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Dragon Age Posits Same-Sex Marriage

Oh that adorable face.

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.

Spoilers!

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.

9 Comments

Pauwow said:

I never liked this game, the loading times are awful and having to go back to the town every time my inventory is full it's a huge pain. I can't waist 1 hour of my time "getting ready" to play.

Either way, every time that Hollywood or the gaming industry try to "help" ends being more offensive than honest hatred: Extremely annoying characters or sex reference with the maturity of a 12 years old. Sometimes I wish straight people stopped trying to help, I CAN FIGHT MY OWN FIGHTS THANKS.

I'd rather being hated or ignored that being patronized.

Burr said:

I don't seek marriage rights in order to emulate heterosexuals. I don't even plan on having a kid. The only reason marriage is useful is because it legally protects our relationship so that we can fully take care of each other in cases of illness, death, etc. If the government eliminated marriage and just recognized all relationships and legal contracts equally, I would be just as happy.

So personally this whole having to have a "product" angle doesn't concern me, though I understand it will others. Still, there's are millions of childless heterosexual couplings, and we still have roles to play in our extended families, helping raise other's children, so it's not like we're disconnected from the rest of society.

Lucrece said:

Um, besides adoption, there is surrogacy.

The whole "gay men can't have children/families" is absurd. One third of gay couples do.

The_French_Guy said:

I say, why bother making things realistic when there's dwarf nobles undergrounds, mages lives in towers, house slaves elves in our homes and the darkspawns at our doorstep.
I say, let's go for the "make our kind of world" thingy and make male pregnancy Available via means of magic!(but Alistair should be the bloke who goes into labor... eech! I can never picture myself loosing baby fat afterward).

or just... you know... adopt... i guess.

Robert Yang said:

I'm not saying adoption or surrogacy is bad. Those are great.

I also don't dispute whether us gays deserve the right to marriage. Of course we do. Marriage has, for a long time, been about economics and political power and not procreation.

I do, however, dispute whether Alistair -- if we're imagining that he were intentionally written to be gay -- would've stayed with me after the Landsmeet.

The mod made me realize that NO, he wouldn't have, because my playthrough emphasized his responsibility -- and his responsibility entailed having a kid.

Surrogacy doesn't exist in Dragon Age, so how else could he get an heir? There aren't any options.

Likewise, I think some gays, as a personal preference, won't really take to adoption or surrogacy. So what do they do then? Remain childless forever? Gay or straight, you'll get looked down upon.

gaymer_geek said:

Lover on the side ! Just like every gay or bi king/queen throughout history !!!

Having an heir has nothing to do with marraige, the large majority of heirs to kingdoms (even in soley european history) have been the result of concubines, affairs, or bonded consorts.

No reason that can't be the case in Dragon Age. After all, Alistar is a bastard himself !!!

Reluctantly Human said:

I had a pretty similar situation as to the author's, in that I used a same sex mod and noticed how immersive it still was being with Alistair as a male elf. I can only think of one instance (and I can't even remember where it was, or what conversation it was, so it might have been imagined) where Alistair referred to me as either 'she' or 'her'. I did notice a lot of the banter between Alistair and Wynne (though possible with other characters) mentioned me being a lady a lot, but I just chalked that up to Wynne being a jealous old crone.

And in regards to adopting, I think the original issue is that Alistair needs to produce an heir, not that he really wants to be a dad. While there are doubtless many orphans who could use the resources that a king of Ferelden could have provided, he wouldn't be part of the Theirin bloodline, which is one of the things that (might have) helped Alistair get the throne instead of Anora; he may be a bastard, but he's the King's bastard.

I haven't tried a female romancing Morrigan play through yet to see if she's as equally gender neutral, but that's mostly because she's a tempestuous bitch.

Limeade said:

Indeed. As an Elf or Dwarf Warden, you can 'Harden' Alistair so that he remains with you, and if you harden him and choose the right responses (and are persuasive enough at the Landsmeet) you can rule beside him and he'll back you up. You do not need to be a Noble PC. That is just the easiest and most acceptable presentation.

You can read about it here: http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Alistair

Likewise, you can harden Leliana.

As for family? To me, family is family. You make your family and make what you want of it. You do not need to be directly related by blood to fill your life with people that are meaningful to you, a true support network, of those you deem family.

Robert Yang said:

I disagree, I think Alistair would've wanted to be a good father, considering the impact his own parents' presence / non-presence were on his life. (It's questionable whether he wants to be King -- but I took the stance that a reluctant ruler was a better ruler)

Sometimes blood isn't what makes a family, true.

... But sometimes it is.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Robert Yang on Dragon Age Posits Same-Sex Marriage: I disagree, I think Alistair would've wanted to be a good father, considering the impact his own parents' presence /...

Limeade on Dragon Age Posits Same-Sex Marriage: Indeed. As an Elf or Dwarf Warden, you can 'Harden' Alistair so that he remains with you, and if you...

Reluctantly Human on Dragon Age Posits Same-Sex Marriage: I had a pretty similar situation as to the author's, in that I used a same sex mod and noticed...

gaymer_geek on Dragon Age Posits Same-Sex Marriage: Lover on the side ! Just like every gay or bi king/queen throughout history !!! Having an heir has nothing...

Robert Yang on Dragon Age Posits Same-Sex Marriage: I'm not saying adoption or surrogacy is bad. Those are great. I also don't dispute whether us gays deserve the...

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