Guild Wars 2 and the misogynistic bad guys

Guild Wars 2 features five playable races: humans, sylvari, asura, norn, and charr. Each of these races includes an antagonist faction who will fight against the rest of their race, and be one of the enemies of your player character. So for instance, if you’re playing a sylvari, you’ll encounter members of the Nightmare Court: a group of sylvari who reject the typical sylvari traits like compassion and curiosity and strive to replace them with fear and violence.

Right now, I’d like to discuss the Sons of Svanir and the Flame Legion, who are the antagonist factions for the norn and the charr respectively. One thing that these two groups have in common is a “no girls allowed” sign hung outside their metaphorical clubhouses. I’m not certain how I feel about this.

If you dig into the lore, you’ll find they have pretty similar rationales for the exclusion of women. In both cases, there was a woman hundreds of years ago who stood up to them, and they decided to generalise from that woman to all women, decide that women can’t be trusted, and ostracise them thereafter.

I want to say that this is just cartoon supervillainy, with the evil turned up to 11. I want to say that it’s as if they revealed that these factions stand for punching kittens and pouring toxic waste in duck ponds. I want to say that, but I can’t, because that kind of ridiculous exclusion of women is too prevalent, still, in real life.

How many women have never been in a situation like in xkcd’s comic How It Works? As women gamers, many of us are used to being on trial as a representative for our gender every time we game. We know that if we mess up then there’s a chance that someone will decide that it’s because girls suck at gaming, and decide that their guild should be an exclusively male affair.

It has to be reiterated, though, that these groups are the bad guys, and are not being held up as at all admirable. The Sons of Svanir worship a dragon who wants to destroy the world, so I sincerely hope that nobody thinks that they epitomise good judgement and should be taken as role models. I’m certainly a whole lot happier seeing this than I am when the alleged heroes are misogynistic jerks.

At the same time, though, I think that I’d prefer not to see it at all. One of the purposes of gaming is escapism, and it’s nice to be able to get away to a game world where this sort of sexism just doesn’t exist. I get enough of it in the real world without seeing it in games as well.

I think that ultimately, my own opinion will depend on where they go with this in the story. Will I be given the agency to confront them about their misogyny and come away victorious? Or will the storyline directly confront the sexism and provide social commentary on it? Maybe their exclusion of women will come back and bite them in the rear, directly resulting in their defeat at the hands of their would-be opressees?

Since the game is still new, I have no idea how things will play out. If any of the three situations I just outlined come to pass, then I think  I will see it as a net positive in the game. If it’s just a case of “yes, some bad people will treat you shoddily if you have a female player character, but that’s what bad people do so you’ll just have to deal with it” then it will likely end up being a net negative to me.

For now, I think I’m willing to give Arenanet the benefit of the doubt; they have a pretty good record on this sort of thing, and I’m enjoying the game a great deal, so I want to see how this turns out.

About rho

Scientist, woman, lesbian, transsexual, gamer, geek, feminist, liberal, rationalist, and various other labels. Gamer since the days of the ZX81. Feminist since the time I realised that the label was not synonymous with transphobe. I keep a sporadically-updated personal blog about whatever's on my mind at the time.
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40 Responses to Guild Wars 2 and the misogynistic bad guys

  1. feministgamer says:

    Ergh … yeah. I can’t really think of a good way to describe that icky feeling I get when games include misogyny like that. I can barely dictate why I can’t and won’t read Game of Thrones because I find no entertainment value in a world that is openly misogynistic, even if it’s to point out that it’s bad mmkay. The misogyny still exists and I still have to put up with it. My characters will still be subjected to it, the hateful things will still feel just as hateful. It will feel real. It’s the opposite of what I want to be experiencing for a piece of entertainment I paid for.

    What REALLY gets my goat about these manifestations of misogyny is that even if you express how you’re uncomfortable with it as a woman, the male developers, players, readers, whatever will adamantly tell you to shut up about it. And then the misogyny is very much real.

