Playing Assassin’s Creed like a madwoman right now, both to catch up before the release of Revelations and for my thesis on gaming platforms, I registered for a Uplay account, which lets you earn points in all Ubisoft games and unlock items and other nice stuff (not the big DLCs though, too bad).
There was no question about my gender, and even though it was already linked with my Facebook profile, which states that I’m female… here’s what I ended up with:
Now, I’m not overreacting or claiming that women are the predominant demographic for a service like that, but… since I already allow you access, can’t you either use my profile info on FB and assign me a soldier chick pic (or my FB profile pic), or go the Twitter/XBOX Live/etc. way and use something neutral, like an Assassin whose face you can’t even see properly? 😉 [Side note: I think I’m going to buy the Ezio black women’s costume.]
Yes, it’s the little things that make me happy. Or laugh out loud, as in this case. 😀
Here’s another one: I can’t at all change the profile pic. What would be so hard about taking Claudia, Rosa or a courtesan’s image and offering me a choice? On the other hand, it *almost* fulfills what I said about obscuring the face so much that it’s unisex. Close, but no apple (of Eden).
I recently got a haircut, going from long hair (mid-back) to quite short (just over the ears). I’d post a pic if I had a good one at hand. Will add one later! 🙂
I’ve done radical cuts like this two times already (there are three ponytails to prove it), one of which was when I was about 8 years old and felt annoyed by the increasing amount of people treating me like a girl and expecting me to act like one all of the time. I rather wanted to be a boy, at least some of the time. As a 9-year-old I was shocked when the girls in my class observed a bring-your-doll-to-school-day. It was a horribly pink day. In my opinion, boys had short hair and could do cool stuff instead. Back then, I may actually have thought it was that easy, I don’t remember.
I do remember hours of debate with my grandma in the following years (she lived with us, so there were plenty occasions) about why I had no interest in knitting, sewing and such things. She refused my honest explanation that I had trouble seeing the threads, and I had no real desire to discuss gender roles with her – her who made her daughters do their own laundry, while she did everything for her sons – so we had that debate over and over again. Oh well. (btw I regret that it was the truth, because it’d be awesome if I could sew costumes!) And while this in itself has nothing to do with my hair, I realized that this grandmother always quietly disapproved of my short hairstyles…
Now, at age 26, my reasons for getting the haircut were a mix of reducing the amount of time I spend fixing my hair in the morning (not a morning person! grrr) and just doing something completely different for a change. But looking at those three ponytails I started wondering about the way people perceive(d) me and what they expect based on it. I’d be really curious about that, but sadly it’s hard to find out.
I also recently read this article on “How to talk to Little Girls“, which advises you to avoid complimenting little girls on their looks in small-talk-like situations and ask about their hobbies instead.
As much as I’m a girly girl – who is thrilled that her hair no longer hides her beloved big dangly earrings – I also have lots of traditionally male interests and opinions. I wonder if I now “look more like the person I am”. I’m not saying we should judge others by their hairstyles – but I do feel like it’s part of our subconscious pattern recognition habit.
In any case, I feel a bit like I’m that kid again who doesn’t want to behave like a girl is supposed to… – at least not all of the time!
I’m the kind of girl that gets deeply immersed in the narrative of my beloved fave awesomesauce genre that is RPGs. In my first playthrough, I usually attempt to create an avatar that looks (more or less like) me. Depending on the character creator and my amount of patience, the result is usually a girl that is “like me” at least regarding basic criteria: Very fair-skinned, golden blonde long hair, blue eyes, slightly eccentric purple or blue eye shadow and fancy earrings, if available. If the editor allows, I pick a youngish avatar with an average build.
I’ve been doing this since first playing Baldur’s Gate, or even before that, but have never given it much thought. Some time after I started blogging about gaming, I realized that it’s not only about the looks, but also the behavior. Roleplaying for me usually isn’t playing someone entirely different, but playing myself in an entirely different setting. So, depending on whether I can pick the avatar’s sex and customize the appearance, and how much freedom I am given in the course of the game, I end up with Ally in Post-Apocalyptia, Ally as mankind’s best hope against the Reaper threat, Ally as Champion of Kirkwall, Ally the Daughter of Baal… 😉
Maybe this isn’t quite the core definition of roleyplaying and some people I know find it lazy and uncreative, but the settings of my favorite games are usually so exotic compared to my real life, that I love having myself as a sort of anchor point from which to judge virtual societies and characters.
