Wednesday, February 15, 2012

City of Heroes' Very Hetero Valentine's Day Event

One of my favorite things about doing this blog is seeing how people find this blog. Blogger has a great stats feature that lets me see referencing URLs as well as search strings. This week's search strings ranged from the bizarre (sexy zelda sex) to the eye rolling (getting to second base) to the "this is not the blog you're looking for" (gay for hot man sex). 

There was one search, however, that made me think and then made me feel guilty. It was "city of heroes valentines heteronormative." 

My first thought was "That would be a great post" followed closely by "Why haven't I made that post?" And the cold, dark truth is this - I didn't think about it. So thank you, anonymous Googler, for bringing that gross oversight to my attention. 

For all its faults, City of Heroes has never had a problem when it comes to how they treat their LGBT playerbase. In fact, they at one time had a gay community coordinator who made great strides in ensuring that the forum rules and regulations protected LGBT players from hate speech. There has never been a gay controversy in CoH the way there has been in some other MMOs.  

So for me, City of Heroes has never been on my radar about having LGBT issues (though they certainly have rampant misogyny problems), and I just didn't think about it. Mea Culpa. But the Spring Fling is, indeed, heteronormative and this year's event takes it to a whole new level.

I must warn you that the rest of the post has a lot of spoilers. Read at your own risk. 

In the past, the Spring Fling has consisted of four missions from two contacts - Ganymede (for heroes) and Scratch (for villains). They involved forced, cross-faction teaming in order to either save Aphrodite's girdle (yup, you read that right) or recover tainted water from the Well of Furies. There was also the repeatable mission from DJ Zero to take down a Red Cap named Snaptooth who is trying to destroy DJ Zero's interstellar portal. 

This year there is a new story arc, given out by Ms. Liberty (or Jessica Megan Duncan, as she's trying to be incognito by standing in Pocket D wearing the Liberty Belt and Excalibur) and Arbiter Hawk. I say it is one arc because even though one is supposedly for heroes and one supposedly for villains, they copy and pasted the entire dialog from one to the other. There is no discernible difference at all, save for a couple responses the player gives the contact, and Arbiter Hawk's total inability to explain the plot at all. Ms. Liberty goes into great detail about how Longbow psychics have divined what's going to happen, and Hawk just says "Yeah some people somewhere think it's a good idea. You in?" 

The plot involves the resurrection of Lord Recluse's former love, Red Widow. Yes, you, as a villain, are supposed to think this is a good idea just from Arbiter Hawk going "Yeah, it'll be gnarly dude. We'll, like, rise to power and shit." Oh, not his exact wording, but that sums up the amount of effort put into the villain side of the arc. 

So you go about doing this thing, that is in no way at all a bad idea, and then it predictably goes horribly wrong. You then have to steal Cupid's arrow and shoot Red Widow with it so she'll fall in love with Recluse again and not want to kill him

This is all true. I'll give you a moment to stop drooling on yourself before I continue with the stupid. 

At the end of the arc, during a cut scene, Recluse himself states that he knew all along about the Cupid's arrow spell. And at the end of the hero one, he says he'll need to thank Ms. Liberty for her help. And you never, ever confront her about it. Instead, Longbow Barbie is all "Golly gee that sucked! Better luck next time!" and continues to hang out in the intergalactic night club with her Peggy Hill feet. 

For your efforts, you get the Widow Maker badge, so you have that going for you.

The other new thing added is a new mission by DJ Zero. It is an epic set of FedEx missions where you go around in the world looking for lost Valentines which you then have the option of either delivering to the intended target or misdirecting to someone else in an attempt to make mischief. Seven correct deliveries gets you the Match Maker badge, and seven misdirects gets you the Missed Connection badge. 

So here's the thing - not one of these Valentines, nor any of the missions and mission arcs, indicates that anyone in the CoH universe is gay. The Valentines are full of a shocking amount of robot sex, but even those pairings fall within male/female pairings. For a company that has always been LGBT friendly, this is disappointing. And sad. 

This heteronormativity wasn't so obvious, at least to me, until this addition of the Valentine run. It got really frustrating after a while, and after I got the badges with my badge collector character, I stopped doing them. Yes, there were some surprises within the Valentines (finding out Mynx and Arbiter Sands are a thing for one, though I could have done without his super sexist commentary), but in the end everyone is heterosexual (or in Positron's case, asexual, as he rebuffed every Valentine I took to him; granted they were from robots and a giant Rikti monster, but still). 

Paragon Studios knows that there are LGBT folks who pay to play their game, and yet it doesn't even occur to them to have some LGBT content? That's baffling to me. I can only hope that next year they take the LGBT community into consideration and that some changes are made. 

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