Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

Shedding some light into the Secret World

Funcom’s Secret World demo was tucked away in a shrouded booth in one of the back corners of the Exhibition Hall. Of course, much like the secret societies featured in the game, the booth was hidden in plain sight, extravagant yet easily overlooked, and always right next to the big movers and shakers of the world (in this case it sat between EA’s Battlefield 3 and Need for Speed booths). Once gamers were ushered into the booth, we got to sit back, relax (they had couches!), and watch the dev team run through a short presentation and part of a dungeon from early on in the game.

I think she's going to need a bigger sword....

From what I saw, the game looks mighty promising. It’s an MMORPG set in the modern-day world, with three factions (the Illuminati, the Templars, and the Dragons) standing united against a common foe but all struggling to decide who will rein supreme once said foe has been defeated. There are no levels, no skill trees, nothing that normally denotes progression in games of this type. Instead all characters will eventually gain access to all abilities and it simply becomes a matter of learning what abilities are best used for various fights and/or group roles. They likened it to a Magic (the card game) player that has every single card in existence. Having them all doesn’t necessarily make them a better player, but it does give them a heck of a lot of options when up against tough situations. Which comes in quite handy in the dungeons of Secret World, as the devs don’t believe in trash mobs. They prefer to take the approach of having several mini-bosses that teach the players the techniques needed to defeat the very tough, very big major boss at the end.

Why kill 20 trash mobs when you can just kill one of these hulking behemoths

There also seems to be a fairly high emphasis on character customization in Secret World, in at least the realm of clothing. The devs mentioned that most armor will not have graphics displayed and that what your character is wearing is based on aesthetic clothing options (aka a wardrobe system). From the demo it seems like the clothing options run a full gamut of choices from pink trench coats to booty shorts to an open-neck shirt for the guys. It wasn’t discussed in too much detail, but I am hoping that the clothing items aren’t overly gender-restrictive (I’m sure there are several Illuminati gentleman who would love to run around in booty shorts) and have a wide range of options so that many different styles can be represented. I’m fairly sure that at least the latter is the case based off of some screenshots that I’ve seen and the surprisingly un-sexually-objectified marketing the game has had so far.

The three factions of Secret World: Dragon, Templar, and Illuminati. Surprisingly, two of the three are represented by women, and even more surprisingly they're not in some form of bikini uniform!

(Trigger Warning for the rest of the article for discussions of sexual assault, PTSD, and rape jokes)

Sadly, the one major complaint I have about the game and its presentation is that the devs felt it necessary and/or funny to use a rape joke during their demo. I actually sat through two of the demos (hey, those couches were damn comfy) and was exceedingly disappointed/disgusted to find out that they made the same joke both times, like it was actually a part of their script for the demo. They even went so far as to make a joke about how they shouldn’t be joking about rape, acknowledging that its a horrible thing to do but that they don’t care. Its wildly offensive and rather cruel to casually toss around rape jokes in such a manner, to suddenly spring a potentially triggering moment onto an unsuspecting rape survivor in the audience. They’re there eager to check out your new game and enjoy themselves in what is supposed to be the highlight of nerd-coming-togetherness, but then thats all ruined when you suddenly throw them into the middle of a flashback or panic attack. How is that in any way a good marketing tactic or a good way to treat a fellow human being?

This did tarnish the experience for me quite a bit. Secret World does look very promising, but seeing two of the lead devs act like that is very disheartening. I know that its Funcom, makers of Age of Boobs…err Conan, and they’ve always had a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to gender issues, but still throwing rape jokes around that casually in front of a live audience is inexcusable. I will most likely beta test the game and play it, and probably even enjoy the hell out of it. However, there will always be this memory in the back of my head, casting a shadow on the experience. I highly doubt they will ever apologize for the jokes, but I can hope that some criticism about it reaches them and that perhaps it shows them just how reprehensible a thing it is do to another person.


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