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Love’s Labor’s Lost

“Here’s the thing: being near you makes me crazy, but I can’t imagine being without you. Not ever.”

—Alistair to Grey Warden, Dragon Age: Origins

“I love Hawke. […] I say it a lot. It makes things clearer, takes away doubt when everything is crazy and people are dying.”

—Merrill to Aveline, Dragon Age II

“It’d be an awfully empty galaxy without you.”

—Garrus to Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3

BioWare has a special place in my heart due to its combination of the RPG and third-person shooter genres, its story lines, and its devotion to non-player character (NPC) development. Creating my own character or customizing the set player character (PC), choosing their personality and behavior, and being able to replay the games with a different tone or overall outcome each time makes for a personalized gaming experience that helps me connect with the action and deeply feel for the PC as well as the NPCs. I always look for media that encourage intellectual and emotional investment from the consumer. But emotional investment is not always rewarded in the best way.

Naturally, I am talking about the option to romance NPCs. BioWare has earned acclaim for its representation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships in its games, and I applaud the company for its efforts to be inclusive. My heart swells with happiness when I hear the joy in a person’s voice when they discover that they can romance a female companion while playing as a female, or a male companion while playing as a male, or that specific characters can be romanced by a PC of any gender. There is no solid argument against how helpful and validating representation for sexual minorities can be, whether one is talking about film and television, literature, video games, or another form of media; and there is plenty of evidence supporting the importance of this representation to help normalize these marginalized sexualities in the public eye as well as empowering an underrepresented demographic.

However, there is still something common between all of these romantic possibilities: the flirting, the courtship, the intense feelings and declarations of adoration all count as nothing unless the player character ends up having sex with the romantic interest. Upon reading that sentence, many people may be baffled; after all, doesn’t every important romantic relationship eventually lead to one or many sexual encounters?

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