Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dragon Age Grows Up

Dragon Age: Origins came out when I was fresh out of college and living in a shitty apartment where the heat didn't really work. I'd started a job I didn't love to pay rent and I was thinking of life as something I was doing until I did the next big thing. I'd play Origins late at night with a lap blanket and still end up shivering (this was a winter when it didn't get above 20 for 2 week on end. In Maryland of all places)

And Origins seemed right for where I was in life. It had a lot of stories about characters finding their destiny and coming to terms with their childhood. Of the 'core cast' of Leliana, Morrigan, Alistair and the Warden (most of the versions thereof), I think their average age seems well under 25. They haven't done great deeds yet, they either haven't really started or they are starting over. Their stories seemed to revolve around being a bastard, or being the traumatized and sheltered child of a a demon woman, or <insert fucked up Warden family situation here>. The oldest of the 4, Leliana, adopted an affected innocence. I mean, there was an option to have the two virgins in the group (I am assuming this about Morrigan) deflower each other. Morrigan would freak out at the prospect of falling in love in a way only a true innocent could. The games title, 'Origins' said it all. This was a game about beginnings. About starting out and where you came from.

I'm nearly 30 now. Still have a job I don't love, but I'm thinking of the life I live as an end and not just a means to what comes next. I'm married. I play Dragon Age Inquisition in my well-heated and less-shittily furnished house. I romanced Cassandra, who bears a passing resemblance (mostly "-disgusted noise-" to my wife). And when I play I meet characters who are not defined by their childhood. Characters who have done things. Cassandra is in her late-ish 30's, she's been right hand of the divine for 18 years. She's grown disillusioned with the chantry and her own order while retaining her faith; she's loved and lost. That's what defines her, not what happened to her brother when she was young. Leliana is now 10 years older, and she's not defined by what happened with Marjorlaine, but by all the ways that spying for 10 years has twisted her soul. Iron Bull is scarred by a brutal counterinsurgency and already well on his way to building a new identity for himself in Thedas. Vivienne was formerly one of the most powerful mages in Orlais, and Cullen isn't haunted by what happened when he was a kid, but by all the awful shit he's endured during the past 2 games. If Origins was a game about rather young people making their way in the world (and saving it), Inquisition is a game about people coming to terms with what they've done in the world and who they've become. It is not a story about young people anymore. It's a story about grown ups. And maybe I've changed. Maybe the games changed. I think we both have.

And this is not to say that Origins was adolescent in a negative sense. Or that stories about coming of age are bad. Dostoevsky wrote almost exclusively about the problems of young men and he is one of the greatest novelists, well, ever. But for years the games I played were about adolescents or post adolescents, and those stories are well-travelled. It's nice to see other stories being given the spotlight.