In games that let me, I really have my avatar act as I would have under those often extreme circumstances, and accept the responsibility for her/my actions. (I recently read in a book that enthused players constantly switch between first and third person when describing what happens in a game, and realized I do this all the time!) So, there certainly is a sort of overlap or merger between “I, Ally” and “I, my avatar”. I think it also explains why I can’t bring myself to be evil in a game, even if it’s my fourth playthrough and I know the do-gooder path inside-out.
Let’s face it, most of us would be reluctant and/or scared to face zombies, aliens, thugs and rabid dogs in combat or explore dark dungeons, cursed forests or haunted mansions. Especially as a woman in a setting like Fallout or The Witcher, I’d probably run for my life and hide away until the end of my days rather than be mugged, enslaved, raped and/or killed. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to stand up to the injustice of these societies. I don’t even know the basics of self-defense! All I really have, is words. And I love when I can talk myself out of tricky situations in games. I loved it in Vampire: The Masquerade, in Dragon Age, in Fallout, in The Witcher 2 and especially in Knights of the Old Republic (Force Persuade, I heart you). I especially adore the witty remarks I was able to make at other characters in the aforementioned games, and I’ve used many of these lines in real life. Definitely an overlap between those worlds and my real world. 🙂 And one of the few I can really “import” from the games, quite unlike the fighting and others skills. [This part of the post was written in mid May 2011.]
Today, June 2 2011, I’m in class hearing a lecture about transmedia storytelling from JC Hutchins -> http://jchutchins.net, who was talking about when he got contacted by a mysterious company and given material (documents, photos, a USB drive) and access to a website revealing bits and pieces about experiments on people. He was then invited by that same company to test FEAR 2 in NYC – in the “FEAR Lab”, where the experiments were supposedly conducted. We didn’t discuss it in detail, but the campaign was quite spooky and well-implemented and thus very immersive, but as JC says, it was soon clear it from well-placed hints that was a game promotion.
You can see several videos about his personal experience with this promo on his blog that I linked to above, so I won’t go too far into this here, but revisiting the draft post above, I wonder where this “immersion thing” is going. Games are becoming more realistic and extend into the “outernet”, our real lives, with the same immersive force. I wonder how I would feel if it was me getting drawn into such a transmedia campaign. I’m sure I’d love it if I figured out it was a game or game promotion. But what if I didn’t? What if I missed a hint that made that clear? Maybe the line between fact and fiction will soon become so blurry one day that we can’t tell the difference? I wonder because as much as I love immersion, love to be IN the game, I also value the freedom to be OUT as I please.
On the other hand, maybe this kind of campaign will become so commonplace that we lose our skepticism towards them. After engaging in several similar transmedia campaigns, would you trust a stranger too easily if they followed this pattern of pretending to be a real company and cleverly hinting at that being fictional/fake, while never even touching on what their goals REALLY are? Am I getting, or won’t we all get paranoid trying to figure it all out? Or will we develop new skills to deal with this development just as we have started with social media zum Beispiel? (that’s German for “for example” and one of three things JC can say in German, so I couldn’t resist)
This is definitely something I’ll be thinking about. Or should I book a self-defense course and take shooting lessons just in case it’s not just a promo? 😉
PS: I’ve recently played a point & click adventure called Overclocked, where teenagers are invited to test a game and end up in a psychiatric hospital. It was a freebie that came with my game mag, so you might get it for free as well. It ties in nicely with this “game promotion conspiracy theory”, and atop of that also simulates transmedia in the game, i.e. you use a virtual cell phone for various things in the game.
Spoiler Warning: This post has spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine! 😉
Quoting or mentioning @aeazel in my posts seems, slowly but steadily, to become a habit, but I believe it’s not a bad one!
