When you walk through RP hubs in WoW with a FlagRSP-type addon installed, a few things probably stick out as you read people’s assorted descriptions. There’s a lot of /emo. There are probably a few characters of questionable integrity. There’s probably someone with a mechanical body part or cat ears. And there are a metric ton of teenagers.
Sexy teenagers. Flirty teenagers. Particularly female characters, who are all on the “edge” of adulthood but have generous, quivering bosoms and ample hips and pouty lips … but are still extremely slender and muscular at the same time.
And it’s not just the female teen aged characters that have this kind of weird disconnect. I’ve yet to run into any potbellied, balding male character that’s not played expressly as bumbling comic relief – unless, of course, he’s totally bald or shaves his head, but is amazingly virile and strong/muscular/tall.
Obviously we’re feeding into some “idealized” versions of perfection.
But WoW is a world with /magic/. And miraculous healing. And races of people that haven’t started aging until very recently. Where are all the middle aged people? Even Night Elves, who can be 10,000 years old, wouldn’t be “mature” until adulthood – not “mature” as 15 year olds. Knights from the middle ages weren’t fully knights until they were 21 or so, and that was after years of training, and that was a “bottom rung” knight. If you didn’t get yourself killed, you could expect to be an active knight for 15 years – at least! Shouldn’t we expect the same kind of “progression” of warriors (male or female), if we’re going for believability?
Why, in a world where magic is so crucial to everyday life, can a short, scrawny, unattractive dude not be extremely powerful as a magus, and as such, be happy and successful? Heck – with all of the magic available in WoW (mage, warlock, priest, shaman, druid) it should be the shining, epic homestead of the skinny guys. You don’t need muscles to be an awesome magus.
In short, why are we bringing cultural stereotypes about aging and beauty into a video game?
Because it’s easier? Maybe.
Because we want to play out fantasies of what we’d like to be, if we could magic ourselves into something else? Maybe (though I doubt that most of those teenaged female characters are being played by women who think that being a female teenager is perfect and ideal and exactly what they want to be like).
We’re talking about FlagRSP descriptions here – things that frequently include items and features that aren’t standard to the character model, like height and build and jewelry and presence of fuzzy mechanical cat tails or whatever. Why is it so rare to find an “older” character – or even just a middle-aged one?
Wouldn’t it be cool to play a 35 year old woman who, because of her 15+ years of experience with a broadsword, kicks ass and takes names – even though she’s also the mother of two kids under the age of 10? Do we assume that makes her a bad mom or something, just because she’s got a job? These are adventurers – they kick ass for a living, it’s their job. It’d make sense that they’d only get /better/ at it as they gained experience. What if, as Scott Lynch says of his Lies of Locke Lamora series, that “opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn’t a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone.”
Or has our youth-obsessed culture completely forgotten what it’s like to be 16, confused about who you are and where you’re going with your life, simultaneously invincible and unable to do anything of your own free will, and uncomfortable in your own skin? (Dunno about you guys, but being 16 kinda sucked, and I’m rather glad to be done with that phase of my life.)
If we’re OK with playing an idealized version of teenagers, who are mentally perfect adults with their “sexy,” half-developed bodies… why not play an idealized version of a 20-30 year old, who has the better figure, the better muscle structure, the better skin, the fuller voice – AND more of a life perspective?
Disclaimer: This is something that irks me. It might not bother you. That’s ok, as it is how blogs work. I’ll be actively moderating comments (though I doubt I’ll have a problem since you guys are made of awesome), so lets keep things civil. Debate of ideas is OK – assumptions about, veiled attacks on, and criticism of individual posters and commenters is not.
*image credit RobinUtrac
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