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July 1
2014

Meet Dorian, Dragon Age: Inquisition’s “Fully-Gay” Mage

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While checking out Dragon Age: Inquisition at E3 this year we were introduced to a number of new characters, including the charming mage Dorian. The quick-witted party member was a standout from the moment he appeared on screen. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this mustachioed magic-man had a little….something else, going on. My video game gaydar (gaymedar?) may not always be on point, but I have to admit it was going off. From the stache to the sass; he felt like the kind of guy you’d meet at a gay bar in San Francisco. What’s more the game is already boasting a rather diverse party lineup, a rare find when dealing with high-fantasy. But then, I thought, most characters in the Dragon Age world are bisexual to some degree anyway, and didn’t think much more of it.

Then I wake up this morning to find that David Gaider, lead writer on the Dragon Age series, went and confirmed that Dorian is actually gay. “Fully-gay,” in fact.

In a post on the official BioWare website, introducing players to Inquisition’s new characters, Gaider confirmed in no uncertain terms that Dorian is the series’ first “fully gay” character. After mentioning that writing Dorian brought up new aspects for him to explore, Gaider was asked what those aspects were:

“Dorian is gay—he is, in fact, the first fully gay character I’ve had the opportunity to write. It added an interesting dimension to his back story, considering he comes from a place where “perfection” is the face that every mage puts on and anything that smacks of deviancy is shameful and meant to be hidden. Dorian’s refusal to play along with that façade is seen as stubborn and pointless by his family, which has contributed to his status as a pariah.”

For Gaider, who is openly gay, the exploration of Dorian’s sexuality made the experience of writing him a personal one.

“I suppose this aspect of Dorian will make him controversial in some corners, but I was glad to include it. It made writing Dorian a very personal experience for me, and I’m hopeful that will make him seem like a fully realized character to fans in the end.”

Gaider later clarified via Twitter that perhaps “fully-gay” was not the best phrasing, after being called out as “biphobic” by a follower:

“I meant “legitimately”, sorry. I was trying to be clear–many people consider the bi characters we’ve done to be “gay”,” he replied, and when the term ‘legitimately’ was also called into question he said that, “Many would say, “No, it’s not.” But fair enough–I did not intend to comment on bisexuality, and will leave it at that.”

And just to clarify once more on Twitter, when asked what makes a character “legitimately gay”,

“He only romances men.”

Simple. Let’s move on now.

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As a developer BioWare has always been at the forefront of including more sexually diverse characters in their games, though they’ve often been called out on their portrayals as well. 2003′s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic featured the lesbian character Juhani, a breakthrough for queer playable characters at the time.

The original Mass Effect rather messily offered players “no” same-sex options, save for the ability for female players to romance the genderless but female-bodied Asari. Mass Effect 2 continued this trend, drawing criticism that no gay men seemed to exist in the game’s universe, and canonically no actual gay people despite the Asari looking very much female. This was finally remedied in Mass Effect 3, which not only allowed players to romance several different men (including longtime party member Kaiden, played by openly gay model Luciano Costa) but also introduced Cortez, a non-playable NPC who is, to use Gaider’s terminology, fully gay. That is to say, he’s canonically gay whether the player wants to romance him or not; a series first and a gaming rarity.

Meanwhile back in 2011 Dragon Age 2 came under fire by some, yet praised by others, for its unique take on in-game romance. While no characters were homosexual by default, most everyone was romanceable to some degree. Some felt this was a cop-out that watered down the characters, while others celebrated a more fluid take on sexuality in a fantasy world. When one gamer attacked the series for being too gay-friendly and not appealing to its ‘straight male audience’, even suggesting the ludicrous idea of a no-gays options for bigoted players, David Gaider took him to task.

“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 DAO 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.”

Earlier this year, answering a question from a lesbian fan on his Tumblr, Gaider discussed being gay and being a developer working in the game industry. He addressed the issues that people have raised with the queer-content in BioWare’s titles, as well as his own hesitance in tackling queer issues as someone who has been working in the industry since before it was ever considered possible, but ultimately he acknowledged the importance of making that content available at all.

