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by Ethos

Concerning Dragon Age II and Not Playing as a Female

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Well that’s an unwieldy title. I might change it later, in which case I’d have to remove this sentence as well. Or maybe I won’t, which means this sentence will still be here. And you’ll be reading it.

Ahem. It’s Dragon Age II week here at Riddlethos, and I’ve decided that in the sixty minutes or so I have before I must depart for work, I’m going to attempt to write… well, something about it. Some simple impressions would be almost superfluous at this point, so I decided to touch on a tangential topic relating to my personal playthrough.

In every BioWare game that I’ve played before Dragon Age II (which is limited to Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Dragon Age Origins) I’ve always chosen to play as a female. (Cue tired jokes). Ethan’s the one who originally gave me the idea (cue more tired jokes) and I’ve always found it to be a rewarding experience, for a few reasons. First and foremost, Shepard’s female voice is far easier on the ears than the male version. Jennifer Hale is a goddess among voice actresses, and that is a fact. Second, lesbian sex scenes. This may only apply to the original Mass Effect, really, but whatever. And finally, playing as a female is just a good ol’ change of pace to me. I’ve played plenty of games with burly or even not-so-burly male protagonists. I’m past the stage where I idolize angsty spike-haired males – who, in fact, are often more effeminate than Jane Shepard could ever be. When I have the chance to decide, I’ll go with the change of pace, and remain confident enough in my own sexuality to not be ashamed of it.*

My dude looks less douchy.

That aside. You may notice the title of this article includes the words “not playing as a female.” I almost feel sheepish saying this after the above mini-rant, but it’s true: I chose the Male warrior in Dragon Age II. And I didn’t do it because I’m having a crisis of sexual identity.** I did it for the history books. Yes, the history books, children. I’m willing to guess that many of you are confused right now, so let’s advance to the next paragraph, where I will elaborate.

One of the most rewarding things about playing through Mass Effect 2 was seeing how my decisions from the original game carried over and affected the people, events, and world around me. The world behind Mass Effect is one of the richest fantasy mythologies created for a videogame, and the cohesiveness of it all – even factoring in the vastly different decisions of different players – is mind-blowing. It’s why I’ve never replayed either of the Mass Effect games. I want my story to be perfectly preserved, and I want to see it through to the end before I go back and mess around with different decisions. As a gamer, it’s like I’m building my own legacy, my own mythology, within this fictional universe. For some reason, that really tickles my fancy.

As we all know, Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 share the same protagonist. Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II do not. When I first played the demo for Dragon Age II, I selected a female warrior like usual. Soon, though, I found myself thinking: how much sense does it make for Fereldan’s heroes to all be… y’know, chicks?

Think about it. In my playthrough of Dragon Age Origins, a female Grey Warden named Luthien saved Fereldan from the blight. Not sure what grand effect on the world Hawke will have when it’s all said an done, but I imagine (or hope, rather) that it’s something similarly epic and world-changing.

I realize how entirely vague and bizarre I sound right now, but for whatever reason, raising another female Fereldan (or Kirkwall-ian) hero just didn’t sound appealing to me. And it’s not how I want my personal history in Fereldan to play out. So, I chose to play as a male. I changed up my appearance a bit so I look less douchy, but I’m still definitely a dude. And… it’s not bad. I’m glad I did it, but it seems I’m more partial to playing as chicks than I thought, because it’s still a bit strange.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure playing as a chick would make it much better. I think Hawke him/herself is a little on the bland side. Granted, I haven’t gotten too far yet, but I just can’t quite pinpoint the dude’s motivation.

But that’s an article for another day. Like tomorrow! I mean, it IS Dragon Age II week.

*I would recommend  you write that sentence down and use it out of context to embarass/troll me at some point in the future.

**A sexual identity crisis may well be happening, all I meant to communicate is that it had no bearing on my decision to play as a male Hawke.

Oh, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.