspawn taint" excuse? Bullshit. Hell, I've even used that line before.)
So instead, I read that moment differently -- we're both dudes, so we would NEVER be able to have children together. I started panicking. I looked back over the 50 hours of choices that preceded this moment, stretching back to a month ago. Can I reload that save game from 20 hours ago? Maybe if I told him to get pissed off at his sister instead of forgiving her? What if I put a paralyze rune on his sword instead of that fire damage rune?
He was distraught (and I've had talks with a few female friends who had similar issues with ol' Alie). Due to this and personal issues, he put the game aside for a while, not willing to deal with it. After all, he was offered the chance to be Alistair's mistress, and we all know how well politicians and secret same-sex love affairs go...
When he finally picked the game up again, he finished it, feeling hollow, and not quite getting back into the excitement. Which is what produced this great line about the ability of mods to reach players, and more generally, what games can evoke:
Mods are special, important and uniquely situated to expand the thematic and/or mechanical space of a game.
The question it brings up for him is then the question of same-sex marriage, and what our current struggles mean. Generally, we as a community have eschewed that sex is purely for reproductive means, and that it can be enjoyed. We have accepted that we can be in a committed relationship and desire stability in our lives. But where do children and family factor into that equation? Is adoption the same?
Do we want the exact same, or can we build something ourselves?
Questions, questions, questions.