BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND TWITTER BACKGROUNDS »

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dragon Age features "controversial" gay sex


Some of you may have already heard about the "controversy" (this term being used loosely, since I fail to see how the depiction of an actual sexuality can be controversial on the mere fact that it exists) of the new game Dragon Age: Origins, which features a human and an elf getting it on in a totally optional scene depicting homosexual sex:

The potential gay relationship happens with Zevran, an elf who was born in a brothel and rose to prominence as a thief/assassin. While the love scene sounds like something that could air on broadcast TV, I can't think of a role-playing game that has depicted gay male sexuality to this degree — Jade Empire panned away from its gay kiss, Bully's Jimmy Hopkins wasn't interested in much more than kissing and while Fable let gay couples marry, any sex to happen in that marriage was blacked out.
Unfortunately, Zevran hits a number of stereotypes as well. For one thing, Zevran isn't interested in anything more than casual sex while heterosexual romantic interests are direct about wanting a monogamous, long-term relationship. Meanwhile, isn't a gay elf the fantasy equivalent of a gay hairdresser?

While I'm excited about the inclusivity, I'm more than a little disturbed by this:

In another part of the game, your character can get a bit more adventurous:
During the course of the game, players are able to visit a brothel where a hostess asks what they are interested in. If players select "Surprise me," they can sometimes wind up face-to-face with a woman, a man, a transsexual, or an animal; sexual activity is never depicted during these brothel encounters.
Joy. I know the designers are just trying to keep the mood light, but considering that gay relationships are constantly being compared to sex with animals, maybe I'm just a little touchy about it. There is a Mabari War Dog that appears to be a member of the party, maybe I'll just assume that even fantasy pets need release now and then.

But while us progressives are hailing the inclusion of homosexuality (if not the accompanying stereotypes and option to also have sex with animals) as challenging the unfortunate standard of heterosexuality, some anti-gay bloggers (whom I refuse to link to, but you can check out more on this at Border House) are (surprise) furious about the inclusion of homosexual relationships.  To which I say "get the fuck over it."  This sounds a lot like the homophobic "I'm okay with people being gay, but I don't want to have to look at it."   And then we have homophobia as comedy, where Jimmy Kimmel (and his audience) thinks "gay elf sex" is totally giggle-worthy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to commandeer Dragon Age from the fiance.

crossposted

20 comments:

stufflikemikans said...

Eh...wasn't aware of the sex with animals stuff. Weird. But I'll talk about the gay stuff:

Considering the target demographic for Dragon Age is geeky gamer guys (say that 3 times fast!) that tend to be very homophobic, this is quite a step up. Luckily the gamer guys I hang out with are pretty cool, but I've gone to conventions and other organized events and been around typical gamer guys. They're awful. Like I said, they're extremely homophobic and they think nothing of objectifying women. (It doesn't help when the few women who come to these conventions show up in chain-mail bikinis. Ick.) I can't even imagine how these same guys are reacting to a gay option in a popular video game.

It used to be in RPG's like this, when playing a male character, you could always hook up with any of the female characters. If you played a female character in the game, you could hook up with the men or the women in the game. (It always included a lesbian sex scene too.) You could never have this option playing a male in the game until Dragon Age. (Trust me, Jonny tried with other games.)

Obviously, as you pointed out, it wasn't done perfectly. However, I think Bioware (creators of the game) deserve some credit. Like I said, it's a really progressive move considering how homophobic gamers are.

Also, I can't wait until Bill O' Reily catches on to this. Anything that pisses that man off is a delight to me!

Defender said...

Considering the target demographic for Dragon Age is geeky gamer guys that tend to be very homophobic

That's unfair.

Most modern statistics place "gamer" on a lot more than the stereotypical fat, pimply, "geeky gamer guy".

Maybe refrain from such things in the future.

The demographic that "tends to be homophobic" would be more your early teenage gamers, such as the online "Halo" crowd. This game is not even available for purchase by them, due to it's age rating.

