I’ve been playing a bit of Life is Feudal lately, and by “a bit,” I really mean, “twelve hours in front of the computer at a time so I had Chinese food delivered.” It’s still in Alpha so I know any kind of review of the game would be unfair, and despite what people on the internet have said about me, I do try to be a nice person. That being said, thus far, I don’t have anything horrible to say about Life is Feudal. To break its premise down into Jen Simple terms, it’s The Sims Goes Medieval, but with fewer pool-related deaths. However, I’m not here to judge game play. Instead, playing Life is Feudal got me thinking about something else near and dear to my heart: women. Namely, playing as a female character in a video game. (But let’s not rule anything out IRL, eh, ladies?)
Stop rolling your eyes and suck that groan up, because I know at least three of the five of you reading this are going to whine, “But we’ve already heeeeaaard that girls want to play giiiirrrrllll characters. Waahh.” And you know what? You’re right. With all the discussion surrounding Assassin’s Creed Unity and the “difficulty” of programming female characters, all of the cool kids have written about the need for more diversity in video games, and in a much more eloquent manner than I could ever muster. (Did you know there are some writers who can go an entire thousand words without making lewd jokes? I KNOW.) But you know what the internet does not have when it comes to this issue? My frakkin’ opinion on it. Though, I think my stance is quite obvious from the lop-sided boobs on my chest.
As you know because I just told you, I’ve been playing Life is Feudal. Now, because the game is in Alpha, character customization is, well, nonexistent. Again, I don’t hold this against the developers because they’ve made it plain what has yet to be implemented. Female character designs, along with more male, will be added at a later date. This means that during my foray into feudal life, I’ve been playing a man who looks exactly like everyone else: white, bald, and muscular, with horrible running posture. I don’t mind playing as a man nor do I mind sexualizing a character during creation. STORY TIME: My male character plays shirtless because I am still a woman and I can appreciate a well-rendered back when I see one. If you want to create a woman with breasts that slap her knees, have at it, tiger. You customized her that way, which was your decision. I’ll probably still judge you if I see you roaming around any MMO, but I judge myself for my shirtless man with a girl’s name. We all have our quirks.
However, the more I play as Mr(s). Hairy Back, the less I care about the game as a whole. There is nothing that I’ve added to this character’s personality or looks that I can claim as my “own” in my 30+ logged hours and thus, my interest in the game has also waned. He’s just some dude building houses by beating the ground with his fists like an ape. Back appeal can only hold my interest for so long. It’s like reading a book that has a beautiful setting and an exciting premise, but the protagonists are as dull as beginning game weapons—or Bella Swan. Without that connection and reason to care, not much drives me to continue playing, and that carries over into sequels, as well. I loved Assassin’s Creed II, and Ezio was a fantastic protagonist, but after that, I didn’t care for any of the sequels, because I knew the characters were mostly the same as the previous incarnations. Instead, let me make a female Ezio who also seduces the dress off eligible women in Florence. Give me an option to play as Xena: Assassin Princess, and I will throw all of my PayPal money at you ($13, developers…don’t pass up that kind of bling.).
It’s less that I want to be a girl and more I want to have control over who I play within the game. I’m not saying that all video game characters have to mirror my looks exactly—I’ve got a teeny bit more flab than Lara Croft–but there’s a reason why I have sunk more hours into the latest Tomb Raider than all three Uncharted games combined. And I LIKE those games! One of the reasons why I enjoyed playing RPGs so much as a wee Jen was because there was a cast of characters to play, each with their own skills and personalities. BONUS: at least one of them was guaranteed to be a female. Of course, she was usually the white mage or archer, and I prefer stabby things—but IT DIDN’T MATTER, because the character was a she. In my ahem, older years, I’ve become more persnickety about the characters I will and will not play. Essentially, if I cannot customize a character to at least somewhat relate to me as a person, I stop playing. That’s if I started at all. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Fallout are some of my most-played (and replayed) games because I can make a character that looks like the adventurous Jen I imagine myself to be in my daydreams. (Not the one who gets winded walking upstairs and has the balance of Humpty-Dumpty.)
To sum up: it’s not that female gamers want more diversity so we can claim more followers in our cult of the vagina, but we simply want a choice in who we play. Sure, I’ll say it, I want my female to have larger breasts because the Maker wasn’t as kind to me, but I choose to make character as such. I choose to put her into a practical outfit that maybe has some bright colors because it was cute. Are you seeing a pattern here? Besides, fighting over gender is just silly. What we really need to argue over is race, and more importantly, ridding the world of those filthy hobbits.