I’ve lost a good chunk of the last week and a half to Diablo III. It’s my first action RPG, though it’s more action than RPG. While my Final Fantasy
binge therapy of fall 2011 was a distraction and this weird way to release every conceivable emotion, desperately clicking on mobs of demons until their heads go rolling is a different sort of therapeutic. When I have to take a break or get tired of getting killed too much in hell level, though, I can intellectualize the game like I do with everything else!
Diablo III is one of the most hyped releases of the year, and a good part of the fan teasing involved promotional artwork, FMVs, and character trailers. Choosing a character class is one of life’s great dilemmas. We get the Barbarian, the Monk, the Witch Doctor, the Demon Hunter, and the Wizard. Though all classes have male and female versions, the developers at Blizzard advertised a default character and story for each. The Demon Hunter and the Wizard are the ladies in this motley crew.
Ah, female character design in games. It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned that issue and it probably won’t be the last. I’ll start with the aesthetics since it’s easier to talk about. When you start a new game, you’re stuck in rudimentary gear until you can get you some loot. The Mary Sue pointed out in an article before release that the starting armor for the female Wiz and Demon Hunter is way more revealing than their male counterparts. The male Demon Hunter just looks like a pretty hipster.
Of course I am not in raptures over my thigh high stilettos and leather underwear. Unless you’re going to a goth club – party on you crazy Demon Hunter. It’s kind of annoying, but Diablo III is far, far tamer in the costuming department than many games. My girl found some real pants almost immediately, anyway. She kept her heels. I just pretend they’re actually stiletto knives. For the Mary Sue’s full review, commenters were more upset this time about sexualized female characters. There is some all capsing about HIGH HEELS, but I found myself unable to muster more than a shrug and an eye roll. Poor Demon Hunter is always the example in arguments from all angles (The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Starving Art Historian. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental).
By dying on the hill of character design, I think some responses ignored character development. Diablo III is not the paragon of story telling and thrilling dialogue by any means (it is probably closer to a steven seagal film), but I do appreciate the effort to create a persona for each character class. This is where it warms my cold heart just a bit that some default characters are female. I don’t know too much about the Wizard other than she’s kind of a maverick and seems more irreverent than other classes. (aside: a friend of mine is playing the wizard and both of our characters were nicely armor’d even at middling levels)
This is the character trailer for my girl. Yes it is schlocky! Push that aside because it’s depressingly rare that badass mofo fighters like the Demon Hunter are written female. And besides I enjoy melodramatically yelling that my enemies are about to drown in their own blood. Her in game mythology is that she survived a demon attack and got trained in the secret spot of the secret society of Demon Hunters until she was ready to go get bloody vengeance. She’s pretty bitchy and misanthropic for most of the game, snaps at people, and runs around generally not giving a fuck. Then she pummels demons with a rocket launcher. Finally a character I can relate to!
So many reactions refer to the female designs as being overly sexualized, and that definitely happens (a lot. a lot). I’m not sure my Demon Hunter is an example of that. Being sexy or sensual does not automatically mean a character is only an object. Sure, I don’t think a take no prisoners loner would choose stiletto boots. That’s small potatoes to me. Conventionally attractive femme fatales, hulk smashing warriors, and depressed hermit waifs all have the potential to be well rounded characters. Ultimately the substance of a character can outweigh a few questionable aesthetic choices.
Character design and sexism is an issue. Duh. But as a girl who likes games and considers herself a feminist, I just think it’s nice that I’m playing a character who I think is cool. If that’s not enough, you can always pretend the minions of hell are the patriarchy your sexy stiletto’d self is treating them to the rocket launcher of justice.