So I haven't been back in the States for a week, and I'm hit in the face with the sheer greatness of Lionhead's Fable 2 and a demo for Dice's Mirror's Edge. Between countless hours spent slaughtering trolls and seducing villagers, I've played the Mirror's Edge demo at least four times since its release.
But this commentary isn't about Mirror's Edge, nor is it a review for Fable 2. Those who frequent Neoseeker and understand Sunday Specials might already have an idea of what to expect. That is considering the title hasn't already given away my intentions.
I'll start by saying that I did not own the first Fable and expressed little interest in Fable 2 until I learned the sequel gave players the option of selecting a female lead. That became a huge selling point for me, just as the protagonist of Mirror's Edge possesses a realistic and proportionate figure. Two facts that have nothing to do with each other, some would say. I see them as small steps toward gender equality in gaming, but I digress.
In Fable 2, stats are split into three categories -- Strength, Skill, Will -- that allow the player to personalize his (or her) character's combat style. Focusing on each category will change the Hero physically. Strength makes the character larger, Skill increases height, and Will causes blue veins to appear all over the body, which is kinda cool actually. Things started getting a little fishy when I noticed my Fearmonger (now renamed "Lionheart") was looking bigger by comparison to all the NPCs crowding around her with big red hearts over their heads, hoping for an autograph, engagement ring, or sexy time.
"Oh crap," I thought. Alas, it was too late.
Some of you might ask, "What's the big deal? That game rocks!" Yes, Fable 2 does, in fact, rock. But I thought about the game's intended audience for a moment when I realized my Hero was getting too big for her breeches. Despite female gamers like myself shouting across the internet and forcing everyone else to acknowledge our existence, the gaming community and industry still has yet to truly accept us as a serious demographic. I can't blame them, to be quite honest, because the majority of "hardcore" gamers are still of the male variety. And while I am fully aware that many boys like playing as females in games (some crap about "eye candy," I don't know), it seems that most choose to remain grounded in their own given gender and reflect such when creating avatars to represent themselves.
Now you all might find a big hulking figure quite impressive, towering above allies and enemies alike. Let me tell you, it looks a hell of a lot more awkward when your Hero is a woman. Suddenly I find myself in control of an Amazon -- a titan, even -- storming through Albion, tearing down everything in her path. In fact, when a friend on LIVE invited himself to my game, he made a point of telling me, "I thought you were a man at first."
My Hero's masculinity is totally unintentional, an unfortunate side effect of leveling up her Abilities. Now, I'm not saying I want a hyper-femanine avatar, but as it stands, she's beginning to look more and more like a man with breast (and ass) implants as she gains XP. My suspicions lead me to believe that the development team for Fable 2 saw the female player as a mere bonus, an afterthought, which kills me a little inside as an avid gamer belonging to the fairer sex. Expressions in the game do not vary much between the male and female models either, as I discovered through co-op play -- all my LIVE buddies are guys who chose male characters.
Okay, so it's not really a big deal. I still enjoy Fable 2 and when I'm not playing, the urge to return to Albion claws at my subconscious. The likelihood that developers still fail to take gender seriously in their works does disappoint me, though. If they're going to give me a choice, why half-ass it? Or are the nuances of femininity (and feminism) lost on most devs? And why are the male whores of Bloodstone all so damn hideous while the female prostitutes range from repulsive to bodacious?
All I know is that my husband, Dean the Tattooist, grows tinier with each passing day, and I'm afraid that I may accidentally crush him one of these nights.