Everyone Can Learn From How Consent is Handled in ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’
Many TMS journalists have written at length about their love for the romancing mechanic in the popular RPG Baldur’s Gate 3. We’ve mused about our love (and lust) for certain characters, classes, and more. Some of this successful swooning is owed to the clear respect shown by Larian Studios for these characters and the workers who made them. This includes the rare but necessary inclusion of intimacy coordinators and centering consent.
That emphasis on consent doesn’t just stop and start with the real people who made the game. This also involves the player and, to an extent, the companion characters. And, in that regard, many people could stand to take some notes.
Enthusiastic and impassioned
At every stage of a relationship in the game, be it monogamous, open, accidental, or a situationship, you have a say in how to move forward. The option to even be in the relationship—despite what some straight men mad about Gale say—is just that, an option. Players can simply decline offers that may arise and move on while maintaining decent approval. (This is true for Act 2, and especially Act 3.) Depending on who you’re conversing with and how you let them down, you’ll get different responses. Unlike features such as potion brewing or pickpocketing, the choice to romance enriches the BG3‘s narrative and heightens stakes.
As in real life, agreeing to be in a relationship isn’t a lifetime contract. Anytime you initiate a conversation with that companion character you’re bunking with, one dialogue choice will allow you to end things. Whether you want to pursue a more exclusive relationship with another character or don’t want to engage in the romancing at all anymore, you can simply break up. The game will only prompt one “are you sure?” to confirm. Although some characters won’t respond well initially, there’s no required reasoning. Unless your approval rating tanked, this will feel like a surprise to them. So, they may need some space for a moment.
The other type of scenario you can always abruptly change your mind is the romance and sex scenes. When the moment finally arrives, your chosen companion will ask for consent a number of times. This steady flow of check-ins allows players to back out (revoking consent) at any time and for whatever reason. Consent is always present and enthusiastically required even among the hellish creatures. If you decide to agree to each ask, the heat continues to rise. The ceremonious requests act almost like titillating foreplay until the eventual fade-to-black.
The bear in the room
While the BG3 writers sometimes slightly fumbled referential moments of sexual violence with Halsin, the former Emerald Grove leader remains one of the best models of healthy sex communication. (Though I think it’s a close tie with Wyll.) While being respectful and honest, Halsin clearly communicates his boundaries. He values sexual freedom but still considers the feelings of all involved. I don’t think Halsin does this because he’s the most into polyamory (and orgies) because communication is important in any configuration. However, with more people involved, more could go wrong otherwise.
If you’re already in another relationship with another companion, after Halsin confesses his desire, he will ask that you communicate your wants with that person. He’s not the only character that does this, but he does it in a way that respectful considers non-druid cultures and the needs of others. (Also, as a peacemaker with a penchant for sharing, I doubt Halsin wants to be in a cheating scandal.)
You have bonded with Astarion, body and soul. His scent lingers on your skin. If there is to be anything between us, it must be with his consent. And perhaps some day, his participation.
Another moment worth zooming in on is the sex scene itself. Quickly after undressing and kissing, Halsin is overcome with emotion and accidentally transforms into his bear form. I know this is for the monster romance enthusiasts and parallels his internal conflict. However, it’s easy to read this as a messy mishap that actually happens during sex. A “sorry, wrong hole” situation. Those moments where you want to just die rather than confront anticipation and possible embearessment of how the other person might respond. Instead of a moody walk-away scene, the game offers you multiple ways to navigate the situation, as seen in the screenshot above. Encourage the kink, shrug it off tactfully, or exit the situation quickly.
While I used the example of Halsin when discussing romanceable companions, this ethos applies to many other characters, too. I’m talking about the drama-filled, complicated, and one-night-stand sort of relationships. (At least two of these are for the best, trust me.) In all of these, consent is still present and the option to revoke it is, too. I wish I could say that more players took this ethos and applied it to their own relationship with the game, too—specifically, by not engaging with the gross AI-generated BG3 content (real-life Harleeps) spreading since early August.
Hundreds of voice/motion-capture actors, consented to their voice/body to be engaged with in a certain capacity during production. Between the game recording, Cameo, and Twitch livestreams, these performers continue to give more to players. Unfortunately, many have uploaded the hours of audio captured by these actors and fed them into AI generators to make it sound like they said something they didn’t. While bad enough, those boundaries have been crossed further as some of the AI-generated audio shows these people saying lewd things they never agreed to say. Things they never consented to. And, anything absent of an enthusiastic “yes,” is an absolute “no.“
(featured image: screencap from Larian Studios by Alyssa Shotwell)
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