I haven't played King of Dragon Pass, but from what I've heard about it, I'd really love romance treated like that. Romance on a more personal level however, as I have said before, should in my opinion probably be treated more carefully... we've seen some really poor examples in recent years of so called "mature romances".
It's great discussing these things here!!
Speaking of King of Dragon Pass, I would be very happy if my vikings get to meet talking ducks, who practice a corrupted version of viking ways. (Driving them quacking from their tulla is optional.)
As long as they don't add a romance that feels like a 21th century romance I'll be ok. I want my vikings to be vikings, their society was extremely different than ours, their concepts of good and evil were completely different and the way they approached sexual relationships and courtship is not the way we do (they weren't influenced by monotheist religions, you know). I don't want them to act like 21st century people.
An essay on vikings weddings, mariage and sexual practices: http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/wedding.shtml
If agree with what others are saying: if romance is evolved, it should be woven into the story, and not awkwardly done like a Mass Effect one night stand.
"Not all those who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkien
for those discussing morality, it's a low-fantasy game in the developers words, so is still fantasy. not a historic game. there are centaurs, people with arm-long horns on their heads and who knows what else. i also read they were creating some original mithology not using real nordic sagas.
so i think the game won't be implementing all the real viking culture habits, and if we start digging through those we might be going further deep than stoic will ever go for this game (i hope my english is good enough).
so i'm quite sure there will be no female submission, no armies mass raping over conquered lands .. etc. i get the feeling that on these subjects political correctness will prevail. not that i'm particularly fond of it though.
If there is Romance, I would like the options to be kept small so that it could be woven well into the story. As long as it is keeping the theme of the games deep story, I am all for it.
Though I loathe real world politics, I love the idea of accepting or rejecting marriage proposals for the benefit (or to the detriment) of the tribe. It's a really neat idea.
As for the whole "women as property" thing- I could stomach it in a game where it is more of a "It's generally accepted that women are subservient to the will of men, but our tribe makes its own decisions and has its own moral compass/hierarchy" sort of thing... It could make for a really interesting dynamic, ne? If the person in charge commands a woman/girl to marry someone she abhors - who's to say she won't creep into that person's tent one night and slit his throat or cripple him/her in some way? Possibly she'll run away, join an outlying tribe and become a person of significance in one of the future Banner Saga games... a person with a grudge. Or, if the person in charge sides with the girl/woman- a whole other series of paths are opened up. Another tribe sees you "bending to a woman's will" and, figuring you're weak, attacks. The woman may become a person of significance in this timeline as well but rather than being an enemy, she's a champion for your cause...
I dunno- there's so much possibility in this game. It's really exciting! :)
I just hope they don't make it like a side quest where the ultimate quest is to get into an NPC's pants, I will be happy (I'm looking at you EAware). The only games I can remember that did it "right" were games were it was integrated to the story (like prince of persia), or more subtly hinted on (like planescape:torment's fall-from-grace).
Though I will be more than happy if they skip "romances" completely and simply concentrate on the non-romantic ones. Like the relation to your family members (if you have one?) and friends (or rivals in our group?).
I hadn't really thought about the role of women in this particular setting. I can see the problems which a faithful adaptation of viking culture would bring.
I would think that Stoic would go down the route opifex and balnoisi described, with a, let's say "revised" version of the (actually extremely grim and depressing) viking/northern way of living.
I can also see the appeal of Suzie's example, with a number of strong female characters struggling against oppression (or swatting it away like an annoying fly, much like Marie Curie did).
Forgive me for bringing up King of Dragon Pass again, but:
In KoDP, you usually had the option of letting the bride decide whether she wanted to marry X, or which of the available suitors she wanted to marry. Doing so would be seen as highly eccentric and would be met with the disapproval of most of the clan, but it was an option nevertheless.
I think that would work in The Banner Saga. Being able to choose a more woman-friendly way of doing things, at the risk of causing discontent. Over the course of the game (or the entire trilogy), various events involving women and people disapproving your untraditional stance could lead you to caving and going back to the old ways, or persevering and forging a new social standard for the clan. (Certainly, ragnarok is the best time to start rethinking business as usual.) That way, you present romance/the position of women in a way which fits the theme, but it is not a settled matter, and with hard work you can bring change. It adds an extra layer of plot.
In my own opinion, I think romance should be handled as ancillary to the main story. King of Dragon Pass is an excellent example of how to handle marriage, as well as Crusader Kings 2. While I agree it's good to be tasteful, I think it's important to have a period setting take on romance/marriage to fit the setting, with traditional Norse views on the matter. I still think you can handle exceptions to the rule, but they should reflect as exceptions.
