It is probably from a terribly male perspective that I agreed with Katy Perry when she sang that “girls are so magical, soft skin, red lips, so kissable”, but it also frames the reason why I often play female characters in MMOs: not because I want to look at a cute bottom, but because I enjoy the juxtaposition of taking such an incarnation of loveliness, wrapping her in a hulking suit of armour, and having her kick the ten living arse bells out of a muscleheap of ogres.

I find it strange, therefore, that this is one of the few areas where MMOs (and many other games) still seem to skirt around the issue; skirt being the operative word here, because finding a female suit of armour without a skirt component –more often one which barely offers protection for the pubic bone, let alone any major skeletal structures below it– is still uncommonly difficult.

It’s not an objection to the more sexualised style of armour, you understand – each to their own. It is the almost wanton lack of alternatives which serves as the basis for my confoundedness. It seems strange to have a general level of acceptance for, say, the curious dichotomy of orcs being mages and warlocks, with them wearing frilly robes and carrying little wands (which you’d imagine the stereotypical green brute would be more likely to use for picking its nose, or spontaneously shoving up the bum of a fellow orc for comedic effect), while still having such resistance to allowing the option of presenting the female form in a non-sexual manner.

Of course it’s not all bad: Lord of the Rings Online offers a splendid variety of armour items, and, as far as I’m concerned, is still the best fantasy MMO by far for allowing players the freedom to create precisely the character they wish to present to other players and the game world.

My recent experiences in Rift prompted this latest post on the subject. Rift has, in its Borg-like development process, assimilated the wardrobe function of other MMOs into its own MMO-mechanical systems, but upon searching through the cosmetic armour options for my female warrior, I found the armour designs to predominantly consist of bikinis, skirts and exposed midriffs. And this perhaps serves as a reflection of how I perceive Rift in general: it does its best to include those features which players often laud in other MMOs, but it does this in the aforementioned Borg-like fashion – indiscriminate. Thus I’m left with a general impression (which may be entirely unfair) that these features are included without understanding why the players want them, with the eponymous rifts being the feature of exception, which Trion not only absorbed, but really managed to improve upon.

As I mentioned, Rift prompted this post, but I’ve talked about the issue many times before. I’m also well aware that it’s one of those topics which endlessly haunts ships on the blogging sea, but shouldn’t that then reinforce the point that this might be a genuine issue for a modest section of the player base? It’s clearly not a big enough issue to drive the majority of players away, but I can’t help but feel that as long as an issue such as this persists, it maintains a perfect example of the MMO genre’s fabled stagnation and rigid inflexibility, an adamantine resistance to the penetration of consensus, which no steel skirt or bronze bra could ever hope to emulate against arrow or sword.

Posted by Melmoth at 10:22 am