It appears that people are showing up in droves on my insignificant little blog for the sole purpose of finding gay porn for Bioware games. As confused as I am about this turn of events, who am I to deny you? Here you go, my perverted friends. Feast your eyes.
This post is now pinned for easy access. New posts, if any, will appear below. And now I cement my reputation as a purveyor of gay porn wherever I go. Here I thought I was escaping that by starting a blog away from Tumblr. Life is strange indeed.
We want “Dragon Age Gay Porn Fan Art”, do we? Here, you filthy perverts. I made a special tag in your honour. Drink to your heart’s content.
The amount of Mass Effect yaoi/gay porn has now reached a tipping point and is impossible to list out individually. So here’s a tag. Enjoy!
Needless to say, all the links are NSFW. FFS don’t click them in a public place.
Sadly, I have no Tali porn. You’ll have to find that elsewhere. I saw some Legion porn once but that was too traumatic for me so I’m not posting it. (“Shepard-Commander, there is a hole…” That phrase will haunt me for the rest of my days. *shudder*)
It all started with a GIF…
No wait, that’s not quite right.
It all started with the twisted, maniacal sense of humour shared by two people who happened to meet each other online and then combine their powers into a force for horrifying evil.
The GIF was just the catalyst.
Its creator had no idea what would eventually be wrought from it. And everyone else were merely innocent bystanders caught in the blast.
Now gathered together in one place, the fragments form a whole more terrible than the individual parts could ever be. Complete with links and authors’ notes that clearly illuminate the slow descent into madness that (understandably) accompanied the writing, I present to you…
She’d killed hundreds, maybe thousands of his kind without so much as a blink. Why was he different? Why had she stopped for him?
As their eyes locked across the battlefield, she felt something stir within her – not loathing or bloodlust, but a growing passionate desire. And she could see the same confused yet desperate need flickering in his eyes too. Slowly, she lowered her gun and raised her hand to gently cup his cheek…
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo what am I doingggggggggg fuck fuck fuck someone take away my keyboard
You are evil and I love it.
The husk didn’t attack her. Instead, he swayed back and forth, cooing, almost purring against her hand. She wanted to touch that eerie skin of his, imagined it was cold, wanted to take her glove off right then and there. She knew it wasn’t safe, knew anything she and the husk could have would be forbidden but she didn’t care.
She was in love with an undead, repurposed corpse changed into an evil minion. And she knew he felt the same.
The battle raged on around her but all she could see was him. She was mesmerized by the bright, pulsing blue of his eyes and the cybernetic veins that ran through his flesh and bones, holding him together in the perfect image of a decaying, corpse-like Adonis.
Suddenly, she was jerked back to the present by shouts and the clatter of gunfire nearby. With lightning reflexes born of years spent in the heat of combat, she grabbed him and lunged to the side, knocking them both to the ground behind a nearby outcropping of rock as bullets whizzed past where his head would have been.
They sat in silence for a few seconds, staring at each other. Her breathing was heavy, her heart pounded in her chest, adrenaline heightened her senses. She knew they didn’t have much time. Soon her companions would come after her. They would find them and kill him before she had a chance to explain. It was now or never.
In one fluid movement, she ripped off her helmet and tossed it to the side, then pushed him to the ground and got on top, straddling him at his desiccated waist.
OH FUCK I AM NOT WRITING A SEX SCENE I CAN’T I WON’T IT IS AN ABOMINATION OF NATURE
I AM SCREAMING AND CRYING AND LAUGHING.
Okay you win. You win all the awards. And I’m not even going to try to continue this part nor do I want to. I salute you for getting this far. xD
If Shepard smoked, she would have lit a cigarette right then. She leaned back against the rock, her arms behind her head. There was a satisfied grin on her face as the husk said: “Gruuuuuubhaaarrrgh.” She patted his arm. “I know, I feel the same way,” she said.
Suddenly, from a distance, she heard her teammates calling her name. They were coming closer. She didn’t have much time. She jumped up, began putting her armor back on as fast as she could. The husk – her husk – sat up, confused and sad. “Blaaaarrr?” He asked.
Shepard hesitated, bit her lip. His face, his beautiful blue face, was irresistible. His enormous glowing eyes were pleading her to stay. But she couldn’t. They both knew that. They both knew that it would never last, that this had been a one-time deal and that neither of them would ever forget their infinite, short, glorious time together. She finished getting dressed.
