The Border House Podcast – Episode 7: Dragon Age 2

Fan art of Dragon Age 2 characters created by deviantART user sandara. A bearded male Hawke, Anders with a kitten, and Fenris in a much more adorable style than that of the original game.

It has been awhile since the last podcast, which will be explained at the start of this new show. We now have a new host and we are definitely coming back despite the delay between episodes.

In this latest episode we discuss Dragon Age 2. It won our game of the year last year, so let’s chat about why some of us loved the game. Leala Turkey joins the Border House staff duo of Alex Raymond and Anna/Gunthera1 in this episode. Thank you, as always, to kimadactyl for recording and editing.

 

Here are the video links mentioned by Leala during the show (the full romances for Fenris and Anders):

Fenris

Anders

 

About Gunthera1

Twitter name: Gunthera1
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33 Responses to The Border House Podcast – Episode 7: Dragon Age 2

  1. Kimadactyl says:

    That picture is AMAZING.

  2. Jeannie B. says:

    I also gave up on Dragon Age: Origins because I didn’t like the combat. I recently acquired DA 2 in a trade. I plan on starting in after I finish playing (for now) Skyrim. Listening to the podcast has gotten me excited for the game!!

    Thanks!

    • gunthera1 says:

      I hope we didn’t ruin the story too much for you.

      • Jeannie B. says:

        Not at all – with the time I’m investing in Skyrim, by the time I actually play DA 2 (probably late this month or early next), I won’t remember much!!!!!

  3. GarrickW says:

    Thanks for the podcast! That was really interesting.

    There’s something that’s puzzled me for a while, however. I see Dragon Age 2 get talked about and praised *a lot* in circles where diversity and social justice are frequent topics, but I rarely see Dragon Age: Origins get talked about in any way, either criticism, praise or analysis. Having never played DA2, I’m not in a good position to understand the differences between the two games beyond hearsay.

    Is DA:O just not at all interesting from a more critical perspective, at least compared to DA2? Or is it just because DA2 is much more recent than DA:O?

  4. Someone else may be better qualified to answer, I think the lack of praise for DA:O is because it wasn’t as progressive as DA2. Also, DA:O was much more plot-driven than character driven. There are probably more gaffes, too. I know I’ve heard complaints about Zevran’s portrayal as a gay man, but I don’t know WHO was complaining, just that people were. Also, DA:O was pretty safe and typical for its genre, but DA2 broke a lot of norms by simply being more inclusive. And instead of a writer accidentally focusing on how gay their character might be, all the characters were just written as people.

    DA2 is the game that caused that one sap to write the infamous “you ignored your core demographic” rant thread that got pwned by David Gaider. http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/304/index/6661775&lf=8
    So obviously, it did something very right.

    • feministgamer says:

      Sorry, this is @GarrickW.

    • GarrickW says:

      Ah, okay – so DA:O wasn’t much different from other fantasy RPGs, at least from an inclusivity perspective.

      I had thought DA:O did deal effectively with some issues here and there, like in the exploration of the dwarven caste system and the oppression of elves, but I guess being driven by an epic fantasy plot more than individual characters would put a dampener on what can be said about such things, especially when the antagonistic force is a conveniently easy-to-hate mindless horde of monsters.

      I really need to get around to playing DA2 some time. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that could be described as “character-driven,” yet that’s a theme that keeps coming up in relation to DA2.

  5. Eifa says:

    Sorry if this is garbled but I’m not running on much sleep! I want to say I love the BH and I haven’t listened to many podcasts so I don’t know how common this is, but I was surprised that this discussion was both quite disorganised and quite shallow, just rehearsing basic attitudes towards the game without really delving into it. It was pitched a little oddly; if you haven’t played the game, I’m not sure this would inform you about the issues regarding its interpretation, but if you have there wasn’t anything particularly stimulating or insightful here.

