Baldur’s Gate 3‘s wild success this year has made enormous waves in all corners of the gaming community. It signals continued success for sprawling RPGs, even more players taking up an interest in Dungeons & Dragons, and it’s becoming the new home for a very particular brand of player—the fandom freaks (affectionate).
When Larian first started revealing Baldur’s Gate 3’s party of weirdos, complete with interwoven backstories and the new-for-Larian cinematic, eye-level character conversations, I started to hope that it would attract this specific kind of player. It’s the fans who dedicate entire channels in their Discord server to one specific character, the ones who spend just as much time creating fanart and fanfiction and cosplays as they did playing the game, the Nexus gremlins modding an RPG within an inch of its life just to get the perfect aesthetic shots for their new profile picture.
(Image credit: Larian)
Like the runaway success of Baldur’s Gate 3 itself, I had no idea the fandom appeal would hit this hard. It started out with my fellow PC Gamer writers, the off-duty sickos among us defending Wyll’s character and calling it the horniest RPG ever, and the obsession with underpants lore.
But then my favorite fans started doing what they do too. I’ve borne witness to entire screeds on the right choices to make at the end of Astarion’s storyline. I’ve seen a glorious number of custom main character edits and the way the community has all agreed to respect the default character name Tav. Proper fandom folks are the only people out here making aesthetic gif sets of every companion’s eyes. Nobody else would model swap an entire cutscene to invent a romance between a zombie and a devil. No other type of player does this stuff. You lot know who you are and I applaud you.
For the last ten years, Dragon Age (and Mass Effect, to a degree) was a major hub for these types of fans—a whole community spinning out transformative works purely to fire up a feedback loop of excitement among themselves. It wasn’t the largest, but it remains exemplary among RPG fandoms for the sheer amount of fanworks and dedication it’s inspired and the way its star rose parallel to online fandom as a whole.
While we wait on crumbs to fall from Dreadwolf‘s table though, there’s been a lot of attrition as the BioWare faithful scatter, turning their attention to other games, shows, or literary works to scratch the itch with fresher releases. I’d begun to worry that no video game series, let alone dormant Dragon Age, would manage to rally all the weirdos I admire so much back into one place.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)
Right after Baldur’s Gate 3 launched, I was begging Dragon Age fans to try it. And although I have not done a full investigation of the Dragon Age fan account to Baldur’s Gate 3 fan pipeline, it feels like they defected in droves.
These are the fans for whom a game is way more than the sum of its parts—the ones who made me truly love video games when I found my first sparkling, over-customized Zelda and Pokemon fansites back in the ’90s. That’s why I’m so glad to have them all back in one place again. The corner of fandom that used to be synonymous with Tumblr, despite the in-group strife that sometimes comes with it, is integral to gaming as a whole.
We often laud modders for keeping Skyrim relevant for over a decade, and rightfully so. Other fans prop up the hobby in the emulation scene, speedrunning, and other great ways of showing love for aging games. The fanworks folks are just as vital, so I’m glad to see so many rallying around something new. I’m expecting no less than watching them obsess over Astarion for a decade.