Sunday, February 17, 2013

Divine Horizon - Janelle

Divine Horizon - Janelle

So for one of the projects I'm doing right now, I've created a character for the 'communally written game' we're working on called Divine Horizon.  One of these things that we did as an exercise is we all created a character, 8 people, for our game.  These 8 characters would form the backbone for the playercharacters in the game.


My class is 8 guys, our cohort doesn't actually have a girl in it (and never did, unlike the cohorts ahead and behind us).

So one thing I ended up doing was creating a character named Janelle DuGalle.  I knew what I was doing when I made her, when I began illustrating her backstory, history, and relationships.  Taking the time to begin to flesh out a personality and her ideas.  She's a fairly modern woman, of 28, French, a career soldier, Equitem (our mechs) pilot, but not an officer.  She comes from a distinguished line of career military, her grandfather was in the French Resistance during the war, her father served in wars abroad. She's a duelist, fights with a rapier when she is in her mech, and is always the best at leveling her enemies.  She doesn't have a lot of friends and keeps to herself, real lone wolf person.

A week later we assigned ourselves the task of finding an image (or drawing one) that would help us accurately represent our character.  I stumbled around for a while on the internet, looking for some inspiration, possibly contemplated even painting my own (with that neigh-infinite amount of free time I have in my life right now), when I discovered this piece of art, done by Andrew Ivanchenko.





I was perfectly happy with this image, it was exactly what I wanted in Janelle.  It was rough, and gritty, she was the focus of the image, and the positioning and time of everything was somewhat ambiguous.  It could have only been more perfect if her mech had been in shot as well, but little steps right?

So a week later, I showed off the painting that I liked so much for Janelle.

*Silence

*Silence

"She's not how I imagined her..."

"Yeah I didn't really see her that way."

Well.  What do you mean?  How you imagined her?  I made her.

"Well I just thought.  You know, you said she was French?"

Yeah, she was born in France, trained in France, and fights for France.

"I just imagined she'd be less...I mean more...pretty.  Maybe blonde?"

"Don't French people wear berets?"

"I thought she'd be more refined?"

...

...

One of the really important things I feel compelled to do as a game designer is to explore and research other characters, especially to expand my own understanding and help convey those stories further. I think it's vitally important to give players choice, and not just female players.  I'm not making female characters for female players because they demand (or have a right to) a token choice.  It's because I think players, all players deserve to see multiple angles to a story.  They deserve to have a more rounded experience.  It's not wrong to want to play the musclehead, the high school drop out, the geek who attains superpowers, the young lover who does nothing wrong, but there isn't anything inherently masculine or feminine in these particular archetypes.

They could serve and be served by either gender.

I didn't set out to make a damsel in distress with Janelle.  I didn't want to make a character that falls into tropes, who needs 'rescuing' (especially not in the traditional save the princess way).  I'm bored of the archetype where a strong heroine is suddenly rendered utterly useless by grabbing her upper arm.  I'm tired of of weak women in storytelling.  I look around at the women who have occupied my life, who are my peers and professionals I work with, who are courageous and creative and drive, and sometimes I wonder how we ever thought to ourselves that these weak, transparent, one dimensional characters ever could have served once upon a time. 

I wanted to make a character who is a bruiser, who has cuts on her knuckles and isn't afraid of anything.  She isn't just some pretty face and boobs, she's vicious, and dislikes people.  She punches and headbutts and BITES.  She gets what she wants because she reaches out and takes it.  She doesn't wear a goddamn beret, she doesn't cart around a baguette or smoke out of a cigarette holder.

I made a character as an homage to all the powerful women in the world I know, they don't break down and cry when life is too hard, they roll up their sleeves and say "Let's go".