    I thought as well that the discussion of Isabela – particularly the comment that people who saw her as pandering to the male gaze had a shallow reading of her character – was itself pretty shallow. As a character she raises some interesting questions about the representation of empowered female sexuality, none of which were addressed here. Where is the line between a character whose supposed sexual empowerment is used to justify gratuitous T+A shots and and other typical things, and a character who has agency and whose sexuality is not simply directed to titilate the player? This is partly what makes the interaction between Aveline and Isabela interesting – not least because Aveline is an attractive and fun character who is explicitly NOT available to you, as you acknowledge – as their conversations (education about slut-shaming aside) are kind of a discussion of this. Aveline starts out seeing Isabela’s conduct as an affront because she plays into the worst stereotypes but don’t forget either that Isabela learns too – she treats Aveline as stuck up and repressed, which is just as unfair an assessment of women with low sex drives/sexual anxiety (something I appreciate being shown – it’s very difficult for people with any knowledge of asexuality that many feminist characters is that they have to be overtly confident in their sexuality) as treating Isabela as a slut would be; the conversation where Isabela talks about casting a wide enough net is an interesting turning point for them. One thing that is great about Isabela’s character that gives her depth, too, is that despite being quite selfish she is ultimately very supportive of her friends, particularly her female friends; see her dialogue with Merrill and even Aveline.

    The crux of the matter with Isabela is agency. Are massive breasts, ‘sexy’ walking and no pants necessary to showing a sexually confident person? Are they ‘just’ a cheap way to appeal to the straight male gaze? It isn’t easy to untangle the problematic aspects of Isabela’s design and characterization from the things which make her so awesome as an empowered character, because it comes down to a question of agency; in the real world, the decision for a woman with an actual mind (assuming she has the freedom to do so) to dress ‘sexily’ or not is a decision she makes for herself, but we cant escape the fact that Isabela does not dress herself but is ‘dressed’ for the player. In the end, I have romanced, rivaled and friended Isabela, and I like her as a human being and enjoy her presence; I’m pleased to see a sexually confident woman in gaming, particularly because her relationship with Aveline puts it in an interesting light that doesn’t just fall into the whole ‘you cant criticise the sexy character without being a slut shamer’ thing that often crops up in this situation. In the end my feelings about the way she is presented, however, remain ambivalent; which, given the complexities of DA2, is probably how it should be.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for the great comment. I hope I didn’t come across as saying you can’t criticize sexy characters, as that is certainly not what I meant. I think the vast majority of “sexy” female characters in video games DO fall on the side of inappropriate and sexist male-gaze pandering. I just think that Isabela, while a complicated portrayal in the ways you point out, tends to fall on the side of a character who is actually sexually empowered rather than performing for the male player. And I think that completely dismissing her as nothing but fanservice for straight men (or worse, as a “slut!”)–which you are definitely not doing, but it’s something I’ve seen more than I’d like–is flat-out wrong.

      As for the podcast overall being a shallow discussion… what else would you have liked to hear us talk about?

    • gunthera1 says:

      I am sorry to hear you found it shallow and disorganized. I wanted to leave the discussion more open so that everyone on the podcast could discuss what things they personally liked about the game. Within only an hour it is difficult to cover everything in depth unless we had only focused on one or two characters or story lines. It was my first time hosting so I welcome feedback.

      In terms of Isabella, I was hoping we would convey that she is a complicated character. Sadly, we didn’t have the time to really discuss her portrayal in as much depth as she deserves. I feel like that is true for every character. It was a choice between really unpacking one or two of them or discussing as much as we could about the whole game.

  6. Beth N. says:

    This is the first BH podcast I’ve listened to–how could I pass up on DA2, my favorite game from last year? You did a good job highlighting what were the best parts of it, in particular the characters. I’m glad you talked about Fenris, was a bit worried he’d be passed by as the cursor got closer to the end…

    I got spoiled on Anders’s big thing, so I didn’t have the reaction to it that was obviously intended by the writers; however, Fenris floored me. He responded to a particular stimulus in a way I completely did not expect, and that made him feel like a real person to me.

    I didn’t get to know either of the mages or Isabela very well (Isabela for the reason that was stated in the podcast and which I gather is common in a first playthrough). It’s another measure of how brilliant the character writing is, that the people I acted indifferently to acted indifferently to Hawke in their turn. I look forward to a closer relationship with them on the next go-round.

