I also think that a romance aspect, or arranged marriage aspect could be an interesting addition to a multiplayer game. When you watch a show like Game of Thrones you see how big of a role individual relationships play even in the running of a kingdom, and thus I think emphasizing these relationships/romances in a multiplayer game would be cool.
Over and over again I have seen fantasy worlds that have halfhearted attempts at showing gender equality, and I find them disappointing. Frequently I see the cultural set up remain the same patriarchal standard, while simultaneously seeming to have no actual effect on female main characters. This is at best internally inconsistent, and at worst a disgusting sort of white washing of the effects of gender coded roles. I haven't played a lot of King of Dragon Pass, but what I have seen so far in the game hasn't exactly thrilled me. The gods of the game fall into the same old, same old gender stereotypes. The battle gods, the god of law, the god of knowledge, men. Healing, the earth, women. It is apparently legitimate to sell a woman into marriage for 20 cows, and yet women hold positions of power within your clan without anyone questioning them, or having had to struggle unduly to reach that point. I have yet to encounter a female chief, and the default gender for warriors seems to be male, with a few exceptions.
Another example of this same problem is Dragon Age: Origins. Play as a female human noble, and you are apparently the only noble woman not expected to wear skirts and marry a nice young man of sufficient wealth. No attempt is ever made to reconcile your status to the apparent status of every other woman. Morrigan makes comments to the effect that exceedingly sexist attitudes are prevalent in the setting, and yet somehow the only effect this ever has on your party are a few throwaway lines at the beginning of the game if you choose to play as a female human.
I find these sorts of representations of gender relations tired and poorly thought out. If you can convince me that a society with creatures more or less uniquely from Greek myth (centaurs) wandering around in it is a Viking one, then it can't be that much of a stretch to say that a culture that doesn't have expectations of societal roles based on gender is a Viking one. Heck, for all it's goofiness the movie "How to Train Your Dragon," almost nails this. There is almost no indication that women are expected to behave any different than men in that world; the only failing point is that men make up the overwhelming bulk of the characters with only two female charters with a name.
For the most part I am totally on board with your ideas about romance. I think the less popularly explored familial relationships and long term established relationships are likely to be more rewarding than a quick thrills of "winning" a romantic partner. But something about the term "overtly oppressed" set my teeth on edge, simply because I have seen settings that seem obviously geared to favoring men completely fall down in their method of addressing how that affects the women in that world out of a desire not to come off as sexist.
Last edited by opifex; 05-10-2012 at 11:59 AM.
I second opifex here. I feel that either the women need to be equal to begin with or, since Stoic is fully in charge of the story, they need to be treated consistently in the story with regards to how the culture treats them. In fact, I think there is a lot of storyline possibility in regards to the evolution of the culture in regards to gender roles.
This is essentially an end of the world setting. Why not start with a society that is truly viking in terms of male/female roles. As the story evolves player choices can impact whether women become equals or not. This would allow you to show the struggles women would go through as well as investigate how the end of the world changes the culture and the idea that everyone has equal value when society breaks down.
As ever, I'm happy to be wrong and for Stoic to really nail an interesting story with an irregular focus- but I'm also happy and expecting a more traditional tale with cultural values as an interesting counterpoint to the main focus of the end of the world.
Opifex, equality doesn't mean uniformity, so warrior gods and fertility godesses are not necessarily a bad thing.
And for any author, it would be extremely difficult to depict a believable world where men and women share the same rights, because we, humans, do not create something out of nothing, we reshape our own reality.
And if I am totally honest the game will be more fun for me if gender issues are not a focus. I like gaming for a bit of escape and I would just as soon not have to play about women's rights.
And people can imagine a society to be whatever they want it to be. Fantasy writers made dragons up right out of thin air. At no point in time has there ever been a big flying lizard that breaths fire. Women having equal opportunity to men is surely no less fantastic.
ETA: I realize I have made this post ridiculously gender binary, and I apologize. Equality for anyone who doesn't fit neatly into a binary gender model would also be ideal.
Last edited by opifex; 05-10-2012 at 02:41 PM. Reason: to keep from double posting
But, as a man, I cannot be pregnant, and I'm more shaped for physical violence than a woman. That does not mean that I consider women to be inferior. Again, equality does not mean uniformity.
Oh, and dragons have nothing to do with lizards, snakes, birds or dinosaurs, that's true.
And to demonstrate what I meant about art and creation, just try to imagine a color that does not exist, a form that you have never seen.
"Equality" in a Viking world is going to be a difficult pill to swallow- a culture of warfare dominated by physical strength- it's a man's world. Mages and other spellcasters can certainly even up the potential for some gender equality on the battlefield but to what end?
As a woman I cannot be pregnant without a man's help, and I am well designed to be maneuverable and agile which can win fights just as easily as raw strength alone. And frankly in a world with magic or guns the playing field gets leveled pretty fast even on that account.
Dinosaurs, birds, and lizards might inspire dragons, but it's not like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Marie Curie and the countless other women who managed to be strong, intelligent, and successful in roles that were deemed more fit for men are figments of my imagination.
A society that doesn't tell people who they should be based on gender isn't something that has no realistic start point. I don't have to envision an ultra-violet what-nots to imagine what it would be like if women didn't have to fight tooth and nail to be treated as equals.
