Friday, 22 June 2012

Dragon Age II: "Prejudice"

I liked the characters and immediate gameplay in DA2 more than in Origins. So I don't think it's a terrible game the way everyone told me it was. But I still find it reprehensible for different reasons, reasons I don't think a lot of people really thought about. I was prepared to call it my favourite game of 2011, until it became apparent just how evil the writers' message was.

It's hard not to draw comparison between the Qunari and the spread of Islam during that whole Crusades business. The persecution by the Templars certainly supports this. The lead writer, David Gaider, even referred to them as the "militant Islamic Borg", so you know there's going to be a fair portrayal here, right? Comparing them to a vicious machine-race that forces a fascist life-style on everyone else. Surely the game will take a stand against such petty tribalistic assumptions, I thought.

And for the most part, I was right...


The Qunari are are a sentient race in the world of Dragon Age, whose fast-spreading religious dogma is cramping the style of the white people. That's pretty much the plot of 2/3rds of the game. You have to sit through so much crap from people telling you how dangerous they are. The people who say this are usually the people who murder or brainwash mages, even if they haven't done anything necessarily wrong or evil, without any right to a fair trial or the rights of other human beings. So you know they're in the right frame of mind to be calling other people "dangerous".

(It should also be of note that the precious "artifact" the Qunari came into Kirkwall for is a book.)

But they're just sitting there. There are gangs of Qunari that cause trouble, but they're criminals. A separate entity. The game doesn't portray the Qunari as peaceful outright, but it doesn't treat them as savage monsters here to rape our women or anything so juvenile. You're given the chance to give them the benefit of the doubt, to try and reason with people that they haven't done anything wrong, and they aren't causing any trouble. It also makes the observation that their opinions of the Templars and the people of Ferelden aren't very high, but they also don't go around trying to kill them.

...Until they do that. Wait, WHAT?!


We see Muslims as bullet-fodder in so many games now, and so much hateful propaganda. They are receiving a disproportionate amount of shit from the rest of the world. A world that conveniently ignores when it produces its own extremists, who kill a bunch of people because their invisible space father said it'd be a good idea.

So even though it wasn't a loving portrayal, it was nice to see a game that didn't automatically assume they were all monsters, just because their ways and methods weren't the same I would choose...

Until the second act, where the games goes: "OH LOOK, THEY WERE MONSTERS ALL ALONG, IT WAS RIGHT TO PERSECUTE THEM". 

And then it does this again in the ending, where no matter who you side with, the people you side with turn out to be crazy monsters. The game throws prejudice in every direction, gives you the option to take a more clear-headed position with different people and cultures, even defend some of them... and then they all turn out to prove everyone's prejudice's correct anyway.

Ah, so racism was the answer! Screw you too, BioWare!

"MrBTongue" made a video about how not everything is an allegory for something else. Tolkien wasn't about allegory, after all, so maybe I'm wrong about this. But you have to understand: Bioware is no Tolkien. They aren't as clever, or as sophisticated. They aren't good enough at their job not to rely on allegory. It was painfully obvious what they were saying here, and what they had to say about the modern world is disgusting.

That's why I didn't review it, and that's why it didn't show up in my Favourite Things of 2011 article. Not because the game is bad, but because David Gaider has some personal demons to work out.



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