  7. Nox says:

    I feel like I am the only one who actually got up and screamed “HELL YEAH!” when Anders did what he did. Loved the talk either way, just finished Dragon Age 2 last week or so. I got it since it came bundled with Dragon Age Origins. I was completely against DA2 I was with all the haters before even trying the game out just because it didn’t carry over with the warden mostly. Glad I gave it a chance, and it’s most likely the last time I judge something so quickly & with a lot of hatred with just because a majority were saying it was bad.

    • Alex says:

      Haha, I was completely shocked when it happened. But I’ve come around to thinking that it might actually have been the necessary thing to do!

      Thanks for listening, glad you liked it =)

  8. S says:

    Long-time fan, first post. To begin, Mattie, I’m really sorry to see you go, good luck in all your future endeavours! Please DO be a BH guest star soon. And welcome, Anna! I hope to meet some of you at Wiscon at the end of the month.

    I wanted my first post to be filled with compliments because I love the work you all do at TBH, but you’ve touched a nerve with this podcast. Honestly, I’d like to hear a little less consensus building if it meant more diversity of feminist analysis here. When everyone agrees, I start to worry where we’re headed.

    Regarding the “shallow” comment above, I want to assert that it is NOT shallow to interrogate:

    [1] Isabella’s change in skin tone from DAO to DA2 especially with her DA2 story arc. Can we really characterize Isabella as a “warm and caring person”? She does read to me as an oversexualized, narcissistic, amoral pixie-rogue w/intimacy issues. Surely this invites some questions about her somewhat darker representation in DA2? Just like Jacob in ME2, I was so happy to finally see characters represented who weren’t lily white get some character development, but I found this horribly problematized by the kinds of sexualization these NPCs were subjected to. Isabella is a caricature of a Black, bisexual, lipstick, sex-positive feminist. Her leadership as (pirate) ship’s captain is entirely erased in DA2 in order to reduce her drives to mere survival and opportunism (i.e., savagery). These changes in skin colour and character ARE relevant to our feminist analyses of DA2 and NOT in a shallow way.

    [2] Aveline’s romance, one of very few not available to Hawke, as something written to “lighten the mood” and to be “kind of silly” when she is the most “butch” DA female tank amazon NPC companion we’ve ever seen. That said, all she wants is to marry a man. Because she’s so sexually confused or inept or shy or grieving or whatever. All for a man who shows no real interest in her and is her literal subordinate. He has virtually no personality. He’s just a cypher for an unquestioned heteronormativity that effectively puts her in her place.

    In terms of feminist analysis, sex/race/class/+etc., why not contrast DAO with DA2? This is the analysis we really need. DA2 really only allows us to define our PC along the lines of sex/sexuality which never leads anywhere good IMO. I would argue the reason DAO was such a success, though few might realize it, is precisely because it engaged us in these very precise developments of subjectivity while DA2 offers only violence as cause, problem, and solution.

    There are so many more issues I’d like to see (and hear!) discussed at TBH like:
    links made between “terrorism” and current events from feminist sex/race/class/+ perspectives
    blood magic as duh EVIL in DA2 vs. DAO
    Qunari as mash-up of East Asian ethnic/racial/nationalist/socialist identities
    misrepresentation of bisexuality as an erasure of so many diverse sexualities

    • Alex says:

      I was pretty clearly deeming the dismissal of Isabela as male gaze fodder as shallow, not any other criticisms or explorations of her character. Those are absolutely important avenues to interrogate.

      If you look at her relationships with the other companions, but particularly Merrill, Fenris, and Aveline (eventually), it’s pretty clear “warm and caring” is an accurate description of her. (By the way, she was brown in DA:O, too, she wasn’t “darkened.”)

      The idea that Donnic never showed interest in Aveline is ridiculous. He straight-up calls her “beautiful” in Act 1, before *she* shows any interest in *him*. And what about this relationship puts Aveline “in her place”? Getting married is FAR from the “only” thing Aveline wants. She wants to succeed at being Guard Captain, to protect the guards under her command as well as Hawke and co., she wants justice and peace for Kirkwall, she wants to stamp out corruption, and in Act 2 she wants to resolve the Qunari situation without bloodshed. Reducing her character arc to the humorous side bit about getting remarried is just wrong.

