The Border House Comments on SW:TOR

Note: There was an update to the original article between when I queue’d this post yesterday and when it went up today. I have edited a quote to indicate the update.

I like this review because it says things I agree with. There are good points, but I’m highlighting the stuff that pissed me off.

As an Imperial Agent you encounter a man who threatens to blow your cover. There are a few ways you can deal with him but one is distinctly gendered- a man Agent can threaten or intimidate him, but if you’re a woman Agent that option is replaced by flirtation/sleeping with him.

This is something which pisses me off. I wish that “kill them” was an option at every stage of the conversation tree. It should be, considering I’m playing Empire.

Meanwhile, Sith Warriors get a companion, Vette, a former slave who comes complete with a shock collar. You can actually use the shock collar to break her. (In a prior version of this article I had said that you could actually shock her into “loving” your character; mercifully this turned out to be untrue and I have since corrected the matter.) To my knowledge this is not possible with male companions- although male slaves do abound in the game as well. The treatment of Twi’lek women- who are most visible in TOR as scantily clad dancers and titillating holograms or neon ads- in Star Wars is a rather interesting topic for another time.

Using the excuse of “gritty realism” isn’t really fooling anyone. It’s still misogyny and it’s still vile, especially considering how many women play online games. I expected better of you, BioWare.

As a woman Republic Trooper you find people stunned to find a woman in such a position; you can tell them off quite successfully but the fact that this is even positioned as remarkable is very questionable. Yet again we’re talking about a high civilisation, cosmopolitan in the extreme, with many millennia of history. But it’s still exceptional for a woman to be a soldier?

… and …

Bioware is good at providing a few feel-good storylines where your woman character or some NPCs overcome misogyny. Wonderful,yes, and I approve of that. But there is a greater issue beyond this: why is the first principle of presumptive patriarchy itself never questioned?

I’m seriously bordering on quoting the whole damn thing, aren’t I?

On a related note, this was the game, one should recall, that a Bioware representative once infamously remarked “had no gays.” This remains borne out. Just as you see in Skyrim, where heterosexuality is completely universal, TOR presents not even one queer relationship, implied or otherwise. For the player, queer relationships have been promised in a future patch, via new companions, but this again feels tokenising. There is no reason the existing companions cannot be queer.

So yeah. I mean, I still enjoyed it, because you know, it’s possible to enjoy problematic things (I still think a component of the smuggler plotline was disgusting and I can’t even begin to play that class) but I’m certainly not turning a blind eye to its faults.

BioWare, you may do better than a lot of the industry, but I still think you can do better than this.

3 thoughts on “The Border House Comments on SW:TOR

  1. Quinnae Moongazer says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words on my review!

    I just wanted to point out that I made a correction to the original article. You cannot use the shock collar to make Vette "love" you. But I would say that there is still a fair amount of gross-ness around the way Twi'lek women are portrayed, for sure.

    So yeah. I mean, I still enjoyed it, because you know, it’s possible to enjoy problematic things (I still think a component of the smuggler plotline was disgusting and I can’t even begin to play that class) but I’m certainly not turning a blind eye to its faults.

    Indeed, that's always the quandary, isn't it? How do we enjoy problematic media? I like the game and it's doing well with me, but I'm hardly unaware of its political problems. I think bell hooks called it "subversive viewing." Anyhow, what in the Smuggler plot did you have problems with?

  2. Morgan Dempsey says:

    The thing in the smuggler plot that got me was the guy (hell if I can remember his name, this was in beta, and I logged off shortly after this conversation occurred) who was corralling the women left behind by the men who went off to war and forcing them to exchange sex for their safety. I wanted to kill him right on the spot. I'm not sure if you get to later on or not, but that narrative, and the way it was done, just made me physically ill. (Hurray assumed patriarchy! Why can't women go off to war? Why can't they fight for themselves? Why didn't SOMEONE ELSE shut this shit down? Ugh.)

    As for enjoying problematic media, I found this article super-helpful: http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2011/09/how-to

    I'll be noting your edit shortly.

    • Quinnae Moongazer says:

      Thanks for that article! Bookmarked it.

      And, yeah, that would make me physically ill as well. I'm surprised no one's mentioned it to me before, I'll look it up at some point.

      Star Wars and I always had a complicated relationship. I looked forward to TOR because, unlike the movies, the KotOR series was incredible when it came to gender. Many characters of prominence were women. KotOR2's Kreia is not only my favourite SW character, but my favourite in any medium. TOR does, to some extent, continue this tradition. But again, the 'thousand cuts' are annoying and I don't remember it being quite this bad in past games.

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