A few weeks back, in a discussion totally unrelated to gaming, he casually mentioned the concept of intersectionality to me. I started to read the Wikipedia article on it, and while I forgot the actual matter at hand, I realized why Dragon Age: Origins had appealed to me so much more than Dragon Age 2 – in spite of everything I love about the new game.
Quoting Wikipedia, “The theory [of intersectionality] suggests—and seeks to examine how—various socially and culturally constructed categories such as gender, race, class, disability, and other axes of identity interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels, contributing to systematic social inequality. Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and religion-based bigotry, do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.”
Let’s, literally, take a look at my character from Origins:
This is Izka. Female elf mages have been my absolute default character in RPGs for as long as I can remember playing, so I didn’t think much about it, and got started. Among the multitude of awesome things, I soon found myself especially fascinated with the social structures, especially the tensions, that were written into the game universe, and the detailled history of the three main races of Humans, Elves and Dwarves.
In the history of the Dragon Age world, Elves aren’t the proud noble people we know from Tokien’s Middle Earth, the Forgotten Realms or the Elder Scrolls. They are a broken people, driven from their lands, out of touch with their history and culture. They have lost their traditional ways, forgotten most of their rituals and magic. They live as nomad clans, constantly ready to move on to avoid conflicts with human settlements, or in slums called alienages in human towns, where they are at the mercy of the Human populace. They are discriminated against for openly racist reasons, very much like the Elves in The Witcher.
The mages are discriminated across all races, they are considered generally dangerous and are taken from their parents and forced into the Circle of Magi to learn to control their powers under the watchful eyes of the Templars, who fear them, especially for the powerful Blood Magic and the Abominations that can possess mages. Mages who leave the Circle Towers will most likely be persecuted and made tranquil, i.e. stripped of their magic powers, but also their emotions and instincts. For all intents and purposes, they become willing slaves of the system. Conveniently, they are the only ones except dwarves who can handle raw lyrium, a mineral that among other things can be used to make potions that replenish magic. The Chantry, the dominant religious institution (strongly resembling Christianity on many accounts) on the continent of Thedas also administers lyrium to the Templars, supposedly to increase their resistance to magic, but certainly to make them addicted to the substance. (Jem’Hadar of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine, anyone?)
So, unwittingly, I cast my virtual self amidst two struggles: The Mages’ campaign for self-determination, freedom from the control of the Templars and the Chantry, and the Elves’ fight for equality among the races and justice and redemption for the crimes committed against them by the humans. Throughout the incredibly well written dialogs in Dragon Age Origins, there were many situations that specifically adressed my character either as an Elf, or as a Mage – and in general, that approach was skeptical or discriminating. I can’t remember a situation that addressed me as Elf AND Mage at the same time now, but it’s been a while since I played the first game, so I can’t say for sure whether they were any. Regardless, this discrimination one reason atop the other is exactly what intersectionality is about. While a Human Mage and an Elf Muggle (if you don’t know Harry Potter: a person with no magical talents) will be discriminated in this world, my Elf Mage can expect a doubly bad treatment.
While “being an Elf” is easily recognized as a racial classification causing racist discrimination, the “being a Mage” isn’t so easy. It’s not a personal choice to be a Mage, so it isn’t a political, social or religious factor. Neither is it a physical disability. I would put it in a category of “specially talented with an existing, but exaggerated risk of mental instability”. (Jennifer Hepler, who wrote the character Anders for Dragon Age 2 mentioned that she wrote him as a person with a mental disorder.) In my second playthrough, I played a Dwarf Commoner, who is only discriminated against by her own people – an example for discrimination based on class or caste.
Reading the definition quoted above, I realized that there were two “sections” that do not bear repercussions in the game, and one that is rarely selectable in dialogs, but usually has negative consequences as well. First of all, my Izka being female didn’t limit what I could do in terms of combat, skills, general dialog choices or quests. There were, however, women in the game that were cast in traditional roles and such, but this didn’t apply to the player character. In one of the Origin stories, when you are a Dwarf Commoner, your sister is the mistress of a Nobleman, in a quite typical submissive and dependent fashion. It made me cringe, but I had no option to change it (I might have, had I taken other options before. I might go back and try it… after I tried all the other Origins from start to end!) Sometimes, however, the game does address Izka specifically as a female, or have different lines for male and females even outside romance dialogs. One of my favorite times this gender-specific address occurs, is this dialog:
Alistair: “You know… it just occurred to me that there have never been many women in the Grey Wardens. I wonder why that is?”