    • Alex says:

      And I really disagree that DA:O does a better job of exploring issues like class through its character creation. Not much actually changes depending on your character’s background. Kris Ligman wrote about this at PopMatters–going back to Orzammar as a casteless Dwarf-turned-Gray Warden, the game did not acknowledge her background at all.

      I think DA2 actually does a better job of exploring nuanced issues BECAUSE Hawke is a mostly set character, and because the game is set in a small place that is rife with conflict. The conversation Hawke has with the Arishok about the two elves who converted to the Qun because they were wanted for killing a human who had raped and murdered their sister is deeper and more nuanced than almost anything that happens in DA:O.

      I think DA2 also adds more nuance to the blood magic debate, giving more evidence that what the Chantry says is merely one perspective among many.

      • S says:

        Thanks for the links. The conversation you referenced between Merril and Anders also takes place with Morrigan in DAO and is backed up by multiple storylines there. When did blood magic not result in demonic things happening in DA2 though? And I’m including Merrill.

        I agreed with most of the class discussion on the other link, barring the idea that “If the head of the church won’t lower herself to interact with someone of your race, chances are she’s evil and you’ll have to kill her—serves her right”, though I can empathize with the sentiment even when I wish I couldn’t. It’s true a first move to sidestep critiques of mysteriously disappearing bigotry has been to explain that your PC has become a Warden so all prejudice in the world has been magically revoked from your character’s experience. I was glad to see this challenged. However, this does NOT happen even with your companions if you play an elf or a woman. The Hero of DA2 doesn’t experience prejudice first-hand at all IIRC. And sex/race/class/sexuality definitely DO affect the game in many ways, not least the ending: you cannot rule Ferelden if you’re not a human noble no matter what you do. Regardless, though I disagree with these examples, you’re right there are many other instances where your choices and/or identity don’t mesh believably with the story, as with DA2 (e.g., use of blood magic). Bioware staff and its fans often try to defend this as not enough time or resources for development and testing. I don’t.

        That article also points out that rape and revenge in DAO, while not gratuitous, can still feel like an offensive and cheap path to character development and player pathos that needs to be written with more care. Unfortunately, Leliana’s Song and the DA2 rapist used the same formulae. But I’m still not seeing how DA2 improved on any of this. I feel as much as feminist gamers fought for and got some things from Bioware last round, we lost at least as much in DA2.

  9. S says:

    @GarrickW, I’m afraid that there was a real throw-down on the Bioware forums over feminist issues before DA2 was even released and it took everyone’s attention away from DAO. This politically divided fans and kept us arguing so heatedly that the sheer volume of DA2 criticism and attendant apologia of this period, pre- and post-release, overwhelms anything about DAO which was mostly loved as the ratings show. Feminists who didn’t play video games, much less DAO, weighed in because it was so bad. In the midst of all this toxicity and threats of violence, I’d’ve loved it if we’d also had time to develop a more nuanced, complicated analysis, but then we’d be, y’know, “whining” yet again.

    Anyway, the DA franchise is hard to discuss because our personal experiences of it can be so different that ten feminists (already from different theoretical and practical positions) can arrive at far more than ten perspectives on any single character or plotline, making it difficult to be sure we’re arguing from different theoretical places or over an agreed-upon feminist interpretation of the same thing. I sincerely hope that’s not what I’m doing here (misunderstanding), but I’m starting to expect it is.

  10. S says:

    ** SPOILERS GALORE ALERT **

    @feministgamer, I’m still going to argue that DAO (excluding DLC or Awakenings) is at least as progressive as DA2, if not more so, but this has been a difficult conversation to have because many of us have been backed into a corner trying to address horrible anti-feminist backlash w/DA2 (including death threats) that didn’t get nearly as much airplay in DAO. IMO, the writing in DAO is better in many ways including both plot and character development. It’s not a particular section that I’d say is better (like sexualities, class, or race because they’re all problematic) as much as the intersectionality of DAO, but, yes, we still have LOTS of “gaffes” to discuss there as you point out.

