Tag Archives: LGBT

Amber Scott’s Sword of Burning Gold: Inclusion in an Incursion

A decidedly dramatic painting of a crimson demon, wielding a titanic sword slashing at a baying white dragon; in the midst of the carnage, some adventurers-- two women and a man-- fall through the rubble of the building the falling dragon shattered, tumbling into an abyss below

This sure beats the heck out of WoW’s Level 1. (Art by Wayne Reynolds).

What is staggering about much that passes under the banner of “fantasy” is how decidedly narrow its escapist vision tends to be. In both fantasy and sci-fi, far from transcending the fetters of real world limitations, we see our own world with its myriad failings reinscribed in uncritical verbatim form with only a smattering of chrome, Medieval grit, or magic to poorly disguise the copy. Dungeons & Dragons, long the towering mainstay of fantasy roleplay whose name is synonymous with its genre,  has at times been either a magnificent carnival of fantasy or a pitiless mire of the same tired clichés about gender, race, and sexuality that bedevil so much of nerd culture. This schismatic approach to its material is, I believe, a psychic scar left by the culture wars of the 1980s when D&D was accused of various and sundry evils; all ranging from reefer madness with dice to charges of blood drinking Satanism. The game remains gunshy about introducing content that might be deemed something less than family-friendly. Even its excellent Book of Exalted Deeds compendium—a supplement geared towards elaborating the concepts of virtue and divinity in D&D—came with a “Mature Content” warning sticker. The offending content was, well, a boob, along with a frank discussion of torture (and why it was morally unjustifiable).

This flinching instinct on the part of D&D’s inheritors, Hasbro-owned Wizards of the Coast, has kept LGBT characters far away from public acknowledgement in the game’s content. “Family friendly,” that delightful euphemism for wilful ignorance of and prejudice against sexual minorities, has become the catchphrase of the granddaddy of RPGs.

While my love for D&D was immense and filled with innumerable fond memories, many immortalised on a shelf groaning under the weight of 2e and 3.5e books, I lamented the fact that such a fantastic genre should be hamstrung by senseless timidity. It was not just the issue of LGBT inclusion, of course; the writing had ossified, the taken for granted dimensions of the setting had become set in stone, routinized and underdeveloped. Flashes of brilliant creativity were smothered in the gloom of playing it safe as the controversial Fourth Edition went to press.

Enter Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder. For years I’d ignored it blithely, thinking it was a low rent, grittier D&D that had nothing new to offer, save a nostalgic continuation of the 3.5e ruleset. How wrong I was. The long, in-depth second look it deserved from me was occasioned by a friend’s breathless Facebook post about a trans woman character being introduced in the game’s latest adventure module.  A lesbian trans woman, married to a half-Orc Paladin of a Lawful Good goddess. My attention was well and truly piqued. Continue reading

IF Game of the Day: What’s in a Name? by Gaming Pixie

Check out What’s in a Name?, by Gaming Pixie, which is about her experience of coming out as bisexual. As she describes it, it’s “probably not quite what you’d expect.” (Please note it describes biphobic comments.)

If you have made or played an interesting IF game you would like to see featured on The Border House, send it to us at editors (at) borderhouseblog (dot) com.

Star Wars: The Old Republic and Same Gender Romance

Makeb: the new planet that will be available in the Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion pack.

Makeb: the new planet that will be available in the Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion pack.

Players of the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will soon see a long awaited option available to them in game: same gender romance! This has been discussed for awhile (see our January 2012 review of the game) but we now know that it will become official this spring.

The expansion pack Rise of the Hutt Cartel will increase the level cap, create a new area and story line, and include a new option for same gender romances.

A blog post written by Jeff Hickman (Executive producer of the game) states:

Same Gender Romance:  Any news on this front would be great… Answer: First of all, I want to apologize that this is taking so long to get in the game. I realize that we promised SGR to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character. Unfortunately, this will take a lot more work than we realized at the time and it (like some other pieces of content we talked about earlier in the year) has been delayed as we focused on the changes required to take the game Free-to-Play. As we have said in the past, allowing same gender romance is something we are very supportive of.

Secondly, I want to reveal today that we are adding SGR with some NPCs on Makeb and do intend on pursuing more SGR options in the future. More details to come!

I am glad to hear that this will be available in the game. In an ideal situation this would have been implemented at launch, but it is great news that they will be adding it in the future rather than ignoring it entirely.

