Play a couple dozen hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition, and you’ll start to notice there’s something very queer about the fantasy game.
First of all, there’s the character of Dorian, a terribly flamboyant character whose personal storyline involves a family that rejected him for being gay. They even went so far as to attempt to “cure” him through magical means that they hoped would straighten him out. As the player, you have the opportunity to reconcile Dorian with his father.
Then there’s the character of Krem, a tough warrior in a band of fearless fighters. Get to know him well enough, and you’ll notice that he makes a few jokes about binding chests — and then it’s revealed that he’s actually a trans man. The game never uses that term, of course; but Krem makes it clear that he presented as female when he was born and affirmed his male gender as he grew older.
And then there’s The Iron Bull, a hulking muscular male character who likes to kill dragons and leap into combat. Once you catch his eye, you can pursue a romance storyline with him. That storyline includes elements of BDSM, consent, and safe words — in many ways, the player’s conversation in game is a more frank discussion of queer relationships than you’ll find in many real-life couples.
Dragon Age was developed at Bioware (owned by EA), where diversity and inclusion are baked into all of the work that the company does. That’s thanks in large part to writers like David Gaider, who worked for the company for over a decade.
David was my guest on The Sewers of Paris, a podcast where gay men open up about how entertainment changed their lives. And for him, it was Dungeons & Dragons that laid the foundation for the inclusive games he’d help create as an adult.
As a child, he played with family and friends — his mother once sat in on a game to make sure it was appropriate, and wound up becoming an evil wizard. As a young man, he created elaborate LARPs — that’s Live Action Role Plays, in which players dress and improvise in-character the entire time. It’s like a game of living theater.
David worked in the hotel industry by day, so his gaming exploits were simply for fun. But one day a friend recommended him for a job at Bioware. David interviewed with the company, was offered a job, and promptly turned it down because he didn’t believe it could possibly be a sustainable position. But a few days later, his position at the hotel was eliminated, and suddenly he thought Bioware might be worth a second look.
From that point on, his professional life revolved around sci-fi and fantasy realms. But for years, none of his work included queer characters. It wasn’t until another writer inserted a lesbian storyline in a Star Wars game that he realized he could do the same.
“I was blown away when I heard that this is something we were doing,” he said. “I didn’t know that it was something I could even question or want.”
(Featured image via Bioware)