'Dad, people are sending me pictures of bears': Baldur's Gate 3 boss Swen Vincke 'wasn't ready' for the bear sex scene to go so viral

Baldur's Gate 3
(Image credit: Larian)

Baldur's Gate 3 is a game of grand adventure, a game of nuanced character choices, a game of creative problem solving, a game full of literally hundreds of spells. It's also a game where you can have sex with a bear. Guess which of the above rocketed Baldur's Gate 3 to viral mainstream attention just a few weeks before release? I expected Baldur's Gate 3 to be big, but I did not expect a marketing campaign highlighting a sex scene with a bear (okay, to be clear, it's a sex scene with a druid who can transform into a bear) to help Baldur's Gate 3 pull in 800,000 concurrent players over the weekend.

"Yeah, me neither," Larian founder Swen Vincke told me in an interview on Monday. But he did explain why the Baldur's Gate 3 studio thought it was a good showcase for the game, which turned out to be the exact right instinct in the leadup to release.

"We wanted a scene people were going to talk about, but we wanted to show that this was a cinematic game, with characters that have depth to them. The bear's obviously a druid, and he has a story. He's been around for hundreds of years. He's lived with bears for part of his life also, so that's where the bear thing comes from. It's interesting when you start thinking about it, what it meant for him living with bears, right? Because there's also horny bears in the world."

(Immediately after saying the words "there's also horny bears in the world," Vincke added "I shouldn't have said that," but I have to back him up here. According to BearSmart.com, "not only are male bears promiscuous, but females often have more than one mating partner." There are definitely horny bears in the world.)

Vincke soldiered on: "We wanted to show you agency, with a cinematic resolution to it. We wanted to show the game is also fun, which is where the squirrel comes into play. So there were a lot of things captured in that one scene. It shone a light on the entire game in a very summarized beat, so in that sense, it was a good one to pick."

It helped that around the same time Larian showed off the sex scene, previews of Baldur's Gate 3 were also hitting online, offering a more substantial dive into the game. Anyone who learned about it through the viral scene could easily go and read more about it.

As it turned out, some of the people who picked up on the scene were the friends of Vincke's 17-year-old son. "My son comes to me telling me 'dad, people are sending me pictures of bears from everywhere," he said. "I wasn't ready for that. I could overhear him going like 'Yeah, I KNOW!' [to people who called him]."

More on Baldur's Gate 3

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(Image credit: Larian)

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Since release players have discovered that Baldur's Gate 3 certainly doesn't begin and end with ursine promiscuity. It is on the whole a very horny—or at least unabashedly sexual—RPG, with customizable genitals already spawning size mods and companions ready to romance you at the drop of a helm.

"Fantasy and romance have always been intermingled with each other, and now being able to show things [with better cinematics], it makes it more engaging," Vincke said. "We wanted them to be player agency-driven, so you feel like 'I got into this romance situation because I engaged with that person and did these things, I listened to them and understood them.' It makes for better storytelling because there's more emotion.

"You see that very clearly when people are streaming … there are some critical moments in the game, depending on which character you have, where you have to make choices, where your best interests are not necessarily served by the best interests of your romantic partner at that moment, and that creates great drama. You get great conflict there, and that creates the most engaging storytelling you can have in certain moments. Or if you have multiple party members that are romantically interested in you facing off against each other, that also creates great drama. That's good storytelling. Having that human emotion present inside of the game just makes for better storytelling. That's where we went very far."

Now that we're playing Baldur's Gate 3 for ourselves, we still have bears on the brain—if you can't decide on how to spec your characters, may we recommend making a party of nothing but bears?

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).