You can pick these answers:
You want more women in the Wardens, do you?
Probably because we’re too smart for you.
(to which Alistair replies) “True. But if you’re here, what does that make you?”
Eager to get going.
Just one of the boys? [My favorite! This gets approval points from Alistair]
So not interested.
I can handle myself better than most.
How about you stop thinking of me as a woman?
I loved this dialog SO MUCH!!!
Secondly, Izka had the choice to romance Leliana, a female rogue. This homosexual romance has no negative impact in the game at all. (I can’t remember if any of my companions even commented).
Third, in some cases you have the option to voice atheist thoughts, challenging the belief of the Chantry. Leliana is a dedicated follower, so denying the Maker or defiling the ashes of his beloved Andraste will upset and eventually turn on you (unless you have convinced her earlier that her path as a Chantry lay-sister isn’t really for her – this is called “hardening” her).
I have, in previous posts, discussed this topic of whether discrimination should be depicted in RPGs. And my opinion remains a clear yes, with the Caveat that there must a choice in the game to fight this discrimination. As far as I’m concerned, this has worked well in The Witcher on a great scale, and I can remember various instances in other games, like Fallout: New Vegas (when a guy offers you protection, implying the “in exchange for certain services”) or Baldur’s Gate I, when you can save the Dark Elf Viconia from a mob, and so on.
This “rebellious behavior” is also possible in Origins. Izka survived the final battle and insisted that the Fereldan Circle of Mages be freed from the factual Templar rule. I couldn’t help the Elves to such a great degree, but I alleviated some of their problems. Maybe playing as a Dalish Elf (from one of the nomad clans, not a Circle Mage) gives this option, I haven’t completed this Origin.
One of my dearest moments in this game can happen in the romance dialogs with the “almost-Templar” Alistair, who was drafted into the Grey Wardens just a while before your character. As with most of his romance dialog, you have the choice to softly tease him. In this particular instance, you can tease him about being him being a Templar, who is in love with a mage and elf. I couldn’t find a transcript or video of that dialog (or maybe they are two separate ones) right now, I don’t know if I could find one of my savegame to record it, since I am uncertain when the dialog occurs. 🙁
On the other hand, Alistair can be quite the racist. If he is made King of Ferelden, and you’re not a Human Noble, he breaks off the romance (you can, under certain circumstances, become his mistress – which I wouldn’t, not even in a game). I got really mad at him – for all our love, for all he owed me, he wouldn’t at least TRY to convince his people to accept an Elf Queen? Such a royal coward!
On the other hand, this is realistic, too. People aren’t black-or-white in real life either, and we’re frequently given the option to do evil as player characters, and then again do good. Thus, if avatars can have such flaws, I suppose their companions would, and should, too. Similarly, no matter what you do, Alistair will leave your party if you allow Loghain to join and live. Quite unforgiving, just like real(istic) people can be.
To return to my statement of preferring Origins over DA2, it is all about identifying with the hero.Hawke is set as Human, the dominant race also in the Free Marches where Part 2 plays, and from a noble family. Of course, he or she is a refugee and has been wronged by circumstances beyond her or his control, but we have a sense of belonging to a higher class, being something better than those other refugees. Especially Hawke’s mother has a sense of lost glory and grandeur. Outside the game, Hawke is marketed as a Champion, so I know “I” will become that before I even start the game. While the narration (“how the story is told”) of this ascension is intriguing, the main motivation for me to play was to see what happened to my companions, their stories were much more captivating and some full of surprises.
