Bear sex 'a watershed moment in game history', says Baldur's Gate 3 writer

An image of Halsin, wildshaped into a bear, from Baldur's Gate 3.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)

You are, most likely aware, that Baldur's Gate 3 lets you have sex with a bear. Now to be fair, 33% of players have hair in their underwear, so it didn't scare its audience beyond repair. If you're wondering why I'm rhyming, it's because in constructing the above headline I may have quite possibly gone mad.

As reported by our friends over at GamesRadar, senior narrative designer Baudelaire Welch discussed the impact of the ursine-themed scene on the gaming landscape to a captive audience, via a presentation at Develop: Brighton 2024.

Specifically, Welch focuses their analysis on the traditional practices of both fanfiction and meme nonsense. Like it or not, both are a pretty big part of contemporary gaming culture nowadays—especially in a game like Baldur's Gate 3 where, well, everyone's hot.

Still, to see Welch say the quiet part out loud here is both refreshing and terrifyingly powerful. "Romance is one of the longest-tail parts of a fandom you can create," they begin, rightly noting that players will constantly output fanfiction about a "good romance" in any title—and that debates over the specifics will keep the flames of interest stoked "for a very long time."

Welch goes on to consider why the bear sex scene so thoroughly captured players' imaginations. To clarify something for a moment in case you've not played the game—the bear in question, Halsin, isn't actually an animal per se. He's a druid who can take a "wildshape" of various forms, which the D&D 5e handbook handily states conserves their mental statistics for the duration—which neatly tidies away any major ethical concerns here.

"This scene feels like a watershed moment in game history," Welch declares, completely shattering the rest of my afternoon, "where the fanfiction community feels like they're not a subculture, but are the majority audience being catered to in a scene and in the game as a whole."

I do have some complicated feelings about this all on paper. It would, in many ways, be easy to see Welch's comments here as extremely cynical—pandering, even—to a subculture who (lets face it) isn't always interested in telling an actually good story, so much as it's interested in the art of playing with tropes like toy dolls.

That being said, I'm sure most writers capable of sustaining an audience with hundreds of thousands of words of alt-universe smut—and they are out there, believe me—absolutely have a good handle on the craft. Not to mention, this isn't anything particularly new. Raunchy fanart and fiction have both existed since the days of Dragon Age: Origins—moreover, the original Baldur's Gate. The romance mods have a legacy.

I'd be more bothered by these statements if Baldur's Gate 3 didn't happen to have a carefully crafted, considered story with some exceptional character writing. Larian can cheekily throw a bone while also telling a good story—playfulness and a bit of audience participation is just good theatre.

In fact, Welch reminds us that Larian actually made Halsin romanceable as a result of that initial thirst during early access: "In order to reach out to that part of the community, Larian gave them an incredibly silly scene which takes an identity and moniker from the gay community literally—the gay bear becomes the gay bear."

Baldur's Gate 3 — A screenshot of First Druid Halsin in conversation.

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

I should take a moment to highlight that, while Larian made the choice to lean into this, Halsin's voice actor Dave Jones seems happy to take it all in stride and with good humour—scarcely 40 minutes before the time of writing, he retweeted fanart of a very shirtless Halsin drying himself off with a towel. It is safe to say he's in on the joke.

Welch says that this wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude "feels like it's giving players something from the tradition of crackfic"—that's intentionally-absurd fanfiction, by the way—"or just something from your Discord sh*tposting hole, and present it as a mainstream feature. That feels like all the time you've spent joking with your friends is validated, seen, and how many games have made you feel that way before?"

As fellow PC Gamer writer Lauren Morton noted last year, it's certainly worked. Baldur's Gate 3 has tapped thoroughly into that hive of creativity and imagination with a terrifying degree of mastery. As noted, though, it still feels like a secondary goal for the game. There's a cheekiness there that never really feels like it veers into Flanderization, and as long as it stays that way for Larian's next game(s) then I'm all for it.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.