Corey and Lori's Quest Log

Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

Posts Tagged ‘Baba Yaga’

Shady Ladies of Shadows of Darkness

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness will always be my favorite game of the series.

Shadows CD Version BoxHalloween is my favorite season of the year. While I’m not a big horror fan, I do love the spooky, eerie, creepiness of a well-told ghost story. I grew up reading Poe, Saki, Lovecraft, and Stoker. We were inspired by films like Dracula and Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks and “Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein” showed us how funny horror can be.

I wanted Shadows of Darkness to be full of tricks and treats just like Halloween.

However, when I started to write this series about the women of Quest for Glory, I had thought that Shadows of Darkness would be pretty far down on the list when it came to having strong women. After all, it only really had one woman, and she was the villain.

Silly me. No, now that I think about it, the game really is about two very strong women. Or possibly about three… or four… And it tells the story of several more.

I had thought that Shadows of Darkness was all about Halloween.

It’s really a story of love and redemption.

Damsels in Distress Yet Again

There are many damsels in distress in this game. There are many men in distress, too. There’s even a Domovoi in distress. You could say the entire game is about people living in the shadows of fear and hopelessness. It’s up to the Hero to bring some light into this world.

AnnaAnna is a ghost who doesn’t know that she is dead. The Hero has to reunite her with her beloved Nikolai to free both their souls.

The shopkeeper misses her missing husband. The Hero has to listen to her and her husband complaining about one another. Then the Hero helps them realize that they still love each another.

And that’s just part of the story…

The lady in the lake is spending her afterlife avenging herself for the wrong that someone else did to her.

The innkeeper’s wife is in distress because everyone believes that her daughter is dead, but she is unwilling to accept that her child is gone forever.

A small child misses her mommy and daddy.

A loving and powerful Wizard is trapped in the chaos between worlds.

All in all, Mordavia really isn’t a very happy place to be.

The Hunger Game

The one powerful female in the game who isn’t in distress is Baba Yaga. She came here to get away from the embarrassment of being turned into a frog by her own spell.

Baba YagaHowever, when the Hero comes walking into her hut again after all the grief he caused her, she doesn’t just serve the Hero with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. She talks to him a little before she decides to serve her vengeance cold with some eye scream. She chooses instead to make a deal with him, which involves something suitably yummy to her admittedly eclectic taste.

It’s clear that the way to Baba’s heart is through her stomach.

Leader of the Pack

MagdaThe Gypsy Leader, Magda, doesn’t need rescuing, but her son does. Gypsy Davy is accused by the superstitious villagers of being a werewolf and eating Igor, the gravedigger. Once the Hero rescues Igor from his untimely grave and thus proves that Gypsy Davy is innocent, the Gypsies will accept the Hero as a friend.

Foolish villagers – the Gypsies aren’t Werewolves. Werewolves are cursed. The Gypsies are Shapechangers. They don’t have to wait for a full moon to turn into a wolf. These shapechangers do not turn into mindless beasts. They have no interest in eating dirty, smelly gravediggers.

They also have a matriarchy ruled by an Alpha female who can tell the future with tarot cards.

Magda is nobody’s bitch.

Lady in the Lake

Many of the creatures who populate Mordavia were pulled from Slavic Folklore. The Rusalka is one such creature.

RusalkaThe Rusalka, Elyssa, doesn’t pull men to their watery graves because she hates men. Elyssa became a Rusalka because that’s the sort of curse you get stuck with when your untrue lover drowns you in a magical lake because you didn’t put out.

Any Hero can befriend Elyssa, but only the Paladin can set her soul free by breaking the bond between her spirit and that of her murderer. Then the Paladin has to show her what it means to be kind and loving by kissing her cold, clay lips. Only then can the curse be broken and Elyssa’s soul go to her rest.

Faerie Dust

Faerie QueenThe Magic User is the Hero who meets the Faerie Queen. She’s come to Mordavia in order to claim the staff of Erana that protects the town. However, she is thwarted because it will take a great sacrifice to take the staff. Unfortunately, none of her minions is willing to make the sacrifice so that the Faerie Queen can take Erana’s staff.

So the Faerie Queen does what most villainesses in QfG do – She gets the Hero to claim the staff for her.

We’ve met Faeries in the very first game of the series. Zara showed the same sort of arrogance and disdain for humans that the Faerie Queen shows here.

The Faerie Queen doesn’t care who gets sacrificed or betrayed so that she can get what she wants. She’s too arrogant and powerful to let the Hero keep the staff. She intends to deceive and kill the Magic-User to get Erana’s Staff.

The Faerie Queen, like so many other villains, is too full of her own sense of power and importance to think for a moment that a mere human could defeat her.

The Magic-User proves just how wrong she was. Being the one actually wielding the powerful magical staff of Erana doesn’t hurt.

Child of Darkness

TanyaTanya is the real victim of this story. Love is the cause of her plight and love is her savior. She was a loving child who was overprotected by her loving mother. She was imprisoned in the inn to protect her from unknown dangers.

Somehow, Tanya attracted the attention of the Dark Master, Katrina. Katrina had her pet monster Toby rescue/kidnap Tanya from the inn. Then Katrina gave Tanya the gift of eternal youth – through death and “rebirth” as a Vampire. Katrina adopted Tanya as the daughter she had always wanted. Katrina and Toby truly loved Tanya in their own ways.

But Tanya never forgot her human mommy and daddy.

It’s up to the Hero to rescue Tanya from the castle. It is Toby, though, who allows himself to be sacrificed to bring Tanya back to life. It is Toby’s love for Tanya that saves her from Undeath.

