Why Representation (Still) Matters

Why Representation (Still) Matters

A couple of weeks ago, a member of my DnD group made comments about video game characters. I’m paraphrasing to cut the cussing, but he basically said that he doesn’t care and it doesn’t matter what sexuality characters are or gender identity. He just wants solid, fun characters to play with and play against. I’m not going to explain any more of the situation, but I will leave the thoughts that his comment stirred up for me, because I feel like they are important thoughts for our future audience to know about our mindset for creating this game.

We all want solid, fun characters to play as and play off of in our game. No arguments there. The problem is, anyone who is part of the LGBTQA+ community, or even someone who isn’t but is a girl, has to fight for equal representation. Not just representation–because then you can argue that we are there. There’s female options in Overwatch, in World of Warcraft, in Pokemon. The problem is, they aren’t equal to the male characters. It’s why arguments that we don’t still need to push representation drives me nuts. Yes, it’s better–I can play as a girl when I make a Pokemon run. No, I’m still not satisfied because where is my Zelda equivalent of Link? Why are there still more than 75% of the fleshed out characters being male and most of the remaining females don’t have as much dialogue or action?

Most women don’t pass what I call the 50/66 rule. What’s the 50/66 rule? It means that 50% of the dialogue and actions in the game–not bios, not in guides, but in the actual game–belong to a female character. The 66 part of the rule is 66% of the character’s skin has to be covered, minimum, and they have to still be dressed practical for what they are. For example, I don’t expect bards to be dressed from head to toe in armor, but I don’t want them to be naked or effectively dressed in underwear and scarves (if that) either. I do expect my knight to wear real armor, not chain mail bikini’s by any other name or literal breast plates. True fact, there isn’t a single GOOD dollmaker out there that lets you create a female knight that doesn’t ruin the armor to do it. NOT ONE. (I’ve looked. If you have one, feel free to share!!!) And those are simple flash dollmakers, much less a more serious game.

Aside from a few exceptions, LGBTQA+ content is over fetishized or just not there. If it is there, it’s mentioned in a character bio and that’s about it. A lot of the reason why the Dragon Age games and the new Fire Emblem game are being cheered as hard as they are is because they reach to so many normally ignored demographics, and while other games are picking up on this trend, it’s an uphill battle. (I will say that this is getting better faster than the issue with female characters, but again, we still have a long way to go, so I don’t want either to stop or get more focus than the others.)

The only thing this person didn’t bring up is race, but even there, I wish there was more variety to the characters. I don’t want to see American interpretations of Eastern cultures, I want to see people authentic to those cultures create those characters, to actually show us what they see. I want the ratios to be closer to what they actually are in the world. I want exposure to the real culture, the real way things are done, not the way that is portrayed in cartoons or the occasional art film.

So how is Mystic Riders any different? We do try to include a wide variety of countries for background, with a heavier focus on Europe only because that is the country we start with. Why? Because that’s where Ginny and I have the background. Will we stay there? Ohhh no. We have plans. But we want the people to have joined us who have the real, in-depth knowledge we can never have before we carry out those plans. Do we make representation the center most core of the game? No, because then it does what I was rallying against earlier–it makes it done just for representation’s sake, meaning it’s superficial and frequently not as enriching and engaging as I want.

But what I really want people to take away from this post is representation still matters. We still need to fight for those good, solid characters who are female, who are gay, who are trans, who are from another culture than American, and every combination in between. Trying to deride a game for working on that as well as bolstering the strong story hooks isn’t being an activist, it’s you actually trying to erase the small steps have been taken, when we need to be working on taking bigger ones.

Tumbling Down in Amethyst District

Tumbling Down in Amethyst District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Amethyst, where Consciousness magic is the end-all be-all.

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Set in the very center of Argentum, Amethyst is mostly mountainous and bordered by Sphalerite, Ruby, and Emerald, as well as both Zablana and Nospos. Ginny used the Swiss Alps as inspiration for Amethyst, looking for ways to situate towns and farms into the mountain side that goes vertical more than it does horizontal. With pocket valleys creating ideal places for villages and high steeps covered in snow for the rest, Amethyst is great for everyone who enjoys their snow year round.

In addition to the villages and high hills that lead into Ruby, Amethyst is home to winter sports of all varieties, particularly ice skating. In fact, a huge Olympic-sized facility has been built in Amethyst to try and attract ice skaters of all types. With all those twisting roads, though, travel can get tricky and there’s always someone who is in need of rescue. Perhaps as a nod to the home of winter weather, Russia, there is a definite imperial/military inspired style in Amethyst.