I think the best inspiration could come from the Eddas. Maybe having a quest related to the Banner Saga's equivalent of Freyja. She was the deity associated with beauty and fertility but also war. She received half of the fallen slain warriors along with Odin and could fight and is a good example of a strong female in Norse mythology. She'd be a good choice to invoke in the name of marriage/births/romance.
While a do like all the ideas for ways to handle Viking age sexism in a way that is mature and interesting others in this thread have mentioned, my preference would still be to bypass the gender politics, give women equal status, and let the tension in any romantic plot element come from other sources, such as group dynamics, desires verses responsibilities, or the stress of keeping a relationship functional at the end of the world. It's not that there aren't other good options, this is just what I would personally have the most fun with.
And because I realize that I haven't actually weighed in on this, I do think romance for any main character there might be should be optional. Not in a, "I didn't play that side quest way", but in a choosing to remain single is a way to play through the game that will effect the outcome way.
I'm definitely with Opifex on having a preference for bypassing gender (and sexuality) politics, giving women equal status, and letting tension of any romantic plot element come from other/outside/internal turmoil conflicts and keep it on point. I rather see a game that is created with everyone invited to join in than a game that brings too much modern or faux-historical politics and persecution/oppression into play. Not all of us are straight white men playing games, and playing games with constant reminders of how unequal you are for being born a certain way, or how your gender is nothing more than a bargaining tool or object is not fun at all to me.
Also, it's a low-fantasy game with obvious fantasy elements. Like has been said, it's not a historic sim, and I'm very happy about that. Saying women are subservient because of *reasons* and *realism* in one breath yet having centaurs and mythic elements frolic around your camp in another just hurts my brain. I rather eschew all that and stick to a focus on the multitudes of other ways drama and interpersonal issues and management problems can arise from romance that don't delve into sexism and homophobia and other such social baggage issues.
Moreover, on this topic of real Viking/Norse history, if we're going to touch on that at all in relation to this topic, then they were a very egalitarian people. Women held great social status and power in society. They had the right to marry (and in political/economical marriages that didn't require permission, fathers often consulted with their daughters about the marriage) as well as the rights to divorce at any time they wished, hold and own land and property and inheritance, and more. It is also being discovered more over time that wives and women accompanied the Viking men on their trips and war invasions, like in the British invasion parties. Burial remains thought to be all men are being found to be at least half women, with DNA skeletal testing. Many of these women are buried with artifacts once commonly thought to be 'only for men' -- such as warrior armaments, swords, axes, spears, etc. Yes, it can be a sign of great prestige and symbolism, but it can also very well mean some women were out there waging war alongside men**. Crossing the gender divide wasn't unheard of. In fact, some men are found to be buried with typically 'female items' -- like brooches and necklaces and keys -- and a few were discovered in Holland to be buried in women's clothes.
**As for warrior women specifically, aside from just the Sagas mentions of women warriors like shield maidens and Valkyries and such, we have some historic accounts like the Saxo Grammiticus: History of the Danes speaks of "There were once women in Denmark who dressed themselves to look like men and spent almost every minute cultivating soldier's skills..." Greek historian Johannes Skylitze speaks about the battle of the Byzantines vs. Scandinavian ruler of Kiev and how women warriors were found among their fallen. And the Red Maiden, documented as leading the last warring Viking fleets against Munster in an Irish history book.
My point is that whether in romance, politics management, or the battlefields, I hope the game pulls more toward egalitarianism and diversity in roles for women. All of which I'd welcome and enjoy seeing in-game.
Other than that I agree with you wholeheartedly. Gender politics just are not fun for me.
*Something more like someone who is the passive partner in male homosexual sex as the idea of homosexuals as a separate class of people didn't really exist. There is zero talk of lesbianism, so it's kind of hard to gauge how Vikings felt about that topic.
On the subject of romance, I'm all for it. Romance when well woven into the story serves very much to improve and expand on the narrative to create a deeper, more emotional experience. Furthermore, the repercussions of such a romance can be explored in part 2 and 3, which would contribute to a very diverse and thought provoking game.
In general, I'm all for romance, if only it is well done and not thrown in like an extra feature for fanservice.
I think that we should not only consider how mass effect did it. The Witcher and The Witcher 2 also had elements of romance and the approach was very different from that of the Mass Effect series. I'm personally in favor of romance as it can be used in a variety of ways to further the narrative (i.e. political marriages, real romances, romance for ulterior motives). All these can be woven into the story to give it greater depth and variety.
And this thread is 4 pages already...Are romances the most important thing in this game ? What about gameplay ? Or, if the "social" side is so important , some other story dynamics between characters, like hate, friendship...?
Sorry to rant a little, but I'm a 33 years old man, so romances and other virtual dolls...
Personally, I think gameplay is actually less important than the storytelling, anyway.