The biggest game yet has been released this year by Larian Studios, and it has been a queer triumph for fans everywhere. The game not only allows the player to create a nonbinary character if they need it, but all romance-able characters are player-sexual; sex and gender do not matter when it comes to this RPG DND love story.
The game was a massive success. In its first week, Baldur’s Gate 3 garnered 814,666 concurrent players on Steam the week of its release (Polygon, 2023).
Astarian’s voice actor and motion-capture actor, Neil Newbon (known for his work in other hit video games, such as Karl Heisenberg in Resident Evil: Village, and Elijah Kamski and Gavin Reed in Detroit: Become Human), stated that Astarian is “actually pansexual, which is really interesting” (Neil Newbon, 2021). Fans will also be thrilled to know that Newbon has been streaming, with guest appearances from other members of the cast, most recently Samantha Beart, who plays Karlach. Moreover, he is romancing Astarion - an experience he has taken to calling “Asturbation”.
Why has it blown up so much? Well, certain fans have been falling (and from the comments, I’d say hard) for a certain theatrical and sarcastic vampire. Alongside this, the further you look, the fanbase holds special places for all the side characters you meet. Shadowheart fans are fawning over “God’s favourite princess” while Karlach fans are making edits on TikTok, and Gale fans are writing fanfiction of their life in Waterdeep with the wizard.
The game follows a Dungeons and Dragons format, and the RPG game has set the tone for games from now on. The game developers have now filmed and uploaded a two-episode game of DND with High Rollers, for fans to enjoy; full of hilarious shenanigans between the cast as they bring their characters to life and we get to see the beloved strange team interact with each other.
Baldur’s Gate 3, since its release on 3 August, has topped the charts and become the highest-grossing game (Tech Radar, August 2023). It has also now earned the title of the highest-rated game on Metacritic and Open Critic (Techspot, 2023).
Moreover, despite a part of the gaming fanbase being upset over characters, like Halsin asking them for some ‘alone time’, the game has been a triumph for LGBTQ+ fans.
Jennifer English, who plays Shadowheart, met her now girlfriend Aliona Baranova, a Motion Capture Performance Director, on the set of Balduer’s Gate 3, told Gayming Magazine:
“The fact that [Larian] re-recorded all instances of pronouns for the player, to include gender-neutral pronouns, non-binary pronouns… I’m so proud to be part of that. [...] It’s hard because I don’t want to spoil any more of the game. But I’ll just say that I’m very happy about it. And the fact that anyone can be anyone. I really wish I had this growing up. I wish I had this game that I could be whoever I wanted and create a character that I wasn’t ready to be in real life, which I certainly wasn’t as a teenager”.
English went on to reveal, along with Devora, that she ships her character with Lae’zel; two characters in the game that, without giving too much away, do not get along. A true sapphic retelling of the enemies-to-lovers trope that many fans love to see, and can play out when they opt to play either of the two as Origin characters in a playthrough. English also expressed a desire to work more in the industry towards creating more queer representation.
English told The Gamer that Shadowheart helped her with her own queer identity:
"Her protecting her secrets resonated with me because growing up queer and having to keep that part of myself hidden... that really resonated with me," said English. "I drew upon a lot of mental health stuff, so I gave a lot of myself to that side of the story. It did exhaust me quite a lot. I'd go home and have a really good cry."
The character creation for Baldur’s Gate 3 has allowed players to create with more fluidity, whether that’s as a trans or nonbinary character, as well as being able to choose different classes and backstories for your character. Jade King wrote, in the run-up to the games’ release, for The Gamer that “I’m a trans woman, and while sadly I’m not packing devil horns (no matter what Ben Shapiro would have you believe), I do have a penis. For now, anyway, and to have that represented in Baldur’s Gate 3 without having the rug pulled from beneath me is so meaningful” (The Gamer, 2023).
Jervon Perkins wrote for Dual Shockers, that: “When I first saw “non-binary” as an identity option, I was floored. Not many games have given me the opportunity to express my queer side like that.”
So, although other studios are hoping that fans won’t be expecting such a high-quality RPG game as Baldur’s Gate 3, we could at least hope that this game has set the precedent for queer representation in gaming.
Edited by: Anwen Venn
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