Finding Family in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Editors Note: Emma Osborne introduces the September topic for Dream Foundrys Official Media Exploration Club. Please stop by and say hello on the forum, and let us know what your thoughts are regarding our September discussion topic, Dragon Age: Inquisition. We look forward to seeing you there!

Video games provide a unique way of both telling stories and of exploring families and character dynamics. Games embed players in worlds filled with cities to explore, people to meet, quests to pursue. BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game rich with history, with culture, with politics, and of course, with many forms of families.

One of the beautiful things about games is that the player can make active choices in order to discover aspects of the world and the narrative. Story, within the game, can be short and impactful (for example, the Twine game queers in love at the end of the world by anna anthropy), or as is the case with many AAA games, it can span 70+ hours of play time. This provides a staggering amount of room for richness and detail. Dragon Age: Inquisition provides enormous scope for exploring the characters and mythology of Thedas in an active way. The player often learns by doing—by exploring, talking, completing side quests, or working through the main narrative quest. There are also personal quests for the major characters, with satisfying B plots and miniquests tying back into the main narrative.

Dragon Age: Inquisition was selected for discussion in large part because of the complexity of the relationship dynamics within the game. There are many races and classes, e.g. humans, the Qunari, elves, and dwarves, but even within the elvish and dwarven cultures there are nuanced and defined groups. For example, the elves are represented both by the nomadic Dalish elves, but also by servants seen in the Empress’s Winter Palace. We see elvish gods, elvish magic, and even elves who don’t adhere to any particular aspect of elvish culture. When it comes to dwarves, we see the somewhat outcast surface-dwellers versus dwarven traders, miners, and guilds.

Mages are also marginalized within the game, but we see various examples of their status—Dorian is noble and foreign. He hails from Tevinter, where mages are the ruling class. Solas is an elf and a non-Circle mage (a “rebel” mage) but also does not fit within what we know to be the standard elf experiences (not a city elf or a Dalish elf). Vivienne, the most powerful mage in the game, is rich, aristocratic, and part of the “accepted” Mage class (i.e. a Circle Mage) and carries strong political influence in both Thedas and Orlais.

The characters have many different experiences and histories but all work together to close the fade rifts and stop demons from attacking people. The characters learn from each other, argue and disagree in ways that families often do. Many of them have established relationships from earlier in the games’ history, e.g. Cassandra Pentaghast and Leliana are the former Left and Right Hands of the Divine—the lead warrior and chief spy of the game’s Pope character.

Aside from the main group, which is definitely a family, there are many smaller “families” within the game, such as Bull’s Chargers, a mercenary group who look out for each other and fight together. The Iron Bull, their leader (and a Qunari spy) saved Krem (a landmark transman character) in a tavern brawl and lost an eye for it. The Chargers are a diverse group made up of elves, dwarves, and humans.

The Seekers of Truth—an elite order of Templars—are another family within the game. Seeker Cassandra retains immense loyalty to the Seeker Knight Commander, when in her personal quest, she must root out corruption in the ranks. Dorian and Tevinter mage Alexius are a family of sorts, with Alexius mentoring Dorian in his mage studies. Sarcastic elf Sera has her crew of Red Jennies, who combine intelligence from the unnoticed workers of the world. They’re an informal group but are nevertheless united as many small cogs in a vast machine. Varric and Hawke have a family relationship that carries over from DA:2.

There is also an undeniable queer element to the families in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Many of the main characters are queer—Dorian is a gay man, Sera a lesbian. The Iron Bull is pansexual, and Leliana was able to be romanced by any gender in Dragon Age: Origins. In the real world, queer and trans folks have a way of finding each other, of seeking out people who become their family throughout their lives. The Dragon Age games reflect this beautifully, with the characters forming bonds out of a common goal, but also with genuine affection for each other, which can often be seen in the banter the characters engage in when out in the field.

I look forward to exploring the nuances of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and discussing the elements that resonate with folks on the forum!

Editors Note: Interested in commenting? Tell us your thoughts are regarding our September discussion topic, Dragon Age: Inquisition, on the forum. We look forward to seeing you there!

Emma Osborne

Emma Osborne is a queer fiction writer and poet from Melbourne, Australia. Their writing has appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Shock Totem: Tales of the Macabre and Twisted, Apex Magazine, Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Pseudopod and GlitterShip.

Emma is a graduate of the 2016 Clarion West Writers Workshop (Team Arsenic forever!) and is a former first reader at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Emma currently lives in Melbourne, drinking all of the coffee and eating all of the food, but has a giant crush on Seattle and turns up under the shadow of the mountain at every opportunity.