There’s often talk about games that need to be all inclusive, progressive, and forward thinking, even if the genre happens to be high or epic fantasy. Often we think of single player games that way, because in single player games we pay more attention to the story than we do in an MMO. But in this case, I’m looking at the Guild Wars franchise.
When Guild Wars was launched, it started with Prophecies, and the story of a group of humans from a nation called Ascalon. They were under attack by a war like species called the Charr. Now, because we were playing humans, we didn’t really know about the entire history of the conflict. Just the human side.
But as the story progressed, we encountered many people and heroes throughout Ascalon, Kryta and into the Maguuma Jungle. It was all very Euro-centric when it started.
Then, in Early 2006, ArenaNet released an expansion. The first paid expansion of the franchise. Called Factions, the players were no longer in the familiar setting of Kryta or Ascalon, but in the nation of Cantha. The conflict with the Charr was very far away.
Cantha had very Eastern Asian aspects to it. A mix of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Tibetan. But it really wasn’t any different that other games that had come out before, as many aspects of Far East Asian folklore had been used as a building block for video games. The big change came in late 2006.
ArenaNet released Nightfall, the second expansion of the GW franchise. Like Factions, Nightfall was a standalone release, but it had something very different.
Nightfall took place in Elona. Which had very distinct African features. Drawing from Egyptian, Yoruba, and even Zulu folklore and myths, Elona was very different than any video game seen previously. It is incredibly rare when an African setting is the backdrop, but ArenaNet did it, and they managed to create a wonderful story complete with interesting heroes and complex villains.
In mid 2007, Eye of the North was released. It would eventually become the last expansion in the Guild Wars franchise before the release of Guild Wars 2. Originally, there was a different idea for Eye of the North, and there were many who believed that there was something pointing to a Meso-American backdrop. Instead, we learned that there are other species on Tyria aside from Humans, Dwarves, Tengu, and Charr. We are introduced to the Asura and to the Norn.
The Asura are small, but highly intelligent species. The Norn are massive, hunter like species that take a great deal of their story from First Nations myths and folklore and Scandinavian myth and folklore.
The progressive attitudes of the franchise sort of slowed, almost to a halt until Guild Wars 2 was released, and we came to the living story. That is where we were introduced to Kasmeer and Marjory. At first, one can just assume that they are a pair of humans in a Guild that was dubbed Destiny’s Edge 2.0. There was Rox, a Charr ranger who had no warband, Braham Eirsson, and Taimi, an incredibly intelligent Asura progeny (a child) who is a student of the College of Synergetics.
Taimi is stricken with a degenerative disease that does not allow her to walk around as fast as others would. But she doesn’t let that stop her, as she has her Golem Scruffy to assist her, and her incredible thirst for knowledge that pushes her forward. Many times this is at the chagrin of Braham, who has taken to caring for the small Asura.
Toward the end of the Scarlet Briar story we find out for certain that Kasmeer and Marjory aren’t just good friends, they are in fact a couple. There had been hints that the two had a relationship, but this comes to the fore in the final battle with Scarlet. As Marjory and Braham are both injured in the final assault, Kasmeer and the player attack Scarlet, while Rox stays behind to ensure Braham and Marjory are protected. Once Scarlet is defeated, Kasmeer rushes to Marjorie’s side, and end holds her in an embrace, giving her a deep kiss.
This produced a metric shit tonne of fan art. Seriously, fans got really happy with this.
During the assault on Lion’s Arch, we also meet an Order of Whispers agent named Symon, he wears a hood and mask and has the distinctive Whispers light armour, who assists with the evacuation of the citizens of Lion’s Arch. Later, when Lion’s Arch is rebuilt, the player can meet and talk to a woman called Sya. In the conversation with her, she reveals “I’m Sya. Back then I was known as Symon.” She goes on to say “Scarlet destroyed so much in the blink of an eye. It reminded me how short life is and how we should spend every moment embracing who we are.” Sya is a mesmer, and as a master of Illusions, she is able to make her outward appearance look the way in which she feels inside.
Even the Sylvari of Guild Wars 2, one of the five playable races, have a gender fluid feel to them. They are a plant based species, and while they do have male and female appearances, many players have used this as a way to create a masculine looking female or even a feminine looking male. The Sylvari even view love and relationships differently, as they do not have the boundaries commonly associated with such things. While same sex relationships in the world of Tyria aren’t frowned upon, the Sylvari are much more free to take up such relationships. This may be because Sylvari find a bond with each other that is closer than any of the other five species.
As the player roams the world and learns of the dangers in Tyria, they discover a great number of things that the rest of the populace looks down on. The Sons of Svanir and even the Flame Legion are two antagonistic factions that feel females are not worthy as warriors and that their only place is tending to the needs of the males. With the Sons, this stems from the lore that when Jora and Svanir first found the great dragon Jormag, Svanir accepted the gift of corrupted power while Jora rejected it. For the Sons, this meant Jormag’s power was not meant for them, and if a female Norn is corrupted with the dragon’s influence they will kill her. Jormag, for his part, doesn’t really care.
With the Flame Legion, they are a legion of Charr who at one time held an oppressive hand above all other legions. The Flame Legion lead the attack on Ascalon. But they also felt that female Charr were not worthy as warriors and demanded all females step down from their place in the military and take up a more domesticated role. This was later reversed as the other Legions pushed back and eventually defeated the Flame Legion. An impressive event came several decades after the events in Eye of the North, when Kalla Scorchrazor, a female Charr of the Blood Legion, secretly trained other females and lead a revolt against the Flame Legion. She forced the shamans to surrender, but paid for it with her life as a shaman stabbed her with a poisoned dagger. Presently in Guild Wars 2, players can find talk of a warband dedicated to the memory of Kalla Scorchrazor. Nicknamed Kalla’s Killers, it is an all female warband dedicated to taking out the Flame Legion.
There is still a long way to go regarding inclusive actions in video games. And let’s not be too hasty, Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 isn’t without it’s flaws. There’s an entire thread one could do that could be posted on either Escher Girls or Bikini Armour Battle Damage. But, as far as things go, at least Guild Wars is a game that moves in the right direction.