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With all those mountains and the specialty of dressage, you might need a new horse. While Amethyst doesn’t provide you any funds for new horses, there are some to take a look at if you don’t mind spending some of your own cash. The Vyatka and the Akale-Teke are horses built for extreme weather and elegant looks, both being considered rare breeds. If something a little more solid is your speed, there is also the Orlov Trotter for your consideration.

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Consciousness magic resonates with Ti on the solfege scale. Consciousness is magic of the mind and will, with many of its abilities similar to that of psychic abilities. Magicians of Consciousness will push their minds and their bodies as hard as they can to achieve their goals. While they are usually empathetic enough to pick up other’s emotions and maybe manipulate them, they aren’t as wise to their own feelings and can come across as a little cold. On the small scale, Consciousness magic is telekinesis and emotions or thought sensing, relying on the environment or others as well as their own will. On the large scale, it can grant its users knowledge of the past, the present, or the future, and even allow for astral projection. However, you have to be careful about going too far from your body or into time–they don’t play fair–and if you push yourself too far, you’ll get a nasty headache for your troubles.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Amethyst, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Amethyst mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Isidora Silvertreble (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vivian Streetbeat (profile pending) and Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Shine a Light in Morganite!

Shine a Light in Morganite!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Morganite, where Prism magic shines.

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A combination of lush beaches, sweeping fields with craggy water ways, and one very boggy marsh, Morganite is on the southwest side of the country on the coast on the border with Nospos, and it is also surrounded by Sphalerite, Ruby, and Diamond districts. With input from Becca, Ginny looked to southern France for imagery for Morganite. Fields of lavender are home to wild horses, the big bulls needed for Sapphire, and wineries. There are bits of French charm around every corner or stream

Unfortunately, all that water historically leads to problems in the spring and summer, as the influx of rain can cause flooding. The locals are used to it, but preparations still have to made. Unfortunately, the local nobility, in particular the baroness, and the local higher class merchants aren’t seeing eye to eye. (Beware of sandwich jokes, there’s hidden meaning around here…) The only help for all of this? An elderly knight, tucked away in his tower among the marshes. If only you could reach him, you might be able to get everything ready on time! Despite the weather, the atmosphere of the hamlets and the beaches have brought out the classically cute style in terms of fashion.

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Seeing as how there is a huge marsh to deal with, you’re going to need a second horse if you hope to navigate it. Morganite is home to the special quest that gains you in-game currency to purchase a draft horse. If you’ve only unlocked Morganite at that time, your option is the Percheon. In addition, the area’s specialty is show jumping, but there are a handful of ranches that raise cattle or horses, so a good all-around horse in the Selle Francais is available. And considering how adorable the rest of the district is, of course there’s a pony running around: the Welsh pony, specifically.

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Prism magic resonates with La on the solfege scale. Prism is magic of the light, literally, and is the definition of jack of all trades, master of none in terms of spell range. If a person aligns with Prism magic, they tend to be very transparent, but watch out because that doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden depths. They are the definition of optimism, and always see the best in others–even where others can’t. On the small scale, Prism magic summons light–from that of the stars, the sun, or the moon, or in different colors with each color being capable of a different thing. On the large scale, it is the power of illusions, making the mind believe something is there that isn’t or appearing different. It’s very handy for some quick costume changes! However, perhaps to balance it’s versatility and stable nature, very little Prism magic directly impacts reality.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Morganite, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Morganite mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Charlotte Mistwaltz (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending).
Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sapphire, where Ether magic brings out the power of the celestial in us all.

A twisting hill land of grasses and sand that is close enough to the Highwind Desert to affect the local climate, Sapphire is on the northeast side of the country up against the foot of the Whistlebacks, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Emerald, and Citrine districts. Southern Spain was the inspiration for this district of Astranar (which makes sense considering the location of the equator for both countries). With tall, gleaming white buildings set in mazes among hills and winding dirt roads, Sapphire seems a lot more sparse than it is, with a rich history and ancient runes that hint at the past for Astranar. Of course, if you can find them is the trick there, since some of those ruins are quite out of the way.