  2. Sivi says:

    At least in the case of the Flame Legion, the “bit on the ass” bit is part of their backstory (http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Kalla_Scorchrazor)

    I can see having issues with it. Partly since this is seen as Kalla bringing the Charr back to the “old ways” of gender equality; I don’t like that this is bringing back some golden age, rather than representing some kind of true progress. And making the unambiguous bad guys (and yeah, they’re super unambiguous – I don’t know if I’ve been spoiled lately or something, but some of the writing is very blunt and unsophisticated) misogynists gives cover for every dude-bro to go “I don’t hate women because I’m not a Bad Guy!”.

    I do like it when my media engages with privilege, but I can see not wanting the same crap coming up even in escapist stuff, where they don’t HAVE to have it.

    So far, at least for the Charr and Asura (the ones I’ve mostly been playing), they seem to handle gender pretty well in visuals and in writing. I’ve noticed some annoying gendering in visuals (like armor design and body size/shape) for the Norns and Humans, but it’s certainly an improvement over the first game.

    Out of curiosity, anyone finding the ‘client races’ stuff pretty awkward? I’m thinking ones here (wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Playable_races#Racial_sympathy)

    The wiki’s kind of overloaded at the moment, but I can’t find another good source.

    • Nefa says:

      I’m not sure if context makes the while thing different, but from the Ghosts of Ascalon book they do explain this whole Charr story with some detail at least.

      The Flame Legion are painted as religious extremists and managed to convince a once secular group of Charr to believe in what they were preaching. (I think they came to be when everyone in Tyria was given crazy magic powers or something) A female charr stood up and called them out, and in turn the Flame Legion claimed that women were all poison and demanded banishment from their current ranks.

      Many years later, the return of women to equality, helped to fortify the other Charr legions in overthrowing the power the Flame Legion (and their “False Gods”) had over them.

      So, I guess I read it as being more a parody on the Christian extremist stuff, Eve & apple etc. etc.

      Or, it was just sloppy writing to cover up that they only had male charr models in the first game!

    • Cluisanna says:

      I don’t really see the problem with the racial sympathy? Maybe I’m missing anything, but it seems reasonable to become allied with neighbouring peoples who have the same enemy.

  3. Ameranth says:

    Yeah, this part of lore always bugged me. The one good thing about it is that the lore states it’s a small faction/cult of extremists that the rest of the norn pretty much dismiss and/or dislike. It’s never shown as a good thing. So there’s that.

    There’s always a battle in my mind when things like this come up. On the one hand the lore really makes sense within the world – with the story of Jora and Svanir and Jormag’s corruption. But then on the other hand, real life people are creating this world and can make any story make sense and fit into the lore, so why focus on misogyny and sexism? It’s a little frustrating.

    • Syl says:

      I agree with this fully. is the game truly sexist just because it features a faction of people that are? sure, you can take a stand for complete escapism in MMOs – but other than that, the real world will never be freed of sexism just because it’s not allowed to be a topic in media anymore or shown in any type of context. to me, it’s exactly the context that matters and how the sexism is presented. is it glorified or frowned upon? does the player get means to oppose it or not?

      we need to discuss sexism because sexism IS a reality today – and we’ve a better chance to improve matters by showing how and why it is bad, not by artificially censoring it from all media. unfortunately ‘dont see you, dont hear you’ doesn’t work so well.

      • rho says:

        Just to be entirely clear, I don’t believe that the game is sexist. Worst case scenario, I’d say it could be viewed as unfortunate. But sexist, no.

        (And I know you weren’t saying that I did say this; I just wanted to make sure that I was being 100% unambiguous.)

        And I agree with you that discussing sexism is a positive thing, but I think it’s worth making the distinction between discussing sexism and including sexism. There’s a big difference between “here is a world with some sexism” and “here is a world with some sexism, and this is what we have to say about it”. The first serves little purpose, whereas the latter can be powerful and profound (provided what they have to say is thoughtful enough).

