SPOILERS FOR THE NEW JAINA BOOK!!!***
***you might be, a tad?
After the cut for more details
SPOILERS FOR THE NEW JAINA BOOK!!!***
***you might be, a tad?
After the cut for more details
A couple of
days weeks months ago, my co-host and friend posted about his hopes and expectations for SWTOR from the perspective of being part of a gaming couple with a history of playing MMOs. I used to have a similar perspective, and recent posts from Oestrus and Soph reminded me to dig out this post that has been languishing, half written, in my drafts for a good 3 months.
Back when I started playing WoW, my partner and I shared an account. I played my little holy priest during the day, and he’d play his druid on another server when he got home from work. Eventually it became clear that a second account would be needed. Despite the fact that his character was more progressed, I kept the original account. Ho hum.
I really liked that priest, okay?
This was back in the day before RAF, before the Burning Crusade. When the expansion finally hit, I started playing again and the two of us levelled a pair of draenei clothies together. Him pew-pewing on his mage, me initially playing healer. Our characters had an odd sibling relationship, RP wise. My new priest was far, far older and in reality I was the younger. The day I got to DPS for the first time ever in a dungeon was a Scarlet Monastery run, probably the Library. I loved it. I’d been ‘healing’ as shadow spec in order to challenge myself a bit, but actually getting to DPS? Magic. I remember the smile on his face as he saw me finally ‘get’ why he enjoyed DPS.
Those two characters ended up going all the way from goofing around in the Deadmines to raiding the Black Temple as part of one of the best raiding guilds on the server. I tended to stick with one character and he rolled a multitude of alts. Dynamics changed as I became the one employed and he had more free time. Differences of opinion over guild dynamics and officering developed. While I never approached anything tanking duo of You Yank it You Tank it with him, a pretty cool questing rhythm developed, and those two characters had ways of dealing with just about anything and everything. Having a mage around was handy for food, travel, and having a priest around was great for those moments when blink goes horribly wrong and you end up falling off a cliff. Not that my partner ever did that. *cough*
Wrath of the Lich King rolls around and we levelled together again. There was much grinning and fun as we boarded the boat to Northrend. I saw most of Northrend with him, but with the dynamic of our relationship changing and the unrest in the guild (as well as a death in my family), things were not the same. When Cataclysm happened I was buried deep in enthusiasm for the game, and the friends I’d made through Twitter and WoW Insider, and the partner was extremely dissatisfied with the game and the guild we were in.
Of course, I am no longer in a relationship with him. I won’t go into the details, it’s never easy when a long relationship ends, but I never expected it to impact on how I viewed World of Warcraft. In some ways it feels like I’m going through a messy break up with WoW, as the split with my ex was pretty amicable (it was time, as it were) and for reasons unrelated to gaming.
I have noticed, over the past couple of years, how often bloggers talk about WoW as if they were in a romantic relationship with the game. One phrase I see a lot in my reader is ‘Cheating on WoW’ in reference to trying out other MMOs. The language used to referring to a break in playing is often uncomfortably close to that of an unhealthy, addictive relationship – or even a casual one that is more about convenience and the short term fix than long term results.
When I initially started this post I was going to trace my relationship with the game and how it tied into my relationship with my ex-Fiancé. Even though we’ve been broken up for going on 6 months or so, there are still characters I don’t log into because they give me extremely mixed feelings – memories of both happy and sad moments. Levelling through Outland is particularly hard for me because that was the expansion we actually played ‘together’ all the way. My characters tend to stall in Nagrand, and sit there looking lonely. And in many ways levelling through the old content of TBC and Wrath is a reminder of the all the guild ups and downs I had with a guild called Athanatoi. The momentous highs of server first Illidari Council, the frustration and impetus as our GMs slowly ran the guild into the ground, and all the officers burned out one by one.
The joy of rediscovering the game in Trial of the Crusader, of all places, where I started raiding as an Elemental shaman. Realising I still loved playing and that my new guild was awesome. Getting to play with Catulla of Flavor Text. The sadness I felt at any in guild bickering. These are things I wonder if I’ll ever get back because I can’t seem to find a social guild where I fit, or a regular rhythm of play that really allows me to connect with SWTOR or Rift in the way that I used to in WoW.
So I have brief flings with other MMOs, I take them out and have fun when it’s convenient for me, and I pack them all away, with the lack of emotional investment, when they’ve become too mundane to sparkle once the initial lust has fallen off. It’s not so much cheating on WoW, but the casual drifting between games to find that virtual ‘home’, that place of safety that I once had. However in games, as in relationships, ‘safe’ doesn’t make ‘enduring’ any more than the initial sparkle of lust did.
