Yesterday, in honor of Dragon Age, the official EA blog posted four short stories from four BioWare writers who are currently working on the next part of the fantasy RPG series – Dragon Age 4. I read all four stories, and suddenly it seemed to be in my head Puzzle. A picture that I have not been able to make out for the past five years, considering each piece separately.
But these four stories seemed to turn on a switch, a series of strange devices worked, a black box began to make noise, from which a card fell out with a simple message:
They are too comfortable.
These four stories reminded me of a time when I was addicted to the Forgotten Realms books, or a few sci-fi series that I ate this year. All of this is reading. The chewing gum, which at first causes a splash of taste, but quickly loses its depth, becomes faceless, so that after a couple of months you can’t really remember the names of the characters or reproduce the events.
This kind of reading is perfect for an airplane or long winter nights when you just want to get lost in an exciting adventure. Such plots are not bad, but it is impossible to call them significant either. And that narrative has become the norm for most BioWare games since the end of the Mass Effect series.
I’m not saying that absolutely all arcs have become similar, but looking back now at Anthem, Dragon Age Inquisition or Mass Effect Andromeda, I get the same feeling that comes from fantasy and sci-fi “pulp fiction”. This is no longer an art, but a craft. High quality, but so safe that it does not leave marks inside. After him there is no imprint that I have left at the end of Dragon Age: Origins. There is no storm of conflicting emotions like after Mass Effect 2.
And the reason for these feelings was simple. The restructuring in EA studios, the emphasis on inclusiveness and “safety” of internal dialogues, attempts to create a conflict-free environment led to artistic impotence. Instead of experimenting with radioactive concepts that can be dangerous even to look at, BioWare has turned into a padded mental hospital room. White walls, no sharp corners, collective thinking and decisions.
As studies of pediatricians and sociologists have shown, when a child develops surrounded by a safe environment, his desire to take conscious risks, creative experiments decreases. Even experiments were carried out when children were allowed to play with building materials and tools, this led to positive results – and no casualties.
Perhaps a similar situation with BioWare’s writers. They have worked for years in an atmosphere of complete security, active inclusiveness and advocacy for all good and against all bad. But how can a person who knows only soft and sweet describe the hard and hot? How will he hit the keys of the soul piano if he only owns the balalaika?
Great creations are not born of contentment, universal love and support. They need to be heated in the furnace of conflict, they need to be hit with the hammer of perseverance and determination. Wrap in your own skin and sharpen your teeth.
It is ironic that such daredevils now remain mainly among small studios. Truly touching projects come out of the hands of independent studios. After all, they really have nothing to lose. Unlike global corporations, which need to be accountable to investors and prioritize revenue growth.
Not surprisingly, BioWare moves more and more towards the typical fate of EA studios. To oblivion and death.
What to do? I am not advocating a toxic, sexist, or racist environment in the writing team. But you need to stop playing creative badminton, get the courage and have an artistic colosseum. With lions, elephants, swords, axes and other conceptual weapons. Only in the clash of ideas, through lack of confidence in one’s abilities, overcoming fear and throwing away inflatable spears, something really worthwhile can turn out.