Friday, July 31, 2009

Guest Blog: Ann Aguirre Talks Games  

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Games: For a little change of pace, I invited my good friend and super-author Ann Aguirre to sound off on games from a female perspective. As you can see from her gameography, she’s no newbie to RPGs and has definite opinions on a few topics… I gave her free rein to jot down whatever she felt like, and here’s what she came up with. I think you’ll agree that there’s some interesting stuff here. But enough of me talking about it... go read it!
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And now, please give a warm Coffeecola welcome to Ann!

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Hey, everyone. I'm happy to be here. Brad asked me to write a bit about what it's like to be a gamer from a chick's perspective, so here I am, aiming to do just that.
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First, let me give you an overview of what my favorite games have been over the years. My love affair with games started a long freakin' time ago with Eye of the Beholder. I played all of them. Solved all of them. Then there was Planescape, which damn near broke my heart. I also played Dark Sun. From there I proceeded to Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale and Throne of Bhaal. Since then, I've discovered Neverwinter Nights (both 1 and 2), Jade Empire, Fallout 1 & 2, and the KotOR series. More recently, I've fallen in love with Fallout 3 and Mass Effect-- which pretty much brings you to date.
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In studying this list, you can probably guess that my favorite type of games have some RPG component. I don't love shooters. I've tried to like them, but they just don't have enough story to keep me interested. Fallout 3 was a really cool blend of action and story. Voice acting can make a huge difference in a game, a factor in whether I'd call it good or great. I've had a crush on Raphael Sbarge for years, ever since I first "met" him in KotOR as Carth Onasi, so when he turned up in Mass Effect, I could NOT have been happier.
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Likewise, I was stoked to find an actor, Nicky Katt, I really liked as Harry Senate in Boston Public playing Atton in KotOR 2. Yum! But wait, there's more. It was disturbing yet hot to have Liam Neeson playing my dad in Fallout 3... Because I must confess, my feelings toward him were not particularly familial.
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original ending = teh suck
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I'm not a level grinder or a number cruncher or a loot monkey. It will probably come as no surprise that I love the stories these games tell. I'm in it from start to finish because I want to know how it ends. That's the same reason I read a book. Sadly, many games seem to have rushed endings; it's 100% awesome until you get to the wrapup and it's like the designers said, "Ok, good enough, the end," and you're left wondering why you spent $50 on this. My affinity for story is also why it irritates me to no end to pick up an awesome-looking game and realize I have to play Captain Jack Dawson, and screw me if I don't like it.
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Look, I'm not a dude. I don't want to play a dude. Why can't I play as a woman? I liked how Mass Effect did it, just choosing the last name for you (which is fine with me) and letting the player pick a gender. I think that's smart. Otherwise you risk losing a pretty big audience. There are a lot of gamer-grrls out there, and we have money to spend.
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can be Shepard
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Which brings me to my next big gripe. I looooooooove a romance in a game. It's so fun to see how the relationship develops while you're going about your plot business. I love NPC interaction and funny interjections. There's nothing that makes me call a game awesome faster than clever writing. So why are the romances so half-assed, seriously? If you guys don't know how to write one, CALL me. I'll be happy to help you out, and so would a number of other professional romance writers. Of course, if we write the romance, it will take some of the fun out of playing it, but at least other women out there will get the joy of it. If they're having programmers do the writing or people who don't write fiction for a living in these games, I can figure that out. It's like hiring your gardener to redo your wiring just because he's already there. But obviously I don't know how it all works; I just know I've seen very few romances that worked for me, and sadly, the males usually get the better and more numerous choices. If we're lucky there's one male NPC for us, and he's usually an asshole.
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goes both ways
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To that end, I have a few suggestions that I don't think would be very tough to implement -- and would actually streamline the romance. Put a toggle in games in the options to enable same sex romances. Write a script that determines the NPC love interest according to the gender the player chooses. That way, you only need to write one romance with minimal tweaks. I've seen this done with real expertise in player-designed modules for Neverwinter Nights. Andarian has designed an amazing module called Sanctum of the Archmage, where the romance is really well-developed in addition to combat, traps, and story. He integrates this swing-sex NPC with great skill, so if he can do it, why can't the bigger companies? There's no reason they can't raise the bar; they just choose not to. Are you listening to me? I promise you more chicks will play your games if you go this route.
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My most anticipated releases are Jade Empire 2 (is this more than a myth?), Star Wars: the Old Republic, and Dragon Age. Oh, and I can't forget about Mass Effect 2. Now that I've had my say, feel free to reply. I'll be back later to talk games, reminisce about the good oldies, and generally wax poetic.
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Infinite thanks to Ann, and be sure to check her out at her own site, annaguirre.com.
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10 comments: to “ Guest Blog: Ann Aguirre Talks Games


  •  

    I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING IN THIS POST.

