Ash has been video playing games since she was twelve and began playing online games in her twenties.
Sky: Children of Light is a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) created for mobile devices such as tablets and phones. It can be played completely for free, though there are optional in-game purchases to support the developers.
I started playing online games when I was in my early twenties. At this point, I had always played on console or PC in single-player games. I had never played an MMORPG, so naive little me went into an online game not realizing I should probably hide the fact that I was a woman.
One of two things always happens when you are openly a woman in online games.
The first thing? The guys there become threatened and bully you. They do this because they are the sort who place their value in imaginary video game skills, and if you're good at the game, it's "threatening," because women are supposed to be inferior or something. To them it's like if a girl was better at them than fighting. Video games have long been deemed a "male" skill (lol).
They don't grasp that video games don't take any kind of special skill. They are designed so that anyone can play them. And women do not have inferior "lady brains," so of course, we can play. And seeing us play bursts this sexist bubble.
You don't think that video games are "imaginary skills?" Okay . . . would you put down your level fifty-six mage skills on a job application? . . . Didn't think so.
The other thing that might happen? They try to date you. I used to really enjoy playing online games, but as soon as the men found I was really a woman, they would try to talk about sex with me or hit on me and try to make me their pixel girlfriend. And it was like, dude, I just want to f*cking play the game! (Plus, I'm gay so it was extra gross.)
Ironically enough, it happens to me here at Hubpages, too. I used to have a thirsty guy stalking me on all my articles here. This went on for almost two years (with me wearily deleting his dumb comments) because Hubpages has no block feature, and also, he thought my avatar was cute. I now use an avatar where I'm wearing thick glasses and a hat that hides my hair to deter amorous males. On top of that, I removed my social media, since they wanted to bother me there, too. Sigh. Being a woman online sucks wherever you are, basically.
Eventually, I went back to single-player games. And eventually after that, I quit playing games altogether. Because I realized they were taking away from more worthwhile and enriching things I could be doing. Like painting or learning guitar.
I had a brief relapse with the Dragon Age series, but to date, Sky: Children of Light is the only game I still play. (And largely in small doses.)
And amazingly enough, Sky: Children of Light is nothing like the online video games I'm so used to. There are no p*rnified women, no petty competitive culture, no bullying, no racism, no sexism. There's no violence and blood and gore. There's none of the usual crap that encompasses gaming.
In fact, it's a world where players are children, so hitting on someone is always going to be creepy. You aren't killing things, you're saving lives. And perhaps best of all, players are rewarded for helping each other!
That probably sounds lame to some predictably toxic male gamer reading this, but I find it pretty . . . refreshing.
Let me tell you why.
Silence is Golden
Keep in mind that I went into this game not even knowing it was a MMORPG. As I mentioned above, I had sworn off gaming and I knew nothing about Sky: Children of Light. So it's not like I was going around looking for a happy, pretty game where everyone holds hands and gets along.
I stumbled across Sky:Children of Light because I use a lot of Google apps. I actually play guitar and enjoy using apps to practice and learn. I'm also an artist and I enjoy using apps to connect to art communities and share my work.
So, yes, I had given up gaming. But Google Play kept recommending that I play Sky: Children of Light. I thought the icon was pretty like a painting, so I downloaded the game, believing it was singleplayer.
And indeed, if you check around online, a lot of players weren't aware that the game was multiplayer. It's not really made clear until you get to the first temple and find yourself surrounded by shadows.
Which brings me to my point: you can play the entire game without talking to a single person!
It's pretty standard in MMORPGs for there to be a public chat box where you are forced to read people swearing and hurling slurs and being disgusting in general. I remember trying to play Dragon Raja a while back and being distracted by the stupid chat box in the corner of the screen.
Granted, you can always just close those chat boxes, but why should I have to pause what I'm doing to shut out some stupid gamers and their gross conversation?
What's more, a lot of online games allow other players to just walk up and start talking to you. This is annoying for reasons I pointed out above. But not only are guys constantly being thirsty toward your female avatar. A lot of times guilds are recruiting and want to bother you about joining. Or else some random guy wants to take you under his wing and show you around, the assumption being that you need a male player's help because us females are so stupid and weak and can't figure out simple games on our own, even if they were created for teenagers. . .
In Sky: Children of Light, no one is allowed to talk to you without your permission. You can only chat with someone if you've made friends with them, and even then, you still aren't forced to talk to your friends.
Sky Kids (as they are affectionately known) can choose to communicate by making a musical sound (tapping on your character) or miming gestures. You don't have to talk to anyone at all. As someone who has been harassed by male players and also generally hates talking, experiencing this in an online game was amazing.
Altruism is the Main Theme
Now, I'm not saying there's something wrong with helping people, as I obviously love the theme of altruism in this game. But the intent behind helping someone is what can make it annoying or pleasant.
In typical MMORPGs, male gamers have always helped me in a know-it-all, condescending way. In Sky: Children of Light, other players help you because they genuinely want to, and because they can't really speak to you without your permission, you are left to this delightful delusion.
Also, you start out with a neutral looking character. In the Sky community, the starting character is known as a "Moth" for its brown wing cape and for the way new players chase light and bump into things.
So because no one knows what sex you are when starting a new character, it takes away the condescension you might face in a different game when you're playing a female character. Instead, veteran characters help you because you're new and not because they're a) trying to get into your virtual pants or b) wish to talk down to a lowly female gamer.
I have made so many friends in this game without uttering a word.
The first friend I made was a Sky Kid who rescued me in the wasteland. There are these dragon creatures called Krill that will attack you and steal your light, setting you back a few wing levels (the more wing buffs you have, the higher you can fly, the more rewards you can reach, and the more you can help others).