As Shepard walked away, she didn’t look back. She couldn’t. She marched on, fighting the urge to run back to him. A loud cry came from behind her – the sound of a defeated man, a man in mourning, a man missing half of his heart. And it sounded like “GRRRRRRAAARGHBLUUUUUUURGGGGGHH.”
“Me too,” Shepard whispered. “Me too.”
(Mercifully) The End
It’s time for another installment of… Working Out My Gross Personal Issues By Talking About Dragon Age Characters! Today’s episode is about ANDERS!
[Trigger Warning for talk about rape, abuse and sexual assault]
I read this comment about Anders recently:
This whole internal reasoning Anders is doing around the bruise is resonating strongly with my head cannon about his in game comment about having gotten lucky in the tower in regard to beatings and rape. Namely, I don’t think he avoided being assaulted, one way or another, I just think he believed that everything that did happen to him was something he deserved. That is wasn’t really a beating. That is wasn’t really rape. And that because he deserved it that it wasn’t as bad as the beatings and rapes he knew were happening without cause. That because he deserved it that it didn’t “count”.
This is very close to how I see it too and to be completely honest, in a way it rings true for me personally as well.
I have never been raped and it is difficult to get myself to believe that multiple sexual assaults over many years carry the same weight as the kind of things some rape survivors have been through. Yes, what I went through was bad. But was it bad enough?
When discussions come up (or, more likely, I’m reading blogs about it) I stay silent because I feel I have no right to participate or offer my experiences. I can’t take up room when other people who’ve been through worse need it. The most I feel I can offer is support and understanding, an unspoken assurance that I know how you feel and You’re not alone.
Remember when I wrote that post about Fenarius some time ago? That was the first time in my life I ever admitted outside of myself that I’ve been sexually abused. It’s always been a neutral “thing that happened”, lurking in some dark corner of my mind, sealed over with mental scar tissue so thick I barely feel anything on the rare occasions I allow myself to glance at it. But I know it’s there and if I push hard enough, it will give way and everything inside that’s still raw and bleeding might come tumbling out. So I just never do.
Maybe it’s because it happened so far back that a life without it is something my mind can’t imagine. Abuse just is, a fact of life no different than anything else you go through. (Even though consciously I KNOW that’s not true.) I couldn’t escape it so on some level I accepted it, though even then I knew it was wrong/bad/shouldn’t be happening. To try and fight it, even mentally, would have been too difficult and damaging. We adapt ourselves to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, just to be able to survive. And it’s funny and wonderful and sad, the gymnastics your mind is capable of doing to protect itself – to protect you – from pain.
And still, to hear about it happening to others causes disgust and rage and sympathy for them to well up in a way I can’t feel for myself. Because what happened to me wasn’t that painful. It could have been worse. It happened but it also didn’t. It doesn’t count.
“I’ve been lucky, I’ve never been raped” is a thing I say to deflect from the fact that other traumatic things have happened to me. It’s 100% true – I have in fact been lucky to escape actual rape. But more than that, it’s a shield against those who would use my experiences to hurt me or undermine my point of view. (You know the type.) “I’ve never been raped” is code for, “I don’t have the weakness you think I do so don’t even TRY using that against me.” It’s a cat puffing itself up, baring fangs and claws, to warn its attackers off – it’s a bluff, but often a highly effective one.
Look at the conversation in which Anders says that:
- Sebastian: You seem very angry.
- Anders: And here I thought the Chantry was against mind-reading.
- Sebastian: Did something happen to you in the Circle? I understand there were problems in Ferelden…
- Anders: Are you saying a mage can only be unhappy in the Circle if demons were involved?
- Anders: No, it’s not about Uldred. It’s not about being beaten or raped by a templar— that does happen, but I’ve been fortunate.
- Anders: It’ s a larger principle: the freedom every man, woman, and child born in Thedas have as a natural right.
- Sebastian: You were given to the Circle. I was given to the Chantry. Hawke was driven away from home by the Darkspawn.
- Sebastian: None of us are free.
