Great is the enemy of Good

Or really anything at all. I don’t know that I thought this blog as anything that was ever “great” or even “good” but I sure do know that part of my slump lately is that I look at my peers blogs (Belghast, Tamrielo) I see a bar set so high that I feel incapable of even failing to achieve it gracefully.

I am terrified of failure. I am ever more terrified of failing in such an embarrassing way. This is something I need to work to overcome, because if I’m ever going to grow as a person, the path is probably going to be through constant failure, not constant success.

Dragon Age and Racism

Boy this is a topic I’ve wanted to write about but I gotta preface it with this: I am scared. Racism is a big topic that I feel like no one wants to talk about and generally gets angry with me when I do. When it comes to privileged classes I am near the top: White, male, cisgendered, heterosexual, college educated, born into an upper middle class family, employed at a job that offers a salary and benefits, married. Social justice is something I care about a great deal, because I am offended by any statement that “the world isn’t fair” that isn’t followed up with “but we should strive to make it so.” I am acutely aware that trying to talk about any of these topics from a position of authority is foolish, so I’m not going to.

I’m going to talk about what how Dragon Age offers me a brief glimpse into the life of someone less privileged. I have played as two characters in Dragon Age: Origins: A city elf rogue and a elf mage. I quit my rogue around Lothering because I was frustrated with the gameplay. I’m currently in Orzammar on my mage. Both of these characters show you the story of two characters trapped by circumstances beyond their control. It’s been too long since I played a city elf, so I’m going to mostly talk about my mage.

As a mage, I open the game being told that my lot in life is as an effective prisoner of a religious order of Templars. I was likely taken from my family at a young age as soon as it was revealed I was a mage. I start the game going through a semi-mandatory rite of passage that would have ended with me being executed had I failed. I got a chance to strike up a conversation with my would be executioner, who expressed happiness that he didn’t have to kill me. Everything you do in the intro reminds you that you exist at pleasure of the Templars, and they will end your life if they feel it necessary. The sense of oppression permeates the scene, and I couldn’t help but gleefully take my leave when the Grey Warden offered it.

It’s funny, my first playthrough I remember hating Duncan, but that’s because the circumstances as a city elf are a bit less cheerful.

It is funny, as the game started I felt the oppressive weight of anti-mage sentiment. As the game continued I realized that while the Templar were generally awful, at least they didn’t seem quite as prejudiced against elves as nearly everyone else is.

Elves are the outcasts, servants, beggars and slaves of this world. City guards call us Knife-ears, a slur that actually hurt me when I first heard it. My authority as a world leader is consistently questioned because of my heritage. As a human, guards will treat you with immediate deference. As an elf I constantly hear “I don’t really know how I’m supposed to treat you. I mean, you are an elf.”

Even my close companions are not immune. Leliana approached me one night to talk about my childhood, and she ended the conversation attempting to explain how elves in Orlais are so much better off as slaves than as free elves. Morrigan, who was my one time lover, would sneeringly refer to Zevram simply as “elf” when she wanted to dismiss him.

My own rage against the world is a product of my personal upbringing. I was never required to live the life of someone with less privilege. My reaction to the game is that I wish I could just let the whole world burn for it’s crimes against my people. And I also realize that if this wasn’t a fantasy game, a game where I am expected to win, the people would revolt against that. The power structures I am unifying would unify against me, and I realize the trap that this is. I feel hopeless, and I don’t know what to do.

I hope this ramble makes some sense. I’m going to avoid any further line drawing to real life and just say that Dragon Age: Origins, a game I hated, has made me reconsider my own upbringing and that of my fellow humans.

I can’t wait to play an elf in DA: 2.

What’s that? Humans only?


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