Mapjabbit Run

Exploring the Spaces Between Wildstar and Feminism


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Women in Cryo-Freezers: Sadie Brightland

A blue glowing hologram of a pregnant woman, flanked by a sad wolf.

Deadeye Brightland’s creepy hologram of Sadie.

The entire time I was playing beta weekends and then eventually open beta in Wildstar, occasionally I’d hear a guildie (who was almost always a woman) saying, “Gosh, I just hate this quest.” It was pretty remarkable as everyone seemed to generally like, if not tolerate the quests in Wildstar. Every single time, the quest in question would be the story from the Northern Wilds zone involving the ship taking survivors to Thayd. Namely, Sadie Brightland dying in a spaceship.

I am not the first person to discuss how problematic this quest line is, if only for Sadie’s involvement in it and Deadeye’s own strange, almost fleeting reaction to his pregnant wife dying.  See, for anyone who hasn’t really paid attention to the story or hasn’t yet been able to play Wildstar on the Exile side, here’s the rundown of your interactions with Deadeye and Sadie thus far:

  • Deadeye looking for his wife is literally the first thing you are aware of in the game when you roll a new character. The reason you are brought out of cryo-sleep is because Deadeye thinks it might be Sadie. Let’s not discuss why a pregnant woman is in cryosleep.
  • Sadie is eventually found after you are woken up and Deadeye tells you that she’s got “cryo-sickness.”
  • Part of your opening tutorial quests is to go and retrieve medicine for Sadie. You bring it back and it seems to work. Enough that I believe she actually thanks you for your contributions and Deadeye offers to buy you a drink. The day is saved! (Keep in mind that this is the sum total contributions Sadie herself actually has on the story.)
  • If you chose the “human/granok” starting experience of going to the Northern Wilds and Algoroc, you eventually get to see Sadie at another camp, which is comprised of survivors of the space wreck that you’re in trying to get from the space station to the Northern Wilds. Sadie’s model is literally in a rictus of pain or sickness with her legs splayed. It’s bizarre. (see image below this section)
  • In the questing, Deadeye figures they can get people who have been badly hurt to Thayd via a working jump ship that’s coming to rescue them. Thayd is not that far, so don’t ask me why this is necessary.
  • Ship comes and picks up survivors (you see generic models going into it) and before it’s 3 feet off the ground, it gets somehow utterly demolished by Dominion forces who just happen to be close enough to know that there’s a ship there and didn’t blow it up before then.
  • Turns out that Sadie was on that ship, despite not seeing a stretcher or her model being helped onto it.
  • You know this because Deadeye mentions it almost idly in quest text immediately after.
  • This is what fuels Deadeye’s thirst for revenge in the narrative for the rest of the time.

This is weird on almost every conceivable level, which makes Sadie’s death even more unforgivable. But let’s talk about what’s going on here, first.

A pregnant woman is splayed out, sick on a stretcher.

 

As most people have recognized by now, it looks like Sadie is more than just a victim of cryo-sickness, but rather the Women in Refrigerators trope. Sadie’s story is not central, not developed in any way, because it is actually Deadeye’s story. Sadie isn’t developed as a character, because she’s a prop and her death is meant to instill feelings and action to our actual protagonist. In a way, two people are dying for the price of one here and it’s pretty weak all around. Pregnant wives being shuttled off to non-existence or death seem to be popping up recently and I don’t like it one bit.

The part about this that makes me really annoyed is that other more lore-savvy Wildstar players found that there were earlier mentions of Sadie’s life in one of the Tales books. According to this, she was a Justice (Wildstar equivalent of a galactic policewoman, I believe.) I don’t know whether this is writers throwing players a bone or what, but it’s a key to creating an actual three dimensional character that they are never going to use now. And barely anyone will ever know it’s in the game at all.

Sadie as she stands now has been nothing more than a tool or a prop to create angst in Deadeye, a man who admittedly a) has a very weak reaction to seeing his wife and unborn child killed before his eyes b) needs literally no reason to hate or kill Dominion.  He seems only vaguely sad but still has weird hologram of her at a camp immediately after. It’s used to further his need for revenge, which is part of the trope but he would have shot Dominion anyways. Part of faction conflict is that it’s two groups of people fighting over resources. You don’t necessarily need revenge to drive that story forward, much less senseless death. In the eyes of the Exiles, the Dominion are a pretty awful group of people. You wouldn’t need overly justified reasons to hate them outside of the ones you hold already. This forces an already flimsy story further into being pointless. Sadie died for nothing, without much of her own life.

Pushing aside the sheer implausibility of the ship blowing up in the first place, what really made me confused is how well the parallel quest in the Aurin/Mordesh starting zones works in making you, as the player, feel hatred towards the Dominion. You go to all this trouble to help awaken a tree that’s been infused with Eldan technology and it might hold the secrets that the Aurin and the Mordesh both desire to hear, especially about the disappearance of the Eldan. Chua come along right as the tree is going to speak to you via a communicator panel and blow it up. I felt legitimately upset about this! I did not feel this way about Sadie. Nothing about Deadeye’s very discreet reaction or the story-line felt believable or emotionally purposeful. It was very flat and out of left field. There’s nothing there that makes you feel for the Brightlands. All it did was reinforce this idea that gaming in general has a problem with how they use women characters as emotional speedbumps for the male protagonists.

