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GINX TV > Opinion > Dragon Age: The Veilguard

All Dragon Age: The Veilguard companions being pansexual is a step backwards

When it comes to romance options, every Dragon Age: The Veilguard companion will be pansexual.
All Dragon Age: The Veilguard companions being pansexual is a step backwards

Additional details about the recently renamed Dragon Age: The Veilguard continue to roll out, and an interview with game director Corinne Busche has offered a bit of clarity on potential romance options. We've seen different approaches to character sexuality in both the Dragon Age franchise and other major fantasy RPGs, but The Veilguard is apparently aiming to find a balance between two different approaches. Busche insists they're all pansexual and definitely not playersexual, but it still feels like a step in the wrong direction for Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard companions are all pansexual

With the first major trailer and gameplay deep dive arriving for Dragon Age: The Veilguard, things are picking up with more aspects of the game revealed each day. After an earlier interview with BioWare general manager Gary McKay confirmed that players will be able to "romance the companions [they] want," things have gone a bit further with clarification in a separate interview from Veilguard game director Corinne Busche.

Busche insisted the companions will not be "playersexual," the term often used to describe NPCs that pursue player characters without any set sexuality or gender preference. She went on to say that this style "can be really off-putting where these characters are adapting to who you, the player, are."

Instead, she explained that each companion's "past experiences or partners" will be referenced and will influence who else they could become romantic with throughout the game. Characters you choose not to pursue may be pursued by others, and Busche stated "[the player character's] identity has no bearing on their identities and that comes through really strongly."

One step forward, two steps back for representation


For as well-meaning as her clarification was, Busche's comments feel like a distinction without a difference. They've now got buzz around calling the companions all pansexual during Pride Month, but it ignores the reality that blanketing that sexuality across every companion falls short of the type of representation Dragon Age itself set the standard for.

Making romance options "playersexual" works well in some situations, and you don't have to look any further than Dragon Age cousin Baldur's Gate 3 to see how it can deliver. The game has been a critical and commercial success, and the fandom around it has certainly enjoyed applying lots of different headcanons about sexuality to each character. 

The problem is Dragon Age has done this better in the past and shown us what real queer storytelling representation can be. Dragon Age: Origins used a mix with two straight romanceable characters and two pansexual or bisexual ones. Dragon Age II's four core romances were essentially playersexual, but they added a straight option with the DLC. 

Dragon Age: Inquisition was where they tapped into something more powerful and presented some memorable queer representation. Inquisition has eight romanceable characters: four straight, two pansexual or bisexual, one gay, and one lesbian. By showing an actual spectrum of sexuality, you create nuance and allow more powerful storytelling to be done about how each character's specific sexuality and experiences inform who they are.

Playersexual is more about cost efficiency than representation


Dragon Age: The Veilguard will be making a few very important moves towards better representation by including they/them pronouns as an option in the upcoming game's character creator and making the varied body shapes available for any gender. These are great decisions for non-binary and trans representation, and that helps more gamers see themselves in the character they create.

The difficult reality they likely won't acknowledge is that making all the companions pansexual was probably more about development time than representation. By allowing multiple pronoun options for characters, you're also multiplying some of the coding and voice acting work that needs to be done during development.

For a major studio like this, it's not surprising that someone decided it was more cost effective to universalize the romances for all player characters. Which, whether Busche wants to admit it or not, does make them functionally playersexual. Even if these characters are having romances with other NPCs, blanket applying a single sexuality to them makes it all generic romance and not nuanced queer representation.

On top of that, they've essentially dodged any of the challenges of trying to showcase trans and non-binary representation during these romances, which makes even the character creator improvements feel surface level. Not every sexuality, or even every person of a specific sexuality, will approach romance with a non-binary or trans person the same way. Speaking as a pansexual non-binary person, Dragon Age: The Veilguard currently looks exciting, but it doesn't look like real representation.

There's always a chance that feeling could change once the full Dragon Age: The Veilguard story is known, and these issues certainly won't deter me from playing. Hopefully, the team has worked in storytelling with deeper queer representation that just wasn't able to be showcased in these early previews without spoiling too much. If this turns out to be the extent of romance in The Veilguard, the game could still be great, but it will fall short of the standard Dragon Age: Inquisition set nearly a decade ago.