The thinly veiled implication of Sebastian’s line of questioning is that there’s something wrong with being angry at institutionalized oppression, at things that affect you – that there’s something wrong with Anders himself – and that the “something” that may or may not have “happened” to him is at the root of it.
“Don’t listen to Anders, he’s just hysterical/crazy/emotional/over-reacting because he was raped.” It’s a blatant attempt at undermining and dismissing him, and I think it’s something a lot of us are familiar with. A person who uses that kind of argument has already made a judgement about your perceived weaknesses, and isn’t going to respect you. It’s exactly the kind of situation where I’d pull out, “I’ve never BEEN raped, you smug fuck, you’re wrong about everything.” I don’t want to explain myself to someone like that, and I would NEVER expose my wounds to them.
I’ve always thought that Anders had been through something, though I don’t personally need to dwell on the details of what that might be. It’s not possible to go through an institution like the Circle and NOT have suffered in some way. There are plenty of things one can endure that are traumatic apart from beatings or rape. Even just witnessing the aftermath of such things on other people around you, feeling constantly physically and sexually unsafe, knowing that it could be you next even if eventually nothing happens to you, will do it.
I don’t necessarily believe Anders felt he “deserved” it though, which is where I disagree with the commentor. Or partially disagree at least, since I’m not saying it isn’t like that at all, just that it isn’t necessarily like that. Speaking for my own experiences, I knew that I didn’t deserve it. There was never a time that I thought something I did caused it. My mind still minimized the experience so that it didn’t feel big enough to count, or big enough to hurt me.
And maybe that’s what happened with Anders too.
[Side note: I'm not sure how rape and abuse are viewed by the general populace of Thedas. I don't personally recall any rape-apologist dialogue through the games and Aveline is pretty firmly anti-rape-apologist. She never struck me as an idealist, at best maybe only slightly above average in the nature of her personal convictions, and the line where her stance is revealed is said very matter-of-factly and goes uncontested - like victims not asking for it is NOT an earth-shattering new belief.
It could be that their views are similar to our world's, though I sincerely hope not, or that Sebastian is even MORE of a privileged, entitled prick than I thought. I'm hoping for the latter.
We all know mages aren't people of course, and neither are elves, so whatever happens to them can be safely ignored since no one would care anyway. People are capable of amazingly horrifying double standards so a society that's supportive of victims might still not care about its non-people.]
[Or "Mess Effect 3", if you're trying to be clever. Which I'm not.]
I firmly believe that Mass Effect deserves a better ending. It’s not that the ones we got were “bad” exactly, so much as they were unsatisfying for those of us who’ve invested so much into the games, the characters, and our Shepards so deeply and for so long. The disappointment is all the more palpable because of how superlative the rest of the game was. It was everything it needed to be – the story was gripping and emotional, the missions were exciting and non-repetitive, the squad banter and interaction made me squee, even planet scanning was fun! I won’t say there were no problematic elements but as a game and as the end of a spectacular trilogy, it was a delight to experience… right up until the final outcomes. I mean that stuff didn’t happen, okay? It just didn’t!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the endings entirely. They’re fine enough as stories, and I’m okay with having them as options or “most likely outcomes”. But there should have been a better perfect ending, even if it was made relatively difficult to get. If Bioware sold a DLC right now that added a new ending or reinstated the pre-rewrite ones (and maybe included a quest that you really have to work at to get them), I would be all over it in a heartbeat.
So I voted in that poll on BSN asking for a new ending. I’ve added my voice to the chorus of complaint, even though:
a.) I know there’s a slim-to-none chance it will accomplish anything.
b.) I’ve probably joined the ranks of what some would call “whiny fans”.
c.) I honestly don’t believe Bioware has an obligation to change anything. It’s their game, their story, and they did an amazing job with the rest of it. If this is how they want it to end, well so be it. Doesn’t stop me from hating it, of course, but I won’t declare undying hatred for them because of it.
A part of me really (really really) hopes for a fix-it DLC or download or something. But another part of me is wary of what actually getting that may portend. It scares me a little, the amount of control fans expect to have over the game development process and the lengths they’re willing to go to make their displeasure at any perceived slight or misstep or failing known to the developers. Gamers are an entitled bunch of mofos – I think we can all agree on that – and every one is completely convinced that they alone know what will make a particular game the Best Ever. Since the devs failed to provide them with this one key thing, of course their product sucks donkey balls and is doomed to fail!
