Gaming as a woman and Dragon Age Origins
February 1, 2010 by Petite Chablis
During one of my aimless web-surfing breaks this week, I happened to run across an old entry from Hawty McBloggy, listing the ten most common things women hear on XBox Live
. I feel vindicated! I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only female gamer dealing with this sort of nonsense. Here’s what I would add to the list:
* What are you wearing? If I’m playing video games, I’m probably wearing slippers, my husband’s sweatshirt, and my pajama pants. Sexy, eh?
* [Unspeakably vulgar attempt to initiate cybersex chat.] Please. If that’s what I wanted to do, why would I bother paying a bunch of money to purchase this video game instead of going on one of the zillions of websites where I could chat with adolescent perverts for free?
* Hi … :-) Oooh, wow. Your cool, casual greeting, complete with smiley face, has totally won me over. I must know more about you, mysterious charming stranger!
Anyway. On to more satisfying video game topics. My current gaming obsession is a little game called Dragon Age: Origins
Image from Gamestop.com
You may have seen it advertised on TV as a hack-and-slash fantasy game with a seductive-looking female sorceress and scantily clad demons. Well, whoever came up with that ad campaign should find a new career, perhaps as a thumbscrew-tester. Dragon Age is actually a subtle, absorbing, character-driven interactive story — one that requires you to make tough moral choices, and cultivate the loyalty of your party members. It also happens to have an intricate combat system and several levels of difficulty that require serious strategy to master.
Introverted Wife articulated many of the reasons the game is great for women gamers here
. In sum: the female NPCs* have well-rounded personalities, the origin stories for women PCs are equally compelling as the stories for male PCs (if not more compelling), and while there can be a romantic component to the game if you choose the right options when talking to other characters, these stories do not objectify the game’s female characters or reduce them to nothing more than potential sex partners. And, in one of my favorite features of the game, there are same-sex romance options for your PCs — and it’s not just a reenactment of some teenage boy’s “hot lesbian” fantasy! If you play as a man, you can fall for a cute male elf! (OK, he’s also an assassin. No one’s perfect.)
Two things marred my enjoyment of the game a bit. First, the setting is pretty derivative. It’s basically a reworked Lord of the Rings; the aesthetic is heavily informed by Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films, right down to the battle at the beginning of the game that looks almost exactly like the assault on Helm’s Deep in “Two Towers.” The rich characters save Dragon Age from simply being a retread, but if you’re even a casual fantasy fan, you’re going to be rolling your eyes on occasion. But to give credit where credit is due, Dragon Age: Origins does much more interesting things with elves than I’ve seen in a while (see the post at Introverted Wife for more on this).
Second, the controls on the PS3. Let me say this right now: if you own both a console and a reasonable gaming PC/Mac, and you’re interested in this game, do yourself a huge favor and buy it for the computer. A game like this, with so many skills and items and sophisticated battle tactics, is very difficult to play well with an eight-button controller. The game is meant to be played on a keyboard, where you can set shortcuts to many more skills and items.
In spite of these complaints, I’m a big fan of this game. I’d encourage any gamers who like rich storylines and intricate combat systems to pick up a copy — specifically, the copy that runs on your computer’s operating system.
* NPC = non-playable character. PC = player’s character.