A great story is one of the most important aspects of any video game. This is all the more important for role-playing games, where the story and plot are major contributors to whether or not a game is received poorly or positively. In the case of the video game series Dragon Age, the theme of choice is consistent throughout all three games. Some of the choices have a direct effect on the world, the outcomes of the future games as well as character fates. This isn’t new to video games, but Dragon takes certain decisions to make them all the more important and fun to play, offering replay value and giving the player a larger agency in their gaming experience. Arguably some of the most important decisions come down to the romantic options the player can choose. There are both heterosexual and homosexual relationships available in each game, giving plenty of diversity and options. Which decisions each player makes throughout the story is interesting and worthy of study, to ask why they made those choices. Was it their own personal sexuality or moral views that gave them enough of a reason to make that decision? Conversely, there may be some choices that they will never make, perhaps out of their personal views on morals or because of the way the game presents each decision. Nonetheless, figuring out why people make the choices they do can help understand how players interact with video games and their own personal views on the physical world around them.

The romantic avenues that each of the Dragon Age video games is broad and diverse. There are options available for players in each of the games to enter into homosexual and heterosexual relationships with companions. Character creation also gives players the option to choose from three races in Dragon Age: Origins, one in Dragon Age 2, and four races in Dragon Age: Inquisition, while also giving players the option to choose between female and male genders as well. This gives players more agency when it comes to who their character will look like, an important element of any role-playing game, as well as increasing an audience towards female gamers and homosexual gamers as well. Navarro-Remesal discusses the topic of sex, gender, and romance in role-playing games, and how the players experience the game, as we either conform to the ideas and rules that the game sets, or reject them. Studying how role-playing games’ representation of gender, sex, and romance aligns or is rejected by the player as they interact with others. Navarro notes that “there will always be an unavoidable relationship between the player’s actual, situated body and the body of her avatar” (Navarro-Remesal, 2018). The relationship between the avatar in the Dragon Age compared to the players’ physical, the real body is an important point to note. For some players, it could be used as a fantasy of physical strength, creating an avatar who is taller, with bigger muscles to create a power fantasy that is common in video games. There could also be a curiosity about how the other gender as well, or at least to see what their avatar will look like if they play as the opposite gender they are in real life. It was also stated that “The dynamics of identification and player representation are complex, and we should be careful when analyzing playable characters… player is at the same time a spectator of the fiction and an actor of it” (Navarro-Remesal, 2018). So while there can be a lot learned from how each character’s avatar looks and the gender they choose their character to be, the player is allowed to make their own story, even if that story was not the one that the developers created intentionally. It was also stated that “When we create our avatar,… as a mirror image of ourselves, as a different character whose point of view we want to experience, as an experiment, as a transgressive act of ‘dark’ play” (Navarro-Remesal, 2018).

Sexuality and romance in Dragon Age Inquisition is something that is broadly representative of the progressive times of the modern world. For example, the character of Cremisius Aclassi, or Krem for short, the second-hand man of Iron Bull and The Chargers. He is the first transgender character to be included in a Bioware game, as his backstory is revealed as to be born a woman, but felt as if he was different from the others. There is a line of dialogue from one of the companions, Iron Bull, that references Krem’s gender, where Krem askes Iron Bull about how his race, the Qunari treat “Aqun-Athlok”, translated into English meaning ‘born as one gender but living as another’, and Iron Bull’s response is that they are treated like the men they are. There 8 romantic options for the player to choose from, with some being specific to a race or gender. For example, Solas can only be romanced by a female elf, as well Commander Cullen by a female elf or human. Every romance option in the game is entirely optional, as it is not crucial to the progress of the main plot and doesn’t have any personal quests for the companions and advisors. This decision “makes the player’s performance more personal and meaningful,… through playable characters, we gain the aforementioned possibility of action and behavior and, therefore, access to other subjects, to the world, and to the story” (Navarro-Remesal, 2018). Each romantic option replicates the choice and actions that are taken in the real world that the person playing the game lives in. The way in which the avatar develops a romantic relationship is through dialogue choices made, a system rather than casual conversations, and making the choice to begin a relationship. Dragon Age Inquisition gives all the companions and NPC’s backstories, depth, and personalities, giving the romantic options consequences and creating genuine impact behind any option the player chooses. There is not an emphasis on any particular romance or sexuality, instead, the game leaves it up to the player to determine who to go for. The emphasis of romance is choice, as the player, makes the decision to even have a romance in the first place, but also who they romance too.

The theme of choice is consist within Dragon Age Inquisition within the mechanics of romance, sexuality, and gender. Character creation allows for the player to make an avatar that is an accurate representation of themselves, or an opportunity to experiment and try a new perspective or body to play with. Sexuality and romance is shown to be progressive with the modern world, and also an option for any player to be involved in. These elements being optional highlight the choice each player makes within the game, and how much agency the player has in these games.

References: Navarro-Remesal, V 2018, ‘Gender, sex and romance in role-playing video games: Dragon’s Dogma, Fable III and Dragon Age: Inquisition’, Catalan journal of communication & cultural studies, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 177–191.