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!

Feminism in Gaming: For Honor Beta

Hi, readers! It’s Kylie here, and today we’re going to have a discussion about the newest rage (figuratively and literally) sweeping consoles and computers across the world, specifically the predecessor to the big, finished product. The For Honor Beta is a 3rd person multiplayer action game based in a fictional world where three warring factions, the Samurai, Knights, and Vikings, struggle for power over land and resources. Duels, capture points, and deathmatches are among some of the activities available in the beta for players. But you aren’t here to listen to me wheel off the mechanics of the game, or delve into a detailed synopsis (Wikipedia is probably great for that)! We’re here to talk about FEMINISM.

First, a disclaimer: The full version of the game will have a story mode, and I have not been able to play it yet. 

BUT 

I did have a chance to play the beta (for longer than I’d like to admit). And I’m here to share with you what I observed, and whether or not I’ll be purchasing the game based on the free beta.
First, let’s talk about the positives of the game. 

  • Gender Diversity: Out of all nine playable warriors in the beta (the final version of the game has 12), 4 can switch genders, two are women only, and two are men only. 
  • Customization: You can adjust the skintone to be any shade you want, and every piece of armor can be painted individually and have symbols or crests applied, including your own personal crest that you get to create at the start of the game. 
  • Armor, and Animation, and body types: The female armor is mainly realistic, and the animations aren’t sexualized. Some of the women are large, and have huge arms and muscles that seem realistic to swinging a giant battleaxe on the field, avoiding the waify-model type body that we usually get with female characters. The customization of the characters is frankly amazing, and far beyond what one would normally expect of an action rpg. 
  • Racial diversity in customization: You can adjust the skin tone to be that of any shade you want for any character in any faction. 
  • Story mode sneak peak: The main villain of the series is a lady, a terrifying, bloodthirsty, destruction-bound woman who appears to be a force to be reckoned with. Time will tell if she’s a good villain or not!

    We have some really solid pros here in reference to diversity and a strong presence of feminist writing and design. Awesome! There’s a lot to love here, especially if you want a challenging game with a bit of a learning curve (it’s not all slicing and dicing- there’s legitimate skill involved if you want to crush the skulls of your enemies) that doesn’t give you bikini armor, or no option to be a woman at all. 

    But wait! There’s more!

I wouldn’t be doing the game or my readers justice if I didn’t address the negatives of the game as well. Despite its clear strengths and excellent mechanisms with a few faults in multiplayer matchmaking, there are some feminist faux paus in this beta. 

The dreaded negatives: 

  • Racial representation: The character customization may be excellent, but the promotional material for the game is very, very white. Like, milk-white. Like whiter than me dancing at a barbeque white. Customization is great, but it feels a bit hollow if the company doesn’t follow up with representation in their promotional material. It’s a bit of a cop-out, and makes this game’s score in diversity come up a little short. 
  • Armor: Yes, this is also a pro! Though there is a LOT of female armor in the game that is nothing short of excellent, there are a couple of models (like the female Raider, for example) that have a little bit to be desired. Boob plates are a guaranteed death sentence in battle, so their absence is appreciated but highlights the spots where they are present all the more. 
  • Gender representation: This is basically the same complaint as stated in 1. Almost all of the promotional material on the For Honor wiki, unless the character is a gender-locked woman, is men with no option to even look at the female model for the character. A little frustrating, especially when you’re trying to do research on the armor for an article. 

That about wraps up the major negatives for me, at least from the Beta. Obviously, the full game has three more characters that I haven’t written about, and may have solved some of the issues that I complained about. Overall, though the game has its flaws, I found it to be a really refreshing change from what I normally expect from action-online multiplayer games. I’m not often pleasantly surprised, so if you’re into action-type games, games that require legitimate skill and accuracy, historical fiction (with some clear flaws in historical accuracy), or just punching other people in the face on multiplayer, this game may be an awesome fit for you. Personally, I’m going to wait until the price goes down before I purchase it, but I believe that it will be joining my library in the near future! And for the record, this is coming from someone that almost exclusively plays RPG’s and avoids multiplayer like it’s the plague. 

I hope that this article was informative and gave you a new, feminist perspective on a pretty decent game. Let me know what your experience was with the beta, or even with the full game in the comments, because let’s face it: there’s nothing like varying perspectives to make for an awesome article. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys in my next piece!