Guild Wars: The Family That Slays Together…

Please welcome Freya Robertson to the site today! Get ready to game on!

By day, I am a mild-mannered personal assistant to four deputy principals at a high school, with bad eyesight and barely enough strength to get the lid off a jam jar. By night, however, I am a greatsword-wielding warrior in a land of snow and ice, attacking Viking-style marauders and defending settlements from invading armies. Oh, and sometimes I feed bears with tasty fish.

Much as I’d love to be fit enough to run through the hills every evening, I’m talking, of course, about Guild Wars 2, the MMO that’s just celebrated its first birthday.

Before I played GW2, I played World of Warcraft for several years. I loved WoW and had a level 80 night-elf druid, among other characters, although I stopped playing because I didn’t like the changes Blizzard made to the Moonkin character (never could get the eclipse to work properly.) But I have to say I prefer GW2. Why? Mainly because of its enhanced role-playing aspect. In WoW, the lands emptied once the dungeon finder came online and everyone levelled through dungeons and raids. But although GW2 still offers dungeons, PVP and World v World, one of my purest delights is the basic adventuring. After a stressful day at work, I come home, log on, start off in a city such as Lion’s Arch, visit the Black Lion Trading Company and gear up for the day, then head off into the wilderness for an evening of unparalleled bliss.

But what about your family, I hear you cry! Aren’t you deserting your loved ones for this virtual life? Well, no, actually, because I adventure with hubby and occasionally my fourteen-year-old son (although he tends to get exasperated with us because we’re less than dextrous and can’t do jump puzzles to save our lives).

It’s a wonderful way to relax, and the game is designed in such a beautiful way that you can almost feel the cold of the Shiverpeaks or the sultry heat of the Bloodtide Coast. MMOs work because of the sense of achievement they give you every time you complete a heart quest or help out in a group event, and it’s this that drives you on to keep levelling, to gain better gear and abilities. That sense of achievement also makes it a pleasant way to spend the evening, especially when, as a family, we descend into a dungeon together to fight the bad guys.

Perhaps the oddest thing about playing as a family is that you can’t tell who’s who online, and that (in a very roundabout way) is the reason for this post. Although the anonymity of the internet sometimes results in vitriolic posts on forums or dating nightmares, it’s also bliss to be able to disguise who you really are. Nobody can tell if the huge Charr Mesmer is the teen with a fondness for alternative rock, the dude who’s head of history with a love of French Foreign Policy of the 1920s, or the secretary with a thickening waistline and dodgy knees (guess which one I am.)

This is why I love gaming of all kinds. At the moment, a large amount of blogposts on the net are criticising the F/SF genre for its racism and sexism, and while I’m not denying it’s out there, I have to say the very reason I love the genre is because there isn’t sexism when it comes to choosing a character in an MMO or in an RPG game like D&D. Males and females have the same strength statistics, and there’s not a button on GW2 the female characters press to get out their ironing board or make lace curtains. My level 80 Warrior, Aisling, is the tallest Norn you can make, and she’s specced into toughness and vitality so she lasts forever in a fight.

True, some of the armour choices can be a bit…revealing for the females. You can see in the screenshot here she’s wearing her party gear, and I think she looks a bit uncomfortable.

Guild Wars 2

She’s much happier in her tough-chick gear here. I chose this outfit because it looks like real armour, solid from neck to feet with a mean-as helmet, and it goes clunk-clunk as she runs along.

Guild Wars 2

Some women dislike the fact that the female armour choices can leave a bit to be desired, and I understand that, especially when part of the character creation process is about increasing the size of the boobs (if only you could enlarge or reduce the size in real life!) But the truth is that when I play a female character, I don’t want a real-life lookalike with a pear shape, cellulite and flat feet. I want to be gorgeous – I want to make my female characters slender, beautiful and shapely.

Equally, I enjoy playing male characters. Again, it’s fun to make them Brad Pitt lookalikes (or, like my human Guardian, a dead ringer for Wild Bill Hickock—long hair and everything—as I happened to be watching Deadwood at the time). Ultimately it doesn’t matter. It’s escapism, it’s fantasy, and in your dreams you get to be whomever you damn well please!


Freya Robertson Media PhotoFreya is a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, as well as a dedicated gamer, and she writes fantasy for Angry Robot Books. Her first, Heartwood, is out on 29 October.You can find her online at her website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.Heartwood-72dpi