Yes, Tanya is restored to her loving parents.

However, the Hero deeply hurt Katrina by doing so. She considers him responsible for Toby’s death and the loss of Katrina’s “adopted daughter”, Tanya.

Love Bites

So yes, Shadows of Darkness is where Slavic Folklore meets H.P. Lovecraft. It’s about Vampires, Ghosts, Undead, and Mad Scientists. It’s about deceit, betrayal, and death. It’s about superstition and prejudice.

But most of all, Shadows of Darkness is about Love – The love of Power and the power of Love.

There are two more women who are at the very center of Shadows of Darkness. I will write more about Katrina and Erana next week.

Women of Glory

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The Roles of Women in the Quest for Glory Game Series

Part 1: The Women of Quest for Glory 1

Uppity GamersI grew up just as Woman’s Lib hit its stride. At that time, Women were all expected to grow up to be Suzy Homemaker – marry, have children, and be a good cook and housekeeper for our family. Those of us who didn’t fit the mold rebelled against the chains of expectations and conformity. We spoke out against the inequality of pay scales for women, the lack of women in lawmaking, and the lack of good female role-models in life, movies, and books. My favorite button was “Uppity Women Unite.”

(Besides, I am a lousy housekeeper. Suzy Homemaker and Martha Stewart would not approve of my house or me.)

Years passed… I became a school teacher. I married, had a child, cooked, and was still a lousy housekeeper. But other than that last part, I fell into traditional roles for women. I was clearly not a women’s libber.

Gamer Girls

Then came the day when I was hired by Sierra On-Line to be a Computer Game Designer. Now there was an unconventional career for a woman. ‘Everyone’ knew that only guys made and played games. But I followed the trail blazed by Roberta Williams, the woman who helped invent the computer graphic adventure game. Sierra On-Line had no issue with hiring a woman to design games. After all, Roberta was the undisputed Queen of the genre.
I designed the Quest for Glory series to be the kind of games I would enjoy playing. My proposed design allowed the player to choose the species and gender of the main character. However, the limitations of computers in that day and age and the nature of adventure games made having multiple main characters unfeasible. Too much animation and too little computer memory to handle it.

Hero Quest HeroSo it came down to telling one character’s story – the hero’s.

Did I forsake my position on the role of women in society and in games when I designed a game with a male rather than a female protagonist? Should I be stripped of my “Uppity Woman” status because I conformed to traditional game tropes and perpetuated stereotypes?

It’s time to take a look at the Quest for Glory series so that I can answer those questions to you and to myself. I’ll start with the first game, Quest for Glory 1: So You Want To Be A Hero.

So You Want to be a Heroine

The first game was designed to start out like a typical medieval fantasy game – noob hero, European setting, some nods to folktales with Kobolds and Baba Yaga, and lots of fighting and derring-do. It was designed to ease the typical Adventure Gamer into role-playing. It wasn’t intended to be a feminist manifesto of gaming.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly how the game turned out – It was a typical middle-European, male-centric fantasy game.

Hilde PThere were more than thirty characters in the game. Of those characters, eight were female. Of those eight, one didn’t have any real lines, one didn’t have any lines to speak of – The little old lady mostly slept through her part of the story. One of those female characters was a quiet housekeeper and cook, Shima. The Centaur fruit seller, Hilde, was a flirt and had little to do with the main plot. The Healer needed help (like, who didn’t?). The Brigand Leader, Elsa von Spielburg, needed rescuing. And the main villain of the story was a wicked Ogress.

QG1 does not rate highly on the “Good role-models for Girls” list. Only Zara was a strong female character – and you only encountered her when you played the Magic-User.

Sex and the Single Game

Elsa von SpielburgThe game is not particularly sexist. True, the Brigand Leader needed rescuing, but at least Elsa was a strong woman who kept the brigands in line. While Elsa’s enchantment was the direct result of a curse upon her father, it was actually a positive experience for Elsa. She learned how to swordfight, lead men, and terrorize an entire valley. Were it not for the curse, she would have been married off to some nearby nobleman for political reasons. Instead, she learned valuable skills for her future. And the hero didn’t so much rescue her, as remind her that she had better things to do than destroying her father’s barony.

Baba YagaWhile Baba Yaga was the villainess, she wasn’t just some stereotypical wicked witch. No – Baba Yaga was an archetypical wicked witch! (er.. Ogress. She was a “hag”, not a “witch”, in the old Slavic tales. We didn’t want to offend our Wiccan friends by perpetuating the wicked witch image, so we decided she was an Ogress rather than a witch.) So what if Baba Yaga cursed the Baron and his son – the Baron tried to drive her out of the valley. So what if the hero almost became a hero sandwich? He got better.

Baba Yaga acted in this game in her traditional role in the old folk tales – she gave the hero the motive and the means to become a hero. So as long as you didn’t piss her off toad-ally, you could escape her pad without croaking.

Then there was the eighth female character in the game – Erana. You don’t meet Erana in the game, but you learn a lot about her. She protected the town from danger. She made a sanctuary for wanderers in the valley. She made a tree with magical fruit. She made music to meditate by… She was a loving presence in a troubled land.

She still didn’t get any lines in the game.

No Glory for Girls

I’m very proud of Quest for Glory 1. It has a few very strong female characters that proved that not all girls in computer games are there to be saved or to titillate. On the other hand, the first computer game I made doesn’t exactly stand as a stunning feminine tour-de-force. Compared to QG1, ‘King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella’ is “The Feminine Mystique” of gaming.

Maybe I got better as the series goes on… We’ll see in my upcoming articles.

I couldn’t get much worse.

I hope.