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When the Princess Tanks: Accepting Others by Disregarding Stereotypes} ?>
When an unexpected attack forces me to crash-land my airship and the party is scattered, I’m left with a giant war golem, a little girl in a green cloak, and a hard-bitten swordsman who’s “getting too old for this crap.” If Battle Chasers: Nightwar followed the norm of classic JRPGs, these three would fill the roles of tank, healer, and soldier, respectively.
But I’m surprised to discover that Calibretto, the giant war golem, doesn’t get more hit points than any other character. Despite his hulking frame, he never becomes a tank, nor do any of his skills make him destined to be one. Instead, he is a fantastic healer, and the party loves him for it. Though he can pump out decent damage as well, his character is compassionate and gentle.
Gully, the diminutive princess with a kind spirit, is the party’s protector. She generates shields for her companions, defending against and taunting enemies. Out of all the characters, she has the most hit points; she takes a blow like a boss and continues to do so until the enemy has been defeated. Yet, she is also a loving character; she does not have to suppress her emotions or her tendency to care about others, nor does she need protection.
When Gully steps in front of cannon fire to save Garrison, the swordsman who fought with her father, he thanks her. He doesn’t scold her or attempt to take the blow for her, because he knows she is better equipped to handle the enemy’s barrage than he is. Other members expect her to stand in the way of danger to provide them chances to use their skills without making a big deal of it. Even ‘Bretto accepts that she is going to get hurt and it’s his job to heal her, not tank for her.
Subverting expected roles based on appearance is nothing new. Gamora, the seemingly delicate woman from Guardians of the Galaxy, is a malicious fighter of extreme skill; Cronk, the mammoth of a man in The Emperor’s New Groove, loves to bake and cares about squirrels; Princess Peach is a heavy hitter in Super Smash Bros. But these subversions become tropes in themselves. Female fighters are still characterized by speed and precision. The delicate male behemoth tends to be afraid of everything and though he tries to be gentle, he ends up accidentally smashing things. Even in the subversion, there is still a recognition that big, strong men are incapable of gentleness and women can’t take a hit even if they think they can. Men end up being protectors and the women always need saving in the end. But this is not the case in Battle Chasers.
I appreciate the game’s subversions because I need the reminder. I’ve made quick judgements about others, said hurtful things to friends who play sports despite being nerds or who have surprising hobbies. And I should know better. At 6’3” and 280 lbs, I’ve been told I look intimidating. I certainly can use my strength and size to accomplish things, yet my pastimes are music, writing, and playing games. I also struggle with sharing my emotions because of the expectations I assume people around me carry. As a burly man, I’m not supposed to struggle with depression or feel emotions deeply. But I do. And I need to be able to discuss those feelings with others.
Battle Chaser’s tanking princess and healing golem remind me to accept people for who they are and who they are working to become without placing expectations on them. And when I see organizations like Dumbbells & Dragons, who mash working out and being nerds, geeks being jocks, and women military leaders like General Ann Dunwoody, I have hope.
I want to help make up for a society that has limited expression and forces people into roles based on gender or appearance. Like Battle Chasers, I want to contribute to a community that can be laughably stereotypical or shockingly subversive in everything we do. No one should ever feel forced into a role or excluded from being who they long to be. The less we judge, the less stigma exists. A soccer dad can be into cosplay. A single, female lawyer can write songs on her spare time. A man who loves football can admit he struggles with depression. A gamer can lift weights. A golem can heal. A princess can tank. All can be loved and accepted.
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