Cortez

Same Sex Romance and Mass Effect 3

Though rare, same sex romance options are not new to video games. We have seen them Jade Empire, The Sims, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and the Dragon Age series. But lately, BioWare has had some shining moments in this area. When they announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going to add same sex romances post release The Family Research Council got members to send thousands of letters to EA to denounce the move. EA did not back down, and instead stood by the decision to include the romance options http://kotaku.com/5899246/homophobes-slam-ea-with-thousands-of-letters-over-same+sex-romance. When a forum poster complained about the inclusion of bisexual NPCs in Dragon Age 2 David Gaider explained that “The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.”  http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/304/index/6661775&lf=8 Several recent BioWare games had same sex romance options, but Mass Effect 3 is especially important as a big budget game that has characters who are exclusively gay or lesbian.

 

 Some logistics first … Let’s look at the numbers!

(Author’s note: My Shepard romanced Liara and stayed faithful to her throughout the series. Information on which other characters can be romanced was taken from the Mass Effect wiki and some YouTube clips were referenced while writing the post.)

Steve Cortez from Mass Effect 3

Before delving into Mass Effect 3, it is important to look at the series as a whole. Let’s look at what character romances result in the Paramour achievement/trophy in each game. I call those the primary romances or relationships. The original Mass Effect had had 2 primary romance options for both the male and female Shepard. As a man you could romance Ashley Williams and Liara T’Soni while as a woman you could romance Kaidan Alenko or Liara T’Soni. While Liara is often considered by fans as a same sex romance for a female Shepard, the game specifies that asari are a mono gendered species. They do not talk about a male/female gender binary; they are simply asari. So we walk away from the original Mass Effect without an official same sex romance.

 

Mass Effect 2 had many more romance options than the original game. As a man, Shepard could romance Miranda Lawson, Tali’Zorah, or Jack. As a woman, Shepard could romance Jacob Taylor, Garrus Vakarian, and Thane Krios. None of these are same sex options.

 

Mass Effect 3 has the largest number of romance options in the series. As a man, Shepard can romance Miranda Lawson, Tali’Zorah, Jack, Ashley Williams, Kelly Chambers, Liara T’Soni, Kaiden Alenko, or Steve Cortez. As a woman, Shepard can romance Garrus Valkarian, Kaidan Alenko, Kelly Chambers, Liara T’Soni, and Samantha Traynor.

Game Shepard Primary opposite sex relationships Primary same sex relationships Asari relationships
Mass Effect Female 1 0 1
Mass Effect Male 1 0 1
Mass Effect 2 Female 3 0 0
Mass Effect 2 Male 3 0 0
Mass Effect 3 Female 2 1 1
Mass Effect 3 Male 5 2 1

 

             

Secondary romances

However, there were also relationships that were not tracked by the Paramour achievement. In Mass Effect 2 either Shepard could show interest in Samara, Morinth, and Kelly Chambers. This last option of Kelly Chambers is the only one in Mass Effect 2 that could definitely counts as a same sex relationship option. In Mass Effect 3 either Shepard could have a sexual relationship with Diana Allers which which add another same sex relationship option for a female Shepard.

 

All those numbers mean something  

When looking at the numbers, there is a clear trend for greater diversity in sexual relationships within the Mass Effect series. But there is something else in those numbers: a male Shepard has more options than a female Shepard. Part of this is due to the exclusion of Thane and Jacob as romance options in Mass Effect 3. Yet, even if those two were included in the group, a female Commander Shepard would still have fewer potential romance options than a male. The quantity of options appears to favor a male Shepard.

 

This favoritism falls apart when discussing same sex relationships. If we look at Liara as a same sex option for female characters, then a lesbian Shepard has had a romance option since the beginning of the series. Even ignoring Liara, a lesbian Shepard could start a relationship with Kelly Chambers in the second game and then have that carry over to Mass Effect 3. BUT, a gay Shepard had to wait 3 games in order to have a possible relationship. If you choose to role play Shepard as a gay male, romance is left out until the end of the series. See http://kotaku.com/5909937/with-the-galaxy-in-flames-my-video-game-hero-finally-came-out-of-the-closet Denis Farr’s article about this issue.

 

What could have been done differently?

 

Liara from Mass Effect 3

The relationship with Liara T’Soni deserves discussion. Does she “count” as a same sex romance for a female commander Shepard or not? If she is considered female, then there is a potential for a long term same sex relationship between her and Shepard stretching from the first game through to the last. But by describing her as part of a monogendered species the series denies players one positive lesbian romance portrayal. While a relationship with a genderless species could be interesting the asari are not androgynous, they are heavily coded as feminine. Because of their appearance, the relationship looks like a same sex romance with a female Shepard but should it be read as such or should we look at it as something different? I am not sure. Even after 3 games I do not know if my Shepard’s relationship with Liara can be considered a lesbian romance.