        As I said in the original article, I’m not really certain how I feel about this, and I want to see how things turn out before I try to make concrete my thoughts.

        • Syl says:

          Yeah I realize you didn’t do that in your article :) I was generally speaking. I just finished that particular Norn personal quest step where my character was told that women are weak, so I was wondering who’d pick this up in the blogosphere soon.

  4. Christina González says:

    I noticed this back in beta, and this weekend as well. But the one thing aside from the fact that the Sons of Svanir are being portrayed as a big bad, was that my character is written in such a way that she takes none of this crap from anyone.

    Yes, games are usually a form of escapism, but there is a place for games to have some grounding in reality and the reality is that sexism still exists. If my character’s reaction had been different or the accompanying voice acting less emphatic and confident, then maybe I’d feel differently. But she’s there to do what needs to be done and nothing is stopping her. Plus, these guys are letting their bias blind them to the powerful women about to take them down. Since I am playing Norn, I’ve been running with Eir Stegalkin, who is pretty legendary in the lore and my character’s mentor.

    • Alex says:

      This is basically how I look at it. And really, defeating misogynists with your righteous feminist fury is just as escapist as a completely non-sexist world, it’s just a different kind. But I can understand preferring (or wanting to see, since basically no games have actually managed to create a non-sexist world) the latter.

    • Nonny says:

      Yeah, this. I haven’t gotten all that far — about level 10 on my Norn and 16 on my Charr but I’ve already seem some amount of commentary. I will note that it’s been through the personal stories and maybe it’s been different depending on which options you pick, but there were two scenarios that stood out for me. One being where my character and Eir Stegalkin confront a Svanir shaman and basically call him out on his BS regarding women — he tries to brush you off and you give him NO choice in the matter. Then with the Charr, there’s a scene where you’re sent to recover supplies with a female companion; you find out the supplies are being stolen by the Flame Legion, who try to woo you over to their side, with the assurance that “females have it easier in Flame Legion.” Your companion responds with dialogue that boils down to, “Wait. You want me to defect — and then demote me to FRY COOK?” Part of that, though, is the tone of the voice acting. The sheer incredulity of how ridiculous this suggestion is can’t entirely be described in text.

      The commentary is subtle but there, and I’ve also run across male characters that have commented on how ridiculous the misogynistic attitudes are — which I find worthy of comment because in most games, it is only the women characters that speak up. Which is problematic to me, because it suggests complacency and perhaps passive acceptance on the part of the male characters.

  5. Korva says:

    I’m very much of two minds about it. The most glaring issue to me is that you never see it happen with men. Okay, except in very rare “amazon” like cases. I’m new to the world, but I’m pretty sure that most evil organizations and entities had male heroes kick them in the teeth too, so where’s the No Boys Allowed club? The fact that there is no such thing does, as you say, point to an underlying sexist attitude that appears to clash quite badly with normally egalitarian societies. If those badguy norn or charr didn’t already dislike women, why would they paint all with the same brush? And if they did dislike women, why is there no mention of it in their greater culture?

    On the other hand, the charr women’s rebellion under Kalla Scorchrazor was a pretty good read and I love the big statue of her in the Black Citadel. Made my charrior today, and I’m already enjoying the atmosphere more than I expected since I don’t normally dig military/industry/conqueror backgrounds at all.

  6. Amanda says:

    Pretty much what Christina said.

    I noticed the Sons of Svanir misogyny bit too because I’m full on playing Norn. I did have a chuckle about it (my character’s facial expressions, no nonsense voice acting), and it struck me enough that I commented on it to my partner – so yes, it threw me a little, but I was glad my toon didn’t kowtow. I would be keen to see the SoS called on their BS – I’d totally be down with some social commentary like that.

    I do love playing my Norn because she’s mostly running with women leaders/mentors.

