“Straight Male Gamer” told to ‘get over it’ by BioWare

The gaming company BioWare gives a complaining gamer a lesson on male privilege!

I can’t say it better than the Blog No More Lost so this is a repost of that entry:

BioWare adopted a (sadly) very special and very principled stance in designing one of their recent games, Dragon Age 2. Their stance was simple: relationships are for everybody, whether gay, straight, or anything else in between. You can also have have more than one romance at a time with the game’s characters. In this game, everybody is equal. Too equal, it seems, for one particular straight male gamer who was upset to be on the receiving end of a little  flirting from another male character in the game. The reaction of this Straight Male Gamer? – To post a new thread on Bioware’s forums to complain…

To quote the complainant;

To summarize, in the case of Dragon Age 2, BioWare neglected their main demographic: The Straight Male Gamer.

I don’t think many would argue with the fact that the overwhelming majority of RPG gamers are indeed straight and male. Sure, there are a substantial amount of women who play video games, but they’re usually gamers who play games like The Sims, rather than games like Dragon Age. That’s not to say there isn’t a significant number of women who play Dragon Age and that BioWare should forgo the option of playing as a women altogether, but there should have been much more focus in on making sure us male gamers were happy.

Now immediately I’m sure that some male gamers are going to be like “YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ME! I LOVE DRAGON AGE 2!”, but you have to understand, the Straight Male Gamer, cannot be just lumped into a single category.

Its ridiculous that I even have to use a term like Straight Male Gamer, when in the past I would only have to say fans, …”

The irony of the complaint is clearly astounding. For those that do not play Dragon Age 2, there is yet a further irony in that the Straight Male Gamer clearly has a huge problem with LGBT people being catered to as well rather than a focus based entirely in Straight Male Gamers (and a little on women too, of course, just as an afterthought). but clearly has no problem with the game allowing inter-species romances between the human player controlled character and an Elf! You couldn’t make it up!

The response from BioWare’s David Gaider was exactly fit for purpose. In fact, BioWare delivered a sharp lesson to this gamer on the subject of Straight Male  privilege! Kudos to BioWare for that! In fact, BioWare’s response is quoted here  precisely because of how word perfect it truly is! Elements have been emboldened for emphasis.

The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.

More than that, I would question anyone deciding they speak for “the straight male gamer” just as much as someone claiming they speak for “all RPG fans”, “all female fans” or even “all gay fans”. You don’t. If you wish to express your personal desires, then do so. I have no doubt that any opinion expressed on these forums is shared by many others, but since none of them have elected a spokesperson you’re better off not trying to be one. If your attempt is to convince BioWare developers, I can tell you that you do in fact make your opinion less convincing by doing so.

And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

The truth is that making a romance available for both genders is far less costly than creating an entirely new one. Does it create some issues of implementation? Sure– but anything you try on this front is going to have its issues, and inevitably you’ll always leave someone out in the cold. In this case, are all straight males left out in the cold? Not at all. There are romances available for them just the same as anyone else. Not all straight males require that their content be exclusive, after all, and you can see that even on this thread.

Would I do it again? I don’t know. I doubt I would have Anders make the first move again– at the time, I thought that requiring all romances to have Hawke initiate everything was the unrealistic part. Even if someone decides that this makes everyone “unrealistically” bisexual, however, or they can’t handle the idea that the character might be bisexual if they were another PC… I don’t see that as a big concern, to be honest. Romances are never one-size-fits-all, and even for those who don’t mind the sexuality issue there’s no guarantee they’ll find a character they even want to romance. That’s why romances are optional content. It’s such a personal issue that we’ll never be able to please everyone. The very best we can do is give everyone a little bit of choice, and that’s what we tried here.

And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least. And that’s my opinion, expressed as politely as possible.

BioWare, David Gaider,… That, was AWESOME.

It is true that the gaming world is sadly dominated by Straight Male Gamers. Why? Well, perhaps it’s precisely because the industry has failed to cater to the rest of society so often. So many of us are geeks, and so many of us are gamers, including women and/or LGBT people… and there is absolutely no reason to exclude them. BioWare, it seems, has realised this, and the least the LGBTQIA community can do in return is to acknowledge this fact – and preferably in a way that makes BioWare aware of how welcome and refreshing this attitude is, and how likely it is to pay dividends for them – literally and metaphorically. With that done, hopefully the other big games developers will do likewise.