 

Kelly Chambers in Mass Effect 2 is also potentially problematic. Her relationship with Shepard is not considered a canon romance in that game. It is a flirtation, a quick hint of a potential relationship. When she joins Shepard in her cabin at the end of the game she is wearing a tight fitting outfit and does a sexy dance. The point of the scene is to provide sexual arousal for Shepard but does not allow for a further relationship within that one game. There is nothing wrong with that, but as the only portrayal of a same sex relationship in Mass Effect 2 it conforms with a male gaze, “two women are hot” portrait of lesbian relationships that is all too common in media. We need more diversity in the portrayal of lesbians. This relationship can become deeper in Mass Effect 3 but only if Shepard goes though this more superficial experience in the second game.

 

What makes ME3 special?

The final game in the series does several important things in terms of relationship options. The game portrays them as something that can be persistent and evolving over time. It is possible to have started a relationship with Liara in the first game, stayed faithful to her in the second game, and continue the relationship in the final episode. This is something unique and not available to a player that just wants to begin a relationship with Liara in the final game. The way the trilogy was set up allowed for the possibility a dynamic relationship. The NPCs were treated as having potential beyond just sex. These were characters whose stories mattered, with their own journey and growing relationships with Shepard.

 

However, one of the new characters in Mass Effect 3 is incredibly important. Steve Cortez is a pilot in the game. When discussing his past, you learn that he lost his husband in a Reaper invasion. This fact is handled wonderfully. We have a man, discussing the loss of his husband, and there is no pause in the discussion. Shepard does not stop to say, “Whoa, hold on, are you saying you are gay?” or ask any other question all too often heard by people in same sex relationships. Cortez mentions his husband and we are meant to mourn the loss with him. It is no different than if he mentioned the loss of his wife. This one simple thing is incredibly important. Imagine a world where all players of Mass Effect 3 accepted gay individuals as easily as Shepard does in the scene. Cortez being attracted to someone of the same sex is not an issue; it is a not an oddity, it just exists as one option within the universe. Cortez is shown as an exclusively gay man, and yet his sexuality is never shown as a problem. His sexuality is not used to impose tragedy in his life. This is not the tale of a difficult coming out story or an attack on a gay man. He is allowed to be a gay man and not have that one trait define his character arc. It is not something we see very often in media. This portrayal was done beautifully.

Authorial intent

Were the writers cognizant of these depictions and their implications? In an interview, Patrick Weekes and Dusty Everman show that members of the BioWare staff were aware of how they displayed these relationships. As Patrick Weekes said about writing a gay character:

Liara’s relationship in Lair of the Shadow Broker can be with players of either gender, so I was familiar with writing dialog that needed to work for a same-sex romance. Nevertheless, I’m a straight white male – pretty much the living embodiment of the Patriarchy – and I really wanted to avoid writing something that people saw and went, “That’s a straight guy writing lesbians for other straight guys to look at.”

 I also really wanted the romance with Traynor to be positive. One of my gay friends has this kind of sad hobby in which she watches every lesbian movie she can find, trying to find ones that actually end up with the women not either dying or breaking up. I think the most positive one she’s found is “D.E.B.S.” I wanted to avoid any kind of tragic heartbreak, to make this a fundamentally life-affirming relationship… at least, as much as possible within Mass Effect 3′s grim war story.

 

Samantha Traynor from Mass Effect 3

Similar to Cortez, for the exclusively lesbian character of Samantha Traynor her sexuality is a part of her but not her sole defining feature. Patrick Weekes again:

 I worked hard to create a character who addressed her lesbian identity in a positive and intelligent way. My first draft of Traynor’s pitch was all about how her character arc would be about identifying and overcoming the challenges of being gay… and my friends and managers called me on it. I’d been so focused on writing something positive that I hadn’t made a real-enough character. So in the next draft (closer to how she shipped), the focus was on her as a mostly lighthearted fish out of water, a very smart lab tech trying to adjust to life on the front lines, with her identity as a lesbian present but not shouted from the rooftops.

 

From Dusty Everman:

 I believe that by the 22nd century, declaring your gender preference will be about as profound as saying, “I like blondes.” It will just be an accepted part of who we are. So I tried to write a meaningful human relationship that just happens to be between two men.