Research on this is key, I'd think.

All that aside, Bioware has been doing this for a long time. One of their earlier games, (a Star Wars one) had a cut section that involved a potential lesbian partner if you chose a female character, and later games such as Jade Empire featured the ability to romance both genders, (as both) though still very early in concept compared to their later efforts such as this, and Mass Effect.

(It doesn't help when the few women who come to these conventions show up in chain-mail bikinis. Ick.)

If they want to, it's not really your place to declare them, or their choices "ick". It's their choice, freely made.

Obviously, as you pointed out, it wasn't done perfectly.

Says who, though? Who says the character needs to be into the default happily ever after relationship model? Considering most other games that feature any sort of romance limit you to the "lifelong partnership" style of things, why can't they also feature casual sex? Lots of people have it.

There's a very independent woman in this game, as well, who will pretty much use the player for sex, and say if they (the player) want it to continue, fine, if not, also fine. Not exactly the normal male romances female, she waits passively sort of thing, hmm?

I'd call that some pretty progressive characterization, no?

You could never have this option playing a male in the game until Dragon Age. (Trust me, Jonny tried with other games.)

Again, Jade Empire. (Xbox/PC)

Wow. Yeah. I talk about games too much. Sorry.

FilthyGrandeur said...

Defender--

yes, the gaming community is sometimes unfairly stereotyped, it's a community that is known for it's homophobia and sexism. i seem to recall a semi-recent contest which basically encouraged men at conventions to sexually assault women. the reward was more women.

but that's not the issue here, and neither is the stereotype of geeky gamer guy. problematic: yes. off-topic: also yes.

as for the women showing up in chain-mail--certainly they're free to dress any way they want. but in the gaming community female characters are often presented for hetero male consumption, and so dressing as those available (and presumably "fuckable") characters invokes that same imagery. it is a problematic cycle of patriarchy where women are allowed to be total badasses so long as they look hot while doing so. thus i think stufflikemikans has a valid point being disturbed by this since it only reaffirms the sexism and objectification. gamer men have been known to sexually harass and/or assault women at these conventions simply because they're supposedly available. that said, no one is going up to those women telling them to cover up, so whatever. just know that it's still problematic.

and as for the depiction of the sexuality, neither of us was referring to the depiction of the casual sex (i think i can safely say that we're both in favor of that) but that the elf in particular was presented in stereotypical manner. that and the option to also sleep with animals makes it more than a little disturbing.

but yeah, it's a step in the right direction.

and thanks for commenting. i welcome you to comment more often, but please in the future refrain from using a condescending tone when addressing fellow commenters. we can disagree without being disrespectful to one another :)

Defender said...

Sorry. No such tone was intentional.

As far as "looking hot while doing it", though, in general, it's like a comic book. I've never seen an ugly male hero, nor a female. I suppose, since it is, at it's core, escapism, when you're escaping life to be someone else, do you want to be ugly?

I'm not exactly handsome, so you bet your butt when I have the "create a character" option, I make a pretty good looking guy to be me. Shrug. :P

but that the elf in particular was presented in stereotypical manner.

Yeah, I'm aware of the stereotype of "gay male = only cares for casual sex", but you have a funny line there. It happens in life, so you want to depict it, but then if you DO depict it, you get told you shouldn't, but then if you don't, you get told you're not focusing on all aspects of relationships.

It's a tricky bit of eggshells to walk through. I don't envy them.

I ramble. I've been playing games since my hands could figure out a controller, back in the dark mists of the very early 80s. It's a topic I have a lot of words on. I'll stop now before your eyes and/or ears bleed.

