I love playing strong female characters. No matter what game I try, I tend to veer away from the overly-feminine character types and pick tough ladies that get the work done. My WoW main used to be an orc warrior, and I think their character model is fantastic. Sure, no pretty faces anywhere, but they are toned, strong, awesome, but also look good in a robe/dress. I also like the chiss and miralians in SWTOR, or the bahmi in Rift.
Obviously I had been looking forward to playing around with character generation in Guild Wars 2. Unfortunately I came out of this experience sorely disappointed. Of the three races that were available in the beta, both humans and norns left me disappointed. Guild Wars 2 has eight so-called professions, and three different armor types. There are warriors and guardians wearing heavy armor, engineers, rangers and thieves wearing medium armor and finally mesmers, elementalists and necromancers wearing light armor. In the case of female charrs, this is pretty much perfect. No matter which profession, they’re always covered and unlike, say, WoW tauren, there is no unnecessary addition of breasts or anything. They look like mean kitties with horns, and are pretty bad-ass. If you like running around on all fours. Takes some getting used to.
Problems begin when you start clicking through character generation for female humans. The heavy armor involves chainmail bikini, but nothing dramatic. The medium armor looks very good. Leather coats, pants, I thought it was all very cool. And then I stumbled across the light armor. Let me introduce you to the default look during character generation, for all three light armor professions:
Before someone accuses me of being a prude and that it’s the year 2012, bugger off. I am by no means a prude, and as gay lady, I enjoy a little eye-candy myself. It’s another matter entirely though if females are represented like that in an MMO that is supposed to appeal to the masses, not just hormone-driven teenage boys. Of the three light armor professions in their default armor (mind you, it’s not their starting gear), I can deal with the necromancer best. At least she has a certain goth style and is mostly covered. The elementalist looks like a belly dancer, not like the mistress of fire, earth, air and water. The mesmer? I cannot deal with. At all. Is this necessary? Garters, a middle part that is barely covering the assets, and a poofy skirt? Really? Ah, but maybe it’s just humans, and it’s better for norn women.
Guess not. Norn in general have the problem that they’re basically a giant version of humans which on the women translates into big breasts. Not the race diversity I was looking for. Of course, I had to check out the male counterparts as well. Let me show you the male human mesmer.
He’s got all the poofy, flamboyant style that the female mesmers have, without flashing any skin. As mesmers have melee abilities, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? The two other light armor classes are similar. Long robes, pants, full coverage. All equally colorful, but the color of the gear is the least issue, as you can freely dye any gear in the game without any extra costs. Basically, Guild Wars 2 is all about the cheesecake and none of the beefcake. Ideally, for me you would at least have a toggle. I would want to be able to wear the male gear or robes in that style. But you can’t. In fact, you are locked into your mini-skirts. Even if you find a loot drop that says pants, it magically translates into a mini-skirt as female light armor. That just pisses me off.
But let’s move on. I was determined to torture myself and picked a female human mesmer for the beta event. The concept of the class is rather intriguing after all. In the next step of character generation, you actually get a first look at the starter outfit. It’s not as terrible as the default look, but not my favorite either. When you dig into further customizing your character, you will soon notice one thing: all Guild Wars 2 human ladies are teenagers. Fresh-faced, pouty, freckled. Two pages of faces of women I have no interest in playing. Barbies, one and all.
At the recent EU Fan Day in Brighton, someone asked questions about the human face being so young and pretty, and if there was no way to create a less attractive face. The disappointing response was that they want the human face to be one of idealized beauty. Pewter blogged about this a while back, and I am in full agreement with her. It’s just disappointing. Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs recently posted her beta impressions post, and was very excited that ArenaNet apparently listened to the concerns. They added ONE older face. I am sorry, I can’t get excited about this, because it means we still have over a dozen young, ‘idealized’ faces, and just one that has some lines and doesn’t look like she’s 16. What a cop-out.
Nevertheless, that’s also what I went with. Picked a shorter haircut, and the older face, tweaked the face settings a bit, and voilà, an older mesmer in a frilly outfit. Not that it really mattered much which face I took, because mesmers hide their faces behind masks. Purple harlequin faces, wahoo. By level 8, I finally got a story quest reward to replace her pants. Uh, miniskirt. It replaced it with a miniskirt plus hose. I dyed the whole ensemble red and cream and was as satisfied as I can ever get when I play a character that is wearing a miniskirt.
My biggest hope right now is that they’ll make asura and sylvari characters compelling without repeating the mistakes that I feel they made for the norn and humans. My biggest fear is that I am all by my lonesome self with my strong dislike for the overly sexualized character presentation in Guild Wars 2. In the beta, I mostly ran into female characters, at least for the light armor classes, so they’re probably a hit with the guys.
And that’s it for now for the beta coverage of Guild Wars 2, until the next beta event. Overall, I am likely going to be playing this game, if only to level to 80 and explore the vast world of Tyria. I find it compelling enough that the disappointing portrayal of female characters won’t drive me away. There will always be charr to play, I suppose! Also, they did things very right with the medium armor, after all. It’s not a total loss for me like TERA where I watched one video full of panty shots which was enough to drive me away forever.
Yet I am hoping that feminists will have a look at this game during the beta, and will raise their concerns, much like Milady from Hypercriticism already did. I think we need this discussion. I think ArenaNet needs to see it. While chances are fairly minimal that fundamental things will be modified, there is still room for change.