I may be starting to lose the thread of this discussion, I don't think anyone's trying to argue that women can't be strong physically and emotionally and that they don't have the capacity for excellent leadership. What is being said, for better or worse, is that the Banner Saga's storyline is not the venue I look to see the debate further undertaken, I don't see videogames as the stage for any real serious debate. Which is perhaps a failing of past titles' unwillingness to tackle such issues- but I'll take a fantastical story as opposed to one that aims to tackle 'real issues' nine times out of ten.
Edit: and that the above reads in a fairly condescending manner is why I haven't really any desire to see videogames branch out into such areas. They'd likely come across as insensitive or ill conceived- the exact concern around the potential for romantic sub-plots that's been discussed at length earlier in the thread. In brief: you can't explain an emotion fully in words- and I don't feel art and music, pretty as I expect the Banner Saga's to be, are additions enough to allow you to do so. They can certainly illicit an emotional response but nobody but me can tell me how something makes me feel- a point I'd imagine is true individually for most of us.
Last edited by JokerAR; 05-10-2012 at 03:27 PM.
The gender debate continues to be interesting and thought provoking! One of the challenges we face is that (as is apparent even between a handful of people) there's no consensus on the best way to approach the issue. Some want a more authentic old world society, some want more modern and comfortable moral values. And as some have mentioned we don't want social issues like gender equality to take center stage within a story that really has little to do with it.
To further complicate the issue, a lot of people really do prefer the established gender roles that persist throughout history; men prefer action heroes and domination, women prefer emotion and relationships. Fight Club vs Dowton Abbey, for example. At the same time, some people seethe with rage against these stereotypes. Personally, I can appreciate almost any genre, but I really enjoy stories that do both. Identifying what motivates different characters transcends genre in my opinion. The Wire, for example, has characters who are hardened criminals, marriages that go bust, fatherhood, gay relationships both male and female. The point is that the social issues are driven by the characters, not the other way around.
I do think we're doing some things that you may find interesting. We don't have an "Odin" type father/warrior god. The primary god of creation is female, and she doesn't really fall into the "earth goddess" category. The centaurs, who are pretty foreign to the human and varl cultures, have a matriarchal society. One of the most important and powerful characters in the game is a woman (Juno - you can see her in the animation cel prize from the Kickstarter campaign).
Having said all that, we haven't written it this way as an effort to be politically correct and balance the amount of male to female importance, we came at it from the approach of what would be a cool idea, or a fresh angle, and what makes sense within the context of the story.
Can't wait to really start getting into the story!
opifex, I see that this is a sensible topic for you. I share my life with a woman for six years now, and we're equals. I could not live with someone who is not my equal.
What I wanted to say, is that we're not clones, we're not snails. If someone runs faster than me, it doesn't mean that I consider him superior. As humans, we're extremely similar and diffrent in the same time, that's our paradox and our nature.
Women like Marie Curie were exceptions, born in a men's world. They're proof that women aren't inferior, but they lived in patriarcal societies.
And we' re not really creators, we re-create our reality through the lens of ourselves. And our reality was never been an utopia.
So, it is not impossible for an author to depict a world based on equality that is more than just vague words, but it would be extremely difficult. He would have to use some "workarounds" to overcome human limitations, like for exemple the black box (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box).
Alex, the setting sounds really interesting! I'd say you are coming from a quite fresh angle, which is nice. What is even nicer is to hear that the decision is based on the fact of what's good for the story and not because you feel compelled to do something different and something that a big publisher might not do just because you can.
I feel that you guys are tackling these questions that come up in the forums really well - and frequently, kudos!
That sounds interesting. It's always nice to see some creative theology.
the Vikings. If you want female warriors, they apparently had some of those, too. Women weren't represented in all aspects of life (as far as I know, there weren't any female chiefs, for example), and the male warriors in the sagas far outnumber the females, but when the exceptions did show up, there wasn't any sentiment that the women should get back into the kitchen.
Writing is 5% talent and 95% not being distracted by the internet.
It would be interesting though if some of the female characters would have a conversation about how the end of the world has changed things for them. If that's the way they take the story line, why not have a group of women look around and realize just how different things have become. In my head, this hypothetical conversation would start with them doing something atypical like sharpening swords or making arrows around the campfire. One of them looks down at sword or arrow in her hands and laughs out loud. The others look at her in surprise and ask what's wrong. She smiles ironically and says "You know, a year ago my father would never have let me or my sisters near anything like this. It took goblins raiding the village, killing both my uncles and seriously wounding my brother to change his mind." The other women then could tell their own stories with maybe a few flashbacks.
The whole game doesn't have to be about women's rights or equality. But maybe some acknowledgement that their society ISN'T perfect or equal and how it's literally taken monsters at the door to change things would be a good compromise on a touchy subject.
In fact, I'd say the real orlanthi leaders are the women, the men ar just rowdier. And the difference between them is the mythological difference between "Air" and "Earth", not gender.
Sorry for the rant, I just love that world :P.
Romances and friendships definitely add to a game's story and can make it feel more real and believable, if they are properly written and implemented. However, nothing should be forced on the players. In some games, you almost have to struggle to avoid romancing some NPCs.