 This interview shows that the team at BioWare was conscious of the implications of their character designs and story arcs. They were aware of some of the pitfalls often found when creating gay characters and they at least attempted to avoid them. The full interview can be found  http://blog.bioware.com/2012/05/07/same-sex-relationships-in-mass-effect-3/

 

What do we want to see next

BioWare did several laudable things in Mass Effect 3. So what do we want to see in future games? From both BioWare and other companies I ask for one thing: DIVERSITY! We need more games to show the complexity of human experiences. Let’s have some asexual characters. Let’s have NPCs that are straight but are NOT interested in the main character despite a match in gender and orientation. Let’s have more gay characters. Once we have more diversity, we can tell more stories. The Princess doesn’t always need saving by the Prince and the Prince may not want to marry a Princess anyways. Let’s step out of the box a bit more and get creative. Who would want to play a game with a lesbian necromancer as the main character? I would! And I doubt that I am the only person. Games are meant to be fun to play, so let’s play with the stories and create some new experiences.

Three Things: Analogue, PAX East Meetup, Kotaku News

A screenshot from Analogue. A woman with black hair drawin in anime style is shown on the left and a dialogue box reads, *Hyun-ae: My name is *Hyun-ae. The star is, of course, silent; it just represents that I'm an AI.

Screenshot from Analogue: A Hate Story

Three things that may be of interest to Border House readers:

Firstly, Christine Love’s latest game, Analogue: A Hate Story is now available here! You may recall that her last game, don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story was nominated for two categories in TBH’s first year-end awards and won in both of them: Best Indie Game and Best LGBT Character (for Nolan). The game costs $15 and there is a free demo available. Check it out.

Secondly, if you are planning on attending PAX East or happen to be in the Boston area on April 6th, you may want to check out the LGBT meetup happening that night at Bocoup. Cassandra has the details and registration information here if you are interested.

And finally, a big congratulations to friend of the blog and frequent guest poster Kate Cox, who is a new full-time writer at Kotaku. Can’t wait to see what you and the other new contributors do to shake up the place.

EA Employees: It Gets Better

The “It Gets Better” campaign has had its fair share of critiques and attempts at constructive criticism. At the same time, the videos it has produced often have the effect of leaving me very teary-eyed.

Therefore, while I will still examine EA games as I have always done (particularly as BioWare is among their branches), their posting of this It Gets Better video definitely leaves me with a positive impression (trigger warning for coming out stories and retelling of threats against LGB persons):

In an industry mired with so many examples of heteronormativity, and often outright insulting jabs at the LBG community, seeing something like this is heartening. Whether or not it was intentional, seeing a broad, diverse range of faces and voices is also appreciated.

Gay (But Not “Gay”) Characters in Video Games

by guest contributor Robert Yang, originally posted at Radiator Design Blog

Robert Yang is currently an MFA student studying “Design and Technology” at Parsons, The New School for Design. If he’s famous for anything, it’s probably for his artsy-fartsy Half-Life 2 mod series “Radiator” that’s still (slowly) being worked on. You should play it; episode 1-2 is about gay divorce.

Over on Filefront (when did they start posting articles? wha?) there’s a piece by Jim Sterling about a gay dude in Fallout: New Vegas. Read Sterling’s complete argument and give him some page views, or just look at this sentence that irritated me:

Jim Sterling: “Arcade Gannon’s sexuality isn’t a big deal, and that’s how videogames should play it.”

The argument that [all] gay video game characters should downplay their sexuality might be well intentioned, but is ultimately representative of the most dangerous kind of homophobia — a homophobia wrapped in intellectualism, appearing “tolerant.”

True, sexuality isn’t the only thing that defines a person — but for the vast majority of LGBT people, I would argue that it’s a crucial part of personal identity. To insist that effeminate gay men are “camping it up” and should just “be normal” is homophobia. That’s the same type of attitude that murdered Matthew Shepardhe would’ve been fine if only he didn’t act so damn gay around people!

Now, this thinking isn’t exclusive to homophobes; gay men discriminate against each other all the time. Some might brand me as “straight-acting” when (a) I’m not acting, and (b) straight men don’t have a monopoly on being more “masculine.” But then many gay men also discriminate against “feminine” men and imply they’re not “acting like real men” — whatever that means. So yes, everyone is guilty, there’s plenty of self-loathing to go around, blah blah blah.

But I digress. Perhaps my main point here is that the vast majority of adults on this planet have been known to care about sex. Sex is kind of a big deal — and thus, so is sexuality. Games aren’t exactly evolving as a medium if we always downplay this aspect of life — or worse, downplay it only for LGBT characters to make them seem more palatable for people who think gay sex is icky.