Compared to this, I was able to identify with Izka much more, since I had more choices of who I wanted her to be. I don’t want to play a “rich kid who is currently in a rough spot”. Dragon Age: Origins put me in a rough life, and handed me ways to either fix things for myself, or strive for the greater good. It put me between the lines of several conflicts, made me feel these conflicts through little bits here and there in quests, lore and dialogs, but instead of making me pick sides in an inevitable conflict, the game allowed me to make some things better. To fix everything would’ve been cheap, but it gave me choices – mind you, not all of them were easy and comfortable either – to shape my own fate as well as that of several victimized groups. In comparison to this, Dragon Age 2 feels like I’m replaying someone else’s story that’s more or less fixed in its course – it’s still a good story, and very well told, but I miss the power to make wrongs right, or at least, less wrong.
In Origins, Izka definitely grows because of the opposition she faces (among other reasons) due to discrimination – and so do we real people. (And of course, this is in part my interpretation, but name one player who doesn’t add anything to the game’s narrative in his or her head!) Hawke, even if you play her or him as a Saint, is on a personal quest to regain lost family influence, amass riches and build a position of power for him- or herself. “Become Champion” – that is your destiny, marketing tells you. It’s a selfish motivation, and thus much less appealing to me. Maybe it’s due to the economic crisis all around us, that makes us think about our own well-being more and inspired the general direction of the game.
In this real life I keep referring to 😉 I try to speak up against discrimination when I encounter it. But I am just one girl in a big, often very bad world. I know we have to start somewhere, and that the little things do count. But sometimes, it’d be nice to slay an Archdemon, a little faerie comes up and asks a wish of you and you could choose between “Remember the Grey Wardens” and “Eradicate discrimination against [insert any aforementioned sections here]”!
Or in other words: “Just one girl, against all odds, saving the world”… and depending on what you’re thinking right now, I’ll add: “You may say, I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” 😉
Feminist geek rage time! I read (of all things!) an article on mobile games introducing more and more women into gaming on an Austrian website today and first was thrilled to spot an ad for Dragon Age 2 in it. It didn’t take me long to realize that the enthusiasm was misplaced. All this ad does is show stills of Isabela with those lines: “Wanna meet this woman?” – “Wanna get close to her?” – “Play the demo; she is waiting for you“.
See here (in German):
To me, it seems that whoever produced this text has formerly made a living in the porn/sex hotline business… There is NOTHING about the game in this ad, all it does is appeal to male fantasies. I can hear many of you saying “But she’s still dressed” or “I’ve seen more sexist ads for games”. Believe me, I am aware of that. But this is Dragon Age we’re talking about. Dragon Age: Origins was an RPG that appealed to many female players. It’s very inclusive – we’ve seen homo- and bisexual characters and romance options, we’ve seen topics of gender identity (Shale’s history) and of racial discrimination (elves, mages) and many other social issues. BioWare itself has a history of being the good guys, in my book especially regarding gender issues. It is known for high standards in dialogs and plot, not cheap thrills.
Of course, Origins had its saucy moments – but they were witty and cleverly written in comparison to this stupid ad – I really, really enjoyed them. One example is to follow shortly.
But first, a little bit on Isabela’s history and character. When the Warden meets her in Origins, she is in The Pearl, a brothel. But don’t jump to conclusions: she’s not employed there, she’s a customer. She’s a self-sufficient and quite quarrelsome pirate captain, capable of handling three (IIRC) men in a swordfight. She unlocks the Duelist specialization for your party. Depending on your gender (and maybe other factors, I haven’t tried it) you can have sex or even a three- or foursome with her.
If that’s not enough, here’s another example of dialog that shows how it’d be her to make Alistair or the Warden a pinup, not be turned into one herself:
Isabela: “My dear, you wouldn’t consider…leaving Alistair with me, would you? Perhaps let me borrow him for a week every summer? I’m sure we could work out a deal.”
Warden: “Would you lend me your ship?”
Isabela: “Of course not! You would misuse the ship– Which, I suppose, is exactly what I would do with Alistair, though I suspect he would enjoy it while the ship wouldn’t.”
Alistair: “Not that the idea of being borrowed isn’t terribly fascinating, but let’s not forget the darkspawn. There may not be a week every summer, or any summer.”
Isabela: “Darkspawn! Is this the only thing men think about these days? What about the good old obsessions? Breasts, firm buttocks, wet frocks?”