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The nobility find Sapphire a welcome change of pace, and so there’s a heavy collection of them around. Some are lords, there’s a count and a local knight… Why so many flock can also be nailed down to the “exiled” prince, Sebastian, who makes his home at his family’s estate in Sapphire. Why he was removed from the line of succession is a mystery that the royal family has kept private… Some of the lords may also be by because Sapphire has a large bull fighting arena. (For those of you who have read Emerald‘s entry, you can imagine how big of a problem that can be!) Fashion in Sapphire is just a bit kooky–steampunk is the name of a game, perhaps as a nod towards formality for the gentry?

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With all the grassland hills and beaches, horses that do well on the straight and on sandy terrain are best suited to Sapphire. Good thing they have the breed books for Arabians and Barbs! In addition, they have the Hackney Horse for those who might be more inclined to their high speed trotting and delicate lines. The racing specialty around these parts is the straightforward flat race, though of course nothing is ever that simple, right?

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Ether magic resonates with So on the solfege scale. Ether is magic of the spirit, and in many ways is closer to “traditional” forms of magic. Those of the Ether don’t really take the beaten path, as they serve as bridges between Earth, the heavens, the spirit, and the body, though they value safety with their independence. They are deep thinkers who you can often find holed up in a lab of some sort. On the small scale, Ether magic can tolerate dualities, like hot and cold, have higher endurance of thirst, fatigue, or hunger, or converse/interact with spirits or ghosts. On the large scale, it is the power of alchemy, changing one element for another among other things, and space magic. Be careful not to form a baby star in your backyard!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sapphire, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sapphire mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Minna Opuswright (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Veronica Highflute (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Emerald (no wizards or tin men here, though lions, hmmm), where Air magic inspires action.

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The closest thing to a tropical jungle that Astranar has, with lush greenery and a mangrove forest, Emerald is on the north-northeast side of the country up against the low point of the Whistlebacks, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Sapphire, and Amethyst districts. Ginny looked to the interior of Puerto Rico for how the district shaped up. The forests are one aspect, covering hills and low mountains, parting to show some bits of green land and lakes. There are also underground caves of beautiful stone. Emerald is home to the Astranar Zoo, which was recently purchased by a well-intentioned conservationist, and is home to several crazy species.

The mountains and forest are dense enough to prevent an invasion, so there are no knights in Emerald, but there are a handful of nobility, with a count helping organize the four local lords, who do a fast pace in trade of the tropical crops that can only be found in Emerald. This is slightly problematic because there is a strong eco-savvy movement in Emerald that detests “stealing from nature.” They set the tone for the fashion, which is fairly bohemian in style as they work to inspire lack of waste.

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Sometimes to get where you are going among the dense trees and water, you need to be in the saddle a long time. And with space at a premium, smaller arenas are for the best. As a result, the district specialty is dressage, and the local horses are a mix. For those who favor tradition, you have the Andalusian and Persano. However, if you would prefer something a little different, there is a South American horse who is actually an ambler rather than the usual trotting style: the Paso Fino.

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Air magic resonates with Fa on the solfege scale. A bridge between fire and water, air is the path to goals, though it may jump around from time to time. Air magicians are intellectuals who seek wisdom…they just may be all over the place trying to find it. They are good at helping ease conflict between friends by talking it out. On the small scale, Air magic can summon a fresh breeze or help you see or hear something from far away. On the large scale, it can be a summon special types of wind, changing it from direction to properties, and manipulate the weather. Of course, if you bring a cyclone down on everyone’s head’s, you’ll have a lot to answer for!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Emerald, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Emerald mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Elena Treeharmony (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Skip Over to Citrine District

Skip Over to Citrine District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Citrine (the gemstone, not citrus fruits), where Fire magic sparks the imaginations.

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Continuing the hill country with a few plains mixed in instead of forests and gorges, Citrine is on the southeast side of the country with coastline, and sharing a border with the Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire districts. The point of inspiration from Ginny was Scotland. Not just the moors, but also the lochs and woods rather than full forests. While water isn’t as plentiful here as it was in Ruby, there are a few stand-alone lakes and streams. The grasslands of the moors seem to stretch on and on at times, with hidden hills creating surprises around corners. There is some hard pebble type beach shores, but a good portion of the coastline is also jagged rocks and steep cliffs.

With the sweeping plains of grass, most of the “farming” that happens is that of animal husbandry, though some grow grains or nightshade variants like potatoes and eggplant. A wildcat sanctuary is kept among the hills, where a wide variety of big and small species of wild cats have a safe place to live and education on conservation can occur. They even have a traveling group that rarely has orphaned kittens they could use some help raising. The coast is home to plenty of fisherman who scour the sea for bountiful seafood, while the vineyard does its best to compete with the other districts.

