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At some point, I was avoiding LJ/fandom because of the fail, and then I got busy and forgot to post. A lot. But I have been randomly consuming various media, and having thoughts, but mostly too distracted to post. One of the things I kept telling myself I would definitely post about was "Game of Thrones." Which I have been both watching and reading. (And still plan to post thoughts on the difference between the two renditions of Cersei at some point.) Because! Cersei! And Dani! And how epic the first season was, mostly because my brain automatically assumed that CLEARLY, the trajectory of the series is Cersei vs. Dani in an epic all-out war for the throne, YES OR YES?

Well, I read some of the books, and while I can't say that's not where it's headed with certainty, there's enough misogyny and gender fail that I very, very much doubt that it will ever go there. Or go there before Cersei and/or Dani are horribly traumatized in gendered ways. Still, I kept reading because I do so love these women, and I do love the creepy dark world the series has created. And have I mentioned my thing for power struggles?

And then someone recced "Dragon Age: Origins" to me based mostly on my love for Claudia Black's incredible voice, where Claudia Black plays a character written for me. So I start "Dragon Age," entirely for Morrigan, only to discover that it's created a world very close to "Game of Thrones," with a similar power struggle, demons, dragons, witches, and a whole religion built around a female-Christ figure which is headed by female priests.

"Dragon Age" is darker and more brutal than "Game of Thrones" in many ways, but it manages this without the blatant misogyny that plagues the world of "A Song of Ice and Fire." The intro blurb tells me that in Ferelden (the fictional country in which the first game is set) men and women enjoy roughly the same social status, and there are few instances in the game that make me question that. Women serve as head of militia, head of the palace guard, preside over their Chantry, rule as queens, and their background history/mythology is filled with hardcore women who changed their world.

The first game is set in Ferelden, which is being overrun by a demonic blight that occurs every few centuries in response to certain cosmic events. The only people who can end the Blight are the Grey Wardens, which is an Order of warriors with 'demonic taint' that enables them to sense the demons and kill them. Besides the Blight, the struggling country is also dealing with a power struggle brought on by the death of its King, which led to certain factions rebelling against the ruling Queen and the government. Said queen is pretty hardcore is willing to be all Machiavellian in order to keep her crown, and the game wants me to like her! And the open-ended nature of the game actually lets you decide her fate, which never turns out too badly, anyway.

The protagonist, who happens to be one of the only two remaining Grey Wardens, and her (or his) companions have to unite different factions of the country/world in order to defeat the demonic blight. But all of that is kind of irrelevant, because the strength of the games are their characters, and especially their women. The second game’s heroine is a Fereldan refugee who escaped to Kirkwall when the Blight started. It follows her from a refugee to becoming a major power player in the new city and leading to another power struggle that sets the scene for future games.

Furthermore, it's almost as if someone is trying to break types with the heroines. We have a Chantry Sister who happens to be bisexual and a hardcore ass-kicking ninja, but it's revealed in layers so it seems entirely natural and in keeping with her character. We have the powerful Witch of the Wilds, who is at once the most cynical and most naively innocent character. There's Isabela, with her angsty backstory and a million reasons to be bitter and jaded, who refuses to let anything get in the way of enjoying life to its fullest. And various other women, who talk to each other! Even if you choose to have your player character be a man, the women in the party will initiate and carry on conversations with each other. And if your player character is a female (as it should be!), then it's an epic Bechdel passing marvel at every point.

And now that I am done squeeing over the world of Dragon Age, let me talk a bit about the women of Dragon Age...SO I MAY CONVERT THE MASSES.

Morrigan, voiced by Claudia Black, is predictably my favorite character in the "Dragon Age" universe. Antagonist and sarcastic, Morrigan is a powerful witch who is pushed out into the world for the first time as a result of the premise of the game. She is the daughter of the legendary witch Flemeth and was raised by her alone in a tiny cabin in the wilds. Morrigan's only interaction with normal human beings has been observing them while shapeshifting into animals and being hunted by Templars for being a witch. She is distrustful of humans, and her relationship to everything and everyone is calculated based on how much power it can grant her. Watching her form lasting bonds and being torn between her upbringing and her emerging humanity is one of the most rewarding aspects of the game because, HI, I have a type. She can be romanced by a male protagonist, but I recommend installing a patch that lets you romance her as a female protagonist because she is probably the most difficult and fun romance option. Morrigan character trailer that Bioware put out. Watch it if only to hear Claudia Black's voice. ;)

Anora, the Machiavellian queen who rules with an iron fist, she came to power upon her marriage to the young king of Fereleden. The entire universe knows that Anora is the one ruling the country and mostly, everyone who doesn't have eyes on the throne, is pretty damn okay with it because she is much better at it than their king would have been. It's heavily implied that she was pretty much raised to rule as queen and run the country because even while he was young, no one really expected the crown prince to be very good at it. She enjoys ruling and the power she has and will CUT YOU if you try to take it away. Sadly, she is not a character you can recruit to help on your missions (I mean, she has a frakking country to run while an apocalypse is looming on the horizon!), but she does play a prominent part and the game allows you a fair bit of interaction with her depending on your choices.

