Submitted by wolfennights
[Image Description: a screenshot from character generation in Baldur’s Gate, a popular video game based on Dungeons and Dragons. A choice is given between male and female for gender. ‘Female’ is selected, and a blurb states “Females of the Realm can excel in any area they wish, and are easily the equals of their male counterparts in very skill or respect.”]
I’m filing this under “More Reasons I Love Bioware.”
I remember the first time I saw those mods. It was maybe about a week or so after the game came out, and I had read the article about some of the msot popular mods at the time, so I decided to go to the Nexus and see what else they had.
And then I saw this.
I had never, EVER, been MORE disappointed in any fandom I’ve been apart of that I was when I saw this. The fact that this existed. As a person of color, I was glad that they made Isabela the way she was. It made sense.
- She’s from Rivain, which is described as:
Its dark-skinned humans, the Rivaini, have a peaceful relationship with the elves. The city of Llomerryn is known to have a semi-permanent Dalish encampment on its outskirts. The Qunari settlement of Kont-aar is in northern Rivain.
- She’s a pirate. She’s on a ship most of the time, under the sun. With her already being dark-skinned, it makes sense that she would only tan, not get a sunburn.
- It should be noted that there is no “Light-skinned Duncan” mod, and he is Rivaini as well.
The Dragon Age fandom is easily one of the best fandoms I’ve ever been apart of, it’s the whole reason I got back into fandom after a hiatus that was years long. It is full of some of the most intelligent, talented, forward-thinking, and absolutely hilarious people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And after having been in the fandom for a few months now, seeing this again only pains me more, knowing that people who think like this are still lurking around. And, really, more importantly…
IT’S. A. GAME. I love and appreciate the writing, design, voice work, story, and characterizations that go into these that make it feel like less of a game and more of an experience. But at the end of the day, I still know that Kirkwall is nothing but an amalgamation of scripts, polygons, programming, actor’s voice recordings, and math (so much math…). What kind of mindset do you have to have that you can’t even shove away your prejudices for the sake of playing a role and enjoying a game. Who, WHO, is sitting at their computer, bothered beyond reason by the fact that Isabela is dark.
Now, I may not be giving this person the benefit of the doubt, in that perhaps they don’t understand exactly why this bothers people so much. Perhaps they didn’t even think about it. For that reason, here is why it bothers me in particular:
Because regardless of what you may have meant, the message conveyed is that people of color, specifically those with skin darker than tone A or B, are not attractive, or not good enough. What’s worse is that you see her skin color as something so insignificant that you can just change it. Now, y’all have seen pictures of me I’m sure. I’m racially ambiguous at best. But what about those who are not? What about those who can’t change their skin with a mod, and have to go through life knowing that there’s a pretty large segment of the population that doesn’t find them attractive or good enough, simply because of the tone of their skin.
Since I’m not dark skinned, I can’t adequately express how that must feel. I don’t have the foundation for it. But the girls in the trailer for “Dark Girls” do. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, the first few minutes does more than enough to drive the point home.
[trigger warnings, it’s a heavy watch].
For further insight on this issue (specifically how this mindset is subtlety implemented in the media to market popstars or television shows), look at this page on TVTropes.org: But Not Too Black.
I remember finding this mod, too, and the creator wrote something about how they were so “bothered” by how dark Isabela is, so they made the mod to make her more “attractive.” Are you serious?
Creating an effective female character ultimately isn’t defined by things like sexuality, what she is or isn’t wearing, or how she’s built. It’s not even about whether or not she’s a “strong heroine”. The most important goal for the game industry is to give us characters that can be the subject of a player’s person journey, not its object—and to do that, we have to let our ladies be humans first. Seems pretty basic, right?
- Leigh Alexander, “Just Like a Woman”—OXM article examining female characters in video games