Not all video games have to engage meaningfully with sex (… although it helps) — but I would argue that there have to be some, at the very least, that do. Now, criticism without a solution is simply whining, so here I propose an alternate model for the portrayal of gay characters in media, a model that acknowledges — hey, some gay men like having teh gayz-zex:

In the animated show “The Venture Brothers”, the character Shore Leave is somewhat effeminate, unapologetically sexual… and hacks computers / is Brock’s slightly less blood-thirsty near-equal in terms of competence at killing people. (He’s amazing.) And in the Scott Pilgrim franchise, Scott’s roommate Wallace has absurd amounts of teh gaysecks but is still a supportive friend, mentor and accomplice. These gay characters are successful with their sexuality intact, while more or less circumventing the typical stereotypes.

Sex is a healthy, positive and important part of these characters’ lives. Prescribing some kind of “ideal gay” who doesn’t “broadcast it” is just as artificial, boring and negative as the stale stereotypes so often invoked in network sitcoms and those god awful reality shows on Bravo.

Insisting that difference along any lines, like sexuality (or race, in the case of Grace Holloway from BioShock 2) is “irrelevant” or “doesn’t matter” is a dangerous argument. I’m not sure what Western country you’re living in, but more often than not, being non-straight, non-male or non-white is going to affect your life in some profound way.

(Just off the top of my head in the US: gay marriage isn’t federally recognized, and so gay men don’t get spousal privilege in federal courts nor social security; the FDA thinks our blood is always permanently tainted with AIDS; we have to justify our fitness as parents more than anyone else, etc.)

You don’t ignore your difference; instead, you own it. Some might just keep to themselves unless asked — that’s fine. But to insist that everyone keeps it to themselves? Tyranny. For every silent shoegazer hipster gay who “you’d never think”, we also need a muscle queen dancing in a peacock speedo on top of a Ferrari. Because they’re gay too.

Again, I’m not saying every game has to be about sex (or am I?!), but here Sterling is proposing selective blindness and a glass closet for ALL gay characters in ALL games as a model to emulate. Yeah, stay invisible and don’t make a fuss! That always works.

So, to review:

1) All forms of media reflect back on some aspect of life.
2a) Video games are a form of media.
2b) Sex is a big deal in many peoples’ lives.
3) Some video games should address sex meaningfully.
4) LGBT people see sex differently than non-LGBT people.

4b) We should ignore that difference and only coyly imply that LGBT people might possibly maybe sometimes have sex lives, so as to avoid the mistake of portraying them as real people AND to avoid invoking a wildly exaggerated stereotype that has no currency today anyway. And thinking about gay sex is icky too.
5) ??? [...] hegemony! [...]
6) Thus, all video games should feature hardcore gay male pornography, though softcore will suffice if it’s a lower budget indie platformer. (Cactus, I’m looking at you.)

QED. Next blog post: I will broker world peace and prove whether P = NP.

A guide to gay characters in World of Warcraft

Disclaimer: There are no confirmed cases of gay characters by the World of Warcraft developers.  Most of these are either Belligerent Sexual Tension, wishful thinking, or a little bit of both.  Regardless, it’s fun to imagine that Azeroth isn’t completely heteronormative.

Hearthsinger Forresten

It isn’t just because he’s a bard (though we all know that they tend to be rather fluid along the Kinsey Scale), but this rare level 57 elite mob in Stratholme drops quite the festive gear.  Not only is he decked out in a rather flamboyant outfit, those who kill him can obtain a Rainbow Girdle, Woolies of the Prancing Minstrel, or of course, the Piccolo of the Flaming Fire (which when used, causes all characters nearby to erupt in spontaneous dancing). He might be the most obvious example, mostly because he embodies most gay stereotypes.  Someone even found him obvious enough to create a fake gay MySpace for him.

 

 

Sentinel Sweetspring

Sentinel Sweetspring is the stablemaster at Star’s Rest in Dragonblight, and she has a thing for the ladies.  Or at least, one lady in particular.  The following dialog shows her interest in Sentinel Amberline, who doesn’t seem to return the affection.

“Sentinel Sweetspring grins at Sentinel Amberline across the camp, waggling her long eyebrows suggestively.

Sentinel Amberline huffs with annoyance, glaring briefly at Sentinel Sweetspring before turning away with her nose in the air.”