Alistair: “Hmm… wet frocks…”
As you can see, she not a prude, she’s a proud, witty, (sexually and otherwise) self-determined woman. She could really be a feminist role model in this fantasy setting. Instead they made her a fantasy model in a sexist setting. From being an active protagonist that holds great meaning for the game’s story, the ad turns her into a passive sex object. I hope that this gets corrected in the game itself… and until I can check that, I’m trying to convince myself that this ad was done by evil EA marketers, not BioWare. 😉
[Edit] Thanks to @aeazel on Twitter, I have just read The Games We Play: The Whitewashing of Video Games on Bitch Magazine. It made me realize that, while Isabela is supposed to be a woman of color, she is pearly white in the above ad and other promotional material. The only thing I find funny about that is that you meet her in “The Pearl” – other than that all I have is disbelief and growing anger. BioWare, please cast Crushing Prison on your marketing people.
I’ve recently stumbled upon an interesting feature on Game Career Guide. Time for Change is about what would happen if you swapped the gender of game heroes and heroines, and how that would affect them (and the game we’d get to play if they were for real).
“The aim of the project was to examine how female characters are created for games, what purpose they serve, and how they could be designed to stay true to the spirit of an exisiting character while offering a new experience that might appeal to a broader audience, and making sense in a real-world context.”
Not all of them are really appealing to me, but the idea made me think. I usually play games in which I can pick the gender of my avatar and that are dialog-heavy, already giving lots of options of behavior and thus a feel of being able to customize your avatar’s personality. Some of these options are more traditionally male, others are traditionally female. I might go one way in my first playthrough as female, and an entirely different one in a consecutive playthrough as male. But that’s my interpretation of the game, not an intentional “feminine path” that is offered to me. It is, as I have explained before in this post, that the “masculine path” is the norm of what we get to play, and often enough, all that get’s changed is the body of the avatar and the address of Sir to Ma’am.
[Side Note: Check out this list of action heroes on Wikipedia. See how Commander Shepard from Mass Effect is listed as male, but not female? MaleShep is considered the “iconic Shepard”. FemShep, in spite of being loved by many fans for her great personality (thanks to the fab voice acting by Jennifer Hale) is not mentioned.]
One of the gender-swapped concepts in Time for Change is Princess of Persia, who relies on subtlety and (even more) agility than the Prince. Another is Leisure Suit Larissa, whom you have to help finding a mate suitable for a lifelong relationship – ok, maybe not that exciting a game for me and many of you – that’s not the point right now, though. A third is playing Zelda instead of Link in Ocarina of Time, paying attention to the physical differences between men and women – i.e., Zelda has no heavy shield, but casts a magical barrier for protection, and so on.
I clicked more links, hoping for more such great ideas… and I promptly found a more ambiguous one showing sketches of a few gender-swapped action heroes and heroines. I like the ideas of the artworks, but as one of the comments suggests – there HAS to be more to heroines than big boobs and small pieces of fabric. [Mind you I like mini skirts myself, but I wouldn’t want to be defined by that choice.] I wish I could draw some sketches myself – instead I have found another great image of how different male body types can be within one and the same game, Team Fortress 2 in this case. (Although I must point out that TF2 doesn’t feature any women, so that’s not a perfect performance in my book, either.) These are all different classes from Medic to Heavy Gun Specialist, Spy, etc.:
An artist took these as basis for designs for females… designs with which I’m in love! 😉 Note that these were, at least two of them, implemented in the game, so the basic models had to remain the same for the animations to work. That’s why these ladies have unchanging, and slightly off proportions within their class, but nonetheless, they are awesome! I had to laugh because the left gal in the 2nd row has visibly unshaved legs, and her creator wrote the note “stubble legs” next to it. I suppose survival should beat beauty on the battlefield. ^_^
Of course, these are just female faces and bodies again – not a “feminine path” to play. But as I’ve talked about interpreting meaning into the choices we do have – I think I can more easily interpret game heroines like these as realistic women with character than “tits and ass in a steel bikini”[quote from the producer of Mirror’s Edge about a fan-made adaptation of its main character; also to be found in Shaylyn’s article at Game Career Guide, see link below].