It’s one thing to give feedback and criticism where it’s due, and quite another to froth at the mouth because every tiny aspect of the game doesn’t perfectly suit your taste. Unfortunately, it’s the latter that I see most often directed at Bioware. They don’t deserve it. Their employees should not have to post tweets like this. “Heart-sick” and “soul-dead” should not be words that describe the effect of dealing with their supposed “fans”. And I say this as someone who isn’t shy about pointing out their problematic issues when called for.
Wanting to keep your fans happy and playing for the audience are worthy goals, but not at the cost of creative stagnation and certainly not out of fear of this kind of vitriolic backlash. I worry about whether all this is leading in that direction. (I’m not saying it IS, just that I’m afraid it might.) There’s always somebody angry about something, wanting their specific complaint to be corrected. After a while, both the useful advice and the empty noise all blend in to one cacophonous stream and it can’t be easy to separate them to decide what to address.
Usually when I bring up something like this, I try to think about possible solutions. (It’s a habit with me, sorry.) What would I do if I were in the middle of this situation and had to handle it effectively? The thing is, I don’t know. The problem is not just that there is anger – I believe it’s justified in this case – but that it seems like the hatred for Bioware just never stops. It’s almost become fashionable now to nitpick at everything and never be satisfied. You know how when you like someone, you find it easy to forgive their mistakes but when you hate someone, everything about them grates on your nerves and you act like it’s a deliberate assault on your senses? It’s like that. A segment of people have decided to hate on Bioware and there is literally nothing the studio can do that will make them happy now.
I know that as a fan who has more praise for them than vilification, I don’t feel like I have a place on BSN – not unless I want to be engaged in exhausting battles with people who seem convinced that they must spare no opportunity to express their opinion on how Bioware is a failure until they’ve beaten everyone else into submission or silence. At least I can log off whenever I want and never look back. The employees and community moderators have no such luck and I can just about imagine how difficult it must be for them.
Unfortunately I have no conclusion to this set of thoughts. So I’m just going to let them sit here for now.
ETA: I’ve been reading a number of logical, well-written, even heartfelt articles describing just why the ending to ME3 was that earth-shatteringly disappointing and frankly, I’m relieved! When I first played through it, I had such a visceral reaction of disbelief and bile that I wasn’t able to put into words why. Luckily, many people have been able to do it for me and my creeping fear that I was simply acting like a spoilt brat, sitting in my highchair, demanding more applesauce have been somewhat assuaged.
Again for clarity, I’m not going to crucify Bioware for it – it’s their game, they can do what they like with it – and much as I want a decent ending, I’m not going to picket their office or something until I get it.
I’ve also been seeing this argument being framed in terms of “Gamers will whine about anything; don’t listen to them!” versus “No they don’t; you should take your customers’ complaints seriously!” but this is entirely the wrong way to look at it. The question here is not whether gamers as a group are an entitled bunch of wankers – we ARE! There’s no escaping that. Anyone who spends time observing gamer communities – and the Bioware community especially – will see that people complain about everything and demand it be changed to suit their will. It makes taking what they have to say seriously that much more difficult because how do you pick out meaningful words from the midst of a constant droning buzz?
We just happened to have a point this time though.
No, the only question that needs to be asked here is this: Was the finale of Mass Effect 3 a satisfying conclusion that did justice to everything that was created and built before it? And the answer to that is, “No“.
ETA AGAIN because holy overreactions, Batman!
Having said everything I did the above, I think offering full refunds for the game is completely unnecessary. Hell, wanting a full refund because of 10 minutes out of an otherwise mindblowingly awesome game is ridiculous! Apart from the ending, Mass Effect 3 was flat-out amazing, there’s no denying that.
At this point, the backlash seems to be segueing from personal disappointment into full on mob-mentality-based trashing. It’s been, what, a few weeks since the game came out? This is not a good time to be offering refunds – it’s practically feeding the frenzy at its height. Rewarding it at this point is only going to make it stronger.
It’s a real problem with a lot of gaming communities that the angriest, most rabidly thoughtless people tend to shout the loudest and get themselves heard, even if they’re in the minority. They stir each other up to ever higher levels of hatefulness as only a mob can. If a lot of those same people were in a place where their shouting wasn’t welcome, you bet they’d think twice before doing it.
