Despite Reports, Gay Cheating Elves Haven't Quite Rocked the Video Gaming World

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Oh my God, Zevran's seeing someone else.

That was my reaction when I first read the New York Times article yesterday about the controversy surrounding the gay romance option in the popular new video game Dragon Age Origins.

The article included a screenshot from the game, a beefcake shot of a shirtless elf named Zevran. I've spent many hours in recent weeks living in the virtual world of Dragon Age Origins, and opening the paper to see an image from the game there was startling, like finding my high school photos on the world news page. The lovemaking is all in PG-13 mode, of course, but seeing Zevran with another man for the world to see was enough to bring up a glimmer of jealousy.

Weird, huh? The inclusion of romances in video games is both fun and queasy. Having your alter ego approached by an assemblage of ones and zeros and feeling a quickening in your heart can lead to some troubling soul searching. How much of everyday life should video games really ought to be replicating? In the game's online forum, the player response about the gay romance has been passionate... but relatively free of questions about morality. Instead, gamers are concerned about those things that always get gamers concerned--that is, maximizing possibilities for their characters, uncovering secrets, gaining power, and collecting lore. Many are disappointed that Zevran the elf is the only gay romance option, wishing that instead they could approach Alistair, the (human) templar with a mysterious past. Others wonder about the physics of dwarf-elf romance, while still others worry that not romancing Zevran will prevent them from accessing the assassin class using their level seven specialization point.

So is Zevran bisexual? You can play the game through as a female and have him fall in love with you, and I can as a male, so maybe the elf rogue swings both ways. But then again, those two Zevrans exist in parallel universes, and the Zevran in yours effectively is straight and mine is gay, so fan debates start getting pretty metaphysical.

Unlike right wing attacks and left wing defenses from cultural critics, the commentary from those who actually play the game has been equally emphatic, but almost empty of that supposedly vital question of whether there should be gay romance as an option in a game. Compared to getting the best arms and armor and saving the world, such concerns seem dusty and dull indeed.