The reason I think a lot of people felt that this quest line in particular stuck out like a sore thumb is because you really don’t expect it in a game like Wildstar. Nothing about the game, despite having warring factions, suggests a particularly grim, tragic tone. Women are pretty present in a lot of ways, especially if you play through Aurin zones. Having an actual matriarchy in the game that works suggests the idea that the creative development team grasps the idea that women are a realistic and needed part of diversity in the lore. Seeing one be killed off for the benefit of one guy seems really immature and in contrast to that competency you see everywhere else.

Granted, people have been upset about this since December and nothing has really been done about so I doubt we’ll see any movement on this, but it just bears remarking upon. This isn’t just a problem that just Wildstar has, but more that it is a problem that writers within gaming and even larger popular nerd culture have. But it does make me sad to see it turn up so soon in a new video game that I have been enjoying otherwise and has been doing a decent job making me feel like my female character is part of the world.

Sadie could have been such a great character. A policewoman, living on the edges of space with her husband and pet wolf, with a new child and all the problems that come along with that kind of settler life (a life that many, many women have lived in real life before, even) combined with intergalactic war? How neat is that?

And now we’ll never know.

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End of Open Beta: No Sleep Edition

A giant lopp glows over the proceedings.

With heavy hearts, we all saw the end of beta last night on our respective servers. Wildstar is now going into it’s final dormant period before it springs back to life in two weeks for the headstart on May 31st, so what better time to celebrate with developer shenanigans? A bunch of us piled onto Mumble in order to watch the ensuing chaos and none of us were left wanting. Granted, a lot of that chaos was at 10 FPS and gave us high repair bills, but I don’t think anyone truly minded.

Thank you to CRB Cougar and CRB Grug for making the Olyssia server’s celebrations full of death, merriment and an employee god-fight or two.

A purple glowing Rowsdowser floats above a crowd of people with a line of code.

This particular command would cause your browser to open and RickRoll you.

A lot of the amusement came from watching the devs spawn monsters and change their shape. Over the course of the night, Cougar was a spirit woman, an Evil Caretaker, several lore characters, a giant Western Lopp, as well as many other notable shapes. Grug spent most of their night as a Rowsdowser of some flavor.

A Protostar representative towers over the masses.

A spirit woman looks over the proceedings, all gathered to her.

Let’s not forget that most of the night was them spawning huge, multitudinous enemies, some more deadly than others.

tentacle crotch

 

Do you hear them screaming, Clarice? The lamps?

Do you hear them screaming, Clarice? The lamps?

Most deadly of course was the tasteful, if angry decor.

Then of course to round most of the night having low framerates and attempting to rez with level 50 raid bosses standing on top of you, the devs treated us to a final battle or two between themselves. With God Mode not turned off.

CRB Grug vs. CRB Cougar

 

We also got to attack them later as well.

Finally, at long last the servers went down and all of us scampered off to bed. A lot of good times were had, especially with guildies on Mumble and hilarious commentary from the Twitch stream. All in all, I haven’t been to many events in games like this and it felt unique and worth being awake when I had no right to be (I am paying for it today, I assure you.)

Thanks to Carbine for such a fun night!


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Open Beta: Get a Wiggle On

 

My Spellslinger looks out over the planet.

Today marks Carbine opening up Wildstar to open beta and I must say, I am excited about sinking most of my free time (around things like work or hygiene) into poking at stuff in-game for the foreseeable future. What are my plans for this new beta period, you ask?

Housing

Housing is what really captured my interest last weekend (much like my guildmate at Moonshine Mansion) and I’d like to build up more gold in order to start doing less pre-fab additions and more things like creating a loft or a patio around my plot. My FABkits should also be coming down soon so I need to decide what else I want on my land.

Other Classes

I have played a spellslinger every single beta period but I feel like while that is a viable option for a main, that I should really try other classes. Spellslingers have a pretty high learning curve and maybe something else will click with me better than just that. I started a Mordesh medic the other day and I liked the pretty pure caster mechanics that they have, even if the actuator mechanic is a little more goofy than I was looking for. Maybe I will even try out a melee class, for once (no guarantees!)

Economy

My love in other games have been being able to fund literally anything I want in-game and the fact that Wildstar has a commodities exchange opens up some ridiculous possibilities for me, including paying for my subscription when the game goes live. I need to see how the auction house in Wildstar works, if I can actually find where it is in Thayd.

Exploring

My motto is “A.B.E” which is roughly “Always Be Exploring”! Well, okay I lied about that but I need to poke at the terrain a bit more in other zones. This doesn’t necessarily denote that I want to level higher than what I already am, as I don’t want to burn myself out before the game even goes live. But if you’re a proper explorer, you don’t necessarily need to be level-appropriate anyways.

Those are my plans for open beta, what are yours? Leave a comment and tell me.