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Embracing the Power of Baldur’s Gate

In the vast realm of video games, there are those rare franchises that go beyond mere entertainment, leaving a lasting impact on players’ lives.

Although becoming more common, and the topic of mental health is being tackled more often, they still remain special moments for me and many others!

Personally, Baldur’s Gate is one such franchise. It is more than just a game – it was the starting point for me in my journey through sexuality and mental health too. It shaped my understanding of mental health and providing authentic representation for the LGBTQIA+ community (whether the developers intended this initially back in the 90’s or not!). Join me on this personal exploration as I share the profound impact that Baldur’s Gate 1, 2, & 3 have had on my own mental well-being and my perspective on diversity and inclusion.

As a lifelong gamer, I’ve always been captivated by the immersive storytelling and rich characters and my journey started with one of my fondest gaming memories. I used to sit on a small kids chair next to my dad’s PC as a young kid, graced with the title of ‘the disc changer’ as many games required multiple discs to play back then. The first time I remember doing this, I was given this large box with a fold out wallet of six discs, a heavy booklet and a large map. My adventure into Dungeons & Dragons and Baldur’s Gate had begun and every Sunday evening I’d sit down with my dad and we’d play together.

screenshot from Baldur's Gate - 1998

Here I learnt about role playing as somebody else and the lore was always abundant but what sets this franchise apart is it’s ability to transport players into a world where emotional complexities thrive.

Through interacting with diverse characters and experiencing their struggles, I’ve developed a deeper sense of empathy and a broader understanding of mental health challenges faced by real people and some realizations along the way made me very aware of my own mental wellbeing. The decision making of the series is a fundamental element that triggers the other views or side of the conversation and therefore makes you question your reasoning and dig deep into what the consequences will be and how your choices will affect others. As a kid, I often struggled with socializing at school, but the moment I discovered I could shape my personality and read into decisions & roleplay with others, it all changed.

Baldur’s Gate doesn’t shy away from addressing mental health themes, shining a light on the struggles that many of us face in our own lives. Characters like Minsc and Imoen have become more than just pixels on a screen; they represent individuals battling mental illness and undergoing personal growth. Minsc’s battle with depression and Imoen’s journey through trauma have resonated with me on a personal level as I’ve returned to play the games several times throughout the years. These stories have allowed me to reflect on my own mental well-being and have reminded me of the importance of seeking support when needed. Baldur’s Gate has shown me that gaming can be a platform for discussing mental health openly and destigmatizing these issues.

baldur's gate 3 - character stood on a burning beach/environment with huge tentacles

One of the most impactful aspects of Baldur’s Gate is its commitment to authentic representation, particularly for the LGBTQIA+ community. The franchise has given us well-rounded characters who defy stereotypes and embody the diverse experiences of real people. While the original didn’t include LGTBQIA+ NPCs, enhanced editions and Baldur’s Gate: Shadow of Amn did. Characters like Safana, Hexxat and Dorn have allowed me to see journeys of self-discovery and therefore develop my own. Through their stories, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the complexities of sexuality and gender identity and discovered my own too as a bisexual. Baldur’s Gate has shown me that representation matters and that games have the power to make marginalized communities feel seen and valued.

Without a doubt, relationships, gender and sexuality are high on the priority list in Baldur’s Gate 3. Character customisation includes your ideal lover and there are no limitations on gender, appearance stereotypes or sexuality. For exploration and discovery, it certainly gives off a well represented and inclusive environment, even if we’ve only seen levels 1-4 in the early access.

Beyond the game itself, Baldur’s Gate has fostered a vibrant and inclusive community. Online forums, social media groups, and fan-driven initiatives have provided safe spaces for players to discuss mental health and LGBTQIA+ issues. These communities have become a source of support, where personal stories are shared and inclusivity is championed. Being a part of these communities has made me feel heard, understood, and valued. Baldur’s Gate has shown me that gaming has the power to bring people together, creating spaces where we can find solace and support in one another.

Baldur’s Gate has become an integral part of my life, not just as a game but as a vehicle for personal growth, understanding, and connection. It has taught me the importance of empathy, representation, and mental health awareness. Through it’s immersive worlds and diverse characters, the franchise has inspired me to embrace diversity, challenge societal norms, and advocate for inclusivity. My journey with Baldur’s Gate has shown me that video games can be a force for positive change, empowering minds, and creating a more accepting and inclusive world.

Written by PizzaPixie