In “Game Therapy” posts, I’m going to unpack some of my thoughts and interactions with the games. Despite the fact that some games I discuss have been out for a while already, I will include spoiler warnings for those who need them.
This entry contains spoilers for Dragon Age II, from the prologue through the end of Act 2 and Dragon Age: Origins’ human noble opening.
When I played Dragon Age 2 for the first time, I was really saddened by my family’s fate. My father died before the game began. My sibling died in the beginning. My other sibling died in the Deep Roads because I brought the wrong party. My mother was decapitated by some sick necromancer so her head could be cobbled into his flesh golem/undead wife. I was alone.
With my backstory, both of my parents died by my hands: I killed my father’s empty husk after his soul was torn from his body and I killed my mother’s mind after her head and spirit were forged into an empty husk. I know that the cut scene for mother’s death shows her slowly fading in Hawke’s arms, but I was so horrified by the zombie bride when I first saw it that I knew my character would have killed that thing as quickly as possible.
I felt so, so alone.
I remember Aveline being very comforting at the time. I loved that she gave me permission to grieve for as long as I needed to and in whatever manner I needed to. She was so kind.
But this time…
On this playthrough, I have hated my mother. My lazy, selfish mother who won’t lift a finger to defend one of us. Who makes demands of me (“Leave your sister here, please! I can’t stand the thought of losing both of you!”) and then blames me for her inaction and inability (“If you had been here, they never would have taken Bethany away!”).
Bethany would have been safe with me, you know. I would have done what I could to keep her safe. But mother? No. Mother didn’t do anything to help protect Bethany. Or me. Or any of us.
You could argue that ‘she’s just an old lady, blah blah blah,’ but I don’t buy it. When my Warden was a Cousland, a member of a noble house, and our home was attacked, my mother and I met up in the hallway in full armor, with our weapons drawn. She took action to protect us all, and I was so proud to be part of that family. My sister-in-law came from the ‘helpless beauty’ school of femininity, so she died in the attack.
Women are not inherently weak. It is a choice. But this woman, Hawke’s mother, she let others protect her as a noblewoman. And she let her husband protect her once they went on the run. And she let her children protect her in her old age.
I tried to protect my family. I sacrificed my childhood, my happiness, my needs, my friendships, my chance for love… Everything for my family. But it wasn’t enough. Never enough. And to top it all off, this willingly helpless woman kept blaming me for all of our hardships.
No. Not this time. For some reason, this playthrough, I just won’t accept it any more. So as I fleshed out Abigail’s life, I knew that she didn’t spend much time at home. That she resented her mother’s plans to pick a spouse for her. That she just wanted to stop running for once, to have friends, to belong, and maybe to fall in love.
I mentioned above that Hawke sacrificed friendships and relationships for her family. I always believe that once we hit Act 2 of the game, Hawke has now lived in Kirkwall for longer than she’s lived anywhere else. Four years without running. So a part of that lifestyle, of moving at a moment’s notice to protect the family’s mages, is leaving all of your friends behind without being able to say goodbye. Which means not being able to fall in love, because you know that you’ll have to leave again, and you can’t expect anyone to join your family of well-armed vagrants.
At the end of the day, this family only works if Abigail, Bethany, & Carver are all willing to be miserable indefinitely. None of us really got to be children.
I guess that the main things I see here are these:
- New expectations for parents
- Belief that my suffering enables other people’s happiness
As always, I’ll talk about these in future posts. Thanks for reading. The image of Hawke’s mother is from the Dragon Age wiki.