Thank you, BioWare, for not giving in to the majority. Thank you for letting us in and recognising our equal ‘right’ to play games that we can engage and relate with too!

Do you agree? I hope you do… and if you do, please consider sharing this article to spread the word and give BioWare their reward in reputation and kudos for this, frankly, astoundingly awesome move on their part.

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  1. Posted March 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Well, hot damn. That’s so awesome I’ve gotta go buy my straight male gamer self a copy of that game.

    And then play it while having fun and being not at all perturbed by the inclusion of other people’s tastes in the game.

    Yeah, I just found out what I’m doing with my weekend.

  2. Posted March 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    http://bit.ly/fxhqwr Check it out. We’re tired of the male gaming stereotype too, and it needs to change.

  3. Posted March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    There are a fair number of games who break away from heteronormative standards, but certainly you don’t see it everywhere. Nevertheless, there are gamers of all types (many of which have not really had a whole lot tossed to them), so developers do quite well to accommodate them, especially when doing so costs other people nothing (permitting same-sex relationships does not take away from mixed-sex relationships).

    It is actually “teen” and “mature” games that have better success dealing with this problem. Granted, these games probably also do more to reinforce to the problem, but just to acknowledge the heteronormativity is something that bothers a lot of parents who buy games for children (or perhaps more accurately “advocates” for such parents), and so a lot of such “child” games won’t even *touch* the issue (except often reinforce it in insidious ways).

    Good for them. Guilty Gear has had at least a couple notable characters in its series that broke the norm…

  4. Posted March 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I cannot get over the fact that “Straight Male Gamer” had the nerve to complain about not being catered to. How utterly ignorant. I am glad to see BioWare step up and support their decision to make their game drastically more inclusive. This is precisely what we need in the gaming industry.

    Thank you for posting. You’ve made my day. =)

  5. Posted June 28, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Late to the party, but this is AWESOME.

    I loved Dragon Age 2, and never found the multitude of romance options disturbing. In fact, it was sort of flattering to have so many NPC’s interested in my character :)

    Also, David Gaider is a BAMF.

  6. Posted August 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I think this was a very necessary wake up call for anyone that thinks like this.

    Everyone deserves an equal gaming experience. EVERYONE.

    Chozo Ninpo
    CEO. Channel Zero

  7. Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I only award Bioware a few points on this. There have been many games over the years with overt and covert gay themes, perhaps not as fully realized as Bioware’s “relationships” that we’ve seen in games like the Mass Effect series, but they’ve been there nonetheless.

    What’s changed is gaming is more mainstream than ever, and in searching out a new audience or three, they’re starting to appeal to more than the traditional majority, such as women who want games with a little less suck than Barbie’s Wardrobe, and yes, LGBT. But make no mistake – they’re doing it for money. These are now viable markets, both economically and because LGBT is more accepted socially. Maybe it’s personal for that one guy at Bioware, but if these demographics weren’t economically viable, he’d be told to STFU by the people with the pens.

    On another matter, the “straight male gamer’s” viewpoint does not, in my anecdotal experience as a gamer for nearly 30 years, represent the majority of male gamers’ opinions. Certainly many male gamers are not salivating at the next gay story line or romance but the majority opinion in my experience is the “meh” of indifference. To that end, the use of the overused label “male privilege” is generalizing and off the mark. This guy is just a loudmouth idiot.

    Anyone can make a game these days. Desura is a Steam-like service for indie games, and people can even self-publish if they want to. There is literally nothing stopping anyone of any persuasion from making a game that represents whatever they want to represent. In other words, ultimately there is no oppression. If you make a great game, people will eventually learn about it and play it.

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  1. By Privilege and Literature on January 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    [...] of the video game related incident posted about by Feministing community member inallsincerity  here, the meat of the video is an impassioned discussion of how privilege effects people’s [...]

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