I know I would be turned on by a Night Elf waggling her epic eyebrows at me, but maybe I just have a thing for members of the Sentinel Army.

Kinelory and Quae

 

These two ladies are the most obvious lesbian couple in World of Warcraft.  While the game never directly comes out and says it, the questline Hints of a New Plaguedoes suggest that these two are more than just friends.  The goal of the quest is to “protect Kinelory until she returns to Quae”.  Check out some dialog:

Kinelory:

“So, Phin sent you to check on us? Not surprised–he worries too much. We’ve been watching the farm for days, and Kin claims she saw a courier come out of that small house to the south not long ago. She talks a lot, but I can always trust her senses when we’re in dangerous areas.”

“I hope Kin wasn’t too much of a handful down there. She’s very friendly, but can be just as deadly when you’re her enemy. ”

Quae:

“I bet Quae’ll think this is important. She’s pretty knowledgeable about these things–no expert, but knowledgeable.”

“We made it! Quae, we made it! ”

Some people have reported that the developers did state at one point that these two were a lesbian couple per canon lore, but this quote cannot be found.  Either way, these two are bonded for life, and they are very uncomfortable when separated.  One of the cutest couples in WoW!

Skyguard Khatie

Skyguard Khatie is an adorable little gnome in Blade’s Edge Mountains who offers up the Wrangle More Aether Rays!daily quest.  She tends to be very fond of whomever is doing the quest, regardless of their gender.  She might be the only bisexual character in WoW.  At one point, she’ll even ask you to take her to dinner, even if your character is female.”I hope you don’t think I’m a stalker or anything like that, [name].

I mean, I know that you’re real famous within the Skyguard now, and well… I’m sure that you wouldn’t want to hang out with a lowly peon like me.

But, if you ever want to get together to just hang out, or even wrangle some more rays, drop by anytime! I’ll be here!

I miss you…”

Or the following:

“You know, <name>, it’s such an honor to work with you! When you’re not out busy wrangling, maybe we could go out some place for dinner?”

It’s hard to not have a crush on Khatie.

Asric and Jadaar

Oh, these two.  If you haven’t heard of this couple then you haven’t been playing enough WoW.  These two partners were originally in the Cantrips & Crows tavern in the Underbelly of Dalaran, before moving to the Argent Tournament Grounds in Icecrown.  They are the very definition of an old married (or domestically partnered, depending on Azeroth’s laws) couple, these two have been bickering for years.  Their affectionate bickering could only be of a gay couple, and don’t you argue with me!”Jadaar says: Remind me again why I tolerate your company, Asric.

Asric smirks wryly.

Asric says: I have decades of practice handling blowhards like yourself, and I’m the only one you know here in this abominably freezing land.”

~*~

Jadaar says: Look at us, elf. Look at us. Unemployed, destitute, and drinking swill from an establishment in the sewers named after a carrion bird!

Asric says: Disgusting, I agree.

Jadaar says: And above it all, I somehow find myself saddled with you, the very man who caused me to lose my job in the first place!

Asric says: That was your doing, not mine, windbag. I found myself unemployed due to my unfortunate association with your failure.

Jadaar says: My failure?! MY FAILURE?! It was your incompetence that landed us here, you insufferable prat!

Asric rolls his eyes.

Asric says: Come off it, Jadaar. That’s all I’ve heard out of you for months. No matter what happened, the point is that we’re free agents now! No longer tied to politics or duties, able to roam where we will!

Jadaar says: Penniless and away from what we know in the middle of the frozen, undead-infested northland.

Asric says: Perhaps, but with the opportunity to make names for ourselves! Think of the reception you’d have in Shattrath as the savior of Azeroth, slayer of the Scourge!

Jadaar says: Eh.. perhaps, after another drink.

Read more of their conversations if you’re not convinced.  Hopefully these two will stick around in Cataclysm.

Honorable Mentions: Koltira and Thassarian (link NSFW)

So commenters, what say you?  Who are we missing on this list?

 

What tale will you create for your Prince or Princess?

A medieval style castle.

EA recently announced a new title coming to the Sims line-up : The Sims Medieval. Not much has been revealed about the game. We do know that there will be quests and many possible roles to play: kings, queens, blacksmiths, and wizards are among the ones listed so far. Many stories or games involving medieval times focus on the notion of a daring prince going out to rescue a damsel in distress or a beautiful princess. But The Sims has always allowed players to create their own stories in their virtual worlds. Will we see some self rescuing princesses in the new game, similar to the Paper Bag Princess children’s book? Will we be able to have a Princess fall in love with and marry another Princess?