The local nobility is small, with their presence not being felt much. A count, a baron, and a few lords and a knight, they could use a reminder on how to socialize with each other and with the populace. Perhaps because of having lots of space, perhaps because Citrine is so close to Diamond District, but no matter the reason, Citrine has plenty of flourishing dance studios and other types of training that performers dream of. It fits with the creativity and passion that is used to combat the sameness of the view and weather. The fashion reflects this, with some hip-hop inspired styling that somehow manages to make it work with the gothic aesthetic.

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Sweep hills of grass are great for not only cattle, but horses. Specifically flat-style racing, which is all about speed and endurance. The horses that are collected here reflect the more tumbling sides of speed. The Brumby, the Camargue horse, and the New Forest pony all make their homes here (or rather, their breeders do), and they are sure-footed to help if you need a new horse for speeding through the flats. Please note, the expectation is that the game will provide you funds for two extra horses in addition to your initial horse, one of which includes a pony. This is not the district that supplies you the credits for purchasing one.

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Fire magic resonates with Mi on the solfege scale. It’s all about the creative energy and passion for life. Fire-inclined people are energetic, brave, and vivacious, with personality just oozing out of them. They can’t help but show their creative personalities, being very assertive and strong in themselves. On the small scale, Fire magic can light a candle or a campfire, making a matchbox or tinder a theoretical exercise. On the large scale, it can be a purifying force, as well as provide inspiration depending on the spell. The downside is that an irresponsible or out of control spell can lead to a raging forest or grassland fire faster than you can sneeze.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Citrine, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Citrine mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Vivienne Streetbeats (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vivian Streetbeats (profile pending) and Veronica Highflute (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

 

Take a Hike in Sphalerite!

Take a Hike in Sphalerite!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sphalerite (yes, that’s an actual gemstone), where Water magic is the all-the-rage.

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With gentle hills, some low-level mountains, and deep forests, Sphalerite is on the northwest side of the country, sharing a border with the country of Nospos, and the Morganite, Amethyst, and Ruby districts. The inspiration for this district was the Black Forest of Germany and the surrounding countryside, with a little of the Bavarian Forest. The further north-northwest you get, closer to the Whistleback Mountains, the more the terrain is mountainous like the bits of the Alps that Germany lays claim to. Whereas the further south you go, the countryside is more like hills covered with thick trees, from evergreen pines to oaks and elms. It is also home to the highest number of castles, though many are no longer home to the nobility.

In addition to the plethora of castles, Sphalerite has a deer sanctuary, home to several species of deer from both Astranar and other countries. It serves as an education platform on environmental stability and invasive species. (Because red deer and sika deer have taken over every area they are in, and let’s not mention Yellowstone Park in America before the wolves were reintroduced…) Because of the plentiful forests, many craftspeople come to take part in the forestry industry that the local lords are very careful not to take too much of the trees at any one time. Speaking of nobility, the local higher ranked baron and duke are a bit…stuck in the past. Unfortunately, they are being dragged into the future kicking and screaming. The fashion of the district reflects its ties to the past, with a retro flare from the 1950’s.

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Once again, I’ll get to what you actually want to know about. With the flourishing forestry industry, the extra horses available in Sphalerite are heavier, with strength for pulling, though these breeds are also featured in show jumping, the district specialty. If you are coming in from a different racing district and would rather buy a new horse than try and adjust any of your current horses to show jumping, American Cream Draft, the Black Forest Horse, and Vanner horse breeders sell some of their stock to players. While you will get credits for a draft horse through the course of the game, Sphalerite is not the district with that quest. Once you have one in your stable, however, special quests unlock.

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Water magic resonates with Re on the solfege scale. If Earth is the base, than Water is the flow that pushes and pulls you where you need to go in its own time. Those who are in touch with Water are also in touch with their dreams and their feelings, sometimes coming off as a little moody, but a devoted friend regardless. They don’t see problems, due to them having no concept of boundaries, and can go anywhere in anyway to meet their goals. On the small scale, Water magic can summon water, or raise or lower the water level of a pond or stream. On the large scale, it is cleansing and healing magic, with regeneration possible, as well as a bit of scrying through the reflective surfaces of still pools. If you don’t keep a handle on it, however, it can cause avalanches, floods, and overall bad weather news that will ruin that picnic plan with your riding club!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sphalerite, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sphalerite mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Kitty Sweetsong (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Veronica Highflute (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.