In the rare occasions that LGBT characters are included in games, we hardly ever get to play as them, romance them and they usually aren’t presented in a good light either. But BioWare is one of few studios that bucks that trend, having consistently featured LGBT characters in their games, including Jade Empire and the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series.
Dragon Age: Inquisition was another LGBT friendly title from the studio, allowing players to be and romance LGB characters and there was also a transgender character in the game too. Now, following a pleasant trend of BioWare developers speaking up about diversity, Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s Lead Writer David Gaider has shed more light on how LGBT characters have affect Inquisition‘s sales.
Dragon Age: Inquisition LGBT Characters and Sales
When games feature non-white, non-male and non-heterosexual or non-cisgendered characters, most people’s minds automatically switch to sales and if the temas behind the game will lose money. But in an interview with Video Game Sophistry, Gaider explains that that actually comes from the higher ups not the developers and that in Inquisition‘s case, having LGBT characters didn’t make a difference:
“The conservatism streak comes from nervousness from the people who have all the money and they’re worried about the risk. I think the people who make the games that probably, I would say, lean liberal and are educated about what they assume their audience will or won’t accept.
There has been sort of a cultural development in the years since, there’s a certain amount of backlash but I think also a certain amount of support as well. I think each time we’ve [including non-heterosexual romances] what has become pretty clear is that from a bottom line standpoint, you could make the argument, I suppose, that if we didn’t include that that maybe the game would sell more, you could also make an argument that if we didn’t include that, maybe the game would sell less.
We’re putting out something that appeals to players who don’t traditionally get represented in games and so maybe more of them come to play the games…maybe it’s just enough to make up for the ones that are turned off. But ultimately, it hasn’t really affected our sales in so far as we can tell. So, the idea of how commercial a consideration it is kind of goes out the window and we can focus on just doing the right thing.”
The fact that Gaider (and the rest of his BioWare team) understands that representation is important is a breath of fresh air. Most people aren’t asking for more LGBT/diverse characters for the sake of numbers; for many people it’s about getting to see themselves depicted on screen so that they can relate to the world-saving adventures that they are in control of.
Just as important is the way that LGBT character are represented. The Dragon Age games aren’t perfect in this respect as Gaider himself has previously put his foot in it when he referred to (DA: Inquisition character) Dorian as ‘legitimately gay’ and Dragon Age 2 also caused controversy with NPC Serendipity, who was a prostitute who presented as a female elf and had a male voice actor. Serendipity was initially meant to be a drag queen but her inclusion in the game came off as a transmisogynistic joke.
Speaking of trans characters, during the the interview Gaider also spoke about Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s transman Krem. Krem was assigned female at birth but identities as male and has a pretty sad backstory as his family was less than approving of his gender identity. Krem’s storyline was refreshing to see but Gaider still insists that improvements can be made with trans representation in their games. “We could think about what we’re saying with a transgender character”, he said, adding that “I think the next step would be to to see if we could actually find a transgender performer, that should be our next stop to at least see if that’s an option.”
The next Dragon Age game is a long way off, but we look forward to seeing those improvements put in place.