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BG3 actor: “I’ve never seen sex stories realized in this way”

Baldur’s Gate 3 star Neil Newbon thinks the CRPG’s mature writing and intimacy coordinators “set the bar very high” for videogames.

Baldur's Gate 3 Astarion, played by Neil Newbon

Astarion actor Neil Newbon has praised Baldur’s Gate 3’s approach to sex and relationships in a recent interview. Speaking to Wargamer, Newbon highlights the maturity of the game’s writing and calls the intimacy coordination provided “a breath of fresh air” – even if he himself didn’t feel the need to use it.

Baldur’s Gate 3 made headlines in 2023 when it was revealed that the game had two intimacy coordinators working on the hugely successful CRPG. These crew members help choreograph intimate scenes and ensure the well-being of everyone taking part. Asha Jennings-Grant and Enric Ortuni shared the responsibility on set, meaning both motion capture and voice acting had intimacy direction.

“The intimacy director was brought in and discussed openly with the actors very early on”, Newbon says. “I hadn’t been on other games with an intimacy director before, and for me, it was a real breath of fresh air to see such care and joy that Larian and Pitstop [Productions] had with working with actors, and allowing that safe space”, he adds.

Baldur's Gate 3's Astarion and a dwarf Tav

Intimacy coordination is becoming increasingly common on movie and television sets, but Baldur’s Gate 3 marks one of its first uses in game development. “As an actor, director, from my point of view, it’s a great precedent to set”, Newbon says.

Newbon himself felt he didn’t need intimacy coordination, but having the option didn’t interfere with his process. “I’ve done all kinds of scenes that I feel comfortable with”, he tells Wargamer, “sex scenes, rape scenes, violent scenes, and all kinds of horror scenes”. “I didn’t feel I was working beyond my safety level, but there were other actors that definitely needed an intimacy director, and it was a wonderful experience for them.”

“I think [intimacy directing] is incredibly positive and should be standard across all entertainment – not just games, but film and television.”

Newbon also praised the writers of Baldur’s Gate 3 for their “mature, considered” approach to intimacy. “I’ve never seen a story about sex and relationships realized in this way”, he says. “They handled it so maturely and realistically.”

Baldur's Gate 3 Astarion, played by Neil Newbon

You can court (and often copulate with) any of the Baldur’s Gate 3 companions, as well as a few other willing NPCs in the world of Faerûn. But unlike many RPGs, these experiences aren’t overly ‘game-ified’. Sex is one part of a character’s complex narrative, rather than one more achievement to cross off the list.

Newbon’s character, the vampire Rogue Astarion, is perhaps the best example of this. The character has past trauma related to intimacy, and his romance arc doesn’t shy away from this.

“I think it is a very faithful story about somebody who’s gone through this kind of trauma and is a survivor”, Newbon says. “I get to honor those kinds of stories, and people have made such incredible connections with not just my character but all the characters.” “What Larian has done sets the bar very high”, he adds.

Baldur's Gate 3 Astarion, played by Neil Newbon

Baldur’s Gate 3 also sets a precedent for queer representation, Newbon explains. Astarion is canonically pansexual, and players can romance any of the companions, regardless of their chosen gender identity.

“[Baldur’s Gate 3] is really telling about the industry, and also the audience”, Newbon says. “I read recently that LGBTQ+ players make up around 15% of all gamers, and yet there’s not that kind of representation in games yet. Games like Baldur’s Gate 3 – which is niche but mainstream at the same time – normalize sexuality and gender in a way that we maybe haven’t seen quite so openly.”

“I remember when Baldur’s Gate 3 came out, it got a very strange reaction from the industry”, he adds. “Some people were saying ‘this isn’t the norm, this shouldn’t be the norm’. Well, obviously it’s not the norm. It’s a really special individual game – a masterpiece, I think.” “But it can be a source of inspiration for where to go next,” Newbon says, “it can push games forward”.

This is just one small snippet of our full conversation with Neil Newbon, so keep your eyes peeled for the full Q&A that’s coming soon. Until then, you can follow us on Google News for more on Baldur’s Gate 3 and the tabletop RPG that inspired it, Dungeons and Dragons.