    From what I know of ArenaNet (and a couple people I sometimes talk to who work there), they’re a company who rank high in equality. Sure, this is the gaming industry and it’s not perfect, but I’ve been playing GW for 7 years and I find it difficult to go to any other game because of the sexism, homophobia and racism, in game and in community. Yes, there is some of that in the GW community, but they have a reasonably good system for reporting.

    Also, I know the Sylvari aren’t perfect (for example, why do they have gender if they’re not “born”), but they’re a big step towards the representation of queer and genderqueer people in gaming.

    • Wyn says:

      Small world. I stumbled across this article searching Twitter for “guild wars 2″ and turns out I used to run in the same circles (LiveJournal/Dreamwidth volunteering) as the author. Hi, rho. :)

      Anyway, to the main point of my comment. I originally had similar thoughts re: the sylvari having a sex/gender given they don’t sexually procreate, but I’ve since seen it addressed by the writers.

      The sylvari are an inherently curious race, eager for experience, and as such they emulate other sentient species even down to the biological level. Basically they’re plants trying to be humanoid in as many ways as possible, which includes sex/gender.

      Same goes for eating and drinking in the humanoid sense. They’re plants – why don’t they just photosynthesise? Because then they’d miss out on the experience of chewing, tasting, swallowing, sitting down to a meal, etc.

      Whether that was the plan all along or it’s just a cop out for writers to explain away issues like this, I’m not sure. I’d like to believe it was all intentional though.

      Sorry to talk to a small off-hand comment and run with it, but I love the sylvari and their lore. :D

    • rho says:

      Yeah. ArenaNet are generally decent with this sort of stuff, I agree. Not perfect, by any means, but a whole lot better than most AAA studios. That’s why I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt and see how everything turns out, rather than just jumping to a snap decision.

    • Korva says:

      I do love playing my Norn because she’s mostly running with women leaders/mentors.

      Sweet, I look forward to my own norn (ranger), then. :) With my Noon bloom sylvari guardian, I have definitely enjoyed the strong female presence too: first and foremost there is Caithe, the leader of my cycle is also a woman, then of course there’s the Pale Tree. On the enemy side, a female Nightmare courtier swore a personal vendetta against me, and the leader of that outfit is a woman as well.

      The charr women are great too, so far. Not only does their design rock, but the way the NPCs are written makes it clear they have the same ferocity and confidence as their male counterpart. Right from the beginning you meet ranking women who are not at all afraid or ashamed to firmly pull that rank. Even though I don’t normally like military characters as I said, that got a big happy grin out of me.

  7. Alex says:

    Great post. This is a topic that is so interesting to me. I feel a bit differently about it, personally, but I definitely sympathize with where you’re coming from.

    It’s been made clear in interviews that at least some of the writers at ArenaNet are feminists and/or care about inclusivity. So I have a bit of a theory as to why this approach was taken, as opposed to making a completely non-sexist world (well, aside from explaining why there are no female Charr in GW1, but that’s a boring reason :P).

    It’s been written about a lot, but the mechanics of GW2 encourage cooperation and helpfulness at every level. You can’t actually grief people, and if you did find away, there’s no reward for it because driving other players away only harms. The game is more fun when there are other players around. In addition, the community team did a blog post explaining their goals for the GW2 community, explicitly saying they want to foster a community that is inclusive and welcoming. They also have an instant-suspension policy for offensive character names.

    But also… there was a thread in the Beta forms during one of the BWEs where a player who had created a human thief and chosen the background option that they had grown up on the streets asked why their character was forced to be noble and selflessly helpful. They thought that based on the character’s profession and background, they maybe wouldn’t be so helpful without at least asking for compensation, or something. I thought this was a pretty reasonable question, and the answer from someone on the team interested me. They said that having the player characters be noble and helpful was a deliberate decision on the part of the team, and that this just isn’t a game where you can play a bad or shady character.