Very short post here, as I noticed something “funny” in Civ5 recently.
The female leaders (as the male ones) are designed with great care and love for details. They are definitely fewer in numbers, but then, it’s supposed to be a realistic historic setting. That’s ok with me – I have learned a great deal history (AND English) beginning with the first Civ game.
As an example for the female leaders, here’s Catherine of Russia. I picked her for my first play – I find Russia intriguing, and of course I always play ladies first. 😉
What’s not so ok with me, is a theoretically VERY VERY VERY small detail in the game. It’s like the devs thought they could get away with it, nobody would notice, it’s not a big deal, blah blah blah. I noticed, and do care. Look at that:
Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see Jeanne D’Arc included in a game once again (Did anyone play the RPG Lionheart? She KICKED ASS as NPC!), and I’m thrilled that she is “one of the guys” regarding her abilities, but… was the beard really necessary? Taking into account that we’re talking major developer and publisher on a big budget… how much would it have cost you to make this 2D image of Jeanne look like a girl? Let me know, and I’ll gladly send you a check before you publish Civ6…
Yes, it’s not a game I’m talking about! And yes, the title is a play on femme fatale! And as a last introductory note, I have watched the show only once (but not the last time!) and apologize if I can’t remember exact details. [Spoiler Warning – Firefly plot arcs mentioned]
N7_Commander, who writes Mass Effect slash fiction on Twitter, told me she would be interested in my thoughts about Firefly. So, as the short-lived series has ample interesting angles on gender portrayals, I thought she had a point, and here goes…
First point of note is that Firefly’s main characters make up a decent RPG party (maybe all at the same time would be a little too much):
Mal: Warrior/Thief dual class
Zoe: Paladin or Warrior
Jayne: Barbarian 🙂
Kaylee: Rogue – the repairing/lockpicking, not the throat-cutting type! 🙂
River: Berzerk 😉
Wash: I’m not sure of the official translation, but in The Dark Eye RPG ‘verse – and in my opinion – he’d be a gleeman (Gaukler) who takes the edge off tense moments and displays pragmatism as well as humor in various situations. He shies away from conflict, unless his friends are in danger. Maybe a Bard would also come close… hmm.
These are (with Wash being an annoying exception, lol) all pretty clear classes for the RPG enthusiast. What’s interesting, is that the females were harder to put a tag onto, than the male characters. I had a vague feeling about this while watching the show, and while writing this, seeing it black on white, it’s even more true. All of the Firefly women would work great as main characters in games. [Note: I’m neither saying the men wouldn’t or that they are bland characters – but it’s much less unusual to have interesting male characters than the other way round.] They are all more than meets the eye, and quite multi-dimensional in character. I hope that this achievement of TV series will soon spill into the gaming world.
Zoe is a kick-ass warrior woman who is deeply loyal to her former superior Mal. It seems nothing can stop her once she’s made up her mind. She has a strong will and commands respect. It is primarily her relationship with Wash that shows us her soft spots and feminine side. That Zoe and Mal are very close without having had a romantic past is still a rare occurrence in stories like Firefly’s – I liked that, nice change (Mal & Inara’s sexual tension thing was entertaining but definitely “nothing new or unexpected”). Oh, and by the way, Zoe was my personal favorite in the show.
Kaylee is a gifted mechanic and a sweet, happy girl. We’ve seen gifted female starship engineers before – but try to picture B’Elanna Torres of Voyager in the pink ruffled dress Kaylee wears for a ball!!! o_O While we see Kaylee being insecure around Simon, she got her job being MUCH less insecure with the previous mechanic in (I think it was) the engine room. Although Kaylee is sometimes way too girly for my personal taste, I do appreciate her as a fellow girly geek.
River is (at least until the series progresses) the token female mystery character (Shepherd being the male mystery character). A disturbed, traumatized killing machine. After being the subject of various experiments, she is saved by her brother Simon. For the most part of the short series, we see her suffering from her memories. She creeps out most members of Serenity’s crew. When I started watching the show, I thought I had her figured out – I thought she had been changed into a psi-killer. Stereotype dictates that women are psi/mental/magic, not melee berzerks. The girl had me fooled. To even out that brutal side, River is a very talented and graceful dancer.