    And you’re right, Zevran is one though not as “a gay man”. He’s explicitly bisexual, available for a 3-way with Isabella, and basically says he prefers women when asked. Maybe this is why his cue card ending refers to the Warden as a woman even when you romance him as a man. Then there’s the top/bottom switch that happens if your warden is an elf if you want to read into that sort of thing (e.g., elf Warden = you want to bottom because you chose a less manly man PC race). My problems had more to do with his and Leliana’s representation as bisexuals.

    Also, as someone who’s been reading and playing in the sword-and-sorcery genres for over thirty years, I don’t think DAO was “pretty safe and typical for its genre”. While it fails epically, as they say, when it comes to a wide variety of representational issues (e.g., though you can look like the only POC in the entire game even your parents are still “white”, polyamory not happening as advertised unless you lie to your partners, transexual sex worker played for comic effect, Sandal, etc. and etc.), it explores race/class/sex/+ throughout, often in ways that DA2 either does not or has erased, particularly in regards to your PC. What kinds of inclusion does DA2 have that DAO doesn’t that don’t fall into predictable stereotypes or whose subversions from type aren’t finally contained in some way (e.g., Aveline’s gender/sex/sexuality)?

    • Nigel says:

      While DA:O was certainly progressive relative to other medieval RPGs, its advances were primarily in the political sphere. It’s progressive on a macro scale where DA2 is progressive on a more personal scale and perhaps therefore more relatable. As Alex mentioned, compare DA2′s treatment of the qunari elves in Hawke’s conversation with the Arishok vs DA:O’s treatment of the same subject in the city elf story. The two are miles apart in terms of nuance and maturity. Whereas DA:O’s treatment was a laudable but ultimately cringeworthy attempt (the arl’s son actually cackles at one point), DA2′s better handling of it was par for the course.

      The qunari elves are only one area in which DA2 takes a big step forward. DA2 also does a great job of addressing the “one of the good ones” dynamic that minority groups often face if Hawke is played as a mage. The circumstances of Hawke having lived an entire life in apostacy and how that affects his opportunities and mindset vs mages who have known the yoke of the chantry are explored in a satisfying way. Hawke conducts himself with a confidence reseved for the privileged class of which he is not a member. This makes both friend and foe around him uncomfortable. Characters often remind Hawke that strutting around Kirkwall with a staff probably isn’t a good idea and Meredith makes clear that Hawke enjoys freedom at “her whim only.” As a black man succeeding in a field where black people are rarely seen at any level I found DA2′s exploration of this issue to be surprisingly nuanced and well observed. There is nothing like this in DA:O and this is just one level on which DA2 operates.

      DA2 expands upon DA:O in many other ways. There is the rivalrous sibling relationship with Carver if Hawke is male, the humane depiction of evil in Merrill, the way characters have their own lives and relationships apart from Hawke, the way the Arishok subverts PC “righteousness” by opposing the player with the same justification for his actions that gamers assume are their entitlement in RPGs, and so on. I have played both DA:O and DA2 through several times as many different classes and DA2 simply exceeds DA:O in terms of progressive character development and social issues.

      • S says:

        No, Nigel, “the personal IS political” as we like to say. I don’t know why you’re trying to separate them here. That’s not a feminist move I’m familiar with. You’re also setting up a false dichotomy with this whole micro/macro thing. And DA2 is “more relatable” to whom exactly?

        I’m afraid I see little “nuance and maturity” in the way sexual violence is handled in either game. Vigilante murdering of rapists and other criminals is not the best, nor should it be the only response available to us. It’s cheap catharsis, an empty epiphany. And in DA2, they really rub this in your face as the best, most satisfying thing to do (in both scenarios you mention). Then, DA2 turns around and pathologizes rapists and a presumably monolithic society as suffering from some kind of mental/social disability which causes rape; something DAO does not do. It’s ALWAYS mental illness and/or the-devil-made-me-do-it in DA2. I’m not sure if this is a DA version of the “Twinkie defense” since we never see a courtroom. I guess if you’re all for capital punishment and entertain fantasies where honour systems of vengeance really work out great, this isn’t cause for concern.

