Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve covered how both gender and race are represented in Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, pointing out that despite not being perfect (and let’s be honest, unfortunately nothing ever will be), ANet does a damn good job with how they portray these things. This post is going to be talking about the subject of sexuality and how it’s portrayed within the games.
I am going to, before I go any further, state that I will not tolerate any sort of homophobic comments on this post. Zero. Any will be deleted. Go be hateful elsewhere.
So, sexuality. Something that is always, sadly, a subject of controversy. Something that real-life society still frowns upon in a hard way, for archaic and nonsensical reasons. And whenever any sexuality other than just being straight is portrayed in anything, be it movies, books, TV shows, or games, there tends to be two parts to it – first, the portrayal tends to be offensive, playing off of stereotypes. Second, people tend to flip the everloving hell out over it.
I read recently about people being angry that Mass Effect 3 did not have more straight-only romance options (as in, male NPCs that will only be a romance option for a female Shepard and female NPCs that will only be a romance option for male Shepard), and the only straight-only options are ME2 carry-overs. This is despite the fact that, to my understanding, there is only one same-sex only option per gender, and several options that are open to either gender. I’d say the bigger issue there is the fact that so many are locked to ME2 carryovers, and the fact that ME2 has almost no same-sex relationship options (I want to romance Kasumi, damnit! But for now I’ll flirt with Kelly and Garrus).
Speaking of Bioware, they recently announce that there would be same-sex relationships available in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Eventually. At some point. Various “family values” groups in the US promptly flipped their gourd over it, because obviously this is such a horrible thing!
Just wait until they get their hands on Guild Wars 2. Because I expect there to be complaining from those sorts. Why?
You know, that race of humanoid plants. Who do not reproduce. And do not conform to gender roles, as there is no need for them to do so. They do have genders, though – sylvari are definitely male or female. And they are capable of falling in love and having sex. However, to them, it’s not about gender. A sylvari will not be fussed if the person they are sleeping with or in love with is the same gender as them or not. The physical part of it, in fact, is not terribly important to them at all (though I’m sure they find sex as fun as anyone else would ). To quote Ree Soesbee, from this GW2G post:
To a sylvari, love is about inspiration. Physical touch, ardor, and sensuality are beautiful things, but what the heart feels, what gives joy to the spirit – these are most important, and that has nothing at all to do with the physical form. Love is not bound by gender. It does not ignore the pairing of hearts simply because the bodies are alike. Indeed, the sylvari feel free to love (and love openly) regardless of the physical qualities of their beloved. It would surprise them to hear that someone of any race felt differently. They would say that love is too precious to be passed over simply because someone’s eyes are blue, their hair is dark, or because they are of the same sex.
Sylvari view love and attraction as a primarily emotional and spiritual thing, as it made clear. While I am sure that there are sylvari that prefer those of their own gender, or those of the opposite, for the most part, it would probably be the most correct to say that sylvari lean towards being bisexual or pansexual. It is quite possible that individual sylvari will be heterosexual or homosexual, of course.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all going to just be background lore and will never be mentioned or shown in the game. After all, how could they not do so, when Caithe is a member of Destiny’s Edge?
Yes, Caithe. One of the Firstborn sylvari, a Thief that is a member of Destiny’s Edge. The first of the sylvari to leave the Grove…along with Faolain. Another Firstborn sylvari, who eventually became the Grand Duchess of the Nightmare Court…and before that, Caithe’s lover. The two had left together to explore Tyria, and during their travels, their deep respect for each other turned to love. Caithe turned back when Faolain turned to the Nightmare, though, but Faolain has vowed that Caithe will return to her, going so far as to state “Your heart belongs to me” in Edge of Destiny. Caithe, while refusing to join the Nightmare to be with her love again, also at the same time cannot truly leave her; Ree describes Caithe as standing at the edge of the Nightmare.
Personally, I think it’s quite a daring move, to make such an important character the lover of someone the same gender. At the same time, I dislike the fact that it’s even seen as a daring move, but it’s also big one. I do, however, like how ArenaNet has handled this. To the sylvari, it is not a big deal. The gender of their lover is not important to them; it is the person themselves that is. They see no reason to not love someone because they may both be women or men. It is natural and normal. And I like the fact that ANet themselves has not gone to direction of shouting from the rooftops “hey, we have gay characters!” like some other game developers have done. Instead, their approach has been the same as that of the sylvari themselves – a position of yes, there are gay characters, why wouldn’t there be any? It’s perfectly normal, after all, so why not?
And this sort of complete normalization is something that I wish to see more of. As someone who’s not straight myself, I prefer it. I am, after all, just as normal as everyone else around me. And allies that claim loudly and repeatedly how supportive they are and how awesome they are for basically being a decent human being can be very grating.
Unfortunately, the sylvari are the only race that we know anything about how they approach and view sexuality. In Guild Wars, there’s a quest where, depending on what gender your character is, you wind up accidentally engaged to a norn of the opposite gender, and there are a few heterosexual human couples seen (Koss and Melonni, Gwen and Logan), but that’s really it, and I don’t necessarily see those as being indicative of their societies as a whole. It’s certainly a subject I’d like to see explored more, and I could speculate further on it, but I think this entry has already gotten long enough. Perhaps in the future I will do that further.
Last post to come in this series will cover religion and how it is handled in the Guild Wars universe.