    So my theory is: ArenaNet designed every aspect of the game to encourage healthy community attitudes, including the story. Your character is a kind, helpful person because that’s how they want their players to behave. The gameplay, the community goals and moderation policies, and the story are all designed so that the game will a. attract players who are into that sort of thing in the first place, and b. set a tone that will influence players’ behavior. They are really taking leadership and setting a good example.

    When it comes to the Sons of Svanir and the Flame Legion, what ends up happening is that–since your character embodies values that the developers want to encourage–standing up against sexism becomes a value that the developers encourage in the players; not just not being sexist, but actually fighting sexism. Literally! And I really love that.

    But at the same time, as I said above, I definitely understand where you are coming from. This is just how I see it, and I get wanting nothing to do with sexism at all. I think that fantasy can basically take four different approaches to sexism: non-sexist (there was never sexism in this world, completely equal), post-sexist (society was sexist but not any more), sexist (not necessarily in an endorsing sort of way), and reversed (sexism against men is the norm). Any of those approaches are valid, and any of them can be executed well or poorly. I personally think GW2 is a well-executed example of a combination of non-sexist and post-sexist (depending on your species). So far, at least!

    Anyway, sorry to ramble on. Thanks for writing this, it gave me a lot of food for thought!

    • Kimiko says:

      Wow, that sounds really nice :)

      Is there a playable demo yet that I can try out before I have to decide to buy a full game that may or may not work on Linux?

    • Dave says:

      If the developers really do have a commitment to social justice, then this explanation makes sense. In games we fight against all sorts of evil people – people who practice torture, slavery, murder, etc. I think by adding sexism to the list they’re making a statement about how discrimination should be lumped in with all the other evils. Hopefully some players will internalize that if they haven’t already…

      But!

      There’s been a lot of discussion in the RL role-playing community about bringing real-world discrimination/persecution into games. Because the people at the table are likely to have personal experience with it, it has to be handled much more seriously. It has a tendency to become the focus of the game precisely because it’s so present and relevant. The general advice seems to be don’t do it unless everyone is on board and wants it to be part of the game.

      So yay for the developers having their hearts in the right place, but boo for forcing people to confront bullshit they’re playing to get away from without their consent.

      • Alex says:

        But not everyone is playing to “get away” from the sexism (etc). I completely understand that motivation, but for me, I find storylines that address sexism can often make the story more meaningful to me because it speaks to my experience and being able to confront it safely is another kind of escapism (as I said, if done well).

        • Dave says:

          It’s not bad to put it in the game, but players should be made aware that if they pick race/origin X, they’re going to have to deal with it. In other words, give the player the power to choose if they want it to be part of their game.

    • rho says:

      For me (and I definitely recognise that this isn’t going to be the same for everyone), there’s a difference between “fighting sexism” and “fighting people who are sexist”. While I’ve killed a whole bunch of Sons of Svanir and Flame Legion, I’ve never been fighting them because of their sexism. There’s always been other, more pressing reasons (they’re evil, they’re trying to kill me).

      This is why I long for the game to go into more detail about this. I want to feel as if the sexism is actually one of the reasons that I’m fighting them. I would find that to be greatly empowering, whereas I just don’t feel that when I’m fighting guys who just happen to be sexist.

      I do agree that this is definitely something where reasonable people can reach different conclusions. Different people will feel different ways about things. Even if this turns out to be something that I feel negatively about, I think it will be as “something I personally would rather not have in games I play” rather than “things that flat out should not be included in games”.

      I’m not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense. I’m thinking-as-I-write here, so my thoughts are possibly not as well formed as they could be.

      • Alex says:

        No, that is a really good point. It’s not a very nuanced depiction of sexism or anything (so far anyway, but I doubt it will get better, and I’m wary that the heroes will end up having to Put Aside Their Differences and Work Together with the raging misogynists). I think it’s an interesting choice for the purposes of encouraging behaviors in the community.

