Posts Tagged ‘Women’
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness will always be my favorite game of the series.
Halloween 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.
Anna 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.
However, 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
The 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.
The 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.
The 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
Tanya 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.
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.
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
“I have caught a story. It is all a lie. It is all the truth. Listen and learn.” – Simbani Storyteller
Quest for Glory 3:Wages of War was not part of our original plans for the series. After ‘Trial by Fire’ was released, Corey and I moved on to educational games – Castle of Dr. Brain and Mixed-Up Fairy Tales. This meant that our next Quest for Glory game would not be released until two years after Trial, a long time to wait for the next chapter of a saga.
We knew that ‘Shadows of Darkness’ would be dark and grim compared to the other games. If we were going to have new fans playing the game, we didn’t want them to think that the series was about Vampires, Werewolves, and the end of the world as we know it.
So when our friend Ellen Guon (Beeman) mentioned that we should tell Rakeesh the Paladin Liontaur and Uhura the warrior’s story, we said, “That’s a great idea!”
“Trial by Fire” was one of the last 16 color, typing-interfaced games that Sierra published. It was also created under the most stressful, unpleasant working conditions we experienced at Sierra On-Line. “Wages of War,” on the other hand, was completely different. Now we were full color and we had a dream team of talented artists under the direction of Andy Hoyos. Sierra had mellowed from the authoritarian administration and was treating employees like people again.
QfG3 is one of the most beautiful games in the series. Tarna is a magnificent city that might have been built if Babylonians and Egyptians joined together to build a home for the majestic Liontaurs. The jungle scenes are lush and open. The Heart of the World is a tree of huge scale and majesty. The character portraits were realistic and showed off each character’s personality. You could easily feel like you were not so much playing a computer game as exploring the veldts and jungles of Africa.
Your character goes to the land of Fricana out of friendship for Rakeesh and for Uhura. In Tarna, you meet Rakeesh’s wife, Kreesha. You learn that Fricana is martialing for war after an attack upon a peace treaty mission. Worse, Rakeesh’s daughter was a leader of that mission and she never returned.
Liontaur society is based on that of the lion. The leader of the city is Rajah, the brother of Rakeesh. However, all of the ruling council members are female. Most of the Liontaurs you meet in the game are female. In lion society, the women do all of the work. The males sit around and have lovely female courtesans feeding them zebras.
Corey is considering a race change to Liontaur.
From Tarna, you journey to the Simbani village. This society was based around the Masai people of Africa. Here Uhura is your friend and advisor. She is once again both a Warrior and a mother. Uhura refused to give up one role for the other. She wanted to live her life as she chose, not as her society chose for her. She had to leave the Simbani for that choice.
But now Uhura has returned to her home, and the Simbani tribe have welcomed her and her son back.
In the Simbani village, you also meet Johari. She is a Leopardman who was captured by the Simbani as she attempted to recover her tribe’s Drum of Magic.
It’s true that Johari needa rescuing from her cage. It’s also true that she haa no say one way or another about becoming the Hero’s bride once he pays the bride price for her. But Johari isn’t your typical damsel in distress (“DiD”). And while Simbani custom might say that Johari has been sold into marriage, Johari refuses to accept what the Simbani dictated. She runs away from the village as soon as the opportunity arose.
However, she doesn’t run away from the Hero – or at least not for very long. Nor has she given up on the idea of returning the Drum of Magic to her people. Johari wants the Hero to help her get the Drum back and stop the war between her people and the Simbani.
In many ways, Johari is the most heroic of all the women in the QfG series. She’s willing to put aside her differences with the Hero and the Simbani and actively work to bring peace. She is willing to work with her people’s enemies, the Liontaurs and the Simbani, to help the Hero stop the war and prevent the demons from invading Fricana.
Johari even gives the Hero his first kiss. Unless, of course, you count Amelia the healer in Spielburg. But most people try to forget that one.
There is another female who needs rescuing in this game, but she’s not your typical “DiD” either. Reeshaka is the daughter of Rakeesh and Kreesha. Once you break the demon’s possession of her body, she’s ready to fight at your side. Like her father, Reeshaka is a great warrior.
In the battle against the Demons, Uhura, Johari, and Reeshaka help save the day with Kreesha’s magical assistance. Of the four friends that stand with the hero in the final battle, two are female and one is… a monkey.
Clearly, the hero has a way with women. He attracts the strong, brave ones.
Wages of War has the strongest and most dynamic female characters of the series, other than Elsa von Spielburg. They all play their part to save the world rather than waiting for the hero to do all the dirty work.
In QfG3: Wages of War, the Hero stops a war between the Liontaurs, Simbani, and the Leopardmen caused by the deceitful Demons. He sends an apothecary off on a journey to find the love of his life and restore her humanity. He cures the enchantments that hold two women – Johari and Reeshaka – in bondage. He learns how to make friends and influence people. He stops the demons from spreading war across all of Fricana.
