To date, the traditional gaming industry hasn’t done a fantastic job of gearing games to women, and there’s still plenty of unwelcome harassment for those of us who enter virtual online worlds and reveal that we don’t have penises. There are days when I’m not sure I can call myself a “gamer,” because I’m not a member of the boys’ club that dominates gaming, and because I am not interested in venturing into the world of multiplayer as it stands today.
But how do you create a game that’s fun for women without being patronizing? Well, there’s a Kickstarter project out there that has my inner girly girl squeeing in delight. The possibility of entering an immersive online universe designed with people like me in mind is an awesome one. Enter Ever, Jane: The Virtual World of Jane Austen.
There have been other times when my fondness for Jane Austen has found vent in geeky media, such as the time our heroes in British scifi TV’s “Red Dwarf” took their destructive tendencies to Jane Austen World, or that series of Austen/supernatural creature mashups by Quirk Books (my favorite was Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, for its steampunk vibe). But this! A role-playing MMO with elements of strategy, featuring balls and Regency clothing and manners and gossip and dancing mini-games? I think I’m in love.
So, I’m going to expound on Jane Austen for a moment, because I think she’s a bit misunderstood by the masses. We tend to view her as a period romance writer, who is famous because she happened to create interesting people in her comedies of manners. But that isn’t at all what she’s about. I don’t like romance as a genre, but I do read and re-read Austen and all her imitators hoping for someone who can replicate not the sentimentality (which is easy and can be done by any monkey pounding away on a typewriter), but Austen’s wit and characterization. Actually, Jane Austen’s books are all about strategy. The maneuvering involved in surviving Regency society with your reputation, your status, your sanity, your family, and your temper intact, all while trying to get the guy, is what Austen’s books truly excel at portraying. And this type of strategy is extremely conducive to intricate and unflinching gameplay. I’m not the only one who thinks so.
This is why Ever, Jane, the brainchild of Judy Tyrer and 3 Turn Productions, is a brilliant idea. She’s taking the aspects that really define the best parts of Austen, and turning them into a community-building MMORPG that’s not a stretch at all.
Ever, Jane is designed to help players create stories that aren’t all about killing bad guys. It takes place in a 3D village complete with balls, dinner parties, and travel. Instead of stats like Dexterity and Strength, the game relies on personality traits seen in Jane Austen heroines such as Happiness and Duty. You must understand the complexities of status and how that effects the way you treat people both above and below your station in life, and you’ve got to know how to use this knowledge gain points in society. Gossip is used as a weapon, issuing invitations is the action of choice, and balls are the place where things happen. How others react to you figures prominently in Tyrer’s vision of the finished title.
This is an ambitious project, asking for at least $100,000 in funding. At press time, there were almost 400 backers. On the Kickstarter page, you can check out a video preview, play with a prototype and view details of Ever, Jane’s gameplay and goals. I’ve funded it, and I’m waiting with bated breath for the final product, due early 2016.