Trendsetting in a Text World – Part 1: Focusing on Feminism

This is Part 1 of a two-part series. See Part 2 here.

Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands. Heard of it? If so, please feel free to drop me a line, because I think I may know you! Otherwise, you’ll probably be like most of my readers who stick to the more visually engaging spectrum of gaming, but I have to tell you, if that’s you then you’re sorely missing out.

Achaea is a game that has been around since 1996 and has been going against the norm since day one. First of all, let’s just rip the Band-Aid off: Yes, this is a text game. A text-based MMORPG, to be exact. It is also what’s called a MUD.

Yes, it’s really all text.
No, there aren’t any pictures.
Yes, really, it’s all text.

Here, just check out their website.

This is what the gameplay looks like:

achaea screenshot

But, to be fair, I logged in just to take a screen shot. There’s generally a lot more action and intrigue. I swear! Learn more about it here.

It might not look too flashy, but before you write it off, think about what it’s like to read a novel. You’re just looking at words on a page, but in your head, you’re seeing a rich tapestry of characters, settings, and action; in short, you’re seeing and can even feel like you’re experiencing the story – that is, if it’s well written.

Now imagine that instead of reading a novel, you’re taking part in one. You’re your own main character, but just like in real life, you’re surrounded by others who are main characters in their own stories. You’re all interacting, joining sides, flirting, fighting, falling in love, and yes, even certain other f-words that I’ll avoid mentioning in such polite company. Unlike most other games, what happens in this one is truly in your hands. Your character’s description, gender, race, motivations, personal creed, likes, dislikes — you name it, they’re all in your control. You can join organizations or try to take other organizations down, you can be a pacifist or a warlord, you can be a politician, a househusband, an explorer, a preacher, a thief; in short, you can do anything. You’re writing your character’s story in real time alongside others whose story is being written live, right next to you. It’s truly amazing!

achaeapic1

Some original artwork depicting what one player sees as they play. Click here for more.

One other amazing thing? They’ve been ahead of their time since the beginning in terms of gender, same-sex relationships, and feminism. Some of this is thanks to the creators and coders behind the scenes, but a lot of it stems from the players themselves.

So, how does the game tackle feminism?

To start, women can rule over cities (the highest player-run offices of the land) and are equally respected politicians who lead armies with and against their male counterparts in charge of other cities in the game. Men craft jewelry and design clothing for characters and compete with women of equal skill for spots in shops so the other adventurers can buy their creations. The gods – which is what the people who run the show from behind the scenes are referred to as — do a lot of coding and bug fixing, but they also have an in-character presence where they grant boons to players, run worldwide competitions, and often facilitate devastating war or peaceful, fun-loving events that bring everyone together (at least for a short time). These Gods are represented by men and women both, and are equally respected as such.

achaeapic5

A player’s interpretation of some statues of various famous individuals located in their city. More here.

In short, in Achaea, men and women are seen as totally equal at every level, from the highest offices to the lowliest NPCs.

In fact, I have an anecdote that proves just that:

There’s an organization in the game which has named itself protector of all innocent beings and the destroyer of those who wish to do bad in the world. The idea of what’s “bad” in the game varies from faction to faction, just like in real life, and this is one of the most interesting (and my favorite) parts of the intellectual gameplay. That is, however, neither here nor there. In the game, of course you can kill things and gain experience, much like nearly every other game in existence. This particular faction had rules about what you could and could not kill. You could kill no “innocents,” of course. Only what they deemed as the bad guys were open game. In the beginning, a player who was running the organization decided that they’d make a list of the things you could and could not go after when hunting or fighting. One of the things the list said was that you could go to what we’ll call Village X and kill everything “except the women and children living there.” It didn’t take long for someone else to say, “Hey, the kids I understand, but the women? They’re just a strong, just as intelligent, and just as capable of understanding their choices. They shouldn’t get a free pass just for being women.”

So, there you go. Now you can go to Village X and slay (or be slain by) men and women indiscriminately.

achaeapic3

Or, you know, if hunting in Village X isn’t your thing, maybe check out Heavily-Armed Fortress Y.
More original player art here.

Of course, some of you may be thinking, “That’s not what feminism is about!” But that’s where you’d be wrong. Being taken seriously, whether it’s beneficial or not, being considered equal, whether in a positive light or a negative one, that’s exactly what feminism is about. Women can be exactly as good –or as bad! — as men.  Achaea’s playerbase figured this out a long time ago. No women and children first on sinking ships at sea (which yes, Achaea has). Every man (and woman) for themselves! And as it should be.

But we’re not done! To hear about how Achaea tackles gender and sexuality, check out Part 2.

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