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[personal profile] prozacpark
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 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, you have now made me put Dragon Age down on list of things for me to look into.

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.

Agreed. Yeah, there are many problems in ASoIaF and yet there are still many things that I do greatly like about the series. I won't leave any spoilers because I don't know how far you are in the books...

Date: 2011-09-09 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey you! Long time.

Anyway, I'm completely green with envy right now. I've been wanting to play DA since it came out. Unfortunately, my graphics card won't pass the test. *sigh*

Date: 2011-09-09 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
CLEARLY, the trajectory of the series is Cersei vs. Dani in an epic all-out war for the throne, YES OR YES?

If only those two were the only ones...

The genderfail in this series, though, is mindboggling. I've read the books as well as watched the show, and it's just everywhere. GRRM does an excellent job with several female characters, but others...well, I won't give spoilers, but there's deeply upsetting developments.

Date: 2011-09-09 01:22 am (UTC)
lafemmedarla: (act. eva. fashionista.)
From: [personal profile] lafemmedarla
I really want to check out Dragon Age. I was curious because Steve Blum does a voice but then I I really loved the other characters and voices and the story sounds intriguing enough. And your post reminds me how much I need this in my life.

Alas, not sure if my video card supports the guy *Seriously pondering new computer*

Date: 2011-09-09 02:52 am (UTC)
ext_18106: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
THAT QUOTE. I love that quote so hard, and have since I first read it. IF ONLY OTHER MEDIUMS WOULD ADOPT IT. omg.

Date: 2011-09-09 02:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh god, I want to talk to you about ASOIAF, because my primary interest in the series is also a meta interest in Cersei and constructs of women who want power (and how she's pretty much the only one who explicitly recognizes restrictive gender roles and rebels against them, and also actively seeks power, and she's the EVIL one), but whenever I try to think about that series now, I have to curl up in a ball in the corner. Or think about fic that no one has yet written where Cersei SETS THEM ALL ON FIRE. Her narrative eventually felt so hostile to everything I like about her character in a way that I just couldn't take. It's just. ARGH. Wallowing in really obvious misogyny in such predictable ways. I can't even watch the show, despite hearing that Cersei is done with a lot more nuance (and LENA HEADEY), because it all just makes me so fucking tired.

Uh, whoops, sorry to get my issues all over your journal!

Yay you posting! :D?

Date: 2011-09-09 09:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey! I got linked here by a friend. This is such a fabulous write-up of one of the major reasons I love the Dragon Age games and why I'm constantly trying to get my friends to play them. Yeah, the story is good, the world is surprisingly imaginative for an elves/dwarves/wizards fantasy setting, but the ladies you guys the ladies, don't you understand, you can have MEANINGFUL FRIENDSHIPS WITH OTHER WOMEN. And the male (recruitable) characters aren't misogynistic towards them, either! Some of the inter-party conversations about Isabela's pursuit of all the sex, everywhere make me want to break out into song. Good-natured teasing, where her appetites are seen as part of who she is and nothing to condemn? Be still my heart.

For me (as for you, I imagine), the Warden and the Champion are women. I've played a male Warden, and a male Champion, but I couldn't finish the game with them, because for me, it's just not as cool when a guy does this kind of crazy shit. And being able to make an entire party of ladies and feel like all of us are completely badass is...not a feeling I'm used to in videogames, to say the least. I tend to pursue the straight romance options (hey, I'm straight), but my characters' friendships with Morrigan and Isabela come out feeling like some of the most important and personally meaningful in the games. And to actually have a woman's friendship with another woman be given the same kind of emotional clout as The Male Love Interest is...really, really wonderful.