After a while the screaming drowns out other voices and neither the developers nor other fans know that alternate views exist in any sizeable number. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy – people with supportive or moderate views come in, see all the raging, feel that they won’t be welcome, and leave. It doesn’t help that for some reason, anyone who expresses less than hateful opinions often gets pounced on for it. It’s self-selection at its worst. I’ve seen it happen time and again, and it helps no one – certainly not the developers who need actual criticism instead of insults and attacks.
Purely out of curiosity, I’d like to know the thought process behind that decision. Obviously, I’m not an expert on the business of gaming
though I’d like to be some day! but it doesn’t seem like it would work even as damage control. The game is not bad. There is no reason to recall it when at the most, a simple DLC fix for the endings will solve everything.
The thing that bothers me – and a lot of other fans I’ve talked to or whose discussion I’ve “listened in on” – is the possible financial fallout of this for Bioware and what it could mean for their future products. I’d rather they keep their money and use it to fix this game and give us awesome DLC and more games. Their trajectory has always been progressively increasing quality and I, for one, would like to see that continue.
My Tumblrs have unexpectedly disappeared. Yup. Gone without a trace. And with no warning or notification from Tumblr staff.
The one mentioned and linked to in various places on this blog was littleclaypot but there was another one, completely unconnected to the first, which was taken down too. Eight months, nearly 5000 posts, 150+ friends and followers; my private diary, with records of things I wanted to remember and precious memories I wished to keep safe; all vanished in a blink for no rhyme or reason. I was logged in as usual one day, tried to refresh my dashboard, and suddenly my browser was stuck in an infinite refresh loop and visiting the URLs of the blogs shows a 404 error.
To say I’m shocked and heartbroken would be an understatement.
Apologies for any broken links in any of my posts while I attempt to get this fuck-up looked into.
UPDATE: MY BLOG IS BACK! HURRAY! I’M NOT SHOUTING, I’M EXCITED!
Shipping unlikely pairs is as old as the concept of fandom itself, possibly older. If two (or more) characters so much as glance at each-other during the course of the story – sometimes not even that much – you know someone out there is imagining them together, and possibly even mapping out entire plot-lines for how they got there and how they’ll continue on into the distant future. (More so if they’re men. Don’t ask me how I know.)
Naturally, not everyone can get behind every pairing but a cohesive fandom is built on a “live and let live” philosophy. “You don’t pick on my kink and I won’t pick on yours.” Sounds reasonable and it keeps the peace. There are times, however, when some things necessarily draw the need for remark.
I’ve been seeing posts about how those who don’t like the idea of Fenris/Danarius, otherwise known as “Fenarius”, are “haters” and “just jelly” (short for “jealous”) – those perennial favourite explanations for why different slices of fandom disagree on various topics – and I felt the need to address this.
I have a pretty accepting attitude as far as fandom things go. There’s not a lot that gets me riled up. Shipping unlikely pairs, differing opinions on characters and events – they’re all good with me even if I don’t agree, as long as they aren’t gross misinterpretations, don’t stem from vile discriminatory beliefs, and aren’t based on such flawless reasoning as “LOL she’s a dumb bitch” and “HAHA he’s a whiny pussy”. You relate to the games in a particular way? More power to you! I may state my point of view but I won’t usually say anyone is wrong.
There is one thing though that, despite my best efforts, raises my hackles like nothing else. I cannot be okay with the idea of “Fenarius” the way most people seem to take it.
[BIG FAT TRIGGER WARNING FOR TALK ABOUT SEXUAL NON-CONSENT AND WORSE.]
This is incredibly difficult for me to write about. Partly because I’m afraid of the backlash but more so because this is so incredibly personal.
Let’s get some facts on the table first. Fenris was Danarius’ slave - a possession, a person with no autonomy or rights or power or the ability to refuse anything commanded of him, completely under his master’s control. A person without the ability to give or withdraw consent freely, without coercion or fear of repercussion, cannot engage in a meaningfully consensual relationship. Someone stripped of their humanity to the point that even the thought of defiance or a life other than complete compliance to their master’s whim is alien to them cannot engage in a meaningfully consensual relationship.