(And seriously. Watch that movie. :P)

FilthyGrandeur said...

thanks for apologizing.

in regards to female presentation, i have some links you might find fun (and totally educational!):

the first is some how-to comic book drawings of male and female superheros.

this one is the same exact thing, only the men and women have their poses swapped to illustrate how even poses can be completely impractical for women.

and while i admit that the presentation of a gay male character may be progressive, it's still not free from criticism. but i was trying to present both sides of the coin here :)

i do appreciate you rambling. my experiences with gaming can only be referred to as "infrequent dabbling," so i'm always looking to learn from those in the know.

it's interesting that you bring up the escapism and imagining oneself as fundamentally different in appearance--i just finished a China Mieville novel (for the second time) where the main hero is a "lumbering" fat guy. which is kinda funny since China Mieville is, well, not.

(feel free to email me further thoughts on this, if you think you're being too rambly in this thread, which i will never complain about if the conversation is good :) ). and yeah, let the right one in sounds pretty interesting.

stufflikemikans said...

Defender,
I do apologize for my choice of words. I was kind of going off on a rant of my negative experiences as a woman in the gamer community. Because it was a rant, I exaggerated and probably used some poor word choices. However, some parts of what I said are still true. I'm a gamer myself (mostly table top roleplaying more so than video games. I'd play video games more if I had more time and money). It's true not all of the people in this community are homophobic. It's true not all of the people in this community objectify women. But every time I've gone to a convention or large gaming events, I find a majority of the men there are homophobic and do objectify women. It's definitely not just the teenagers that play Halo. Sorry, but that's how it's been from my experience.

FG already took the words right out of my mouth (or words right from my fingers?) about the women who dress in chain-mail bikinis. It basically explains my reason for having an "ick" reaction. I don't have much more to add to that.

Again, Jade Empire.(Xbox/PC)

That's cool. I wasn't aware of that game. More kudos to Bioware then. I'll keep this game in mind when I finally buy an Xbox. (Planning to buy one when I visit the States this summer.)

ArrogantWorm said...

My room mate just started playing this game yesterday, been debating on trying it myself, having never done an rpg vid game before. As for the 'surprise me' with the brothel choices, (being trans myself) I'm more than a bit disgusted that 'transexual' is listed as an other, totally separate from man or woman.
I'd rather not be included in a video game if they're going to pull that shit.

ArrogantWorm said...

"Yeah, I'm aware of the stereotype of "gay male = only cares for casual sex", but you have a funny line there. It happens in life, so you want to depict it, but then if you DO depict it, you get told you shouldn't, but then if you don't, you get told you're not focusing on all aspects of relationships."

Defender,

It strikes me that they could help fix that problem if they used more than one gay character.

FilthyGrandeur said...

ArrogantWorm--

i was also bothered by the inclusion of the "transsexual" only to serve as some deviant option for sex. i think presenting the character as androgynous is also problematic because it totally erases a gendered identity of trans people. i fear it also encourages the use of "he/she" which is totally unacceptable.

and certainly including more than one gay character would be a better attempt at inclusion because as it stands now that one character represents a stereotyped token.

Defender said...

thanks for apologizing.

in regards to female presentation, i have some links you might find fun (and totally educational!):

the first is some how-to comic book drawings of male and female superheros.

this one is the same exact thing, only the men and women have their poses swapped to illustrate how even poses can be completely impractical for women.


Anytime.

Both of those link to the same page? I'm confused, a bit.

and while i admit that the presentation of a gay male character may be progressive, it's still not free from criticism. but i was trying to present both sides of the coin here :)

Well, yeah, absolutely. I was just pointing out that because of the very nature of it, it becomes something that can be criticized no matter what. Sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

i do appreciate you rambling. my experiences with gaming can only be referred to as "infrequent dabbling," so i'm always looking to learn from those in the know.

Well, that works, then. It's one of the subjects I know the most about, pitiful though that is.

it's interesting that you bring up the escapism and imagining oneself as fundamentally different in appearance--i just finished a China Mieville novel (for the second time) where the main hero is a "lumbering" fat guy. which is kinda funny since China Mieville is, well, not.