The Sims franchise has a long standing tradition of allowing same-sex relationships in their games. The Sims original game allowed for same sex couples back in 2000. They could fall in love and live together happily (or unhappily depending how you wanted to play the game). The original game did not allow for same-sex marriage, but in 2004 The Sims 2 took a step in the right direction with “Joint Unions” of gay couples in game. In 2009, The Sims 3 was released and gay couples in the game were given the same right as the heterosexual couples and were allowed to marry. So a question remains: Will The Sims Medieval take a step back in time and remove same sex couples or it will it retrofit future rights to the time of castles and blacksmiths and allow love and marriage for same sex couples in the game? It will be very interesting to read more news about this game as it gets closer to release. Personally, I look forward to a marriage between two Princesses.

World of Warshaft (On RealID)

Quinnae is a young, Latina trans woman who games, reads, writes, and likes slugs. Her hobbies-slash-flaming passions are sociology, feminism, gender studies, politics, and eating pizza. At present she is studying to be a college professor, and is also an officer in her school’s women’s rights club, as well as one of several moderators on a women’s issues forum.On her spare time she very much enjoys gaming, both on and off the Internets. Her latest love was Dragon Age: Origins but her gaming experience in RPGs covers a smorgasbord of titles including World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and Everquest II. Many many moons ago, she played Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and was hooked on fantasy ever since.

This guest entry is reposted from her blog, The Nuclear Unicorn.

As I alluded to in my recent autobiographical posts, I was once a WoW gamer. Ahh, those were the days. I still miss those days, in fact! Which was why I was considering going back and firing up the ol’ Priestess so I could kick arse at raid healing again. I’m still in touch with plenty of WoW gamers, so my fingers remain ever so delicately situated on the pulse of that ageing but still powerful online gaming behemoth, including those times when it accelerates from WoW’s neverending and oh-so-entertaining drama.

Most in-game drama blow ups- this class getting nerfed, PVP being changed thus and so, raid gear altered in such and such a way-  is geeky wonk of the nerdiest kind. But Blizzard has recently decided to inaugurate a change that raises important philosophical questions in spaces far beyond the alluring vistas of Azeroth. Real ID.

“Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic Battle.net forums, will remain unchanged.”

As I reread those words on one particularly slow and sweltering afternoon I turned them over in my mind thinking this must be some belated April Fool’s joke. They’d force people to post their real names as a condition of writing on the forums? There must be some caveat to this. Surely they meant the reverse? Posting the name of your WoW character with the option of showing your real name? But, nope. They’re deadly serious.

Ostensibly, this is to ‘clean up’ the forums but I find this logic to be entirely spurious. I’m intimately familiar with how much of a cesspool the WoW forums can be. I myself have called it the Internet’s Sphincter. Yet the solution to the problem, such as it was, would be greater and stricter moderation, as well as commonsense alterations that would make it less easy to troll the forums. Mind you, I’d miss all those Level 1 Troll troll accounts named Ipwnyou or somesuch. They gave WoW a certain zest, like a punch in the stomach that makes you vomit. But it’d be worthwhile to compel users to have only one forum account, rather than one account per in-game character, to avoid this Draconian nonsense.

We’ll leave aside the fact that Real ID bears exactly the same name as the US Government’s years long initiative to harmonise American state IDs and integrate national records, the same policy that now empowers all employers to rifle through their employees’ Social Security records (and outing transgender people who can’t yet change their gender markers at the SSA).

A very eloquent friend of mine who goes by the name Silverdawn in WoW, had this to add:

“As if WoW players weren’t already notorious for being almost completely off the fucking leash and prone to wildly inappropriate responses to trivia such as…oh, losing a drop to a hunter or having your class nerfed, which really totally hasn’t resulted in players lashing out with death threats to developers or yelling at their friends and getting piss-drunk because Warlocks deal 6% less damage now. Yeah, this is a community that’s always been fantastically well-behaved and couldn’t *possibly* misuse access to another player’s real life information.”

I really couldn’t have said it better. This change will not erase the ugly social forces that exist on the forums, merely displace them. Stalking happens in World of Warcraft already. It’s a fact of life for us- us primarily being women- and now Blizzard is proposing forum changes that would make it even easier for someone to have access to your personal information?

Some players and a few apologists for the idea have offered several- well, basically two- defences.

It’s your choice! Don’t use the forums, then!

My problem with this idea is manifold. The choice is a highly coerced one. “Use this service that you may like, but expose yourself naked to the world… or just stay silent” is not much of a choice. The concept of ‘choice’ is oft abused by those who pretend that a choice made with a gun to one’s head has not been in some way influenced.