        It also seems like DA2 is saying that the rhetorical invocation of an invisible rape of an invisible, voiceless woman CAN BE a wonderfully persuasive political call to war. Interesting. The answer is obviously to have more violence and then impose cultural conversions to a different but not better sexism. And where have I heard all this before? Oh, that’s right: my newspaper.

        Qunari women, too, are made as invisible in this game as the elfin sister who was allegedly (but most probably) raped. Depicting Saarebas as fetishized S&M sex slaves who happen to be men because ‘women don’t do that kind of thing’ (i.e., magic) also doesn’t help your case at present. As is, it all sucks. If, in the future, Bioware turns Qunari women into controlling queen bees hidden at the centre of a socialist or communist hive-mind, in charge of the material economies as “the mind” of Qunari society, however matriarchal it might be, it isn’t going to decrease the sickening sexism; it’s going to turn it way up. Again. (FYI, this is where it looks to me they’re headed in DA3.)

        It’s offensive and so is the Qun as a mishmash of faux Confucianism and other exoticized and misunderstood “Eastern” religious and political systems (like socialism and communism) that ‘hide their women’. DA2 was not “better” here, nor was such imagined improvement “par for the course” except perhaps insofar as it remains imagined.

        Your arguments re: privilege are likewise specious. There is absolutely no consequence to Hawke walking around Kirkwall with a mage’s staff other than a very few side comments. Meredith, also, does nothing to stop Hawke from doing so. You can even use apostate/blood magic in front of everyone in every battle all over the city and nothing will happen in the story that wouldn’t happen to a rogue or warrior. Now, this is also true in many BUT NOT ALL cases in DA:O. For just one dramatic example, Wynne can attack Morrigan for apostasy. So none of this is any kind of improvement from DAO to DA2.

        Again, in DAO, people treat you VERY differently throughout the story and your ending can change significantly based on your race/sex/(socio-economic) class/+, as I previously posted. You can keep saying otherwise, but it won’t make it so. I’m starting to feel like no one played DAO TBH. I keep hearing/reading comments that X, Y, and Z don’t exist in DAO when they not only most certainly do exist but are also either the same as in DA2 or, at least IMO, much better. We can disagree about opinion for sure, but there are a few basic facts we should be able to agree on first.

        To address your other points: The sibling rivalry between Hawke and Carver came across to me as a rather tired sexist construction of masculinity and father/son(s) relationships. Merrill’s “evil” comes from trying to reconstruct her people’s heritage and history. Characterizing this as evil is hardly a “humane” representation of such an endeavour however you might like to slice it. Though I’m not sure which Arishok conversation you’re referring to, your argument seems to be based in a generalization about gamers’ sense of entitlement. As if we’re an easy group to categorize in terms of entitlement. Frankly, this kind of occasional bombast in your post reads to me like something I’d see from a defensive industry insider trying to do some damage control rather than a feminist gamer.

        • gunthera1 says:

          NOTE FROM MODERATOR:
          Do not turn arguments and debates into personal attacks. We love having lively discussions on these the posts, but attacking other Border House readers is not acceptable. Please keep comments on topic or they will be deleted.

          Our detailed discussion policy can be found here: http://borderhouseblog.com/?page_id=65

          • S says:

            For the record, I am taking this offline and communicating via e-mail with Anna and the rest of the Border House editors she copied until we achieve resolution.

            Nigel, to be clear, I am not personally attacking you. I am strongly disagreeing with your arguments above and look forward to your response.

  11. S says:

    @Alex, there are LOTS of changes in artwork from DAO to 2. Isabella is just one example.

    http://dragonage.neoseeker.com/wiki/Isabella
    http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Isabela

    Of course, all of this is further complicated by her various representations in promo and comic artwork as well as the more washed out colours if you played on XBOX360 like I did. DAO had some serious saturation effect issues on consoles, especially the 360. This probably exacerbated the effect IME, making her even paler, but, nonetheless, I think you can see the differences via the links above. I read there was even a mod made to specifically ‘make Isabella white again’ in DA2. I didn’t see the same thing in DAO, though I could be wrong. There are lots of icky mods out there to be sure.

