I agree that player-sexual companions need to be undone. I have never (and will never) subscribed to the belief that the artist's job is to "please the fans." Here is my case for why it is bad that companions are player sexual.
#1. People in the real world have preferences. In some cases these preferences are very strong, in others, less so. If it was "just so easy for everyone to change sexuality" then downright unethical practices such as conversion therapy would have worked and been considered a success. Newsflash - they were not and I think almost everyone can agree they were a monumental failure.
#2. Creating a world in which all of the companions are player sexual undermines this. It reduces the depth of characters, in order to potentially not upset the group of people who want to romance that character who would otherwise be locked out of it.
#3. By making it, "easy" for everyone to get along/romance each other, its not only not realistic, it is actually in some ways an insult to those who have had to struggle through those kinds of situations. Overcoming a personal prejudice is not easy and it does take time. Making it easy takes away from that.
#4. By giving characters defined preferences it adds that extra layer of depth to companions and makes them more "real." Viconia in BG 2 for example not being romanceable by an Elf made perfect sense in the context of her story. She has deep, racial prejudices against elves. Likewise, Shadowheart should feel the same way towards a Githyanki PC. Likewise, there should be strictly gay companions, as well as strictly straight companions.
#5. The purpose of people within the world is not to please you. If you go about in the real world and expect everyone to like you, or expect everyone to want to sleep with you, well, I think you will get a wake up call very quickly. I do not see why this expectation should suddenly exist within a fantasy world. The purposes of the characters within the game should not be to please you, they should be there to tell their own story. A well written, convincing companion is one who would seem to be their own character and not seem to be defined according to what you have done. They would have some prejudices that you would be unable to change. Its perfectly fine for the canonical ending for a game or a character to be one you do not like, because its not your story.
I do not believe that all the characters need to be gay, nor all the characters straight, nor all the characters bisexual, but if a character behaves in all of their dialogue to NPCs as if they have a certain orientation, that should not magically change when talking to the player. Asterion very much comes across as straight for example. He spends a lot of time hitting on female characters, but he does not provide the same attention to male characters. If Asterion is not straight, he needs a pretty damn convincing reason as to why he behaves differently to the PC in contrast to how he reacts to the rest of the world.
I always like your posts, Sharp, even when I don't agree with them. You make good arguments and don't peddle in nonsense. (I do peddle in nonsense sometimes, but I still like people who don't.) You bring up lots of good points here, and I don't have much in the way of specific counters to what you've said. Yet I still don't agree with your conclusion (that playersexual companions need to be undone).
You talk a lot here about realism, it's kind of your central thesis as I can tell. But I don't know that we need
realism in a fantasy video game. I mean, the word fantasy
is right there. I dunno about you, but in my fantasies, everyone I'm attracted to is also attracted to me. I don't sit and fantasize about someone saying, "Sorry, I'm not into you." Also video game
. Which is a form of entertainment
, right? So when you say the purpose of "people" in the "world" is not to please you, I think maybe it kind of is? In a video game? Now of course different people will be "pleased" by different things, and it's impossible to please everyone. So I think they have to try to assess which option pleases more
people. And I don't know which one it is. But it might
be playersexual characters, mightn't it?
I don't find your statement about Astarion very convincing, either. So you have this group of six people, and Astarion doesn't show attraction to two of the men, but he can show attraction to the third man. You think he needs a "pretty damn convincing reason" for this? Couldn't he, like, just not be attracted to Gale and Wyll? Maybe he's attracted to the PC because you're the leader, because you're calling the shots and he thinks that's hot. Maybe he's actually just trying to manipulate the PC via sexuality, that would very much fit his personality and backstory, I think. Vampires gonna seduce, when there's a possible benefit in it for them.
But the main reason I'm responding to this is to ask you what you think about the idea that Niara talked about in her post. This one: https://forums.larian.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=741951#Post741951
Did you read that one? I'd cheekily call it the Schrödinger's Sexuality
concept. They are potentially
both sexualities, but neither one for certain. The characters aren't necessarily bisexual, it's just that their sexuality is not known
until the player makes their character. Like there are alternate realities for each playthrough, and in some of them, the characters are attracted to men, and in other ones, they are attracted to women.
Now I understand that, as you say, this makes the characters less deep, but I don't think it's significantly so. Unless they are going to make the character's sexuality a big plot point and have a bunch of conversation about it. But usually people don't like it when they do that, so I doubt they would, even if the characters did have fixed sexuality. So even if they, say, made Astarion purely heterosexual, how is that going to actually impact the story? Probably not much, I'd think.
So my conclusion is that the benefit you get from giving the characters fixed sexualities is smaller than the benefit you get from offering players more options. Your points are all very solid, but I think we just weigh the relative value of realism differently in the context of a fantasy video game. Which is cool. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on what Niara said, mostly.