With Dragon Age: Inquisition coming out in a few months I have decided to try and do a second play through of Dragon Age: Origins. Part of the reason that I want to do this is to play through some of the other options available in the game. I had started a mage a while back, but it had been recent enough since I had played and ended up with a lot of other games I needed to play. Thus, I decided to start a brand new character. Playing through the game again has reminded me, not just how good the story telling is, but how feminist and forward thinking the story-lines can be. This is especially in a game that takes place in what would usually be considered an unfriendly place for women, as it seems to relate to a time where women were controlled. Dragon Age seems to understand that it is a fantasy game that both women and men play and reacts accordingly.
The most interesting thing about the world in Dragon Age is that while there are moments where someone might call you out for being a woman warrior it is not actually that uncommon. There is even a whole folklore and legend around female warriors. The stories of the warrior Aveline, a female warrior who fought for her position as a fighter and gained the right of women to become warriors. Talk about a great and inspiring story as a woman playing a game where part of folklore is the story of the a female warrior, who is looked up to by all female warriors. It is such a great story that you hear as you are playing through the game. The goes along well with the fact that as a female warrior it is not questioned that you are a woman and that you fight. It is kind of a nice change of pace to be honest.
Now I have to say the dynamic of men and women in some ways plays out the most interesting (at least that I have played so far) is the City Elves starting story. There were just a few elements that came up that really made the story intriguing. First off your mom is dead, but was a warrior who trained you. The other piece that was interesting is that due to the limited selections of mates in the alienage and the need to not interbreed the youngsters all have arranged marriages. Also, it is not just women that are transferred between alienages, but both men and women. The start actually is supposed to by your wedding day and it is happening with your male friend. I as the woman am frustrated and do not want to get married, but the male is resigned to his fate. There are just some interesting dynamics of gender roles. Now this is me playing a female character, so I am not sure how it plays out if you play a male. At the same time it is nice to even have the option for the female character to be the fighter and the guy to not be.
The best moment is actually when you get captured by some bigots and some guards have come to force along when your male friend shows up. The guards make fun of him for having a weapon and are obviously not scared at the possibility of him using the weapon. Then the most amazing thing happens and he slides the sword over to you. The guards know that you were not easily taken, and I don’t remember the specific phrase, but it comes across as an oh crap. It is great because it is not that as a woman I am not feared and I overcome their low expectations, but that I am a formidable enemy to be reckoned with.
Now this world is not perfect and it is not like everyone believes the same about what women can accomplish. At the same time it is open to the possibility of more. The more problematic element is that they do use the threat of rape as part of driving the story forward and I am not sure how I feel about it. Sadly it is a situation that we can understand all too well. The rich party boy who decides that they can own those of a lower class or situation. Now in the world of Dragon Age the city elves were originally slaves until it was outlawed and still mostly hold positions of servants. So the idea of ownership over the elves is not that old of a concept, so in some ways it makes sense. At the same time I do not know that it is a necessary element to be included. It also makes me wonder what they do for the male story. If they do include the idea that the male character could also face a sexual assault it could actually be intriguing. at the same time does the male character rescue the women and does not end up captured like the male. It is definitely something to look into, but I do not think undermines the larger elements present.
I think the reason that Dragon Age ends up telling such a good story is that it is a complex and complete picture of the world. There is good and evil present make the world a complex place to exist. The threats are real and there are people on both sides of any issue just as you would see today. The world is well rounded and does not just show one side or one aspect of any issue. As a woman playing I definitely felt that I could find myself in the characters and ideas presented, which is an added bonus to the game and personally is what makes the story and game so successful.