    • Korva says:

      Thank you for that link about name-bans! So Kotaku shows some signs of getting better? This is exactly how Anet needs to go about it: zero tolerance for crap right from the start and a firm no-nonsense approach to whiners who deliberately break rules and expect to get away with it in the name of “free speech”. I hope the same will apply to their forums when they go live. Don’t let the hateful people entrench themselves as they’re used to doing, show them right away that here they need to actually behave — or else.

      • Alex says:

        I just found this out today, but they are also suspending and banning people for offensive language in chat. Here’s a Reddit thread where they are posting the exact text for which people were banned, if they ask. It is pretty awesome.

        • Lyss says:

          I was just scrolling down to see if anyone else had posted a link to this! The zero-tolerance for offensive behavior is amazing. And not just for personal attacks – they gave a suspension for an offhand racist joke. Seriously, bravo ANet.

        • rho says:

          Yes! That right there is a great example of why I’m willing to give them a lot of benefit of the doubt.

        • Korva says:

          Wow. Now I don’t know if I’m amused but unsurprised by all the liars and clueless snots … or sickened at the thought of how many people whine that they’re innocent because it apparently doesn’t ever occur to them that the hatespeech they use so readily is awful … as well as very clearly against the rules. It’s hardly a new revelation, but it still makes my stomach churn.

          It is very satisfying to see the putrid “2 k3wl 4 u” crowd who either don’t read rules or refuse to accept that said rules actually apply to them get outed and dealt with, though.

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  9. Cluisanna says:

    I did some of the norn personal storyline quests, and at one point my female norn had a conversation with a son of svanir that basically went “Get back to the kitchen, woman!” – “You’re so dead.” And then I killed him and all of his friends. In real life I am all for peaceful response and against violence, but I have to say it felt really good to kick a sexist’s ass.

  10. Shinobi says:

    Now I want to make a Carr character!

    I actually think it is interesting that extreme sexism and exclusion of women is being associated with being “the bad guy” here. I think that alone is a net good. The idea that sexism is a symptom of a larger bad times regime seems obvious to me, but having it portrayed very clearly in a video game makes me happy. Not because I like re experiencing sexism, but I like that it is being portrayed as unambiguously bad. The more people see gender based exclusion associated with bad, the better in my opinion.

    • Negative Kat says:

      I am so loving playing my Charr woman right now. I’m not very far yet (stupid work!), but my story has already included wiping the floor with some Flame Legion spies who thought they were going to “teach this girl some manners,” the officers are about an even split between male and female (and they’re all treated with the same amount of respect), and my warband so far is entirely made up of women, completely by accident on my part. In how many games would that even be possible? And yeah, the writing isn’t subtle, but some anvils need to be dropped, as they say.

      I also really like the idea that their culture is returning to equality, rather than achieving it for the first time. To me, it says that the natural course of a society doesn’t have to be patriarchy, and then maybe equality later if everyone’s very enlightened and lucky. I also love that the three Legions that are equal are thriving together and kicking ass, while the Legion that keeps half its population barefoot and pregnant and runs on the idea of domination seems to be just limping along.

      I have a lot of feelings about Charr, sorry. :v They’re so fun and I adore them.

      • rho says:

        My experiences with my charr have been quite different. I had to infiltrate a flame legion meeting to discover their plans, which meant I had to disguise myself as a male charr. Then when I gave the password to get into the meeting, the conversation went something like “you have a funny voice!” “shut up, I’m a man, OK?” After that, no mention of my being a woman.

        Obviously, the experiences seem to vary quite wildly depending on choices taken in-game. I’m heartened to hear that the bits you got to play were as you described, because that sounds like a lot of fun. This is exactly what I meant when I talked about giving ArenaNet the benefit of the doubt, and waiting to see what else showed up.