I won’t deny that I enjoy the freedom of my newly solo experience, and in many ways I’m not alone in game – there is always twitter. Twitter and the blogosphere is my guild chat and forum, respectively. Yet the connections made there range from fleeting to lifetime friendship, but there is none of that sense of close knit community. This is another parallel with the ‘dating game’. You try your best to make the most of what the game offers you, but relationships with other players and guilds only give out as much as you give – and managing expectations in relationships (mmo or dating) is one of those difficult things that takes time to achieve.
This is one of those phrases that gets thrown around the online dating world a lot. ‘Expecting’ something can be a self-fulfilling prophecy because you sub-conciously act as if a particular thing is pre-determined. Or you expect the unreasonable. Or you don’t expect enough. You can’t go into a guild or a game with no-expectations, because at the end of the day you want the game (or relationship) to be a part of your life and for that to occur successfully certain criteria/needs/wants have to be fulfilled. It’s just sometimes an MMO or a relationship fits in ways that you don’t expect.
I guess what I am saying is that you can’t expect that shiny guild to be perfect on the inside. You can’t expect everyone else to jump to fill your needs and wants. You can’t expect that woman you’ve just met to be a perfect match. Relationships with people and games are so tied up in compromise that if you don’t compromise, you end up never playing at all.
I can’t say I actually expected female pandaren to be a similar shape to the male ones. One always hopes that interesting design decisions will be made, but lets not forget that this is an expansion that is based completely on western ‘orientalism’. As much as it’s cute, and has some amazing ideas in terms of their goals for moving forward with WoW, the breadth of vision is not as speculative and fantastical as one would really hope. So when I originally saw the male Pandaren character design, I had hope that Blizzard would move away from ‘all women are shaped like hourglasses’.
I have a significant hip-waist ratio, despite being out and out obese. I have a waist, and in many ways conform to some ideas of what female ‘beauty’ is. I am already represented in game by the human, dwarf, orc and tauren physiques. Race changing to a dwarf (from a draenei) felt a little like ‘coming home’ because I was finally owning my body type instead of playing out a fantasy. And yet I was still playing out the fantasy by what I was doing and the character I was inhabiting, rather than the appearance of my avatar.
Yet even the gnomes, those smallest of bodies, and the tauren adhere to notions of female beauty. The male character models do too, don’t get me wrong – beefed up male power fantasies that they are. There is some of the long and lanky, but for the most part it’s broad-shoulders and six packs. The male pandaren are much more rotund. Still powerful and strong, but traditional ‘gaming character physique’ they are not.
They have beer bellies! Stout legs, no necks. They also still look awesome. The animations for this new race, from what I have seen, look badass.
The female pandaren. Well. We won’t know until the 19th March. We do have a teaser though, posted on the Warcraft Facebook earlier today.
A lot of similarities to the dwarf woman model. Big hips and chunky thighs, but I seriously doubt that she is small busted, otherwise I’d be chalking this up to a victory for a variation in female body types. I never really expected Blizzard to do anything different, and on the plus size she does look strong. But then so do orcs and tauren, even though I hate the female worgen faces, the physical body is awesome.
Blizzard does variations on the theme of ‘hourglass body shape’ very well. However there is much more variety out there in the world. Just look at the divided reaction to Therazane the Stone Mother. Not to mention the jokes and parodies of her daughter Theradras. A lot of people loved Therazane – that she existed at all, and that she takes no prisoners in her leadership of the Earth Elementals. She wasn’t a villain or a romantic foil – like Lorna Crowley she occupied her own place in the narrative as a standalone character.
Yet to many she was still clearly a joke.
At the end of the day, it looks like the new Pandaren model will be much better received than the last minute worgen. I can only hope that her emotes and voice acting are awesome. I am sad that Blizzard missed the opportunity to bring a little less sexual dimorphism to the table, but thankful that that she isn’t ridiculously slender compared to the male counterpart. Mixed feelings? You betcha.
Edit: Apple Cider Mage has her analysis up and made some very pertinent and interesting points about the language used by gamers to talk about character models. I highly suggest reading her post. One comment that leapt out at me from WoW Insider was ‘dwarf women are just the dwarf men with a female skin‘. Which…yeah, this is how character design in videogames has warped our understanding of gendered bodies.
At the end of the day – skeletons aren’t all that dis-similar to each other. You have to know more than a little bit about anatomy and bone structure to tell a female skull from a male one. You have to know about bone width and length, once musculature, cartilage, organs and fat reserves are gone. However the dimorphism in WoW means that female and male will often have different ‘skeletons’ (or stick figures) underlying the main animation. Dwarf women are successful because they aren’t that different from the males in terms of how they move. The differences are more subtle – and many real world women are likely to look like a tall WoW dwarf rather than like the human models.