Well, I'd suppose if one was already attractive, they might want to have an escapist fantasy of the opposite.

Not sure why, though. To each their own.

feel free to email me further thoughts on this, if you think you're being too rambly in this thread, which i will never complain about if the conversation is good :) ). and yeah, let the right one in sounds pretty interesting.

I'm shy. Maybe eventually. Nothing personal.

Yes, it is. Though, I admit, your results may vary. To me, it's on my short list of "perfect" movies. Films that I love every bit of, and there's nothing within them I could change or improve in any way.

(being trans myself) I'm more than a bit disgusted that 'transexual' is listed as an other, totally separate from man or woman.

Some trans people I've met prefer to be "other". They don't care for the designation of either. I suppose it's a matter of what that individual person wishes to be defined as.

Defender,

It strikes me that they could help fix that problem if they used more than one gay character.



True, but statistically, the percentage of gay people in our world is very low, so, in said fantasy world, what are the odds that your group would contain that many? You've already potentially got at least one gay male and one lesbian in addition to the player character being able to be gay or lesbian. Out of, say, 6 people, the fact that 3 are already gay, (or have that potential) is a pretty good split, I'd say.

(Sorry for my late reply. I'm prone to fits of melancholia, and it makes it very difficult for me to do things like post on blogs.)

FilthyGrandeur said...

thanks for pointing out the link error. i am prone to doing 20 things at once. here is the correct second link with the roles reversed.

i have little more to add at this point (don't worry, i read your whole comment). more thoughts on this may strike me later on though.

Defender said...

Wow, you're quick. I just posted that.

Ah, yes. It makes much more sense when I have the correct link.

No worries. Just warn me if it means I've worn out my welcome and you're tired of me posting. :)

FilthyGrandeur said...

don't worry, you're welcome to post as much as you want. i look forward to reading comments from my readers since it offers a variety of perspectives. besides, if it weren't for commenters, i'd just be talking to myself here.

Defender said...

True enough. I just know I get boring pretty easily.

ArrogantWorm said...

"Some trans people I've met prefer to be "other". They don't care for the designation of either. I suppose it's a matter of what that individual person wishes to be defined as."

I'm aware of that, but the 'other' would be other gender identities (or lack thereof). Those aren't listed in the game - either -. Transexual isn't a noun, and it certainly isn't a distinct sex or sexual orientation so I'm failing to see why it was listed as such.

As for the gay characters in the game, I meant bit players and not party members. Having the option that a party member might not be straight isn't the same as having characters not under your control to interact with, it seems to me. When Kris played it last night I was eavesdropping - there's a lot of het commentary in the game (especially seeing as it starts out with an arranged marriage) so it wouldn't've been hard to toss in a few other comments as well.

Defender said...

(You don't have to post this one)

Just for the record, I would enjoy commenting more, but I generally hold my tongue unless it's a subject I'm versed with. Such as video games, books, movies.

FilthyGrandeur said...

that's good, because i talk about those things quite often here!

Defender said...

Well, good, then. That means I don't have to feel bad about hounding you to watch that movie.

I think you could probably even glean some feminist things from it. It could be it's own post!

That is, if you like it. Which I will be deeply sad if you do not. :P

(If it heartens you, from what I've seen, the overall feminist response tends to be quite good)

FilthyGrandeur said...

feel free to hound away (my brain likes to forget things, plus it's pretty flighty, so reminders are nice).

(If it heartens you, from what I've seen, the overall feminist response tends to be quite good)

yay!!

Defender said...

Oh!

I almost forgot THE most important part:

That movie is not in English. However, the initial pressing of the first run of DVDs had the "lowest bidder" subtitles. The translation was horrendous, and lacked all nuance of conversation.

So, if you're out looking at that DVD at the store, make certain on the back that it says "Subtitles: English (Theatrical)".

If it doesn't say theatrical, go somewhere else to get it. Very important.