        • Negative Kat says:

          That sounds…wow. I’d have been disappointed with that, too. I just hit another story quest with Flame Legion that struck me as being somewhat lazily written, but not near that level. What a shame. I’m only level 15 right now, hopefully this doesn’t mean my Charr experience is going to go downhill.

    • ERose says:

      “The more people see gender based exclusion associated with bad, the better in my opinion.”

      I definitely prefer it be associated with bad than anything else if it’s going to be included, but I guess if it’s just associated with bad without any nuance, it concerns me. Just because I do know so many men whose thought process seems to go- “Sexism is bad. I am not bad. Therefore I am not being sexist”- and stop there.
      If it’s just bad guys who are sexist, why bother? If I wanted to deal with guys who happen to be sexist, I’d go outside. If the sexism is part of their weakness or if it’s balanced by a gameplay option where gender inclusion is part of a race’s advantage – like a mixed gender group gets some kind of strength bonus or something – that’s another thing all together. Since the truth is more nuanced than “sexism bad,” I feel like it would be cool if its portrayal in game worlds also were more nuanced than that.

      • KA101 says:

        True: though sexism = bad, reality has a way of making things more complex. That said, Stardock got in trouble here (a few years ago though, IIRC) for making egalitarianism a positive trait (pay design-points, get increased recruitment or somesuch) in one of its 4X games.

        A bonus for egalitarianism implies that misogyny (misandry is theoretically possible, but I’ve never heard of it done seriously) is the default. Might be better to have all factions be egalitarian and have sexism be a disadvantage.

        As in, “sure, you can exclude one gender, but let’s make sure you feel it in several really irritating ways down the road”. Would it make sense to deliberately alter dialog trees, questlines, etc to reflect a sexist PC and the consequences of that sexism?

  11. Ari says:

    I haven’t played the game, but I always have mixed feelings about “the bad guys are sexist” trope.

    On the positive side, as others have mentioned, it’s good that sexism/misogyny are now seen as inherently evil traits. Moreover, it’s also a plus that since the “good guys” will almost certainly be winning, the story automatically implies that equality and equal opportunity are “better”, or at least more effective, than discrimination.

    That’s all awesome, but at the same time it’s hard to see it happen time and time again in fiction, when we know that in real life, our “heroes” and heroic institutions were just as sexist and discriminatory, or even moreso, than their real life adversaries. And that equal opportunity institutions can still be rotten to the core. It’s hard to write a nuanced portrayal of a warring faction when one of them, that might otherwise be sympathetic, hates women/gays/other races/etc., and the other is a paragon of diversity and egalitarianism. We get it, guys. They’re the ones we’re supposed to be rooting for. Very subtle.

    I think it would make for more interesting moral nuance if the situation was reversed: i.e., if the paladins of shining light and goodness excluded women from their ranks, to “protect” wives and mothers perhaps, but the puppy-kicking necromancers were completely equal opportunity, who do you root for? You could still do this while showing that equality is what makes the necromancers strong; still make that equality a net positive.

    But what really bothers me about the lack of egalitarianism being portrayed as a characteristic of the “bad guys” and equal opportunity and tolerance being portrayed as a natural “good guy” trait is how readily it plays into the narrative of Western cultural superiority. Those “other” people ban homosexuality; those “other” people don’t allow women to vote or drive – we do, and that makes us the good guys, and them the bad guys. No matter what we do!

    Basically, what I’m saying is that a more nuanced narrative about what makes someone “good” or “evil” – we don’t need to dream up a violent but liberal Empire, we’re living in it – might make us reflect more readily on real life situations. Instead, in our films and books as well as our games, we keep making war on a straw man.

    • Lyss says:

      As the original article pointed out, misogyny is only present in some of the storylines. The bad guys in the Asura quest line are as egalitarian as the good guys. Indeed, their motivation seems to be more corporate sabotage than anything else.

      • Twyst says:

        And there are plenty of lady “bad guys”, i think the first 3 that you deal with are all ladies (one of which reminds of me Azula from Avatar /a lot/.

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