In the first segment of my interview with David Gaider (lead writer for Dragon Age) at GaymerX, we talked anti-oppression critiques of the DA series, including transgender representation, racism, and other pressing issues. In this segment, we delve into the DA universe and discuss Dragon Age: Inquisition, Merrill, Morrigan, the Architect, dragons, The Fade, Qunari culture, polyamory, and more.
Warning: Mild Inquisition spoilers ahead.
Thus far in the Dragon Age series, options for longer-term romantic relationships in the game (between the player character and non-player characters) must be monogamous, or else “jealousy” flags get recorded in the game’s programming and the player is forced to choose between characters.
Since many real-life relationships can consensually involve more than two people and/or can be consensually non-monogamous, I originally sent this question to David Gaider on Tumblr. He answered a similar question at GaymerX’s “Building a Better Romance” BioWare panel. His answers both times tended to focus around the difficulty in writing/programming a relationship with equal affection between all permutations of multiple people in the context of the DA games.
He also suggested one possible option in the future where they might present the player with a pre-established couple who wish for the player to join them.
As a follow-up, during our one-on-one interview, I asked David Gaider if he or the writers had considered merely removing the jealousy flags for certain characters, thus creating a narrative of consensual non-monogamy. While this is not the kind of polyamory he mostly discussed (a triad relationship or more), it is still a form of polyamory. I suggested this might add other relationship styles to the mix without complicating writing and programming matters with exponentially increasing character dynamics. Is that something they could do?
“We could,” Gaider said, though he expressed some concerns about the potential interpretation of that situation by fans. “If there was no reaction, I think that would probably be interpreted by a lot of people as an oversight as opposed to something that’s deliberate. That would be what that would boil down to. And the more reaction we have to have, then, the more it gets really complicated.”
Intrigued by Dragon Age 2‘s Merrill and her potential for well-intentioned evil-doing, I asked David Gaider if the writers had ever considered a more villainous (though sympathetic) arc for her, a la Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s sixth season. “I mean obviously she can kill her whole clan so that’s pretty bad anyway…” I admitted, while David Gaider was quick to jump to Merrill’s defense: “Not directly, not directly.” True, true, sorry Merrill.
“In terms of [Merrill's] character arc,” Gaider mused, “I don’t think that we ever had a plan for her to be evil. Well. Not to go evil. There was an alternate sort of idea of her that she was going to start off very much more of a blood mage.” He described “very dark” early concept art of Merrill where “she’s got like half her head kind of shaved… and kind of had these weird sort of red veins you could see.” So, he explained, “there was an initial idea that maybe Merrill would be a darker and more evil character? But I think that the end of the day, Mary [Mary Kirby, Merrill's writer] sort of expressed interest that she liked playing against the type rather than… ‘she’s a blood mage, therefore she must be evil’ kind of thing.”
Probably a good choice, seeing as the contrast between Merrill’s cheerful cuteness and obsessive demonic power makes the character all the more fascinating.
Read the rest of our discussion about language in the DA universe, desire demons, the Fade, and whether or not the Archdemon is really so bad at shallowgraves.org.