A Closer Look at BioWare's Progressive Sexual Politics

Kill Screen's Jason Johnson has penned an article that analyzes the sexual politics BioWare expressed throughout the games they've developed. Johnson praises BioWare for its introduction of romantic subplots and gay and bisexual characters, and argues that this might help players sympathize with different life experiences:

This may go against the grain, but even if you're not gay, the inclusion of gay characters makes games better. One of the biggest strengths of videogames as a medium is that they allow you to try on different roles that deviate from who you are in real-life. If that role can be a fearless treasure hunter like Nathan Drake who kills hundreds of people, albeit in a dashing manner, why can't it be something more nuanced and realistic, like occupying the consciousness of a gay character who, uh, also kills hundreds of people?

While there have been few instances of yet, videogames have the potential to helping us understand human sexuality, as Mike Rougeau's vicariously gay playthrough of Dragon Age illustrates. He writes that the experience helped him (empathize with people whose life experiences are not [his] own,) something at which videogames can trump other mediums. Of course you can empathize with LGBT people by watching shows like Glee or Transparent, or hanging out with your gay friends. But because you are potentially playing as a gay character in Dragon Age, it's much more potent.

This goes a long way towards understand fellow human beings. According to research, the act of inhabiting other perspectives in virtual environments like videogames reduces negative stereotypes and may increase empathy. There is some evidence that experiencing empathy involves simulating the experiences of others in our neural circuits, such as MIT's The Machine to be Another VR project, in which can do wicked things like gender swapping. So in the case of Dragon's Age, you might find yourself more sympathetic to what gay people have to go through every day, like the fear of being estranged from their families because they came out, which happened to Dorian.