There is nothing “controversial” here, these are things that cannot be argued. This pairing is not some BDSM fantasy. BDSM is about explicit consent at every step and strict adherence to a partner’s boundaries. Even if you believe that Fenris “loved” Danarius and “wanted to be with him”, it would not be the love of a free person for another but something more akin to Stockholm Syndrome. And that’s without getting into what Danarius as a slave-owner might have felt towards his possession. One does not “love” an object. One uses an object at one’s pleasure and thinks only of its usefulness, not its feelings.
So Fenarius necessarily is dubcon and noncon (which I still can’t believe are actually THINGS, but okay). If that’s your thing, so be it. I won’t comment on that particular thornbush right now except to say that that might be why many aren’t comfortable with the pairing. Clearly none of these are good enough reasons to not like it though, right? Atleast not according to some fans because apparently the rest of us are just “haters” and “can’t see how great it REALLY is”.
I suppose at some point the possibility of having such discussions without getting personal fades away and it becomes necessary to rend one’s own wounds open for the benefit of the public. So here I go. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I won’t go into details but when it happened, it wasn’t violent or traumatic. I barely knew what was happening and for the longest time I didn’t think it had even affected me. (I wasn’t debilitated in any way, I functioned quite normally during that time and still do, and I doubt there was any noticeable sign of it in my behaviour at all.) But it was still abuse. A person in a position of power taking advantage of the fact that my body was available to satisfy their “needs”, that they would face no repercussions for what they did, that I couldn’t meaningfully fight back in any way, that they didn’t for a second have to think about what their toy might go through because of their actions.
When I come across things related to “Fenarius”, I get triggered in the worst way. To know that people can fetishize the kind of experiences I’ve had (worse than the ones I’ve had, in fact; I was never a slave) hurts like a motherfucker. Spasms of emotional pain erupt in my chest, sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe or like I’m shaking on the inside, a lot of times it takes hours for me to get back my mental equilibrium. I don’t even have to look directly at it – a whiff of the idea will do; a shadow at the corner of my eye is all I need to know what’s making the shape. Most of the time I can live with the knowledge of its existence as long as I don’t think about it too much. But I try to avoid encountering it as much as I can because I never know when I’ll get a trigger reaction and I don’t want to go through that if I can help it.
That is why I don’t like Fenarius. You can hate me for it or mock me or silently judge me or whatever. I can’t care in this situation, because it is my emotional safety on the line and I’d rather have that than “keep the peace” and “get along”.
I’m not writing this to tell anyone they should stop consuming or producing Fenarius stuff; that would be ridiculous. It would just be nice if some respect was given for what survivors go through when confronted with themes like this, instead of acting like we’re irrationally hating on something we don’t think about or understand. We understand well enough.
It’s possible to like things that are problematic and not be a horrible human being, but part of that is owning up to the fact that it IS problematic and not trivializing the real concerns and pain of those who are affected by those aspects. A thoughtful gesture would be to maybe use a trigger warning and a cut when talking about it. (Although I don’t expect this to ever happen, atleast not without a big push from allies willing to take on the inevitable abuse from those unwilling to question their non-survivor privilege. But it would be nice.)
I’ve been very hesitant to post about this because I didn’t want to seem divisive but ultimately I had to say something. I’ve felt alone and isolated and afraid of people’s reactions about this since the first time I realized such a thing existed and it occurred to me that I might not be the only one. When it comes to topics as sensitive and personal as this especially, it’s all the more difficult to stand up and talk about it. So I decided to shore up my courage and put this out there, for better or worse.
I’ve seen some pretty terrible fights erupt over the most trivial things in fandoms. I’m hoping the DA fandom is better than that but just in case, let me put in a preemptive statement: if I can live with the existence of Fenarius despite being triggered and pained by it, then I’m sure it’s a lot easier to live with one person’s distaste for something you like, yes?
I am the kind of jerk who edits posts after publishing them if I decide they need it. The latest casualty: an old post on the DA2 elf redesign. The core points remain unchanged, they just read differently (hopefully better) now.
Dragon Age 2: Are you a sadist or a masochist? You have to pick at least one!
Dragon Age 2: No matter what you do, everything will go to hell. That’s life kid, get used to it.
Dragon Age 2: I’m sorry, did you like these characters? Watch helplessly as we slowly lower them into a pit of lava.
