Or, Sexual Dimorphism in Guild Wars 2
Now that the sylvari have made their grand re-entrance in numerous articles in gaming news, this is a question that has been popping up as those who haven’t been following GW2 (or simply not following as rabidly as others) get exposed to this new race. So, why is it, folks wonder, that a race of sentient plant people whose bodies are mere illusions of humanoid forms, have secondary sex characteristics such as breasts (or beards; nobody seems to ask why sylvari have beards)?
It begins with the story of a man and a centaur. The human Ronan, upon finding his village had been slaughtered by the White Mantle and their Mursaat, planted a seed on his family’s graves, vowing to live peacefully from that point onward. He was later befriended by a centaur named Ventari, who shared Ronan’s ideals despite the violent history shared between their respective peoples.
After Ronan died, Ventari tended to the sapling that grew upon the human graves, and wrote his thoughts and life lessons on a tablet that he laid at the base of the tree. The sylvari were later born from this Pale Tree, taking the human forms from the land that nurtured it. Hence, boobs. And beards.
While sylvari do have gender, they act entirely without regard to gender with respect to life, chivalry, and love.
…traditional human-style gender roles have no meaning to sylvari, either in their society or in their romantic relationships. Often, a sylvari’s ardor is expressed with courtly zeal—emotional, empathic, personal—and is not necessarily defined by gender.
Angel McCoy, ArenaNet
I think I can safely say, based on the above information, that the reason for the mammalian protrusions is not purely for titillation. First of all, ArenaNet can do better than that for titillation’s sake (see: Norn females, below). Second of all, the following races exist to show that ArenaNet does know what to do with races that have no good biological reason for D-cups:
As might be expected from our knowledge of cats, female charr do not have visible breasts.
I gave them a choice: either be subtle and downplay the breasts (it wasn’t a point of the race, anyway) or go full-on realistic. Yes, that’s right —none or six!!
-Kristen Perry, ArenaNet
Instead, they are distinguished from male charr by the size and placement of their horns and teeth, a slightly sleeker head shape and a bushier tail. More on the breast issue (and the other issues related to designing the charr) here.
Here is the final example of a race that does not slap breasts onto the female characters and call it a day. While more information might be forthcoming about whether asura have teats like charr, or simply lack that characteristic altogether, it is apparent that aside from a few variations in head shape and hairstyle – and perhaps clothing – there is no differentiation between male and female asura. There does not even appear to be a notable height difference between the two.
Now that we’ve covered two races without the typical fantasy sexual dimorphism, and one who act entirely without regard to gender and for whom such differences are mere outward forms, we turn to the familiar.
Here we have possibly the most extreme case of sexual dimorphism in the form of bulk and body structure between the male and female norn. The males seem to be built with a particularly recognizable heft to them, and an allowance for an abundance of hair grooming options on nearly every exposed surface, while the females, unfortunately, venture very close to “large woman” status.
How much we will be able to modify the female norn build and bring it more in line with that of the male is something that I hope we will get to glimpse at the upcoming Gamescom convention. Right now this is probably the most obvious throwback to video game titillation to be found in Guild Wars 2. Fortunately, at least, these female norn can easily break your bones for commenting on their, well, titillation.
Ah, there we go. Nice and reliable and wearing clothes that make sense at a Renaissance Faire. Here you can expect get your usual suspects and a variety of builds (we can hope): men with or without facial hair, slender such as the one above, or perhaps bulkier to a degree currently unknown. Whether women have a slider for their bodice area will be of great interest for those watching the convention footage coming in next week.
All in all, I think ArenaNet has done a good job avoiding many of the tropes and stereotypes about male/female appearance, dress, and behavior when it comes to their race design. We have breasted sylvari who engage in chivalry, asura and charr who don’t have breasts, norn females who drink and fight with the best of them, and humans who are led by a queen with no king in sight.
So the next time someone asks if female sylvari have breasts in order to satisfy the 14-year old male audience, simply challenge them to a duel with your female sylvari character; may the best sylvari win.