    Seriously. KOTOR2, are you listening? You have the worst ending of any game, ever, and it's doubly disappointing because the first 90% of the game was so amazingly good. Atton? Sexiest game character ever. Why did they ruin his story with such a craptacular ending?

    Oh, and while I'm ranting? Final Fantasy? Yeah, I still haven't forgiven you for killing Aerith when she was obviously destined to be with Cloud. Tifa shmifa.

    I think game companies can definitely hint at a romance and still get the female players excited, and it doesn't even have to be that big of a romance. Those of us that have played Left 4 Dead a hundred bajillion times know that when Francis cracks a bad joke, and Zoey is the only one that giggles, SHE TOTALLY WANTS HIM.

    Really. That's all we need.

    Tease us with the possibilities, but never let us down. There doesn't need to be a triple-x throw-down on screen. All we need is an affirmation that the characters will have a chance, and we're good.

    (And then we will play that stuff over and over again, ad infinitum.)


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    Absolutely. Although I'd be interested to see what pervy game designers could do with an XXX game that wasn't for Larry, I'd be content with a good romance resolution (good meaning satisfying, not lame).

    Totes agree about KOTOR2. The ending was such an ass-enchilada that I cannot articulate my anger. When I replay it, I just stop as soon as the game takes me to Malachor (or whatever the name is). It's just not worth playing through to the end.


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    It's like you are in my brain. KOTOR=still best game ever. KOTOR2=I still cry at night like a baby over all that it could have been. Especially after you get a load of all the cut content you can dig out of the files. Team Gizka is still working after 4 years on reconstructing all the lost and cut content. Reading some of that script makes me want to kick LucasArts in the choobies for rushing it. Criminal, I tell ya. KOTOR2 did not have an ending. It stopped.

    If I ever move to Canada, I'll camp out on Bioware's doorstep until they give me a job. David Gaider (lead writer for Carth and Bastila for KOTOR) actually *asked real women* from the Ladies of Neverwinter boards what *they* liked in a romance and what they liked in a love interest. The result was KOTORs epic romance win for the ladies. Cause, yanno, someone actually *asked* us.


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    Hey Jill and Xandra (and of course, Ann),

    Thanks for your comments! I have to admit, I had NO idea that the KOTOR series had such cachet with female gamers.

    That aside, I definitely agree with everything that's been said here. KOTOR 2 certainly had its moments, but the first one will always be the superior game for me, and the ending is a large part why.

    Out of curiosity, what did you all think about the way the relationships were handled in Mass Effect? Also, any more nominations for games that really nail the relationship/romantic element?

    After reading Ann’s comments I'm thinking about doing a segment on the topic on one of our podcasts, and any further thoughts you all had would be greatly appreciated.

    (oh, and as for ‘ass enchilada’… I can honestly say I’ve never heard that one before. Two originality points to Ann!)


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    With all this talk about what women want out of games, I'm wondering how y'all feel Torment delivered on that front. Were you irked that the game didn't give you the opportunity to discover what can change the nature of a woman?


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    Torment was one of the only games I've ever played where I didn't mind being forced to play as a dude. I think it was because so much of the identity had been lost that he wasn't a whole person.


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    I just ran across this post, and wanted to thank Ann for her very kind comments about my module writing. I certainly agree with her thoughts about writing RPG romances, and blogged about some of my own as well:

    http://sanctum.andarian.net/index.php?p=76

    Thanks again!

    Andarian


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    Hey Andarian, thanks for dropping by! I tried to leave a comment at your blog, but it kept getting eaten... = (


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    Hi Brad,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm not sure why it ate your comments, and I'm sorry that it did -- I would have been very interested in your thoughts. It's probably a sign that it's past time for me to upgrade my blog software. :)

    Andarian


  •  

    It sounds very interesting!
    i like the post very much keep it up
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