sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (happy dragon)
Sophie ([personal profile] sqbr) wrote2010-02-20 07:38 pm

Dragon Age Origins thoughts

I was going to try and do an indepth thinky post about Dragon Age:Origins(*) but then I'd feel obliged to research it and I think I'd rather not learn so much about the setting that I can see all the cracks. So here's just lots of misc non-spoilery thoughts (I can't think about anything as solidly as I have this game and not poke it wrt bias etc).

On the whole I think it's pretty awesome as a game, but some aspects are problematic to a greater and lesser extent.

The world (in general, and in the country the game is set in) is demonstrably not fair, and taking a moral stand will plausibly screw you over so there's no really obvious moral (apart from "The world being overrun by demons would be bad") to poke at. The fact that the origins cover various sometimes opposing and oppressing/oppressive groups who are all portrayed sympathetically is pretty cool, though having played an oppressed dwarf commoner I find it hard to imagine playing a dwarf noble without hating myself :) On the other hand, the fact Bioware can say "Well, it's a prejudiced society!" means they can get away with the story mostly revolving around the actions of the white upper class pseudo!English human men.

The fact that you can control so many aspects of the game including your appearance and gender etc makes some things hard to judge.

The game allows for a lot of moral ambiguity and player control which makes any dodgy subtext much more muted. There's a lot of ableist, sexist, homophobic, "race"ist etc dialogue for players and companions, but given that there are also options for murdering innocent people etc that isn't necessarily an endorsement. I was bothered by the number of "You're a bitch" options there were to say to Morrigan, though.

The Qunari are Islamic influenced largely unsympathetic Proud Warrior Race Guys, and that's plain creepy.

The Elves pinged as being based on medieval Jews to me. This interpretation didn't make me horribly offended on the whole (the humans come across as pretty straightforwardly oppressive) though the whole Europeans=England=humans=the future dominant society while non-humans=old doomed races=metaphor for human ethnicities like the Jews thing does bother me, it's all a bit manifest destiny.

I think it's reasonable that most of the people you see are white since it's set in pseudo!England (the fact that the elves and dwarves are (EDIT: mostly. Hmm) white is one of those things I'm never sure about, most options for this situation end up problematic and at least there's no dark skinned evil elves). The fact that the only non-white-coded companion is Sten the moderately unpleasant Qunari (I was put off at once when he berated my character for being a woman and a warrior) creates a shonky dynamic imo. Duncan is one of the few characters we meet from any of the non-white human ethnicities of the North and while positive he falls into certain stereotypical tropes I won't spoil.

I think it's awesome that there's m/m and f/f romance options (and some possibilities for once-off threesomes etc here and there afaict) I like all four romance options from a storytelling POV, but think it's problematic that both of the bisexual characters are from more "decadent" foreign cultures. On the plus side, there's no correlation between bisexuality and morality: the characters are White Knight straight guy Alistair, pious romantic bisexual woman Leliana, morally flexible bisexual male assassin Zevran and power hungry not-quite-evil straight woman Morrigan. But I can't help but feel that that progression still buys into various conventional models of sexuality and gender, and there is a correlation between morality as in not killing innocent people and being interested in romance vs sex (though Morrigan seems to be in denial to some extent). The male prostitute I hired in the brothel (I WAS CURIOUS OK) was pretty dodgily camp.

Apart from those driven mad by Evil Magic etc the few disabled characters I noticed tended to be positive but tropetastic.

I'm not sure how I feel about the portrayal of gender, it was hard to see past my own awesome :) I think it was skeevy here and there, but overall the game at least lets you play a kickass female character without getting in your way too much. While I liked many of the female characters they're unlikely to challenge people's preconceptions and they can easily slot them into less nuanced mental pigeonholes ("Evil slut" seems to be a common opinion of many of them from what I've seen)

I'm a bit uncomfortable with the portrayal of class, but it's possible that's an artifact of game overall being a fan of generally showing people being manipulative and untrustworthy and me doing a commoner origin story (plus mage, but they're kind of outside the class system)

Aaand that's all I have to say for now.

(*)For those who don't read my livejournal: this computer game is my latest obsession :)

Off topic but...

[personal profile] gretel 2010-02-20 01:18 pm (UTC)(link)
The male prostitute I hired in the brothel (I WAS CURIOUS OK)

Have I ever told you about the boy that comes on IRC every now and then and tells us all about the prostitutes he visits and what they do.

Re: Off topic but...

[personal profile] gretel 2010-02-21 01:50 am (UTC)(link)
It's pretty loltastic. Apparently getting a girlfriend is too expensive. (I'm assuming you don't want to hear the actual graphic details.)
softestbullet: Aeryn cupping Pilot's cheek. He has his big eyes closed. (Art/ super)

[personal profile] softestbullet 2010-02-20 04:56 pm (UTC)(link)
!!! I didn't know you wrote different stuff on your lj. And you talk about art and gaming?! This is relevant to my interests.

Are you for sure switching all the way over to dreamwidth? If not, I'll add you there as well.

I'm not sure how I feel about the portrayal of gender, it was hard to see past my own awesome :)

Lol, I know, I want to give Fallout 3 so many points for its awesome queer female main character of color (who runs around being heroic with another woman of color!), but then I remember it wasn't really their doing. :D
velithya: (Default)

[personal profile] velithya 2010-02-20 05:34 pm (UTC)(link)
I hear Zevran is physically flexible as well ;)