This one's for the girls.
Boys, you are welcome to read this, but I was asked to write about APB from a girl's point of view, and I should tell you now that I'm a girlie girl. I like the color pink and shiny things, and I believe that the booth babes, as beautiful as they might be, are not the best part of a gaming convention. I expect my opinions to be a bit "unconventional" for this site, but lots of women play MMOs, and I'm one of them and proud of it. Most sites don't cater much to the female point of view, which is a bit sad since we make up such a large chunk of "your" virtual populations. Some of us are girly; some of us want to be "one of the boys"; but we all look at games in a slightly different way than guys do. And our interests and concerns are poorly served in the industry. In this article I'm going to talk about the things that I (the girly girl) liked about APB: the character creation, customization, and bits of the game itself (shooting people in the face).
The curve is more powerful than the sword -- Mae West
Let me start with this: I want to briefly bring up something I'm pretty sure most of the girls will understand. If you've ever seen any of the character-creation videos out there, they are invariably demos run by a man who inevitably ends up showing that the female avatar's boobies are adjustable like blow-up balls. Guys howl as if meat were dangling in front of them (or just giggle), while the girls roll their eyes. The equivalent customization for the male avatar is not available. No, I'm not talking about making the "pecs" bigger. Would it really be that hard to allow us to change the "package" size? If I can make my female avatar's melons bigger than her head, it only seems fair? Or is everyone OK with this double standard? For the sake of equality, Realtime Worlds please let me make the bulge on my virtual Ken doll a tad bulgier.
Now, I feel I should go back to being a bit more of a lady. The thing that excited me the most was the character creation: Makeup! My goodness, the detail on things like the eye-shadow designs are astonishing. There must be at least 50 different shades, and you can apply them in multiple ways, high on the arch or wide across the whole eye. Eyeliner has some great choices too. You can do just upper or lower, smudged, or the "I've been crying for hours" sad-panda look. I also had fun playing with the eyelashes. I'm the type of girl that puts on loads of mascara when I'm going out clubbing, and, to be honest, the lashes were lacking in the awesome. There was a limited length allowed ... and I want LONG lashes! I was going for a street look and the longest length I could find was "clumpy".
Lipstick, like the eye shadow, comes in many shades, and can be applied in different shapes and styles, including geisha girl, the Joker, and a smear that makes you look like you just kissed a guy for an hour. I know that for a guy makeup is an incredibly minor deal, but it's one of those little things that makes a game like this stand out to players who really care about making their avatars look "just right", and it's an experience that is enjoyable to do, and hopefully for others to look at ... if you care about that kind of thing.
At the beginning, my female character started off wearing basic clothing: a dirty wife beater and red jogging pants. BLECH! If there are any females in your life, you probably know at least one who likes her glitter and glitz. I'm one of those girls. After finishing the tutorial, I went to the Social District so I could buy new clothes. I was so glad to be getting out of that icky outfit. With my limited amount of funds, I could only afford the basic T-shirt and jeans.
The jeans looked like a pair of Levis from about 10 years ago, but that was OK because I was going to fashion them right up. I was hoping to design something along the lines of Baby Phat. You know, sparkly with that little cat. To my dismay, and let me put emphasis on how dismayed I was, there was no glitter nor was there any glitz. Sigh. I was hoping to be able to do some "bedazzling" designing (as cheesy as that sounds), since that stuff looks good on the butt of a well-rounded female... and my character was well rounded. C'est la vie. I decided on a design and shape that worked well on the back pocket: a dragon over a periwinkle chevron. You can adjust the sizes of all your designs, so I modified it until it fit the back left pocket of my jeans perfectly. I then added this design to my shirt and tattoo too. No sparkles, but it was cute.
You find you can't stop playing the game the way you've always played it. -- Richard M. Nixon
I'm aware that character creation and customization is just a small teeny part of this game. The rest of it is shooting people (in the face). I know that. However, different people play games in different ways, and the customization aspect is the bit I like best. When I play WoW, I don't play specifically to just kill stuff. I play for social reasons. I play to explore and to craft, and I love to change my look. I like to unlock achievements in WoW and earn tome unlocks in WAR. Killing is a "means to an end" so that I can make enough money to do the things I really like. If you read my last article you'll know that I'm not a very good FPS/TPS player. I don't enjoy playing a game that ONLY allows me to kill things. To me shooting things (in the face) is the "work" and the other stuff is the "play".
Sure. We saved the world, I say we party. I mean, I got all pretty. -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
One of the nice things about APB is that I can do all the previous mentioned things and still dress up in pink, with pig tails, and drive around in a bright pink car and still be a gun-toting uber bad-ass chick with an attitude. Sure, powerful women characters can be created (and exist) in other games, but APB feels different. I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon, a man known for creating strong female characters, and I subscribe whole-heartedly to his school of thought: empowering women is a good thing! This game puts no restriction on female behavior. Girls work just the same way as guys. I'm not sure the pedestrian women NPCs getting beat up and robbed on the streets of San Paro are exactly empowered, but it's a mature-rated game and I shall pretend they are bugs to be squashed.
So, while I like being able to create a visually stunning avatar, I'm not quite as keen on the PvP elements of APB. I'm sure that gunning down criminals will be fun for a while, but it's not solely enough to keep me engaged. This is why I'm more interested and intrigued by all the creative and social features RTW have packed into the game. I like the fact that the game has "true crafting" instead of fixed recipes that require no thought or inspiration. I like that I can design my own theme music and "jingles". I like that I can form a clan and socialize with friends. I like that I can become an artist and run a business selling my designs. Only time will tell whether all these creative outlets carry enough weight to keep this girl gamer occupied.
See you in San Paro. I'll be the one wearing pink.