Before I start this post, let me warn you, there are going to be some Dragon Age II spoilers. Just a friendly warning. If you haven't played through it yet but plan on it, I suggest playing it first and then reading this.
Read on at your own risk, internet adventurer.
Everyone has a different family life. I consider mine to be pretty normal; mom, dad, two brothers, me in the middle. Oh yeah, and a big fluffy dog. Nothing too crazy there.
A sense of family is common enough in real life, but not in a video game. Bioware games are great at giving you opportunities to build friendships and relationships among the characters and making you care about them.
I feel like they took this even further with Dragon Age II by giving the player a sense of family.
Family is by no means the main focus of Dragon Age II, but I feel that it was one of the more interesting and emotionally eliciting parts of the story.
You are with your family, the Hawke family, from the very onset of the game; your mother Leandra, your brother Carver, and your sister Bethany.
Depending on what class you choose to play as either Carver or Bethany will die very early on in the game. I was a mage, so Bethany died, somewhat heroically and somewhat carelessly.
Bioware does a wonderful job at showing the heartbreak in Leandra at just losing a daughter. It can even make you feel some remorse for your sibling's loss too if you let yourself get taken into the story, which is what I try to do with games like this.
From that point on I invested a lot of my time into Carver, my brother. I always had him along on missions and I talked to him in the times between missions. I helped him realize that our father had cared for him a lot and gained his friendship. Carver became a very important character to me. I was his big brother.
Then came a time where I was ready to embark on a dangerous expedition to the Deep Roads. Before we set off Leandra confronted Carver and I and pleaded with me not to take him. She was fearful that something would happen on the expedition. I assured her that I needed Carver to come with and that we would be fine.
Carver died down in the deep roads.
When I returned to my uncle's home, where my mother lived, she asked me where Carver was. I had to tell her the truth.
Leandra had lost another child and the anguish was apparent. She fell to floor crying. It was a pretty emotionally powerful moment in the game. I felt bad for her, and I felt sad that I had lost my brother, a character I had been so invested in.
Bioware made you care about this person in so many ways, and then I got him killed. I could've chosen not to take him on the expedition like mother had wanted, but I took him along anyways and he died because of it.
These sorts of story elements and emotions can't happen anywhere else other than in video games. You, the player, have control over these things. While watching a movie, it doesn't stop and ask you to make a decision on what will happen next. You're stuck with whatever is already going to happen. In games, Bioware games especially I feel, you have so much control over how the story goes and what you experience. Games are amazing in that sense.
So Carver had died.
The only family I had left was my mother, my uncle (whom I think is a bastard), and my dog.
I moved on over the loss of Carver and so did mother. Eventually she even decided that she wanted to try to meet a new man, to find a suitor. I was happy for her.
Then one day mother wasn't at our estate (we had moved out of uncle's house and up in society). A dwarf at my estate told me that she was out, possibly with a suitor, as there had been white lilies left on the table.
Oh shit, I thought.
White lilies were the mark of a serial killer who was killing women in the city. I couldn't let him get mother.
Emotions were running high as my party and I followed a blood trail.
We finally caught up with mother and her captor. But it was too late. I won't go into the details about why he took mother, but it was sadistic and gruesome. I ended the man responsible without a second thought.
And then I lost mother. I was on my own, though one of my party members assured me that wasn't the case.
I never thought a game could make me care about characters in that way, I felt responsible for mother’s death as well as Carver's. Even later in the game, someone make a snide remark about my mother's death and I thought 'How dare you! You bitch!' I would've fought that person right then and there if I could have.
I just thought I'd share my thoughts and feelings on this sort of thing in video games. I hope you found it interesting, or else I'm not doing my job as a writer...
So next time you're playing a good game don't be afraid to care about characters in it. It'll make the game better if you do.
And as always,
Enjoy your game.
Enjoy your life.