“….I have to remind myself of the truth: there are people out there for whom the presence of any gay content will automatically render it “the gay game”. The presence of two bisexual male followers in Dragon Age 2, only one of whom made advances on a male player without first being flirted with, means “every man in Thedas is gay and wants my man-meat”. These are the same people for whom the mere existence of a gay character, or a plot that deals with gay subject matter, really anything that forces them to acknowledge that homosexuality so much as exists, is going to be a personal insult. I remind myself that it’s not that much to include, and really it’s very little in comparison to the entire rest of the game…and thus, considering what it means to those fans who receive that validation almost nowhere else, it’s not too much to demand a bit of tolerance and compassion from the portion of the audience for whom this content is not even intended.”

Truly, for all of the criticism that Gaider, BioWare, and EA have faced over the years they have created more opportunities for queer gamers in their titles than most any company. That’s nothing to balk at. While the final execution may not have always been perfect, the mere fact that they are actively working towards more inclusive titles shows a real commitment to their LGBT fans. This commitment can be seen in events like EA’s Full Spectrum panel, BioWare’s presence at events like GaymerX and Gaider being a boss of honor at the queer gaming conference. It can also be seen in the creation of characters like Dorian.

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Of course there’s much more to Dorian than just being gay, as it should be.

“Dorian is smart—perhaps too smart for his own good, really. He was raised in a society where both intelligence and wit are prized, where advancing yourself socially means outmaneuvering your peers, and he does so quite well… or, at least, he would if he didn’t see through it all. That’s left him rather jaded and sarcastic, naturally…..He enjoys using his magic and doesn’t see any reason why he should be ashamed about it. So he unleashes his full power when it’s needed… and he has plenty of power to unleash, seeing as he comes from a society where mages are trained to use it rather than hide it. This includes powerful elemental spells, as well as spells involving the control of spirit and the dead—things societies outside of Tevinter might turn up their noses at and claim “distasteful.”….Dorian is an outcast—by choice, but only insofar as he chose not to live according to the expectations of his society. There are a lot of aspects to that which I enjoyed exploring, and which I haven’t had to chance to do with other characters.”

I personally can’t wait to find out more about Dorian, who joins the ever growing list of openly gay playable characters in AAA-gaming. You can find out more about him by visiting the official BioWare site.

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About Sal Mattos

(Managing Editor and Writer) Sal lives in the beautiful city of San Francisco where he splits his time between playing games, watching copious amounts of television, and occasionally going outside. He has written for GayGamer and Gamezone. He studied creative writing and theatre at SFSU, and when not gaming can most likely be found on stage somewhere. You can keep up with him on twitter @salmattos

14 Responses

  1. avatar Johndar says:

    I love the character design and what we know of him so far, but I would like to point out as others have that Sera, the female only romance option who is female, is the first homosexual playable character in Dragon Age, at least in order of announcements. It’s weird that Gaider himself makes that mistake. Nonetheless, even more excited for inquisition now!

  2. avatar Nexus says:

    Ugh! Terrible design. Just plain ugly facial hair.
    I guess I’ll have to wait for modders to make a facial hairless version of him or be forced to romance a bisexual again.

  3. avatar Ann says:

    No complaints about the kinda… cliché look? It could be worse but still far from a “normal” man, eh?

    • avatar Luigi says:

      What is a “normal” man supposed to be/look like exactly?

      • avatar Ann says:

        Wow… That question was soooo predictable.

        I am talking about some of the gestures/posings for example. As if gays are about playing a drama all the time and posing like the biggest divas on stage ever. “Lookies, Im a magician and spend most of my time twirling my ‘stache and fixing my pompadour – at least when I am not tweezing my eyebrows”. That’s all way toooo much cliché for me. I don’t have a problem with these kind of gays, but I don’t understand why that’s supposed to be THE flagship-gay-type.

