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Baldur's Gate 3’s Astarion has helped abuse victims work through trauma

Baldur's Gate 3’s Astarion has helped abuse victims work through trauma

Astarion resonates with the fandom in a deep and personal way

CW: Sexual abuse, abuse

When discussions about Baldur’s Gate 3’s loveable rogue, Astarion, pop up, much of it is to do with his sex appeal. I get it – I fell in love with his sarcastic quick wit and smouldering good looks too.

But there’s more to this character than his vivaciousness; an attribute we later learn is used as a defence mechanism as opposed to being how he truly feels. Once these layers of Astarion’s story were slowly peeled back, I realised that I resonated with his character on a far deeper level than merely physical attraction.

This Elf knew of my struggles because he’d lived similar. Just because his experiences had played out in the rich tapestry woven by fictional threads didn’t make it any less relatable or, dare I say, empowering.

I’m an abuse survivor. I won’t go into too many details about my experiences, but my view of sex – of being always “on” to avoid the pain of tackling my trauma head on – was played out in front of me while I gamed.

No, I’m not a vampire, I’m sad to say, but I too learnt to shield myself behind bravado and hypersexual tendencies to get by in life. It got to the point where my actions were that of someone no longer truly thinking about the aftermath.

Baldur's Gate 3 is so much more than just another RPG

The lessons I’d learnt from inadequate teachers resulted in me never really believing that anyone had my best interests at heart, or that they’d ever love me for me, warts and all.

I have since found someone who very much offers me the safety and security I once thought impossible for myself. Yet it was watching Astarion’s romance with Tav, and all its subtle intimacy that went well beyond spicy sex scenes in the woods, that I felt myself work through some of the remnants of my trauma.

This isn’t an experience unique to me: many other BG3 fans have also felt an affinity to Astarion’s behaviour.

“I identify with Astarion in so many ways, because I was essentially taught that the only value I have to anyone is how I look; using sex as a means to try and make someone love me,” a fellow fan, who requested to remain anonymous, shared.

“I also strongly identify with Astarion’s antihero attitude. I understand why he masks everything behind humour and glibness and sarcasm, and I understand why he’s entirely selfish until he starts to realise Tav genuinely cares about him.”

Their words hit me hard; they were so familiar they almost felt like my own. Not just what they went through, but how they reacted to Astarion’s story. It’s incredible to think about the number of miles that part us, yet we’re connected by our past and our shared appreciation of the same game character.

Interestingly, it isn’t only ‘Spawn Astarion’ that’s helped gamers work through their emotions, ‘Ascended Astarion’ has as well, albeit in a totally different way. “I was groomed from 14 to 17 years old, and then sexually abused at 18. I became super hypersexual to cope with it,” reveals another BG3 fan, who also wanted to remain anonymous.

“I’ve done years of therapy and I’m in a better place, but there was a long time where I wanted revenge and I wanted to hurt those who hurt me. Getting to play out AA [Ascended Astarion] really helped me get to play out the revenge, and also a look into how revenge ultimately doesn’t make anyone or anything better.”

I found this perspective not only unique compared to others but also vitally important to share, not least of all because of the backlash Ascended Astarion received. Quite a few fans didn’t like seeing Astarion “become what he fought so hard against”. Yet, to shrink down what Astarion goes through to such a basic description fails to capture the gravity of his situation if you go this route.

Ascended Astarion isn’t automatically bad, nor is seeking revenge; it’s too truths we learn alongside Astarion. Larian made sure the complexities of life – the bitter, the vengeful, and sorrowful – played into how Ascended Astarion changes when compared with his spawn version.

Trauma is a confusing and multifaceted creature. It can reveal sides to yourself you wish you hadn’t discovered (I speak from experience), as well as pushing you to your emotional limits as you try to navigate your grief. Astarion doesn’t always come across well, nor is he always the most compassionate of the group, but what you outwardly see doesn’t always reveal the true depth of emotions someone is working through.

So many other survivors came forward, each with their own take on how Astarion helped them, be that through letting go of trapped emotions or embracing the temptations to harm those who harmed you. Being trusted to take those stories and share them was, and still is, a deeply humbling experience; to know they trusted me with their words to help convey their emotions.

Being able to speak out after suffering abuse is such a powerful awakening, though one that isn’t easy to come by. Some of us will never be able to speak out, not because we lied, but because fear, misplaced shame, and doubt informs our every step. For those of us not able to find our voices, Astarion’s sultry tones replaced our own, gifting us a release we didn’t realise we needed.

Featured Image Credit: Larian Studios

Topics: Baldur's Gate 3, PC, PlayStation, Steam, Xbox, no article matching