This was actually one of the things I liked best about the shift in format from DA:O to DA2 (which, like everybody, I do have reservations about): your party members had lives outside of you. It's made clear that Isabela is dragging you around on her adventures, too. Aveline has a career. Merrill is doing things beyond your ken. Obviously this is true of the male characters, as well, but it means a lot to me for the female characters because it's like the game writers are reassuring me that these ladies have agency to spare. You don't just earn their unending, slavish devotion in Act 1, and then they'll wait around in camp for you to call on them for the rest of the game. While that never precisely made me uncomfortable in DA:O--hey, it's how RPGs work, or at least 'worked back then'--I did sometimes look at, say, Leliana, left behind for the last four missions because I'm currently playing an archer and I need another DPS in melee instead, and think "...You know, if you want to go get in trouble on your own while I'm scuttling around the Deep Roads, that's okay? Leave a note, or something, I'll come and find you when I get back. You look so bored!"

In DA2, I can leave Isabela behind for a while, and feel confident that her life is no less meaningful or exciting just because I'm not currently in it.

Date: 2011-09-09 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
HEEEELS. You're blogging again! yay! I love this post, honestly I read up one Song of Ice and fire but all I found was that it was the misogynist book ever and I will be happier not touching it with a ten foot poll. plus there is in depth summaries on wikipedia if you just want to know what happens which I did since I was planning to watch the show and while the show is okay minus the grossness at the beginning pretty much all the developments in the book *censored* killing that prostitute and *censored* going blind and *censored* going crazy after finally getting what zie worked for. and *censored* and *censored* and *censored* all dying. I was pretty much fuck this book and fuck this show. The only thing good about it is Dany and we all know its only a matter of time before GRRM strikes her down too. and You're right the misogyny is over the top and so unnecessary. you can make a dark scary fantasy world without making it sexist as hell. I dont really care if he was trying to mimic medieval times. its still gross and i want no part of it.

I don't have much more to say about DA that I havent already said to you but I do think you should play awakenings if you played origins, that way you can upload your character from Origins and use them in a new 15 hour campaign/story. the story is interesting but not amazing but its really worth it for Sigrun and Velanna two awesome ladies missing from this list and breaks my heart! Basically it was alot more fun to me than Dragon Age 2 was. Also have you played any of the add ons? I'll be honest the add ons for Origins are largely buggy and lame but its worth it if you want to get more story, there is a special add on for Leliana's backstory and another one which concludes Morrigan's story. Also there's the Shale add on, that I think is really worth getting and it'll give you a good reason to replay the whole game. Anyway those are my recommendations! :)

Date: 2011-09-10 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My cousin told me about the game and he loved it too and Morrigan is his favourite character (which just shows that straight, white adolescents are as capable of liking female characters as anyone). I'm not much of a gamer so I never actually played it but it does look nice. And your squee (and Claudis Black) makes me want to try it.

Date: 2011-10-11 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I had wanted to try these games since early last year, but decided not to because I am not a gamer, and I wanted to dedicate time and money to other things.

But you are making me reconsider, especially if I decide to cheat like you did.

Date: 2012-03-23 04:13 pm (UTC)
goodbyebird: Batman returns: Catwoman seen through a glass window. (GoT I should wear the armor)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
I'm currently on a Mass Effect streak(also Bioware), but based on this I am totally jumping on Dragon Age this Summer. It all sounds FABULOUS.

Date: 2015-02-17 03:11 am (UTC)
illyriasacolyte: (agrias)
From: [personal profile] illyriasacolyte
Morrigan is a great character, but her outfit always made me uncomfortable during dialog. She's a great character (in fact out of all the playable characters, she's probably my favorite), I just got uncomfortable staring at her barely covered boobs during all of her dialog sequences is all.

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.
Amen! This is why I love Bioware, despite their occasional missteps. They wrote an openly lesbian party member in 2003, and they continue to push boundaries. Steve Cortez was the best part of Mass Effect 3. Remember when the internet went nuts that Commander Shepard was gay? Bioware stood behind their decision to make a gay-only romance option, and then did it again in Inquisition. That, and they refer to characters romancable by both gendered Grey Wardens/Hawkes as bisexual, not "playersexual".
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