Inara, the beautiful and educated companion with all her refined behavior, who turns the head of just about any man, actually has a thing for the somewhat crude Mal. In spite of her looks, she isn’t portrayed as a shallow prettyface, but a thoughtful, caring person who has high moral standards albeit her profession may stereotypically imply otherwise. In the movie Serenity, we see she is quite capable with weapons. Not much was revealed on her motivation to be aboard Serenity, and various hints indicate she was dying of a terminal illness, so she could have become the show’s later mystery woman. In any case, it was refreshing to see her resolve to leave and be independent, cutting short Mal’s resolve to confess his love for her. Again, I was expecting a cheesy happy ending thing – and was surprised. (But who knows what would have happened later…)
To wrap this up – I would have loved to learn more about the characters of Firefly, especially about the ladies, who are great examples of non-stereotypical gender portrayals. I can only repeat that I would love to PLAY such interesting, multi-faceted heroines in RPG games. That’d be awesomesauce.
This post will present some of my favorite/funniest/most memorable moments in Fallout: New Vegas thus far, which I’ve finished once. As you’ve probably come to expect from me by now, it will focus on the depiction of women in the game. Comments welcome, as usual. [Note: Minor spoilers (companions, locations and similar) ahead. The title pays tribute to F:NV, as the quests bear names from popular songs, some of which you can even listen to on your Pip-Boy’s radio.]
I had agreed with some other female game bloggers (blogging game girls/gaming bloggirls…. whatever) that Fallout 3 never made you feel like you were (playing) a woman. Apart from a few instances, this has been improved in New Vegas… not in a tickled-pink, sugar-coated way. The Wasteland is a rough place… why should it be any better for a girl? The secret to success lies in whether I – with my foul mouth and gun in hand 😉 – can REACT to the bad treatment…
After playing Mass Effect and Dragon Age, I really miss their elaborate face generators. Not really satisfied with this one, especially the shades of a moustache and sideburns that wouldn’t go away. Oh well, I’ll find a helmet soon!
The sought-after helmet turned out to be a cool beret with benefits, from my first companion. Boone totally reminds me of Carth Onasi from Knights of the Old Republic, as he’s bitter about having lost his wife and seeks revenge. (If you tell him to “keep the distance” in the tactics wheel, he will say “That’s what I do best” – it’s hilarious!) He flirts less than Carth, though. When I took the above screenshot, I just did it to show them off wearing their berets… 😉 but now I imagine there was something going on between them, even if the developer Obisidian won’t allow it.
I don’t know why Boone doesn’t react to me running around half-naked without a comment. In fact, YOU DIMWIT, this is a rigged collar that will explode if I take one wrong step! Truly, the fact that your companions don’t react to this turn of events was a total dialog-breaker for me.
At least Boone knows I’m female, unlike Manny here… but then, that next guy takes the “acknowledgment” a step too far – and YIPPIE, the game gives me the chance to tell him off:
There’s a fair share of tough cookies wandering the Mojave Wasteland too: Soldiers, doctors, business women, bandits. Some seem to like to be the only tough cookie around:
Then of course there are drunks, gamblers, hookers… while it may be an improvement in game world credibility that there are female drunks/gamblers/bums, I’m missing the men-whores… 😉 There are a couple of female pimps, for example this one here, who has a strict no-sampling policy:
The only thing I just had to sample was Fisto, the sex robot. I later even found one single male prostitute – but he was members-only. I still wonder if that was meant literally….
Uhm… what was I saying…. ahh yes, the women in the game! [Edit after playing through: There ARE men-whores! Epic win for ingame equality! 😉 ]
Now, after all these live guys’n’gals… this bandit chick had no luck at all. She tried to kill me, and then she fell dead like this:
Now some of my random, less “gender-issuey” favorites:
That’s it for now – if you have played F:NV, what were your funniest/etc. moments? And of course, I’m interested in your perception of the gender portrayals in the game – as always!