I’ve been having a great time playing Starcraft 2’s campaign this week – I was really bummed to only get one mission done last night but I had some trouble with it and had to restart. Sure, I’m playing easy mode but I still feel like I’m playing the game.
Anyway as we’re getting flashbacks and cinematics explaining who Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, is, and what’s she’s up to, little “this seems familiar” bells are going off. Powerful female warrior, risks everything in defense of her cause, then defeated, left to die – but no, it’s worse, instead she is transformed into what she most hates and becomes the embodiment and leader of it? Hmmm. Sylvanas, is that you?
Now some Forsaken loyalists may accuse me of being unfair with my further characterizations here but bear with me.
I’m a writer. I work on novels sometimes (like in November; plug for http://www.nanowrimo.org, National Novel Writing Month). I’m totally into characters and characterization, and I’m loving Starcraft for the amount of character interaction they put into each little cut scene. Each character is recognizable and different and the way Raynor interacts with everyone on his ship is great – each interaction is slightly different. He doesn’t talk to his old friend the way he talks to a new ally. It’s awesome.
So why, oh why, are the very few female roles so – well – weak? I’m not talking about how apparently women are medics or fly med transports (or, yes, the Banshees. Yeah.) Or the way the medics speak – dripping with innuendo even in innocent lines. Whatever. The Thor sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger; they’re not going for realism.
So far in Starcraft, I’ve encountered three females: one mercenary who I had a mission to pay off (she was creepy as hell and hasn’t been seen since), the aforementioned Queen of
undead Blades, and a scientist chick who I had along for a while. Now, when it came time for her to leave, I had a choice of missions and I picked the one that lead to her [spoiler!] getting turned in a zerg and killed. So that doesn’t help my perception of the game so far.
Then look at World of Warcraft. I can think of precisely two female leader-hero type characters: Sylvanas and Jaina. Jaina may not be a victim-villain-bitch, but she’s not much to recommend her sex either. We’re talking about a character whose defining characteristic is “I used to date Arthas and I abandoned him at Stratholme and feel guilty as hell about it”. Realistic character? Maybe so; I think feeling guilty is reasonable and I liked Jaina just fine up until the Halls of Reflection, where she went all angsty -“No, I must know if he can be redeemed!” Since then, I’ve seen her once, showing up after we kill Saurfang and being Varian’s cheerleader-slash-mommy, simultaneously patronizing the leader of the Alliance and demeaning herself.
Where are the women with stories as complicated and interesting as Thrall, as Tirion Fordring, heck, even as compelling as Thassarian or Varian Wrynn?
My guess is it just doesn’t occur to the writers that there’s anything missing. Kerrigan, Sylvanas and Jaina are all powerful women. They lead factions or movements, wield power, stand toe-to-toe with male counterparts, yes – but as characters, they are ridiculous caricatures. And they don’t have to be. Blizzard does an awesome job creating stories in a medium that doesn’t lend itself to real character development. You’ll never confuse Thrall with Garrosh, Tirion Fordring with Darion Mograine – so could they take just a little of that ability, maybe talk to a woman or two, and create a woman who isn’t a victim?
Or am I just being overly critical?