Feminism in Gaming: Jade Empire with Mod Knight!

Hey there, everyone! Mod Knight back with Feminism in Gaming! This time , I’m gonna dive into a game from my youth (that now that I look back on, has it’s ups and downs when it comes to feminism). The game I’m talking about today is Jade Empire, a game by BioWare released in 2007 for the Xbox.

Jade empire follows the story of a martial artist who is tasked with restoring a powerful guardian spirit of the world, the water dragon, in order to protect the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Along the way, the player can fight, talk, and romance their way through a rich cast of unique characters and fun, world building quests! The world of Jade Empire is certainly a vast and nuanced one, especially for it’s time!

Now, with so many characters, there’s a plethora of ways that we can see plenty of interesting representation. One notable feature of the game is that the characters are almost entirely Asian, which is appropriate for the setting. It’s nice to see that level of representation when so often characters from Asian countries and cultures end up getting white-washed.

Also! Not only does the game give us the option of playing as a female character, there are a several  female allies in the game, and each is an extremely interesting and well thought-out character! As well, we are given two options for homosexual romance in the game. However, I do have my issues with this, especially in the male romance with Sky, the only male romanceable character in the game. When the player first courts Sky, he is shown to be somewhat resistant to the idea, understandably needing time to think. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t so different from the female version of this romance.

When the two same sex relationships reach their resolution in game, instead of showing the complete scene as they would in the heterosexual versions, the game simply fades to black on the two characters, leaving it up to the player to infer what occurred. Of course, the very idea of having same sex romances at this point was pretty wild in gaming. However, looking back on it, the game treats them strangely, and simply has a difficult time providing satisfying scenes. Luckily, we know that BioWare has improved somewhat since then.

Speaking of romantic relationships, another folly of the game comes in the form of Henpecked Hou, a character whose entire identity is one big joke about how awful marriage is. In fact, the entire reason he stays with the player as a follower is because he finds it preferable to going back home to his wife, and he constantly reminds the player of his “dear wife, who has turned my life into a miserable cesspool devoid of humor and excitement. Bless her soul”, as he puts it.

While Jade Empire certainly has issues, it’s a game that attempted to touch on several serious topics, but may have gone a bit heavy or perhaps too lightly with them. In the end, it was a starting point for a lot of LGBT representation in gaming, and I, for one, am pretty grateful for that! While the problems with it pain me, I still find it to be a very fun and enjoyable game even years later!

Mobile Monday: Super Mario Run (with Mod Syrup!)

Hey guys! Mod Syrup back with yet another Mobile Monday! Today I’m talking about Nintendo’s app, Super Mario Run that is for iOS and Android devices. Now when I first saw advertisements for this game, I had my App Store alert me for when the game came out. You guys should know by now I ADORE Nintendo, and to have Super Mario on my phone felt like a dream.
So Super Mario Run comes out, it’s free, I download it ASAP! It loads, I see the beautiful graphics, and the standard Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach (for some cake? whatever) and I’m totally into it and ready to save her.

I start the tutorial level where it shows you how to play the game. You have 3 major functions: Running, which is automatic, Vaulting, which is automatic when you come to an enemy or small obstacle, and Jumping, which you can do by tapping on the screen.

Later on, you learn how to Double Jump, by holding the screen after tapping, that you have lives by the Bubble Method, similar to Yoshi’s Island with Baby Mario and when you play Co-Opt on Super Mario 3D World (may be more but those are what came to me off the bat), and to Wall Jump, which is the same for any game where you just Jump as you hit the wall. You also have a chance to earn 5 Pink Coins in each level which seems to be the aspect of the 3 Star System in previous games.

After the first World, you return to the Mushroom Kingdom for Toad to tell you that Princess Peach has been kidnapped and the castle has been destroyed. Because the castle was destroyed, the other Toads fled and you have to gather them up. How do you gather them up you ask?

Next, the game takes you to the function called Toad Rally. It’s ‘judged’ by Toadette. The first tutorial run, you go against Nintendo’s account.

You play it like the regular game, but the more cool jumps, vaults, etcetera you do, get you more points and more Toads cheering for you. If you win, those number of Toads go back with you to the castle. You continue using tickets to compete against other players.

Naturally, you go on and continue playing the Worlds. You downloaded this game to save Princess Peach, not race other players! You knock out World 1-2 and 1-3 only to get to the castle at World 1-4 and then you’re told you have to pay to continue. Furious, I deleted the game.

To write this article, I redownloaded it to get screenshots for you guys. I don’t remember this part previously, but now it seemed that you had 2 other ways to continue: Gather 100 Toads from the Toad Rally or Gather 15 Pink Coins from the previous levels (or you can also get them in Toad Rally). I thought sweet, they came up with another mechanic to get people to play!

So, being pretty good at Toad Rally, I collected my 100 Toads. I unlocked World 1-4, defeated the super easy castle, only for Bowser to take Princess Peach elsewhere (of course, it’s a Mario game).

Expecting I’d just have to do similarly with collecting Toads, I was ready to get my next number to unlock the other worlds. Unfortunately, the rest of the game was still blocked behind a paywall.

