What Dragon Age means to me
Yesterday was December 4th, or the Unofficial Dragon Age 4 Day. People wrote about what Dragon Age means to them, they posted stories and fanart, streamed and connected with each other. It was an amazing event and more than 5000$ were collected for charity. I thought, I’d share a bit of the love as well.
It was Anna who told me, “Go play DAO, I think you’ll like it.”
I didn’t. I failed so hard at the first ogre in the tower in Ostagar that I put the game away and didn’t go back. It was my first try at something like an RPG and I had no clue how to approach the whole thing and got frustrated real quick. It was a year later that I went on to play DA2 – and I fell hard. For the characters, the world, the lore. Hawke was my entrance ticket into the world of Thedas and I immediately went back to DAO, this time paying actual attention to what the screen told me to do and breezed through the game.
I was blown away.
How did that story, that grip, that horror and hope and depth escape me the first time I tried to play it? Thedas had me in its grip and wouldn’t let go. It was around that time that DAI came out and for a few weeks, my evening consisted of a new journey – this time into Solavellan hell. I was unspoiled, didn’t know what would happen and I still remember the utter disbelief during the Crestwood waterfalls and how shell-shocked I was at the revelation at the end of the game.
It was the first time a game made me cry.
It was much later that I realized why this particular storyline had such an impact on me. It mirrored the first deeply emotional relationship I had, complete with the sudden and unexpected heartbreak and the horrible feeling of loss. Playing re-opened a wound I had thought long scarred over. So I did what everyone would do: I went back and re-played all of the games, creating my canon worldstate.
And while playing I wrote and wrote and wrote. Everything that wasn’t in the game but felt inevitable was put on (virtual) paper.
My Warden survived the Denerim alienage and suffered through Ostagar, grieved Lothering, fought tooth and nail to save Connor and the mages, marvelled at the Ashes of Andraste, fought with the Dalish and had nightmares about the Deep Roads. I fell in love with characters I had just skimmed over in my first playthrough(s), fell out of love with others that I had blindly adored before. Befriending Morrigan and Sten, romancing Zevran and sort of frowning at Alistair, she battled the Blight and emerged victoriously. With what happened fresh in mind, I went to Kirkwall. My Hawke had fought in Ostagar as well and covered her wounds with sarcasm. I stood in front of the Gallows and listened to the screams of torture from within, I saw the Tranquil and listened to their stories. While playing through the rivalmance with Fenris and fighting for the mages, an AU emerged from what was written together with Anna. Suddenly, Kirkwall’s story and the tragedy of the Hawke family was more emotional than ever before. Writing about Hawke’s trauma and letting both her and the other characters heal led to the most intense DAI playthrough ever. My Inquisitor went and saved the mages and Haven’s people, rebuild Skyhold and fought through Thedas, befriending shems of all people as well. And of course she captured Solas’ heart and was captured by him.
And all the while, the words flowed out of me. Close to 300k words so far, each of them cathartic in some way, working through my own story by writing their story. It let me make peace with aspects of my personality and life that I hadn’t even quite known were in unrest before. And through that, Dragon Age unlocked a well of creativity that only The Lord of the Rings had managed to do before. It is still flowing and it is something that I am deeply thankful for.
For several years now, Dragon Age has been a huge part of my creative life and therefore my life and no matter how many things I think could have been handled better in some way or other, I will always love the games and the world of Thedas for this alone.