The boss of Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear developer Beamdog has said that his studio’s internal limits on development practise probably contributed to the recent outrage about a transgender character.
Last week corners of the internet were set ablaze by the inclusion of a transgender character in the RPG.
To us, having a transgender character wasn’t that big a deal,” studio boss Trent Oster told MCV’s sister site Develop. In a world where there’s half-orcs – so a human and an orc had an offspring together – and dragons can transform into humans and gods can walk the earth as male or female, whatever choice they make – it just didn’t seem like a big detail to us.
Personally, I think it shows a progressive world view that we didn’t think a transgender character was a big deal. It was just a character to us, part of the world, helping to drive the story along.”
However, Oster does think that the fact the character’s identity history is introduced so early on in the dialogue did contribute to the accusation that it was being rammed down” players’ throats.[The revelation that she is transgender] is what we consider three dialogue nodes deep,” Oster explained. We put an arbitrary limit on our writers for our support characters of just three nodes deep, just to control word count. Siege of Dragonspear is over 500,000 words of dialogue, so we had to put limits on writers so they didn’t create more.
The character goes from ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ to ‘I’m transgender’ in three conversation lines. That’s a really shallow way of telling me a life-shattering event. The transgender people I know are not going to blurt that out as quickly as that – it’s going to take a while, you’re going to have to get to know them.
As a result the character will not be dropped, but will instead be expanded upon. Added Oster: We have this character, we have a series of reasons why she is the way she is, it’s obviously captured the attention of a lot of people, so we should expand her story.”
The development boss also questioned the real-world extent of the anger, arguing instead that what appeared to have been an internet-melting drama was instead really symptomatic of the internet echo-chamber effect.
I firmly believe that there is no ‘they’, there’s no group with a specific agenda,” Oster argued. There’s just a bunch of individuals – each with their own sensitivities, likes and dislikes – and the internet seems to package people together. You see a tempest in a teapot.
When a topic blows up on the internet, it’s hard to tell how ‘big’ it is. I think social media has created this echo chamber world, where everyone lives in their own little social group and are essentially self-reinforcing. All of my news feeds are centred on video games, so when something happens in that space, it seems huge. If I talk to someone else, they don’t know about it, they’ve been talking about the Panama Papers – and I’m like, ‘what are the Panama Papers?’, because I’ve been in my little universe and it’s different to theirs.”
Head over to Develop for the full interview.