Mass Effect and Dragon Age developer BioWare lead writer David Gaider has spoken out to address the topic of sexual diversity and inclusivity in video games. Gaider, a 16-year veteran of the RPG studio who recently wrote for Dragon Age: Inquisition, started off in a new interview by recalling his reaction when he learned that BioWare’s 2005 RPG Jade Empire–which he didn’t work on–would offer gay romance options.David Gaider
“I remember hearing about when they made that decision to put it in and I was floored,” Gaider told Video Game Sophistry. “I mean, I’m gay myself, so I felt it kind of odd when I heard about it, how shocked I was because I just never thought that part of my life had a role to play in work. Like I said, it just wasn’t done. I didn’t even really consider the idea, so when they made that decision it was like, ‘Oh, really?'”
Gaider went on to say there was “a lot of apprehension” regarding what the public’s reaction to this would be. But it’s something the team pushed for, Gaider said, because it “needed to happen,” and ultimately, the response was generally positive.
“It’s nervousness from the people who have all the money, and they’re worried about the risk,” Gaider said. “And I think it’s from the people who make the games that are probably, I would say, lean liberal and educated and sort of what they assume their audience will or won’t accept. So, when the decision was made for Jade Empire, I think there was some apprehension, but I think also an idea that this was something that needed to happen. And I think when Jade Empire went out we were kind of surprised at how it really didn’t cause the kind of explosion that we had thought. And I think that made us a lot bolder.”
In the years since Jade Empire’s release, there has been “sort of a cultural development”–along with some level of resistance–as it relates to sexual diversity in gaming, Gaider said. But overall, sales of BioWare games have not been materially impacted by the studio’s efforts to create characters of all backgrounds.
“There’s a certain amount of backlash but I think also a certain amount of support as well,” he said. “And I think what each time we’ve done that, what has become pretty clear is that from a bottom line standpoint, you could make the argument, I suppose, that if we didn’t include that maybe the game would sell more. You could also make an argument that if we didn’t include that the game would sell less.”
“We’re putting out something that appeals to players who don’t traditionally get represented in games, so maybe more of them come to play the games,” Gaider added. “Maybe it’s just enough to make up for the ones that are turned off by that. But, ultimately, it hasn’t really affected our sales insofar as we can tell. So, the idea of how commercial a consideration it is kind of goes out the window and we can focus on just doing the right thing.”
Gaider is a BioWare veteran. He’s worked on Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well as Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights. Recently, he left the Dragon Age team to work on a secret BioWare game.