Of gods and men - Bright Blades devblog #3
Apologies for the slight delay on this one, I've been feeling a bit under-the-weather this weekend. Anyway, last time I talked about my motivation for making the women of Bright Blades super-strong and why I think cultures that exclusively have male super-soldiers are silly. This time, I want to talk about some of the deeper reasons for making the game this way, and some of my personal influences that went into making the game what it is today.
Not too long ago, I was asked a question by someone who'd played the game. They specifically wanted to know why I'd made a game depicting Oberon, a nation predominantly led by men, as the villains while casting women blessed by gods as heroes. They asked if they thought that might be sending unfortunate implications: that all men are bad, and women can only be their equal with divine power. Honestly, I thought it was probably the best questioning I've ever gotten. I had to think really hard about what the smart way to word my answers was.
The biggest reason for my wanting to depict Oberon as the villains is that I have concerns and criticisms about the direction men are headed in. You've probably heard of the term, "Toxic masculinity"; the idea that a lot of male behaviours, like using force to get one's way and generally trying to assert oneself through aggression, are bad attitudes that we need to get rid of. As someone who never fit in with the, "Lads Culture" growing up, it's an attitude I sympathise with. However, if I may critique my fellow leftists for a moment, I also don't think that this particular attitude is as productive as it could be. Effectively, I'm worried that we're telling young men (and especially young white men) that masculinity is toxic without offering a progressive replacement.
I've met people with beliefs that range from merely right-of-centre to full-blown xenophobes, and I keep hearing the same thing. "The left hates men." "No one wants men to be men anymore." "Why do you people always want to criticise men?" Now, a lot of these guys are just far-right thugs who want to lash out at a world that's slowly but surely getting more progressive, but I think a lot of them just feel angry and resentful that they're being criticised for things they may not have done. Now, I don't sympathise with that, because I believe we need to call out awful behaviour wherever we see it. I just think a not-insignificant number of these people are just naive, exploitable kids caught up in dangerous movements because they think that's what men are meant to do, and that we can stop them from falling in with that crowd.
In fact, some of the people who are already in do recognise its problems and want to get out. Watch any documentary on the far-right, and you'll often see guys who want to get out but don't feel like they can or that they'd be accepted if they did. That's why I wanted to depict Oberon as the villains. Not every single man in Oberon, but the kingdom. The idea. The concept of an aggressively patriarchal state dominated by far-right philosophy. This is also why the first non-hostile character from Oberon that you meet is Prince Selynn: a meek, gentle, and compassionate man who rejected this mentality. Him being frail to the point of lacking any combat prowess was an intentional design decision, because I wanted to represent how men don't need to be uber-mega-alphas to be loved and valuable. They just have to be good people.
I don't have a concrete solution to the issue of the alt-right attracting lonely young boys without direction, but I do think it's a problem that men themselves need to address. This isn't something women can just do the emotional labour for, guys need to be the ones who create a new, healthier kind of masculinity. While I don't have a concrete answer for how that's done, I do think we can use media and storytelling to show these boys that there are alternatives. Selynn chose to reject his kingdom's chauvanistic violence, instead seeking a better way. As everyone who's played the demo has seen, he was trying to make peace with the Titanians by marrying Kriemhild. Whether that would have worked, well, I'll let you play the full game to discover once it's out, but I wanted Selynn to represent how not everyone from Oberon is doomed to be a monster forever and ever.
That brings us quite nicely to the subject of why the Titanians get their power from a divine blessing and not, say, just being super-strong women. As I said in my previous post, the earliest prototype for Titania was very different in its design. They were the dominant civilisation and fought against a small band of angry men. Once I grew up a bit, I realised the problems this presented and flipped the script. Again, it's generally easier to root for an underdog than a big invading army. However, if it was just one city against a massive imperial power, then that city would surely need to have some kind of fantastical nuclear deterrent to avoid being steamrolled. They're still badass elite soldiers without their blessings, it's just that having them gives them the strength to fight overwhelming odds. Well, at least until the Godslayers show up, but that's another story.
Of course, these demigods aren't the only women who'll join your party. There's plenty of mortals who'll be helping you fight the good fight throughout Bright Blades (as those of you who recruited Kara, Nimue, and Aslan will know), it's just that the game is about Freya and she's a valkyrie, so that's where I focused on to start with. There is a little bit more to the valkyries' goddess and her role in the plot but I won't spoil that for you. All I can say is that I hope this clears up some of my motivations.