Just two days after flying back from Los Angeles (where I attended The Game Awards 2023 to judge its fashion in person), I felt the familiar creep of sickness at the back of my throat. But this was no mere sniffle—within a few hours my elbows ached, my head pounded, my core temperature rose, air refused to pass through either nostril, and my throat stung like it was lined with knives. Tests said it was nothing serious, but my body said to slow the hell down, so I took off work and somewhat reluctantly downloaded Baldur’s Gate 3 (with a code provided by Larian Studios for GOTY consideration).
Baldur’s Gate 3’s Karlach Actor On Playing The Beloved Barbarian
I say reluctantly because I’m not a turn-based RPG girlie, and I’m even less of a Dungeons & Dragons girlie. But it felt like my malaise was giving me the time to try out what many (including the Game Awards) consider to be 2023’s game of the year. For the next five days, I did nothing but eat, sleep, and roleplay, blurring the lines between my fevered reality and the fantastical world of Faerûn. Only when my fever broke did I realize: Fuck, I’m hooked.
The sheer scale of Baldur’s Gate 3 is enough to overwhelm—and that scale is obvious even before you see how large its map is, before you realize how involved its story gets, before you discover how many side quests you can stumble upon in its dank caves or dark corridors. It’s apparent from the moment you reach the character creation screen, and face the gargantuan task of choosing your race, class, background, and appearance.
At this point, mere minutes into my playthrough, my foggy, fevered brain panics—do I go for a beefy Barbarian? A sage Cleric? Do I roleplay as myself or someone else entirely fantastical? The options loom over me, daunting like college job fairs of yesteryear—what will I be? I scour the internet for advice, offered by Kotaku, other game sites, Reddit, and beyond. After much deliberation, I decide to create a character semi-inspired by me (Italian name, Bard who loves attention) but not entirely a BG3 avatar of myself (a Wood Elf, with long hair, who is a lot nicer than me). This process takes me nearly an hour.
As I step out of the crashed nautiloid ship and onto a sandy beach, I’m still unsure if this experience is for me. There’s so much to take in, so many menus and icons and items (and lines of text describing those items) and dialogue options—not to mention my reluctant companions, who I can’t suss out right away (a testament to the brilliance of those who wrote these characters). Overwhelmed is an understatement, and I balk at the game that lies before me. But I’m sick, and there’s nothing else for me to do except watch Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip (which I usually watch with my partner), so I forge on.
After a few hours of awkwardly chatting with Astarion, Shadowheart, Wyll, and Lae’zel and fumbling my way through early battles, something quietly clicks. The gameplay loop starts satisfying my lizard brain, the hunt for More Loot urges me on, the immersiveness of the world and how I can move within it fascinates, and despite the nagging sinus pressure in my head that feels like an ilithid tadpole stretching against my brain cavity, I can’t put the controller down. One DualSense dies, I swap it out for the one that was charging. That one dies, I do it again. By midnight, they’re both too sapped of energy to continue playing (I have a pretty shit third-party charging port), so I reluctantly climb into bed to try and sleep.
I’m hopped up on cold medicine, so sleep reaches me faster than usual, but not before my brain spins up and starts running through all the things I had just done in Baldur’s Gate 3 and all the things I promise myself I will do tomorrow. I need to locate the githyanki creche, must find Karlach (without Wyll, who wants her dead, in tow) and convince her to join my crew, and have to figure out the best way to amend my Bard build so I’m more helpful in battle.
I wake the next morning still very sick. I stumble into my too-hot living room (NYC apartments and radiators, baby), blindly pour myself some coffee, swallow some pills, position the Kleenex within reach, and boot up my PS5. A buzz of excitement envelops me like it’s the day after Christmas, like I’m 13 years old again, and a game I was just gifted beckons with its siren song: “Come, get lost in this world for days on end.”
As a 33-year-old woman enslaved by the rigid boundaries of late-stage capitalism, I no longer get the chance to follow that siren song, to dive uninterrupted into a massive game for dozens of hours straight. But thanks to this horrid head cold, I’m handed a youthful lack of responsibility, an opportunity to make Baldur’s Gate 3 my entire universe. And I, congested and sore but relieved at such a rare respite, do just that.
I’ve played 25 hours of Baldur’s Gate 3 within the last few days. There’s no going back.