Leliana, the awesome nunja who drools over shoes and shopping in between spreading the word of the Maker. She's made up of many contradictions and absolutely adorable. I really can't talk much about her without giving away spoilers. She's first introduced as a Chantry Sister, who has been sent a vision by the Maker to follow the protagonist on her/his mission to stop the apocalypse, and aspects of her past are slowly revealed over the course of the game. She also clearly has a crush on Morrigan and hits on her happily, making me ship them forever. She can be romanced by a female or a male protagonist. Here's a nice character trailer for her.

Isabela, the ridiculously fun pirate who loves shiny things and lots of sex, makes me question my OTC devotion to Morrigan. She is easily the funnest character in the games, with one of the most angsty back stories, which you only get to hear if you make certain decisions when interacting with her. She reminds me a lot of Vala Mal Doran, another one of my favorite characters whose sexuality is portrayed in a positive manner and who is ALSO A PIRATE. She makes a small cameo in "Dragon Age: Origins" where we find out that she is the Captain of a pirate ship who has never been beaten in a duel and people much bigger and stronger and powerful than her come from all over to learn her awesome skills. In "Dragon Age II," she has been stranded in Kirkwall after having been shipwrecked in events that become clear over the course of the game. She might be stuck in a city without her fellow pirates, but that doesn't mean that she can't still go around stealing things, breaking into people's houses, and having lots of sex with both men and women. If you play as a female protagonist, Isabel femslash romance is one of the funnest things ever. YOU GUYS, the foreplay consists of them removing knives from each other's bodies/clothes, and it is SO EPIC. <3 (Clip where Isabela complains about having ONLY THREE daggers on her when she’s naked.)

Bethany: The younger mage sister of "Dragon Age II"'s protagonist, Bethany is incredibly sweet, idealistic, and snarky when you least expect it. In a world where mages are hunted and taken from their families to be raised in a prison-like Circle, Bethany's powers are hidden by her family so they can keep her from being taken. I became overly attached to her as my protagonist was a girl, and have I mentioned my thing for sisters in fiction? Anyway, the relationship between the sisters is one of the most awesome things in the games, and depending on certain choices you make, it comes in many varied flavors. I also, oddly enough, find Bethany to be the most shippable character. She's like Kitty Pryde in that, where she is the character you would least expect to ship based on her canon romance options, but somehow, she has subtext with EVERYONE. Depending on choices you make, Bethany may also turn quite bitter and jaded, which somehow, just makes her more shippable.

Merril, the naive elf who is out in the world for the first time. She's incredibly cute and clueless, and it's fun to watch her miss every single one of Isabela's innuendo-ladened jokes, which are not really subtle. She also happens to be a mage who dabbles in dark blood magic, which is shown to be one of the most dangerous things in the game. She is one of the only ones who can control it without losing herself to it, which I really appreciated in how it contradicts her initial introduction as a naive girl who needs to be protected.

Lastly, Aveline is the captain of the city guard and is, like, the legal version of the goddamn Batman. She’s hardcore and has a very black and white sense of morality initially. She can be a bit judgmental, but usually comes through in the end. Her initial interaction with Isabela starts out iffy, but I appreciate that by the end of the game, she clearly values Isabela’s friendship/viewpoint and has come to respect her. And I love that Isabela teases her, but is never offended by her view of her. Wait, this was supposed to be squeeing over Aveline and not Isabela, right? ;)

And that doesn’t even cover all of the female companion characters, and there are various powerful, interesting, creepy, and scary women that you come across throughout the game.

At some point, there was a controversy in fandom where male fans of the game were complaining that games (and the women in it) weren't written to appeal to men, and how the game didn't care about the straight male audience. To which, the creator said:

The romances in the game are not for "the straight male gamer". They're for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. ...And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as "political correctness" if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They're so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance.

Which...just compare this to Joe Quesada pretty much saying that women and people of color might as well drop comics because he'll never cater to them.

Date: 2011-09-09 12:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I AM SO GLAD I JUST ORDERED THIS. I have to warn you, I don't really... *PLAY* video games? I like watching people play, sometimes, and I can do the keysmash ones... WE SHALL SEE.

Date: 2011-09-09 01:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I had never played one before this one! Well, the Nancy Drew games, but that's more...puzzle solving than anything else. And this was very different from what I am used to. So I cheated a lot on the gameplay, and mostly just sat back and enjoyed the story and the characters. I SHALL SHARE MY SECRETS. ;)

Date: 2011-09-09 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Origins is SO great. You will love it. Be sure to play awakening too which wasnt mentioned in the post, its a short bit of fun but has two awesome ladies in dwarf Sigrun and elf Velanna. Also nathaniel and his sexy voice lol. /shallow. Plus its fuuun. unlike dragon age 2 which was so boring to me thaat i never finished it. and i got as far as i did because i loved the characters but ultimately it wasnt enough.


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