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Exploring the Spaces Between Wildstar and Feminism

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Devs Unleashed: Inclusivity, Gender and Tone in Lore

Stephan Frost and Chad Moore host the livestream.

Look at these adorable goofballs.

On Friday, the Wildstar team spent a whole 6 hours livestreaming with their social media team to bring interviews and gameplay from the developers of various parts of the game. While I didn’t get to catch most of it due to, you know, being at work, I did catch the end of it when they talked to Pappy (Creative Director Chad Moore) and Frost (Game Design Producer Stephan Frost) Pappy handled a lot of lore questions, which was interesting from the perspective of someone who knows very little of the lore of the game at this point. There were a couple of things that I caught on Twitter or in the Twitch chat (which was surprisingly non-hostile and gross) that made me think, however.

LGBTQIA Representation in Wildstar, Where Is it?

This was a question from the Twitch chat that did not get answered:

Monstracious: There is such a lack of diverse representation in gaming, but Wildstar seems to be taking a transgressive approach. My question is will NPCs and Wildstar lore be inclusive and reflect/represent the LGBTQ+ community? (apologize for repeat question).

Now maybe someone who got to catch more of the livestream can tell me if this was indeed a repeat question that was answered, but it doesn’t seem likely. No cynicism here, but there were many questions from both Twitter and Twitch that were not being addressed. This in particular feels like something that would have been a really question to answer. It is honestly something I wish more developers put thought into when creating their games. There’s a profound lack of characters in video games, even MMORPGs, that are people are color, queer, disabled, trans and other marginalized populations. With the capacity for queer characters seemingly only being handled by maybe Bioware and Guild Wars 2 at this point, we’re still very far behind on all sorts of representation in our MMORPGs, despite them being a genre that is played by so many different people. You’re telling me a goofy sci-fi universe that has rabbit people can’t have bi/pansexual characters in lore? Again, as I’ve mentioned with regards to World of Warcraft, there’s no reason it has to be a big showy affair versus doing quests where you help or rescue someone’s romantic interest and both of them happen to be the same gender. So many things in these fantastical worlds where anything possible seem to solely focus on binary types of organization with how their characters work.

I’d love to see more queer characters in Wildstar but there needs to be a concerted effort to make that happen and I’m not sure that’s going to come about any time soon.

A chua leers from the character selection screen.

The Mysterious Gender of the Chua

I don’t remember exactly how it was phrased but there was a question regarding what, precisely, the gender of the Chua is. Pappy went into a long discussion about how they thought it would be neat to have a race of creatures where you’re you’re not sure what gender they are or what genders they have. In the lore of the game, the Chua gender is a closely guarded secret that maybe we will have revealed at a later point, along with the mystery of how they actually reproduce.

Pappy elucidated that when you pick a Chua in game as your character, that you can pick qualities or looks in whatever combination you want. The problem I found when rolling one is that the looks that are oriented in a distinctly more feminine direction (lack of facial hair, lighter colors, more “cute” faces) were very narrow if not limited to one choice solely. Another problem I ran into that Pappy noted is that the game NPCs and quest text default to male pronouns, therefore giving all Chua characters male pronouns regardless of gender. This means for whatever progressiveness was being attempted feels more like a novelty versus a true creation of a atypical gendered society in the Chua. My question, even regarding the quest text is why not using gender neutral pronouns? They/them is useful for this reason but Wildstar could have adopted things like xe/xem as well. My other thought is why stop at the Chua? MMORPG races seem very fixated on binary gender but in a game that has robots (Mechari) as well as rock-people (Granok), why gender things so completely? Wouldn’t their societies be less concerned with gender when they don’t have a strict physical need to reproduce (which is the reason most people give for binary gender, despite that being irrelevant)?

Goofy vs. Dark

Another question (“How do you balance Wildstar being fun and goofy?”) was posed that inspired less thoughts from me but definitely gave me insight into how Wildstar approaches the tone of their universe.

Pappy talked about how they’ve been given feedback that yes, Wildstar does have a lot of serious moments versus being cartoony all the time. In his words, “[…]fact of the matter is, Wildstar has a pretty serious and epic story. Just because our characters have a lot of personality, that doesn’t mean at all that the stories we don’t tell are serious. I think it’s the combination of having memorable characters with big personalities – sometimes funny, slotting those characters into the kind of space opera [we have], sweeping stories. The combination makes our game unique, [and we think] it’s going to have people playing for a long time. It’s new and fresh.”

Frost also chimed in to talk about how without the scary, dark stuff, humor by itself won’t be taken seriously and that you need a dichotomy.

This is something I find myself liking more and more as I play deeper into the story. There’s dark and scary elements to the game, despite the candy veneer but it never seems to go into very grimdark territory unlike many fantasy games. I don’t want to play a game that reminds me that the real world is horrible and brutal. I am okay with violence paired with cartoonishness and striking that balance is both necessary and keeps the tone from too childish or too serious. We will see if Wildstar can maintain this dichotomy but I have optimism.