It was my first time in the wasteland, and I was a very low level character, so I kept getting my ass handed to me by Krill. My friend swooped down out of no where, took my hand, and then proceeded to guide me through the entire wasteland.
Because of them (I don't know their gender), I was able to level up my wings pretty fast, allowing me to reach new places and access new rewards on my own later on.
This person and I never spoke. They saw me in trouble and helped me. The end. Without expecting anything in return! Without condescending to me or being a prick! We send each other gifts regularly, I have them marked as my favorite friend (because they were my first friend), and now if we ever bump into each other, I play an instrument for them and we dance.
Because my first friend helped me so much, I quickly became a strong enough character that younger Sky Kids (new players) started to approach me for help. I made friends with one Sky Kid who wanted me to help them through the Eye of Eden, which is the end-game world. They mistakenly (lol) thought I was stronger than I was (even now, I'm only a quarter of the way to a really strong character), but I still managed to help them make it to the end, and we were reborn together.
It was actually my first time completing the ending, so it was amazing to be reborn with someone instead of being reborn alone. After we both died, we appeared in the afterlife world Orbit and walked hand-in-hand into the light. It was so cute.
I think we both see each other as good friends because of that experience. We literally went through hell together (the Eye of Eden is a terrible place), died together, and came back together.
And I helped them without expecting anything in return . . . Though to be honest, there is a reward. If you help someone and become friends with them, they might send you gifts. Might. But players are encouraged to help each other without expecting anything.
This game is so sweet and positive! People help you because you need help. Not because you're a hot female character they want to virtually marry or because you're low level and they love lording it over "noobs." In fact, it works the other way for this specific reason, I think: no one can tell your level unless they are significantly below you (or unless you're getting your butt handed to you by a Krill, which then makes it obvious . . .).
Because people can't always tell if you're a low level, helping you comes from a place of really wanting to help. They don't know if you're a man or a woman, a child or an adult, gay or straight, black or white . . .
Which brings me to my next point.
The Game is Completely Anonymous
Probably one of the best things about this game is that it's completely anonymous. I mean completely. No one knows anything about you unless you tell them.
First of all, your character has no name and is in no way connected to your Google account. So if someone wants to bother you in the game, they can't harass you or follow you. You can basically block them, disappear into thin air, and never be bothered again!
I remember back when I played Aeria online games. I was into Shaiya. And, of course, I played a pretty female elf. This guy used to talk to me. At first I thought he was all right, but when he turned out to be a creep (told me some of his sick r*pe fantasies), I stopped talking to him. Of course, he knew my character's name and my account name, so this made it easy for him to find me in the game, then follow me around while calling me a "bitch" over and over.
. . . .all that because I got tired of his behavior and stopped talking to him.
I also used to play Perfect World, and there was a guy who got into an argument with me about religion. He stopped talking to me because he was angry I didn't believe in God. Of course, he knew my character's name. So he knew how to find me in the game and began stalking me (Yes, how very Christian . . .). He didn't say anything to me. He just followed me around copying me and being annoying. I couldn't get rid of him because he knew both my account name and my character's name . . . So I stopped playing on that character (ugh) and started over.
Basically, most MMORPGs make it absurdly easy for players to stalk and harass you. And support is s*it, so reporting these people does nothing. The developers only care about money. They don't care if you are being aggravated or not. Which is stupid, because they would lose money by allowing players to be so annoyed that they stop playing their games (which is pretty much what happened with me).
Now you see why I enjoy not talking to people.
Sky: Children of Light, on the other hand, is pretty strict about protecting their players' identities. They are always asking for feedback, and the game itself makes it easy to block and report skeevy players who disrupt the otherwise pleasant atmosphere.
When you make a new friend in the game, you are allowed to name them, but they have no name of their own. This is how you tell who they are, rather than them identifying themselves. This allows each player to maintain a sense of anonymity.
Players you don't befriend are also depicted as shadows. This protects people from being recognized by someone who dislikes them. You can only recognize higher level players, but because these people are higher level, harassing them is going to be difficult unless you can reach all the same high places they can (you probably can't). Also, once again, reporting people is easy.
Nothing is Sexualized
Most video games (not just online games) have always left me with the unsavory feeling that I'm looking at p*rn. Not so in Sky:Children of Light, where everyone's character is a cute little Sky Kid and what few adult characters there are (spirits) are depicted as fully clothed and cartoonish people.
Not only am I not forced to look at women running around in bikini armor (ugh) or listen to them talking in purring voices that were meant to entice teenage boys (again . . . ugh), but the Sky Kids are just freaking cute as all hell.
I recently finally got my hands on a resize potion and now my character is short and cute, with little pigtails sticking up and short little legs that kick really funny when she runs.
And not being approached by horny male gamers is also a plus. People tell stories of pedos using the game to harass kids (sigh. Someone always has to ruin it for everyone else . . .), but my experience so far has been wonderfully lacking in sexual harassment. My character is a child and is seen as a child by other players. And now that she is a higher level, she is seen as an older child who can help them, even if she is tiny!
All in all, I recommend this game to anyone who wants a change from the typical toxic environment in most online games. Sky: Children of Light is beautiful, fun, and free to play.
The only downsides? Not enough worlds to explore, grinding candles gets boring, and the world needs more creatures besides evil crabs and Krills. But it's a relatively new game (it's barely one year old), so in time it could be amazing.
After so many MMORPGs where I was bullied and harassed for having the gall to be a woman (and atheist), it's the kind of MMORPG that will make a female gamer uninstall her other online games and never look back.