Given now, on the iOS version, there is a preview image that tells you that you have to pay to unlock the other worlds, I REALLY wish Nintendo wouldn’t have advertised this as a free game. They should’ve just had you pay for it or at least say it was a demo.

Super Mario Run is a really good game, but I’m not going to give Nintendo money for being sneaky like that. I’ll stick to my console games myself. That being said, I haven’t unlocked the other worlds so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it. But due to how short it is, I’d say save your money for a console Super Mario.

– Mod Syrup

Feminism in Gaming: Blizzard Games (with Mod Loser!)

Hey Nasties! This is Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me. And in this FIG, I’m going to discuss Blizzard’s history with feminism in their video games. It has been a bit of a wild ride, so without any more waiting, let’s get started.

Obviously, the farther back you go, the more problematic you find the situation.  The original Diablo games locked certain classes to a gender (which made no sense), and the various other games released with more boring, white, male protagonists. And let’s not forget WoW, hmm? These games exist, and while they were good at the time, it is important to recognize why they were problematic.

However, Blizzard’s more recent games have shown a drastic shift towards a more inclusive goal, which is significant for representation. The primary contender would be Overwatch. As much as I absolutely despise the loot system in Overwatch, it is incredibly positive towards POC’s and members of the LGBTQA+ community.

The obvious example would be Tracer being in a lesbian relationship (which was confirmed), but let’s dig deeper. For example, Symmetra is a successful person of color who also has been confirmed to have autism. Further yet, she is a support character. This means that in any given match, she is beneficial. They specifically empowered Symmetra while making her an icon to gamers of color as well as gamers who have autism to encourage them to play. But who else?

Sombra is Hispanic and incredibly proud of her heritage. At first, I thought Sombra was a stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it was so bad for a Hispanic woman to be proud of her culture? If anything, I’m glad Sombra was added in for that reason. Further, still, we have Mei who was the star of the Chinese New Year event. There’s Hanzo, Genji, Lucio, Pharah, Ana, Reaper,  and this list goes on. Almost half of the entire roster includes people of color, which is so very important.

You may have watched Mod Knight’s video regarding representation in gaming and why it is important (if not you can watch it here), but I’d like to reiterate. The point of seeing someone you can identify with, someone who clearly shares the same culture or background or struggles that you share, makes the player feel so much more invested. It validates us as players, it makes us feel more comfortable and we deserve these feelings.

Thanks for reading my little rant, Nasties! I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you have a stellar day! Mod Loser, signing off.

Character Spotlight: Sazh (with Mod Syrup!)

Hey guys! Mod Syrup here back with another Character Spotlight! Today I’m talking about Sazh Katzroy from Final Fantasy XIII!

Now if you’ve read my Problematic Fave article on Final Fantasy XIII you would see Sazh was a BIG pro for me on that game. (If you haven’t read it, please do read it here!) So let’s start with first

So let’s start with first impressions, shall we? When we first see Sazh, you see a baby Chocobo pop out of his afro and for me that was adorable. I instantly fell for the character just because of that scene.

Now, aside from that, I love Sazh because he breaks from the stereotype of black fathers not being a good father figure or to even be in the child’s life. How so?

Well, before we even learn about his backstory, we see how Sazh interacts with the other protagonists. But, more specifically, how he acts with Vanille. Vanille acts like a child despite appearing to be a young adult (and actually being a lot older). Sazh, being the eldest, quickly takes to trying to lead the party and keep them safe. This is especially shown with Vanille since those two get separated from the other members of the party.

As you gather more flashbacks that show you Sazh’s story, you learn that he is a single father to Dajh. When Dajh gets turned into a l’Cie and taken by the government, Sazh is heartbroken. Sazh’s whole purpose of this game is to find his son again and make him safe.

Despite showing his fear and concerns with going against Cacoon. He struggles with what his initial instincts are and what he knows he needs to do to not only survive but have a chance to be reunited with his son.

Aside from the father aspect on Sazh, that clearly isn’t his only amazing quality. I could easily argue that Sazh has the most depth out of all the other characters in this game. Literally, the only one I think could rival him would be Vanille, and that is because she is on the other side of this scene I’m about to explain. (Spoiler alert).

As you continue through the story, you find out that Vanille and her partner Fang were the reason the Fal’Cie at Cacoon turned Dajh into a l’Cie. Vanille and Fang were coming to attack the Fal’Cie, so to protect itself it turned the closest person into a l’Cie; who happened to be Dajh.

After Vanille revealing this to Sazh, he initially wanted to kill her. I find that because he had been such a father figure to her, he couldn’t do it. Instead, he turned the gun on himself because he couldn’t handle that his comrade was the one that took away his son.

Image result for sazh and vanille cutscene

Luckily, Sazh does survive and by the end of the game he is reunited with his son. Sazh from the beginning had to deal with so much turmoil. Beside having his son ripped from him, he also had to deal with his wife’s death and having to be a single father.

Sazh is a great edition to the POC of the gaming community and I love that he has depth and isn’t just a blank Greg who is just strong because he’s the main character.

This has been Mod Syrup and I’ll see you in my next article!

  • Mod Syrup