The Bittersweetest Thing

Lead Writer of BioWare's Dragon Age game series, lover of fan tears. This is where I blog about game development, fandom, and narrative design. Anything I say here is my opinion alone.

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On Fan Rage

Do you believe it is worth the ‘fan rage’ to have a companion betray the player for narrative purposes? Have you considered it in the past, and (if possible) what did you decide? — cimeas

Ah, fan rage.

It’s interesting that you mention it, not necessarily in the context of a companion character’s betrayal, but just in general— it’s something with which BioWare has a bit of experience, after all. Why? Possibly because we make games that draw people in on a personal level… a companion’s betrayal is a betrayal of the player and not their character, for instance… or possibly it’s something that always existed and it’s the advent of the Internet and its inter-connectivity which allows such rage to propagate and find a life of its own rather than die out.

I amuse myself with thoughts of Shakespearean fans raging in Ye Olde English about how Ophelia should never have drowned herself just for the sake of a selfish prince. Clearly this is evidence of the playwright’s misogyny. Or how the ending in Romeo & Juliet was so contrived and cliche. Chaucer would have done it so much better.

Of course, writing the above makes me wonder if people will read that and think that I believe what I write (or what BioWare writes, at any rate) is of Shakespearean quality and thus above criticism. If so, then certainly not. Of course, even Shakespeare wasn’t during his own time. He didn’t reach his current heights of regard until the 19th century— but whatever. Let’s not muddle my momentary amusement, please.

I don’t really despair at fan rage so much as I find it curious. Not the rage part— there are more than a few things that I can summon a good rant about, particularly when bad things happen to stories I care about. I adored the new Battlestar Galactica TV series, but did not care for how it ended. I loved Alien and Aliens, but everything else that’s been done with the franchise makes me twitch uncontrollably. Master of Orion III… no, it’s too soon. At any rate, my rants are entertaining enough (and sometimes fun, when I’ve got a good head of steam) and I can get right back into the moment if one of my friends decides to prod me by asking about it… but mostly? Something disappoints me and I move on. I wish it’d been otherwise, but it doesn’t “ruin forever” what I liked about the franchise and I’ll still have those fond memories.

So it’s not the rage which is curious so much as the clinging to that rage. Hanging out with other people based solely on how angry you are at the same thing. Turning into an “anti-fan” where they feel they need to spoil the enjoyment of those who are still actual fans. It seems the mere fact those fans exist offends them. They need to be punished, just as whoever made the object of their hate needs to be punished, all with an air of “this is for your own good”.

That’s the part I don’t get. Is that even healthy? Doesn’t seem like it. Sounds like someone addicted to their own drama. We all have that friend, don’t we?

Does this mean I think fans who are angry at BioWare— for whatever reason— should just go away? If they’ve progressed to the point of the “anti-fan”, they should probably consider it, sure. Otherwise not really, no… it’s up to them, obviously, but I’m not going to shoo people out the door just because they feel passionately about something. So long as that passion is still a positive thing, they should express themselves as they like. I’m just uncertain what they think the rage part itself actually accomplishes.

And this is where I circle back to the original question.

We have done betrayal arcs by companion characters before. Yoshimo betrayed you in Baldur’s Gate 2. Any companion could potentially betray you at the end of Hordes of the Underdark. Anders betrayed you at the end of Dragon Age 2— depending on what you consider ‘betrayal’ to be, I suppose. So it’s something we’ve done from time to time, and we would do it again in a heartbeat if we thought the story fit. Honestly, the only real moments of pause come when considering the gameplay considerations of a companion leaving the party— how does that affect plots afterward? Will the player still have access to a full party complement?

And let’s say we did do another betrayal plot and there was fan rage about it… so what? Ideally they’d think it was a cool twist, but it’s never going to be a situation where every fan feels the same way about it. That simply doesn’t happen. With any given plot development, some people will think it’s cool, some will think it’s lame, and some will get in a rage over it. Maybe they need to vent their displeasure by making angry posts… and that would make me feel bad that they didn’t like it, it really would. I’d rather they enjoyed the twist, even if it was enjoyed in the kind of twisted sense where you love the pain, but regardless it’s out there now. It’s done, whether they liked it or not.

Perhaps there’s a world where fans can dictate their favorite franchises to only go in the direction they personally prefer. This, however, is not that world… and I’m not sure what such a franchise would look like, honestly. Ignoring the idea that the fans as a group never think one way about anything at all, that’s just not the relationship between creator and fan… nor should it be.

Hopefully even the fan would see that.

And… now that I’ve gone and upset a bunch of people who will likely read into what I’ve said far more than I’ve intended— because I was totally talking directly to you, yes you over there in the corner— I’ll just reiterate that this is merely my personal opinion and not that of BioWare at large. Rage away, if that’s what really floats your boat. Sometimes it can be cathartic.

Notes

  1. punchholesinthesky reblogged this from mrspentaghast and added:
    see also:, people who hated the mass effect ending, like seriously, you hated the ending, we get it, it ruined the game...
  2. falbet reblogged this from dgaider
  3. canny-fer reblogged this from dgaider
  4. renmiri reblogged this from dgaider and added:
    As an ME3 ending hater I know that rage all too well. But I don’t post on BSN just to “punish” Bioware and those fans...
  5. ohnotherancor reblogged this from dgaider
  6. synchodai reblogged this from dgaider and added:
    Yoshimo! You were my brother! I loved you! WHY??!!! *downs a whole bottle of Elminster’s Choice Brew* I, too, don’t...
  7. jen-the-dead-pariah reblogged this from dgaider
  8. der-erlkonig reblogged this from dgaider
  9. gerec reblogged this from commandercritical and added:
    In the context of this conversation about fan rage…I think maybe the reason that people react so strongly to Anders’...
  10. pandasez reblogged this from dgaider
  11. st-ranglehold reblogged this from dgaider
  12. kitiara64 reblogged this from dgaider
  13. shmegegi reblogged this from dgaider and added:
    I reacted the same way to Anders’ betrayal as I did to Yoshimo’s betrayal: I swore at the computer, finished my game,...

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