The other problem I have is that those who this change won’t hurt will disproportionately be male and cis. Transgender people who have not yet changed their names legally cannot have their RealID name altered by Blizzard. This has already been confirmed after one trans friend of mine tried to do so. This change requires a court order, something normally reserved for banks, and government issued IDs. Now a trans person needs a court order to protect their privacy in a video game? Give me a break. “Just don’t use the forums”- and what? Add another thing to the already lengthy list of cis privileges?

Women as a whole are also going to be given the short end of the stick with this. I’ve known in my time several women who played as men to avoid unwanted attention. This blows them out of the water. Such a scenario could also expose transgender men. Finally, it gives potential stalkers a good headstart on information that could be used to track down their targets. The excuse of “well, don’t use the forums!”… It reeks of the same “well, just don’t go outside!” nonsense from people whose privileges render them incapable of understanding a life perspective different from their own. One shouldn’t intentionally make something like that lesssafe if it can be helped.

While the current system definitely does not keep everyone perfectly safe, the anonymity it affords is still much better than what the proposed alternative is.

This is not a choice, it is a heavily coerced choice.

Don’t rub your transgender whatsit it in our faces!

I couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly why this is a lousy idea. It ‘rubs my transgender’ in random people’s faces without me having any control over it. Well, not me personally; I have the privilege of owning several copies of Blizzard’s precious court order. But many of my brothers and sisters just ain’t that lucky, period. There’s no ethical reason that they should have to pay a price for this when they are just trying to play a silly amusing roleplaying game.

It’s the same logic I’ve used against people who’ve whined about trans people changing their ID gender markers: if you don’t want me to “rub it in your face” then let me have an ID that does not call attention to my assigned sex at birth, ‘kay? You’ll never know the difference!

It is, at heart, a privacy issue. I speak of the specific concerns for women, cis and trans, because they’ve been given short shrift in much of the (perfectly justified) outrage on this issue. But this is something that affects everyone who plays the game. Fundamentally you should be given an uncoerced choice in whether or not you broadcast your name and other information in such an environment as WoW. It isn’t like Facebook where you create an account and then invite only your friends and family, with a good deal of control over how much strangers can see (for now, at least).

There is, also, for those of us geeks who combine our love for theory with our love for high fantasy, a philosophical dimension to all of this. To quote more from what Silverdawn said to me earlier:

“You know what bothers me? It’s that a gaming company as brilliant as Blizzard–this is, by the way, why I blame Activision–has completely betrayed its own belief in the great power of the personal character. It is the projection into the avatar, not the representation of the physical, gross self, that inspires the most passionate socialization with the greatest longevity.”

That distinction is critical. It’s very much a defining feature of roleplaying games, not just of the Internet as a whole. My own reply to this, as ever, wove personal experience into it:

“Well, for me… Quinnae and Qera were my looking glasses into life as woman. Though them, people knew me as one, and I knew myself as a woman for the first time. It was not just the struggles and the joys of the game itself, but the literary personality that emerged in the forums- the young woman whose eloquent barbs undressed the most macho of bloviators with grace that befit the Night Elf she played.

Even when a select few people were told I was “a guy” by me in confidence, the persona that Quinnae enabled me to explore and develop held me in good stead.

Had this RealID thing been in place back then, I’m not saying I’d never have come out, but WoW made the process a lot easier, the self-exploration much easier- because it did so neatly cleave between the real and the unreal while simulteanously weaving them together. The balance of that contradiction provided the netherspace in which I flourished. A place where I could move in semi-real social circles as a woman with consequences similar to the real world, but a fantasy realm surreal enough that accomodated as many masques and guises as a Harlequin ball.

Feminist scholar Hilary Rose spoke of what she called the ‘laboratory of dreams’ when discussing science fiction, and its ability to envision new social worlds that a reader could lose themselves in- daring to imagine a better future. Or a worse one.

And for me roleplaying always was that laboratory in which my own dreams were forged, even if I never quite knew it.”

For many people it never was “just a game.” Their right to privacy and- dare I call such a thing a right- their right to flights of fantasy ought to be respected. One of the greatest things about MMOs was the fact that your real life identifying markers were required only for the credit card that the folks at billing needed to see and that was that. It was all utterly and blissfully invisible to everyone you played with, night in and night out. Once upon a time, Blizzard banned people for revealing personal information about players.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I guess, eh?

(Original source)