        It may be a false impression from some images (at least the few I’ve seen), so I have to judge that after playing the game, but so far I am not very happy with what I see and would prefer a “normal” approach to gay-characters way more. Less “diva” less “overacting posings”. For the record: Overacting may be the wrong word, but I don’t know a better way to describe the (sometimes) wild gestures a lot of gay-people do and whatnot.

        Maybe Bill from “The Last of Us” would be a great example for “just” a man being gay. There was none of that clichés going on with him.

        Anyways, I do like the Vincent Price-vibe in some of Dorians images/screens.

        • avatar Luigi says:

          Well when you make stupid statements like “normal man” you should expect the question.

          You’re making a LOT of assumptions based on very little screenshots and footage. He’s a MAGE, most mages make dramatic poses when they make magic. And there’s barely any footage of him either out there, so where are you making your assumptions? Says more about you than anything they’ve shown of him yet.

          And even if he is a diva, who cares?

          Bill is a great character and so far Dorian looks cool too. There is no “normal” gay man, there’s a whole variety of them.

          If every gay character was “normal” or “straight acting” or “surprise! I just happen to be gay but you wouldn’t know unless you asked” then that’d be just as bad as if every single was was prancing around like Tingle.

          Dramatic gay people and non-dramatic gay people BOTH exist and BOTH deserve to be represented in games. Just like we can have girly girl characters and badass girl characters.

          So long as the character is treated as a real person and given a good story, and isn’t just the butt of a joke or killed off for no reason or something, it shouldn’t matter what their personality is.

          • avatar Ann says:

            You don’t get the point. But I was expecting stupid people to stsrt what you are starting here…

            Anyways, it is about gay people being represenred most of the time in a rather “special” way and I don’t like that. It is true there are many kinds of gay men, but why are they represented so often in a very prominent way? Because that’s the image of gay people? There is a lot of “you just cannot tell” gays and I would like to see more of that kind too. There’s too much from the others for my taste in gaming, comics, etc.

            And again: I said it may be a false impression so far.

      • avatar Ann says:

        There we go: “exaggerated” may be the right word. But as I said it may be a false impression I have so far, so we will see.

        Can complain about it after the release! :D

  4. avatar Neil Collins says:

    He’s hot! I love the sexy moustache!

    • avatar Neil Collins says:

      I would rather a full bearded hunk with hairy chest, but a refined guy with a cool moustache is cool too. :)

  5. avatar Kevin (Ket) says:

    Figures, the one I knew I was going to dislike…

  6. avatar Robert says:

    So here is a valid question, but should BioWare always include an exclusive same-sex option for the players now, or has the previous use of bisexuals in Origins or “Playersexual” choice in Dragon Age II going to fall by the wayside?

  7. avatar g_whiz says:

    I was hoping you’d do a write up on Dorian Pavus here, and was checking back to see if it’d happened. Not disapointed at all, as it’s excellent and just as thoughtful as I’d hoped.

    I think the gaming community is very fortunate to have David Gaider and Bioware on the whole telling stories and creating games, as they’ve done a tremendous lot for diversity in content and character. There was one canonically gay character in Mass Effect 3, and he was one hell of a character but believe me the consternation I heard about him even existing struck quite a chord.

    The point Gaider makes above about merely existing being enough to disrupt their calm. Our existence is too beyond the pale to be considered anything other than an affront to their supposed normalcy- and that point simply tells me there’ll be no appeasing people like that. Any reality that dares express the radical notion that gay people exist in it is somehow a slight on theirs. It strikes me as particularly sad and incredibly unstable at the end of the day, but there it is.

    I’m incredibly thankful for this trend. Gay characters should exist just as gay persons do, and should not merely be expected to be interacted with just if that’s what you want. We ought to be allowed to be a part of the larger story and I’m grateful for that.

  8. […] canon comes just weeks after BioWare, the studio behind Dragon Age, introduced its first canonical gay male character and Nintendo apologized for excluding queer relationships in its new 3DS title Tomadatchi […]

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