    Isabella’s “warm and caring” nature is belied somewhat by her facility with manipulation and lying. She betrays the Warden twice. But I am not trying to just dismiss Isabella or any of the other characters. I definitely do not want to reduce her character by viewing her through only one feminist lens. I’d rather look at her from other perspectives as well (e.g., “she raises some interesting questions about the representation of empowered female sexuality” <- THIS) but not if it means neglecting a full focus on the particular ways her sexuality has been constructed as well. I was concerned about your comment because I took it, perhaps wrongly, as a minimization or sidestep of the issue of “male gaze” by moving on so swiftly to ideas of sexual empowerment without taking this into account. I do understand wanting to defend a character you enjoyed from criticism; I get real defensive about the writing and graphic depiction of Morrigan, but I have to admit we have some very, very serious issues there as well, including the ones we’re discussing with Isabella.

    About Aveline, I don’t remember Donnic’s “beautiful” comment. If I heard it, would it help me see him as someone who is as obsessed with her as she, someone in a position of power over, is with him? For someone so important to her, he’s pretty two-dimensional which makes their interactions difficult to care about without a lot of imaginative filling in. That, and it’s supposed to be comical, in both modern and Shakespearean ways. When I said that “all she (a woman) wants is to marry a man,” it was not hyperbole but a reference to age-old sexist reductions, not my reductions, of butch women like Aveline, whether they embrace the term or have it projected upon them. Of course it’s not her sole character motivation, but it looks like her most personal one. The rest is about her devotion to her job as a police authority and her by-the-book enforcement of hierarchical order, which is muddied a bit by her sexual relationship with a man who works for her.

    Thanks for the links. The conversation you referenced between Merril and Anders also takes place with Morrigan in DAO and is backed up by multiple storylines there. When did blood magic not result in demonic things happening in DA2 though? And I’m including Merrill.

    I agreed with most of the class discussion on the other link, barring the idea that “If the head of the church won’t lower herself to interact with someone of your race, chances are she’s evil and you’ll have to kill her—serves her right”, though I can empathize with the sentiment even when I wish I couldn’t. It’s true a first move to sidestep critiques of mysteriously disappearing bigotry has been to explain that your PC has become a Warden so all prejudice in the world has been magically revoked from your character’s experience. I was glad to see this challenged. However, this does NOT happen even with your companions if you play an elf or a woman. The Hero of DA2 doesn’t experience prejudice first-hand at all IIRC. And sex/race/class/sexuality definitely DO affect the game in many ways, not least the ending: you cannot rule Ferelden if you’re not a human noble no matter what you do. Regardless, though I disagree with these examples, you’re right there are many other instances where your choices and/or identity don’t mesh believably with the story, as with DA2 (e.g., use of blood magic). Bioware staff and its fans often try to defend this as not enough time or resources for development and testing. I don’t.

    That article also points out that rape and revenge in DAO, while not gratuitous, can still feel like an offensive and cheap path to character development and player pathos that needs to be written with more care. Unfortunately, Leliana’s Song and the DA2 rapist used the same formulae. But I’m still not seeing how DA2 improved on any of this. I feel as much as feminist gamers fought for and got some things from Bioware last round, we lost at least as much in DA2.

    • Alex says:

      I do understand wanting to defend a character you enjoyed from criticism

      Wow. I’m not discussing this with you if you’re going to condescend to me like that. Nowhere did I get defensive or say Isabela shouldn’t be criticized as a character.

  12. Maria says:

    Is there a transcript available?

    • gunthera1 says:

      Unfortunately there is no transcript at this time. For awhile we had readers helping with the transcripts of the podcasts. It takes a lot of time to create one and right now we don’t have the time for one of us to take on that project ourselves.

  13. Ms. Sunlight says:

    One of the things I love about the Dragon Age universe is how agnostic it is. Certainly, there are religions and religious people, but there is no evidence in the game itself that there is any reality to their religion. Compare it to many other “generic fantasy” settings in games like Neverwinter Nights, where gods are definitely real and worshipping or not worshipping them brings concrete rewards and punishments.

    I enjoyed the podcast a lot, by the way, and it was fun to hear your opinions. I don’t think the game’s without flaw though; for all the positive examples there are still negatives. What’s so refreshing about the game though is that at least it has a bloody good try. It didn’t play it safe, and I love that so much.

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