Once upon a time (namely five years ago) I was a video game skeptic. I did not play them, was intimidated by them, and had no interest in playing them. Then I met this boy who was adorable and lovely and wonderful and I was falling in love with him and he made a request: could I try to play? You see, he had spent much of his professional life working on testing video games and they were a love of his. He wanted me to experience this thing he loved that he was sure I would love and since I kept dragging him to musicals, I really couldn’t deny him.
And reader, the boy was right. I do love them. Not all of them (I can’t be doing with the ones where you have to play with others, like Destiny), but the ones I love, I love hard and usually with multiple play throughs. One of my stronger loves is the RPG (role playing game) Dragon Age: Inquisition and I am here to tell you about Cullen.
The story of the game is pretty simple. There’s a giant green hole in the sky and it’s spewing demons out from it. You wake up after a gnarly dream to find a thing attached to your hand that can close the hole and the smaller holes it has made throughout the world of Thedas. You get a team (these RPG games always come with teams, y’all, and it’s one of the best parts) and you get to work closing the holes. Along the way, you solve small quests and fight dragons, collect herbs and deal with palace intrigue. It’s cathartic and engrossing and I have played this thing for hours without noticing the clock.
The best part? You can start romances with other characters. It’s like a giant interactive dating game where you also kill dragons.
You have three key advisers – Leliana, Cassandra, and Cullen – as well as an assortment of team members you unlock as the game goes on. Who you can romance depends on what kind of character you choose to play as and what gender. Just like in life, there is a broad range of sexualities in Thedas and not everyone is everyone else’s kink. In my most recent playthrough, I was a female human and I decided to make a play for Cullen. See below as to why.
Let’s just say it went well. He was shy at first, there was some work to be done, but eventually, he confessed his love for me/my character. This confession led to quite the scene of sexy times. As I watched the scene play out, I realized this was a romance novel come to life and I got to interact with it. There was a power different than the written word. Eventually, my character saved the world (spoiler alert? I mean, it is a video game. There are tropes here, too!) and this playthrough ended with me and Cullen on the parapet of the fortress, holding each other and staring into the distance, having a conversation about how whatever the future held, we would face it together.
In other words, the game ended with a completely satisfying happily ever after. I killed an archdemon and I got the hot dude. Thank you very much, that’ll do ;)
For this game to so blatantly build romance – the build-up, the sex, and the HEA – into its world was just wonderful. It was even more wonderful that my female character retained her power in the encounter. She was leading this massive fight to save the world and in no conversation did he try to tell her what to do because they were screwing. Sure, he advised her and led the army because that was his job, but he deferred to her because that was also part of his job. And in the end? They lived happily ever after. (Well, until the next installment in the game series at least.)
I wanted to share this with you, dear AAR readers, because the control I had over this relationship was so different to reading a romance and yet contained so many of the elements we love. It was like a choose-your-own adventure romance novel and what fun it was. What about you? Are you a gamer? Have you played Dragon Age? Let’s gush!