Dragon Age: Origins – Swimming in the Dangerous Waters of the “Mature” Rating

Gamers have been clamoring for a company to step up and deliver something truly epic for as long as anyone can remember. If all goes according to plan, BioWare will do just that with their upcoming release of Dragon Age: Origins. Packed with intense violence, a gritty world, and some "wardrobe malfunctions" of its own, it's destined for a Mature rating. Will that have any effect on potential sales? Join Dalmarus as he gives his own thoughts on this controversial subject. If you took little more than a perfunctory glance at the warning label, the argument could be made that it could prove disastrous for both developer and publisher alike. The reasons listed for the game’s mature rating are "Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, and Sexual Content". This list alone has the volatile potential of a nuclear bomb to send parents and moral conservatives into fits of instant hysteria. Check out the rest of Dragon Age: Origins – Swimming in the Dangerous Waters of the “Mature” Rating here!

In its exalted history, BioWare has proven from the beginning they're not afraid to take chances on something they believe in. When the PC RPG genre was on the verge of taking its final, rattled breath at the end of 1998, BioWare single handedly revitalized it with the critically acclaimed release of Baldur's Gate. It was an important step in the history of computer RPGs. Rather than rehashing the same ideas and content that had been bandied about for years by various companies (mainly SSI at the time), it pushed the boundaries of what anyone thought was possible and by doing so, threw the player base into a frenzy. The current field of good RPGs isn't quite as barren as it was then, but it's about to receive that same shot of adrenaline with the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Origins.

Just as they did with Baldur's Gate, BioWare has set out to push the envelope of possibilities further than ever before. Such bold moves are not without their inherent dangers though. In an age where the sight of an exposed nipple due to a “wardrobe malfunction” on live television not only dominated headline news for weeks, but caused parents across the nation to throw up their arms in protest, could the release of a game as brutal and gritty as Dragon Age: Origins be a risky move?

If you took little more than a perfunctory glance at the warning label, the argument could be made that it could prove disastrous for both developer and publisher alike. The reasons listed for the game’s mature rating are "Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, and Sexual Content". This list alone has the volatile potential of a nuclear bomb to send parents and moral conservatives into fits of instant hysteria. While I think the types of reactions we've seen to such things in the past have bordered on the purely ridiculous (GTA hot coffee, anyone?), both BioWare and Dragon Age: Origins are cut from a different cloth than those that have come before them and they've proven it on multiple occasions.

The greatest strength of Dungeons & Dragons has always been the ability to play a character of your own creation and explore a fantasy world as you see fit. Free to make both intelligent and asinine decisions alike, along with all of those in between. We're still not ready to hand over the reigns of our favorite Dungeon Master to the shiny circuits of a computer, but we're getting closer by the day and BioWare’s new title will be an important step toward that goal.

How can it accomplish such a feat? By making the world gritty, brutal, exotic, and beautiful at the same time. Stan Lee knew many, many years ago that it was the flaws in his super heroes within the Marvel universe that made them so interesting. The same holds true for characters within a video game. It's the flaws within them and the dark recesses of their souls that make them compelling.



BioWare is a company that not only recognizes the importance of drawing in new potential customers by creating a game of extraordinary spirit and depth, but also understands that the devoted base of long time fans they've garnered over the last decade have now grown into aging adults that are no longer content with the candy coated fantasy stories we enjoyed in our youth. We've grown past the point of being content with being told, "You're a knight in shining armor, so go save Princess Helpless from the evil, mean dragon." Back in the day, we played those games and were thrilled to do so, because that was the best we had. Technology hadn’t yet reached a point where truly intricate and dynamic stories could be portrayed successfully. Those days of simplistic acceptance are long over.

It's said that art imitates life, and with the coming of Dragon Age: Origins (and Mass Effect before it), so can a video game. The myriad choices you'll be forced to face will rarely be those of the black and white variety we've grown so weary of in the past. Decisions will be far reaching and just as so often is the case in real life, the consequences of those choices will not become clear until much later. It's this kind of depth within the game that will not only keep it from being reviled by the masses (except for those darling Mass Effect experts at FOX), but will finally answer the desperate need for a more mature RPG setting.

As Dragon Age: Origins Executive Producer, Mark Darrah recently commented in our Forever Fantasy: The Philosophy Behind Dragon Age: Origins article, BioWare is not a company that follows the trend of the day. They don’t need to wait on another company to test the waters first before pursuing an idea of their own. Even so, the massive success of The Witcher is more proof that the world is not only ready, but clamoring for a darker and more "realistic" approach to the fantasy games we play.

For years, BioWare has been giving us outstanding games that push the limits and they’ve done it on their own terms, with no apologies. With the release of Dragon Age: Origins just around the corner, they’re set to push us (and the RPG genre) yet again. Do I think BioWare has made a potential mistake with their latest endeavor by straying from the tried and true path of Happyland fantasy? Not at all. In fact, I think it's about damned time.


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