OK I’m quite giddy about this as I’ve discovered a whole new outlet that is not actually anything to do with mental health, to the point where I just want to talk about my new obsession a bit in a safe space (i.e. no one trying to psychoanalyse my decisions and actions and stick them under yet another mental health tag).
PS if you are yet to play any of the Dragon Age games, there are no spoilers in here.
Firstly, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a long-time gamer from childhood when my brother and I would fight over the Atari to see who got to play Space Invaders next. This has carried on into adulthood and is an integral part of my life. I have learned to be proud of it and not ashamed. How could I not be proud; if I didn’t game then I wouldn’t have a) left my abusive ex and b) met my now awesomeness DH. I’ve a lot to be thankful for because of developments in technology.
I am an avid reader of fantasy and historical romance, and I adore fantasy RPGs. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I was working my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition. I finally finished it a couple of weeks ago and actually felt bereft! There’s obviously only so much you can go into as a games developer, and the potential outcomes are infinite. So the game finished and there were huge holes for me in the story, as well as being omg about not being able to end up on the battlements with Cullen at the end of a long day ;)
Now, with World of Warcraft (WoW) I was never into the lore really as I enjoyed the gaming experience with all my friends. Dragon Age (DA) was the polar opposite, where even the smallest decisions you made five years ago had a huge impact when you played later. Just to clarify there are three games – Dragon Age: Origin being the first, Dragon Age II the second and then the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition (DA:I) at the end of 2014 depending on where you lived in the world. There’s also a fair amount of associated DLC which I have skipped (although for DA:I I may make an exception). All made by BioWare who also made Mass Effect. I think I read recently that there were 40 potential outcomes to the end of DA:I which makes it an immense game. Not to mention the beauty of the Dragon Age Keep where you can import custom world states based on key decisions made in the earlier two games – and change it around in future run throughs. How .incredibly awesome can you get? Every game is therefore quite different if you want it to be.
For me, however, what both games do amazingly well, abeit in very different ways, is create a culture of community which makes them stand out from the likes of Skyrim etc. In WoW you can actually have loads of real life online friends, and in DA you get to create your character exactly how you want, building your companions and utlilising your advisors. The greatest thing is the relationships within the game, who you choose to be friends with, make enemies with and who to sleep with.
I’m not massively into long battles. I play RPGs because of the story. I tend to game on casual or normal as having protracted drawn-out battles with archdemons is completely boring for me. And that’s again where DA:I hits the nail so well. The story is so compelling. And, for a girl addicted to romance, the romances are awesome. I mentioned who my Inquisitor ended up with and of course there’s only one person – the incredibly sexy Cullen Rutherford. I really couldn’t give a shit if I fall into the stereotypical female type of adoring the idea of a knight in shining armour sweeping his lady off her feet. Yes, I’m a child of Disney. And no, I couldn’t care less about how cheesy it may be. It’s compelling and awesome and makes me want to swoon in delight. Oh BioWare hit it on the nail. Every time he and my Inqusitor ended up in a cutscene I just melted in the middle.
Romance is fabulous. Romance and sexy in the best RPG ever is mindblowing.
So, here’s the thing. When I finally finished the playthrough I just wasn’t satisfied with the story. There was so much missing, which was understandable – this is a game not the Wheel of Time – but it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d properly finished. My Inquisitor was so firmly in my head I just had this overwhelming need to figure out how to fill the gaps – and even adapt the original gameplay.
Tentatively, I explored fan fiction. I had never read any before, unless struggling halfway through 50 Shades of Grey and then throwing it away in disgust counts. I thought it was all anime and Twilight, and terribly written sex scenes. So it was with great trepidation that I started to see what had been written about DA. I was floored; there was so much out there, from the very first Origins game to stuff covering the latest release of DA:I DLC – which had only just come out. There was some crappy writing, sure, but I was amazed at how much great writing existed. It was so interesting to read how others had perceived the main characters in the game; how they saw their Inquisitor and what relationships they had built as a result. There are loads of people like me – needed to know more about their characters and the story in general, looking to fill the gaps.
There’s also a huuuuge amount of rather explicit material which ranges from downright laughable to EL James needing to take notes on how to write good sex stories into fiction (sorry for going on about this again – I just found the whole 50 Shades thing so ghastly). I was also surprised to see the amount of people who had Cullen in a gay relationship and actually that was interesting, to think about why developers still shy away from including gay characters in very traditional hetro male roles. Gay men can have knights in shining armour too if they want, no? I hope BioWare take note of this in future games. Oh and interestingly, I read somewhere that there was three times more fan fiction devoted to Cullen relationships than any other character in the game. I’m glad I’m not the only one :D
Anyway, it has been a really interesting journey through the world of fan fiction to find out more about the game, the characters and also build my own story in my head. I know that there are stores of people in the grip of mania writing whole books in a week and, I must be honest, I have felt that way, even frustrated to the point where I couldn’t write because I needed to do the dishes. So, literally burning with the need to tell the story of Lea and Cullen, I started to write. I spent 15 years writing for a career and this has been far and away the easiest thing I have ever tackled. I am not a creative person when it comes to art or music, but I feel that writing is where my artistry lies. It’s not just a skill, it’s a craft to tell a good story. Not that I am suggesting I write the best stories ever – this one as my first attempt at fiction is probably a pile of crap – but I have to begin somewhere.
The words flow onto my screen, I can see my characters in my head, what they are thinking, how they move, how they react. I can see the landscapes where the story develops, the way the clouds move towards the horizon, the way trees rustle in the wind as they move past. I see the convoluted plots develop, the enemies rising and attacking. The emotions in battle; fear, anger, lust, joy, contradicting yet working together. I feel the pain when someone dies; the quiet sadness and unshed tears, the sheer want for that person till the end of time and continually whispering ‘I miss you’ in their minds.
That, and a lot more. I’m not them, but I can see their story. That’s about the best way I can describe it. I found it actually good fun to write a sex scene in the book and had great fun reading through various examples (think granite mountain) – who would have thought that would be anything other than a completely cringey experience!
Who knows; perhaps it’s the bipolar singing to me. But you know what, I don’t actually care if it is. I am enjoying this penning words to paper (and eternally grateful to BioWare for providing such an amazing framework) and not everything with this illness is a bad thing. I feel the best I have for some years and I hope to feel a bit of closure when I finally finish! Sixteen thousand words and counting and I only just left the starter zone. Haha :)
Writing as therapy. I’m only sorry I didn’t find it before. It sure beats having more drugs forced onto me.