Asheron’s Call is a good game. After playing for two weeks in January and disliking it, I returned in June with a more open mind towards accepting the game as it is — a big part of this was in learning about the ongoing story. The playerbase seemed much more mature than that of Ultima Online, which I had recently quit playing because of my irritation with the rampant grief players. It was friendlier. I felt like the game was especially kind towards my larger-than-you-think segment of the market, female players.
A large part of this was in the way the game was presented. There was no EverQuest-esque modelling, and players didn’t have nearly the range of options in impacting others that Ultima Online did — no chainmail bikinis for females or clearly defined musculature for males, and no ways for a non-PvP player to be hurt by others. It was a haven, and I was much more comfortable playing the game than I had been in UO. I have never played EQ, but from what I know about that game, I’m sure it would have made me unhappy as well.
I’m most comfortable in games with downplayed sexuality in these worlds. While most female characters in UO didn’t go for the specialty girl armor, a good number of players were abjectly immature, and they created an unfriendly atmosphere. AC’s more mature playerbase and lack of girlie options made me happy — I feel that girly options negatively affect the feel of games. They cause players — not specifically male or female ones, just players in general — to start treating female avatars differently, to start harassing them with negativity or, equally bad, treat them as if they need help.
The inclusion of dresses in this month’s event was not a bad thing. Regular store-bought dresses are elegant and respectful; while they clearly define female characters, they don’t introduce overt sexuality. The altered dress is a different beast. It’s not about the image of the dress itself — it’s about what it symbolizes. It’s showing a movement from the comfortably low-key feel of the game in the past to a place that accepts more, that invites a more defined difference between male and female characters. This point is quite specific to Asheron’s Call itself — it is not a reflection on real life, nor on other games.
What the dress stands for is a betrayal. I feel betrayed by the people who made it. While I’m fairly sure at this point that the developers will think more before including content of its type in the future, I’m still concerned about the game’s image evolving. I’m not worried about UO-like gangs of morons infiltrating the game — I’m afraid of the playerbase as it is changing. Moving towards a more sexually charged atmosphere. And I think that’s a bad thing.
Sexuality is a big part of real life. I’m not denying this. What I am denying is its necessity in online societies. If I was to go off and live under a city bridge with nothing but a computer, an ISP, and an MMORPG subscription, it would not feed or clothe me; I don’t expect it to fulfill all of my social desires either. When sexuality rears its head in these communities, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to see people treated differently because of the forms of their avatars. Things were good in Asheron’s Call before the discovery of the altered dress. And while it may not change things much for now, I’m afraid of what could happen with more content in the same vein.
If I was truly angry, it would be obvious. I start swearing a lot. I make liberal use of capital letters and highlighting, bad habits I picked up in IRC. And I am not feeling anger towards AC’s developers, only disappointment. It was the responses that accused me of saying things I hadn’t that made me angry, people trying to demean my opinion by reading things into it that weren’t there, people trying to explicate my real-life psychological motivations behind having such opinions — a low tactic, one that I had not resorted to in my own writing. If I’m talking about real life, I’ll say so. When speaking within the context of a game, a single game, things are different. I was not talking about real life. And I’m angry that people try to interpret it in ways that it was not written.
To placate the masses, I’ll go on and say that, in real life, I’m a twenty-year-old female college student, and have been gaming since I was twelve and had my parents buy me Ultima 7 for the family 486. I’m not a conservative dresser — I haven’t worn pants in probably three years, and favor tank tops no matter what the weather. I own two pairs of shoes — a pair of twenty-eye steel-toed boots, and a pair of two inch-heeled sandals. And I have a very active, experimental sex life with a real, live, attractive male partner, one I’ve been happily engaging in such activities with since the age of fifteen. If I was uncomfortable about my appearance, I would not be attending next month’s UO World Fayre in Austin — why set myself up for embodying the assumptions people make about women who stand up for fair representations of our bodies? I don’t fit that stereotype, and if I thought that I would even come close to it, I wouldn’t be going somewhere where all of the people who know me online would get to actually see me, would get to videotape me and put it up for everyone to see. The last laugh will be mine.
To clarify some other assumptions, I’d also like to note that I have never before published an article on this site concerning representations of characters. I did a short piece lambasting Origin’s Enchantress Emily promotion, which was in good fun, and didn’t focus on the endowments of the spokeswoman. And I’ve supported Myschyf and Lum’s Other Half’s pieces on similar subjects, but only on the boards. It’s really not fair to accuse me of constantly going off on the topic on the front page of this site, because I haven’t.
It also seems to be a common thought that all of Lumcorp spends considerable time hiding away in a conference room in a large, imposing building, whispering, rubbing hands together, stroking fluffy white cats, smoking cigars, looking for new and devious ways to get more hits. In actuality, all of the writers simply write about what they’re concerned about. I would not publish a troll purely to get hits — I’d see maybe one or two dollars out of that, and I wouldn’t say things I didn’t believe in just so I could get enough money for a pack of cigarettes next month. It doesn’t work like that, and I think I can speak for all of my fellow writers with that sentiment. It shows a colossal amount of ignorance to accuse any of us of making things up to anger people, just so they’ll continue to visit the site and make us pocket change.
I’m sorry if my intents in expressing concern over AC’s newest content were not clear. I should have learned in August that one must be overly explicit in expressing points that could be interpreted incorrectly, that one must clearly state what one isn’t talking about, and to still expect people to think one is discussing things he or she isn’t. It’s too much to expect people to read carefully, and to take what’s said at literal value. I appreciate those who do read in that way, and I hope those who don’t at least attempt to see where the perspective is coming from, without making up content that isn’t there, and assigning motives to it that don’t exist.
Now can we have some nice uniformish dress coats for men next month, Turbine?