Friday, May 16, 2014

On makeup and gender and MMOs

This is tangentially related to the subject of my blog - not nails but makeup - so I'm putting it here. If it doesn't interest you feel free to skip this!

I don't think I've mentioned this here, much, but I have a MMO habit. If you know me or read my twitter you already know this, but I'm going on the assumption that not everybody who reads here does. I started playing them with my friend Col something like eight years ago, so I guess you'd have to say I'm an MMO veteran nowadays. I'm not a hardcore player in the sense that I don't spend a a lot of time mucking around in dungeons, but I still spend a great deal of time playing, usually upwards of 20 hours a week, often more like twice that if I have time. To give you a sense, over the years I've played Guild Wars 1 & 2, World of Warcraft, SWTOR and LOTRO (which are the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings MMOs, respectively) pretty extensively, as well as some stuff like Auto Assault and Rift that people who aren't gamers may have never heard of. In every one of these you create a character when you start (usually you can create something like 4-8 different characters, sometimes more) and you can customize what they look like - humans or hobbits or cyborgs or elves or Sith, depending on the game, but always including their hair and makeup and such - and then that appearance is then frozen, more or less permanently. The ability to change it is usually something that is added as an afterthought after the game has been running a while - they usually call it adding a barber or something like that, a little service where you can change your hair and makeup/facial appearance for a fee, but sometimes it doesn't turn up for a year or more after the game goes live. But meanwhile you can change your clothing more or less at whim - in fact, changing your clothing is a huge part of the game, in every one of these games. It's a way to show status.

And it just occurred to me to wonder why this is so. Our current game is ESO - Elder Scrolls Online - and I have a human character who I gave sort of Braveheart-style face-paint down one side of her face, for some reason, and I'm kind of sick of it. (The normal thing is that you pick from a number of makeup options, usually several options that look like normal makeup with eyeliner and lipstick and such - even if it's an elf or a hobbit or whatever that you're putting makeup on - but also often more unconventional things like unusual gothy colors and facial tattoos and piercings and stuff like that.) I haven't really spent a lot of time worrying about how much I'd like to change that - it helps that you normally see your character from the back, anyway, or I never would've done it in the first place - but still, I would like to change it if I could. But I can't. Not yet, anyway. ESO is in some ways barely functional and slightly buggy, and there's a greater-than-normal number of things that are still to be added, and so I don't expect to see the barber-type module any time soon.

(NOTE for anyone who might actually be interested in the game: I realized after I wrote this that "barely functional" is probably overstating the case. And "slightly buggy" is probably understating it a bit. I don't want to give you the wrong idea - there are bugs and there are problems, but in fact it's been functioning fine, for the most part, for, what, almost two months now. If I wasn't having fun I wouldn't still be playing!)

Here's the character in question:
She's a Covenant sorceror, if that means anything to you - currently level 26 or so, a Redguard. (ESO has some nine races to choose from: three types of humans, three types of elves, plus cat-people, lizard-people, and Orcs, who just look like big humans with fangs.) My complaint is just that if they can put this much thought into a dress, and you can change those at whim, there's really no reason why they couldn't let you change your makeup as well. Maybe it's unfair of me, but I put this down to the fact that most MMO designers are still predominantly male. If more girls were doing the programming - and making the design decisions - I think they would certainly let you change the makeup as much as you change the clothes.

It's not that awful - and in fact it looks sort of cool with the blue dress - but still I'd like to be able to get rid of it someday. Preferably before 2016 or so.

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