Slashcast Insider Interview with David Gaider

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Slashcast Insider Interview with David Gaider
Interviewer: wook77
Interviewee: David Gaider
Date(s): August 3, 2013
Medium: online
Fandom(s):
External Links: online here as a transcript; WebCite
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Slashcast Insider Interview with David Gaider is a podcast posted to Slashcast as "Episode 33." Slashcast includes an transcript.

The interviewer is wook77, the interviewee is David Gaider who is a writer and employee of Bioware.

Some Topics Discussed

The Interview Series

See Slashcast Insider Interview Series.

Excerpts

Well, I guess there’s three different questions there: Why is the company interested [in commitment to LGBT portrayal in video games]? Why is the project interested? And why am I, personally?

As far as the company goes I think, you know, when you boil it down a little bit it makes sense. Games are getting much more expensive and there’s all this talk about we need to bring in more people playing the games. And I think that a lot of people think that only means increasing the fanbase that we sort of already have, you know the young male demographic. But there’s a large population of what I would think of as underserviced gamers, women for instance are no longer a minority. And I mean, you look at the figures and of course they’re talking about games overall, they’re including MMOs and sort of the puzzle games, and things like that where the female demographics are much higher, but, the jump from someone playing a puzzle game or an MMO to playing an RPG for instance is much smaller than a jump for a non-gamer. So, these people are playing games and getting them to the point where they’re willing to look at our games and feel like, ‘well these games aren’t made for other people, they’re made with us in mind as well’ is an important business consideration, because I mean, not only do you have female gamers, you have gay gamers, you have people of different ethnicities. I mean, they’re all looking for games to acknowledge that they exist. I mean, it’s not that they wouldn’t play a game, many of them do, and they play it despite the fact, they acknowledge that these games don’t really have their lives in mind, right? But I think if we make it easier, we reduce the barriers for entry you get more people willing to come in and play your games, and being committed, and that’s what we’re looking for. So from a company standpoint that just makes sense.

From a project standpoint we make role playing games in particular and that sort of goes to a different level because what you’re asking from a role player is for them to personally identify with their character. So, you know, when we bring in elements like romance, that’s a very personal consideration, right? If the romance element wasn’t there at all it’d be probably easy enough for a player to just have their own sort of story going on in their mind, but we’re telling them a story, we’re asking them to get invested in this story and role playing means they don’t necessarily have to be themselves, they can play something else. I think a lot of people, gay gamers in particular who play roleplaying games are just very accustomed to that, but I think if you take that to the next level they can get that much more committed, right? ‘Cause I know for me personally, you know, playing role playing games and there’s just the standard romance with a female character, if that’s just part of the story it’s like ‘whatever, play it’. It’s the same thing if you watch movies, the majority of them are portraying straight relationships, you’re just used to that as the environment, right? But I think because these are role playing games and because we have the opportunity to allow a wider variety of viewpoints to be incorporated into that, so that it makes the player feel like they have some control over their options so that while they don’t have to play that, it is considered. I mean it goes the other way around too, the telemetry we got back from Dragon Age: Origins for instance showed the percentage of people who played the gay romances was quite high, a lot higher than I think anyone actually considered at first, or assumed it would be. The figure that gets thrown up all the time is that ten percent of the population is gay so therefore you’d expect, what ten per cent of the player base to play the gay romances, but it was quite a bit higher and so that either means that the concentration of gay players is higher or what I think is more likely, is that there are a number of players that a willing to try this content regardless of their own personal sexuality. So, you know, a roleplaying game is about playing different people so that applies there as well. From a project standpoint that behooves us, as RPG makers, to test out the waters on that front.

As for me personally, I mean, as a gay man I liked the idea of us going in that direction. When I first joined the industry it wasn’t something that really occurred to me as possible, I mean thirteen years ago, not even thirteen, five- ten years ago, it was kind of a different world. I mean, you just didn’t do that. It just wasn’t thought of. I think the assumption was that the public just wouldn’t agree with that. I don’t know that anyone really sort of questioned that idea, I know I didn’t really and so that’s when the company started bringing it up, I think Knights of the Old Republic was- there was some talk- and then Jade Empire was the first game where we had gay relationships possible. So when it was brought up to me as on Dragon Ages and ‘well, would we think about doing this?,’ I was on board. I mean, I thought that was absolutely fantastic. I was even a little bit chagrined that it hadn’t even occurred to me, why hadn’t it occurred to me? As a gay man why wouldn’t I have pushed harder for that? It really felt quite liberating to be offered the opportunity from the company. Bioware is full of very liberal, open minded people who, you know, we’re really just trying to make good stories and get people involved on a personal level with the stories we’re making, so this helps with that. And the fact that the people in charge are so willing to forge ahead despite what a lot of the naysayers will say. I find that really gratifying, makes me glad to be working for the company.
I see no problem with [fanart and fanfiction about our games]. I mean, the fact that a lot of the fans get so personally involved, I mean that’s what we’re asking from them right? Come get involved in this game and RPGs – there are fandoms in all sorts of non-interactive stories so just the fact that ours is interactive doesn’t mean that it’s special, but it certainly does invite that kind of personal investment a lot more, I think, than other sorts of entertainment. But I mean if somebody wants to go and write fanfic or draw fanart, I think that that is cool. It just demonstrates how much they love what we do, why wouldn’t we like that? There are unhealthy elements to it, I guess, when someone takes it too far, but where isn’t that true, right? Anything taken too far is going to be uncomfortable or unhealthy, but I think that for the most part every member of fandom that I’ve interacted with seems to understand exactly where they stand and is just generally enthusiastic and they ask for very little in return for their support, and so for me that’s win-win. As long as I don’t have to read it myself, and it’s not ‘cause I don’t like fanfiction, I’ve read some that’s good, but even the good stuff – for me – they’re touching my characters in ways that make me feel a little weird, so I’m fine with it existing over there. There it is, hello fanfiction, er… [Both laugh] It’s absolutely fine over there.
Fandom is generally the people who do fanfiction, fanart, cosplay, these are people who, as far as I see, they celebrate your work, they celebrate it, they don’t ask for anything in return, they just enjoy living in that world, and [chuckles] as far as I can tell any time we interact - I remember once when I tweeted that I was reading some fanfiction [uses excited voice] they got very excited! And then there was lots of hand flailing and ‘we must hide everything’, and it was just hilarious. And then there’s the fans that sometimes call themselves fans that display a level of entitlement which is sometimes a little surprising, that feel like they have an ownership which goes beyond the ownership that you ask for, which is the emotional investment, they feel like they have an ownership that is on par with our ownership, which can be a little strange and sometimes can get rather negative. I remember some of the treatment of Jennifer Hepler online was - it surprised me even though I shouldn’t have been surprised and it really infuriated me and sometimes I have to remind myself that the vast majority of our fans, and especially the ones in fandom, are good people, enthusiastic people. Those are the people that we do this for because if I think if I didn’t keep that in mind, I think sometimes it would get easy to be a little disheartened and wonder ‘why would I ever want to make anything for these people?’ So, I - if we speak of the fandom in particular I appreciate them a lot, and I - even among the fans, the ones that are intelligent and thoughtful, and just want us to do better, sure they want us to make games that they like - why wouldn’t they - or they’re upset if we make something that they didn’t like. Cool that’s fine. So try to focus on the positive rather than the negative, I think is what’s important.