For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing a free mobile game called Sword and Glory. I guess it could be considered an RPG, because you have a number of choices regarding missions and gear, as well as quite complex perks and traits branching trees. Despite that, the game completely revolves around a fairly simple fighting system with two buttons: block and attack. Press block for a shield bash, hold block to parry, press attack for fast attack, hold attack for strong attack, and press block and attack at the same time for careful attack. The combat system is actually a kind of rock-paper-scissors: fast defeats careful, careful defeats strong and strong defeats fast. There is nothing really groundbreaking regarding gameplay. The visuals are pleasing, a black-and-white world with color touches in shields, beards and weapons, very Mad World-esque. But it’s the plot and the environment that interest me.
In my humble opinion, the story of Sword and Glory is a fairly accurate depiction of the glories and miseries of life as a man in ancient times. I’ll describe some of the main features of the game; for a redpilled audience as you, I don’t think it’s necessary to say much else.
Sword and Glory is settled in a Norse/Viking village. You’ll start as a young man, belonging to one of the great clans (or you can choose to be an independent family, without connections), and you must decide what to do with your life. As time passes (and it passes fast) you’ll get through middle age, maturity, old age… and then you’ll die. Your statistics and skills, which you can upgrade through training and experience, will also decrease naturally with age. That means that you need to do something with the opportunities you have, and do it NOW. The game succeeds at encouraging you to keep adventuring, keep fighting, keep exploring. Sometimes it would be easier to just relax and tend to your village, stop fighting and let yourself die in peace, surrounded by your loved ones and enjoying the rewards of your past deeds, but you will probably feel compelled to die in combat, trying to outdo yourself. Your best feats are always those yet to come.
You’ll get missions to help your neighbors and relatives; you can help Christians or Pagans (or both, or neither) and, most importantly, amass a sizable fortune and get glory. After you die (either of old age or, much more probably, in combat, as one single defeat equals death), your glory and your possessions will pass on to the next generation (the next character you create); this gives the game a very real sense of continuity and lineage, very much in line (I think) with maleness: you are working, sweating and bleeding for your children, your family, your village. You will get a final summary of how your life went, what you got in terms of money and glory, and how you died (fighting for honor, family, money, love, religion… or of old age, which, I repeat, is highly unlikely).
An example: in my case, one of my characters, already an old man, heard a rumor about a terrible magical being living in the woods and terrorizing my people. The game told me that, although my neighbors, relatives and friends didn’t say anything directly, it was heavily implied that it was up to me, the town hero, to defeat this supernatural evil. My character had already lots of gold and glory, and this mission had high chances of dying: I didn’t know if I was strong enough, and maybe when I found out it would be too late (remember: defeat = death). It would be much easier to keep running errands around town, sticking to simple tasks. But man, an evil magical creature; every single opponent I had had before was a human. What glory that fight would bring! I went there, I fought the thing (a freaking monster with a huge life bar and a shield-smashing club) and I managed to defeat it. Fortune favors the bold. Sometimes.
What about your relationships with women? Many, many times, it will be your mother or your sister who will ask you to kill someone, to put your life at risk and defend your family’s honor. In one case, my character fought a woman’s husband just because his mother had a quarrel with said woman. Think about how stupid that is while you and him are exchanging blows, getting your shields smashed and bleeding all over the place, knowing that the encounter can only end with one of you dying on the snow.
You also have the possibility of finding a wife. There is a number of choices, but they all have something in common: you will have to earn the favor of your bride, often by fighting or killing someone. I remember a particular mission where your mother tells you about the most beautiful girl in the region, who is currently looking for a husband. Your mother encourages you to go to her father’s state and propose to her. When you get there, the girl will mock you and bid you farewell. As you leave the house, some women, friends of the girl, will laugh at you, and you have the option of answering to their insults. If you do so, you will be challenged to combat by a man who doesn’t tolerate women being disrespected by a foreigner. Finally, you have the option of kidnapping the girl and bring her back to your village. Even if you do so (killing her brother in the process, by the way), the girl will only stay with you if you have previously upgraded your house and can provide for her high standard of living. If you aren’t able to marry the girl, your mother will later tell you that she is getting married to another man (I got the impression that the mother kept rubbing in my face the fact that I had been rejected by the most genetically valuable woman in the region), and the character has the option of defying her family by attending the wedding uninvited. That is an unexpectedly grim mission that will only end in grief, no matter what you choose to do.
To sum up, I think Sword and Glory depicts many aspects of maleness in ancient times, particularly male disposability. On the one hand, you need to compete fiercely for resources and status if you want to get somewhere; resting or backing away are not viable options. The pressure of time is very real and noticeable in the game, and it gets you moving. On the other hand, it shows you how your wellbeing is always secondary to most people, and you are expected to fight and die if necessary; your drive and need to get glory and status will be used by everybody.
BTW, I just found out tha the game’s latest update introduces… female adventurers!! I completely understand that female players may feel more included by playing with a female avatar, and that the developers are thus expanding their player base, but… I don’t think it makes much sense from a historical point of view, particularly in a game that focuses so much in these features that are so related to male disposability. But what do I know?
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