Dragon Age 2: What’s the point? Just give up now and save yourself the trouble.
Dragon Age 2: ”Mommy, which of us do you love more?”
Dragon Age 2: My, that’s a nice happy heart you have there! Be a shame if something were to… happen to it.
When DA2 first came out, I heard a lot of bad reviews and complaints. Now, I see tons of comments to the effect, “Wait, people thought THIS was BAD? It’s so much better than the reviews made it seem!” and I secretly do a little happy jig. DA2 is not a bad game by any stretch. It may be disappointing to those expecting “Dragon Age: Origins II” but even I know two years isn’t enough time to make a game of DAO’s calibre and taken by itself, DA2 stands tall on its own merits.
Some trifling bugs and repetitive maps aside, the story is one of the strongest aspects of the game. The role of the player takes a departure from that of the traditional RPG protagonist. Most heroes transcend their station in life, rise above the petty struggles that define the world they came from to effect changes that, while they certainly do have consequences, don’t usually feel personal. The fates you decide for the Circle of Magi or Orzammar or the Dalish in DAO may have been difficult to make but they ultimately have little bearing on the Warden’s new life. Becoming a Spectre frees Shepard from nearly all restraints, bureaucratic red-tape, and discrimination so she* can kick ass unfettered all over the galaxy like no other human can.
Hawke, by contrast, is defined by the conflict and struggles surrounding him* – the Blight takes one of his siblings, he loses the other (in one of many possible ways) during his attempt to build a better life for them, his mother dies in a way that forces him to think about his position on the political climate in Kirkwall, a companion and potential lover literally shapes the future of Thedas through his actions (and can also die). Acquired wealth affords Hawke a certain freedom, protection, and access to power but even that doesn’t shield him from the upheavals that continually occur.
This game serves harsh truths and demands hard decisions. There is no neutral position, no detachment, no third option for compromise. No matter how long you try to keep the peace between the two competing factions, in the end you have to choose a side. There is inescapable tragedy, a hero who cannot save the world – who can’t even save his family – and can only watch as everything descends into chaos despite his best efforts to set it right. It’s the kind of game we don’t usually expect to play, it’s true, but all these are what make it such a damn good story.
There are so many layers to discover as well. Choosing a different class, gender, dialogue option or party member can reveal entirely new facets to a situation or a character’s personality. Listen to a casual remark tossed by an NPC and you can get a whole new perspective on the written history of Kirkwall. You could probably tilt your head at the screen and have things fall into place in a completely different pattern. This kind of depth more than makes up for the contracted length.
I like endings that are messy, tough, bittersweet; that signal the close of a chapter rather than the end of everything important in the hero’s life. As much as I want to know that “they all lived happily ever after,” it’s hardly realistic, and cartoon clichés don’t particularly satisfy me. That’s why the ending of the prequel novel, The Stolen Throne, was something I greatly appreciated. The battle was won and victors emerged but at great personal cost. What was good for the country wasn’t good for its saviours – they themselves and their relationships with each other were irreparably altered and could never be the same, no matter how much they wished otherwise. All they could do was pick up and move forward, live on and try to make the best of what lay ahead. The world keeps turning and life goes on.
Was is sad that they didn’t get perfect happiness forever in exchange for their efforts and sacrifices? Yes, of course it was. But you know what? That’s life, kid! You want games that give you “realism”? This is it! And this is exactly the kind of thing that turns what could have been a childish fairy tale into a mature, nuanced work that speaks to adults.
It breaks my heart that more people don’t see how brilliant DA2 is for subverting so many of our expectations and delivering a game of such humanity and complexity. Hopefully this will change over time and I wish upon a thousand stars that Bioware comes to know how much their efforts to craft such an engaging tale are noticed and appreciated. (The fan community on Tumblr is very vocal about their undying love for DA2 but I can hardly expect anyone, let alone its creators, to wade through all the nude fan art and gay porn just to read the intelligent discussion.)
Greater people than I have written about this far better than I ever could, and I am glad to see it. I certainly hope that Bioware isn’t discouraged from continuing to put out rich stories that make you think instead of merely games you can beat.
* [Using the pronouns of my primary characters for convenience though of course Shepards, Wardens, and Hawkes can be male or female.]