But he never could have succeeded without the help of the women he met along the way.
Sigh – but it still had a sexist harem scene. What can I say? Some people have a thing about sexy cat-women.
Monday, September 3rd, 2012
With Quest for Glory’s Trial by Fire, we wanted to take the player where he had never been before – Right in the heart of an Arabian Nights tale. The original stories of “A Thousand Nights and a Night” are a series of interlocking tales told by Scheherazade on her wedding night so that her husband wouldn’t kill her.
That probably is not the sort of story premise that promises a gender positive image system.
Of course, we set out to break expectations and overturn stereotypes right from the start. We knew that the City of Raseir was not going to be on anyone’s vacation list. Although the women in Raseir are forced to wear veils and stay in harems, we wanted the player to feel righteous indignation that any culture would treat women that way.
Then again, there were many other things wrong with Raseir. It was Shapeir’s Evil Twin. It was Animal Farm and ‘Brave New World.’ It was like working at Sierra at that time. “Raseir” is an anagram of “Sierra” for a reason.
The Feminine Wiles
In Trial By Fire, nine male characters make major impacts upon the story in a positive way. Four other male characters go out of their way to give you trouble. Six female characters help you with the story and there are no villainesses in the game. If you do the math, clearly the women are on the whole more helpful than the men.
Dinarzad, the Money Changer, is one of the first women you meet in the game. She is happy to flirt with the player, but the only thing she actually exchanges with you is money.
Dinarzad presents a very different side to Thieves who make the Thief Sign to her. Once you demonstrate that you are “one of the brethren,” she will assign you a few nighttime excursions to obtain items of value.
In fact, Dinarzad is the Chief Thief of Shapeir. In her, “women’s liberation” meets “liberation of valuable possessions.” She is a strong – although not necessarily entirely positive – female role model.
The Adventurer’s Guild master, Uhura, represents another break with traditional roles. Uhura had been a Simbani Warrior. Unfortunately, she was also a woman, and her society wanted her to choose between being a wife or a warrior.
Uhura did not want a husband; she wanted a baby. So she left her home among the Simbani and came to Shapeir to find a boyfriend to sire her child.
Uhura is a powerful fighter who helps the Hero improve his fighting skills without having to risk his life and limb. She is a woman, a mother, and a warrior at the same time.
As the game comes to a close, Uhura decides to return to her homeland with her baby to reclaim her rank as a Warrior. She refuses to allow the traditions of her society to prevent her from being the person she wants to be.
Uhura is a fine role-model for both women and men. She teaches that you should not let the dictates of society prevent you from achieving your dreams.
(Unless of course, your dream is one of world domination. Ad Avis is your role-model for that sort of goal. His fate is to die and then face his worst nightmare. So let that be a lesson for all you would-be Evil Overlords.)
Aziza is a wise and powerful Wizard; she is the Seer of Shapeir. She helps you learn a variety of information and, if you are a Magic-User, a magical spell. She also teaches you some manners. It pays to be polite to people who are helping you. The fact that she can electrocute you with the snap of her fingers might also a good reason to be polite to her.
She stands not so much as a role-model as an object lesson. Courtesy is a virtue and virtue is its own reward.
Damsels in Distress
The one female who really needs your help in the game doesn’t realize she needs it. She has forgotten the nightmares of her past and the fact that she was even human once. She was a rape victim who was turned into a tree because she could not deal any more with the terror of being a victim.
Julanar was a good person to whom bad things happened. Not even a hero can just kiss her and make it all better when her wounds are that deep. It takes more than a magical spell to heal such damage. That’s why Julanar is still a tree at the end of Trial by Fire. It takes a lot of love and understanding to heal such wounds.
When you get to the city of Raseir, Zayishah does ask for the hero’s help to get out of the totalitarian nightmare. On the other hand, since she is has already escaped the harem, planned her escape, and knows how to get away, she is doing a pretty good job with or without your help.
Zayishah is the only one in Raseir who refuses to give in to Ad Avis’s misogynistic orders. Of course, those orders include marrying Khaveen, and that is probably a fate worse than death. No wonder she is desperate to escape the city and her fate.
Trial on Trial
QfG2 does have a scene of gratuitous sexual exploitation – The Thief’s visit to the harem. The harem is filled with sexy, sultry women dressed in diaphanous silks that reveal as much as they conceal. The bevy of beauties in the room make salacious sexual innuendo that borders on harassment. In this case, the sexual harassment is all directed at our very male hero. Mind you, he’s too much a hero to take offense. He’s also in too much of a hurry to take advantage of the situation. World to save, you know. Pity.
There’s also an Easter Egg with the x-ray glasses and the veil. Should you be caught doing this despicable act, I will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
Other than these minor infractions of the feminine manifesto, QfG2 is really very female friendly. It plays against the common tropes of women’s roles in games. There are very few victims or princesses to rescue here.
They are all too busy rescuing themselves.