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RPGWatch's Emma Yorke has penned a retrospective article on the first Baldur's Gate title for RPGWatch, in which she likens the impact the title had on role-playing title with Nirvana's disruptive influence on rock music. A snippet:
The strangest part of all this is the making of the game itself. Now, with the privilege of hindsight, we learn that not only were BG's sales expectations pretty low, but the early game that would eventually morph into Baldur's Gate was initially shot down by a gaming executive. Instead, Baldur's Gate released to massive acclaim, with hungry RPG fans everywhere devouring it like people on the verge of starvation. And really, RPG fans were, in a sense. Baldur's Gate, with its character customization, insertion (you create the protagonist), its revolutionary interface, a series of then-unique design choices, and the use of Dungeons & Dragons and the Forgotten Realms universe, was a vacuum in our lives we never really knew we had.
You could argue that the real success story of Baldur's Gate wasn't the game itself, but the waves of change it brought upon the gaming world. Nothing would ever be the same. Its sequel, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, released in 2000 to cacophanous acclaim; it is still one of the most positively-received games ever. You'll find it difficult to find any RPG critic worth their oxygen that claims that BG II didn't change gaming. Dungeons & Dragons was no longer the refuge of the hopelessly awkward high school loser and the smelly old guys. More and more of the public saw just how valuable D&D was in taking you and your friends far away and creating captivating worlds to spend your time in.
And in the gaming world, the message was clear. This thing called the Role Playing Game really was a pursuit people cared about and would spend money on, and it wasn't just for consoles and Japanese designers that worked in the youthful, irreverent anime style. It could be serious, grim, grown up, and very western.