Gearbox: Doing It Right

I tried playing a little (and I do mean a little) of Borderlands once. The world was pretty cool, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into it. It might have been because I hate guns (omg why can’t ammo just regenerate like magic does?), or because I was trying to break myself out of the habit of playing a ranged character. (Attacking from the hallway or from behind a pillar tends to be my style, unless I’m playing Orochi Warriors. Being a tank involves way too much multi-tasking.)

My boyfriend loves the game, and I feel weird that I just didn’t like it. And now that I’ve been inundated with Borderlands 2 ads in every comic I pick up, I feel like I should revisit the game, or maybe just try out the sequel come September.

This introduction is sort of irrelevant to what I’m posting, but in case you wanted to analyze me as a person based on my style of fighting in games, there you have it. (I’m also a Libra, and purple is my contested favorite color.)

The real reason I’m bringing up Borderlands 2 is that I found a really cool article about an NPC in the game. Tyler Wilde over at PC Gamer asked the Gearbox team some questions about Ellie, Scooter’s sister. Their answers showed a lot of thoughtfulness, in both the design of the character herself and the knowledge that their game has the power to send messages to players, sometimes perhaps unintended ones.

My favorite answer, one that sums up why I’m so happy, is this:

“The narrative goal with Ellie was to have a character who hits all of the tick marks of a good Borderlands character (funny, unexpected, looks as if they could probably kill you in thirteen different ways if you got on their bad side), while also making an independent female character who looked the exact opposite of how most females tend to be represented in games. We also wanted to make sure that, through her dialog and visual design, we never cast her in a light where the player is encouraged to pity, laugh at, or mock her because she doesn’t look like Jessica Rabbit.”

Obviously, I’m pretty happy when developers intentionally create characters (even NPCs) that look the “exact opposite” of most video game women. But the last sentence is what I really like the most.

More than just trying to assure that there is some representation of non-standard game body types, the developers wanted to make sure that players would treat her with respect. Gearbox wants people to see a heavy woman and not just think of her as comic relief or as pathetic. Given how little respect fat women get in real life and on the internet, and how few fat women exist in video games, Gearbox is doing something rather revolutionary with Ellie.

So this, more than the fact that every time I pick up a comic, there’s a Borderlands 2 ad, has actually gotten me excited about the game’s release. Even if I don’t end up playing it (fucking ammo), I look forward to at least seeing Ellie in action!

Thanks, Gearbox, for trying to promote the idea that fat women are real people who deserve respect and who can do badass things.

-Joanna

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An RPG For the Rest of Us

Are you tired of medieval RPGs reflecting a Eurocentric view of everything? Of how uncreative developers can be with their universe’s cultural mythos? Of having only one humanoid race of non-white people to choose? Of the fact that everyone in the game is presumably heterosexual and cisgendered?

Introducing The Arkh Project. The Arkh Project is a video game whose developers seek “to make a game that focuses on queer people and people of color as main characters, and beyond that, allow people who are tired of mainstream gaming to have something completely off the wall and step into a new role.” The developers also intend to work with queer and/or PoC artists and programmers.

Basically, this is the RPG of my dreams. The concept sounds pretty cool, too:

“Follow the story of a deity bored with life amongst the gods, who leaves to find a purpose in life and seek out a lost love. Reincarnate your deity onto numerous worlds, live through the lives of others and gain life experience…but watch your God Energy, you need a lot of it to continue your astral journey.

Fight monsters only you can see, sometimes around very particular civilians who refuse to get the heck out of your way. Collect world-specific plants to enhance your healing items, and acquire numerous different kinds of weapons and scrolls from all different cultures.

The game draws inspiration from real mythos, from all sorts of different cultures, and each world reflects the culture it draws from.”

The character concept art looks pretty amazing. My favorite is Queen Zahira:

See that fancy dress? It’s made “from ethereal components that she reconstructed to exist in more planes.” She made the cloth herself, meaning she manages to be intelligent, badass-looking, and super pretty all at once. I’m on board.

In case you’re wondering what armor might look like:

The game is still in the development stage, but expect it to be released for the PC at some point.

Though there is more information which I could post, I’m stopping here because frankly I’m tired of navigating the hell that is tumblr. I’ll leave that to you, intrepid reader. In any case, I look forward to following the project’s progress (via their Facebook group), and hopefully playing the finished product.

In other race/fandom news, Racialicious has broken down Comic-Con for us in The Racialicious Guide to San Diego Comic-Con. I’m sure that one day, when I finally get to go to Comic-Con, there won’t be amazing panels that year, like How to Better Understand the Sociology Behind Cosplay or Subaltern Counterculture and the Strengths of the Underdog (which talks about Storm!). Sigh. Or I can be hopeful that talking about these issues at places like Comic-Con will become normal by the time I could go. But that would be optimistic.

-Joanna