Fictional companions and goth concerns.
In elementary school, I had a recurring fantasy about a white dragon breaking through the walls of my school and taking me away. I’d dreamed about this white dragon, and my subconscious felt as real to me as anything else, so I waited impatiently in waking life. When my dragon friend broke into my classroom, I’d climb on his back and ride off into the Virginia sky. The other kids would be very impressed. They’d realize they hadn’t known me at all.
Dragons are the cool eighth graders sitting at the back of the bus, except they’ve already eaten the bus and every brat on it. Smaug says, “My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” You can not sit with him.
Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles was my favorite book series growing up; it stars a wayward princess who runs away from home to join a dragon gang. I also loved The Dragon Chronicles, a series about several women who fall in with dragons. At the library, I found Paul and Karin Johnsgard’s zoological treasure, Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History, which taught me dragons’ evolution and anatomy. At my local new age store, I picked up The Book of the Dragontooth, which made me consider going on a quest to find a mystical molar.
I never went on that quest, but in the summer of 1999, I did go to Circuit City. I know what you’re thinking: nobody has ever gone to Circuit City. Well, I’m here to tell you that in the ’90s, we went to Circuit City to buy videogames, and we liked it. Perusing box art in the PC section, I saw her: a sword-wielding, ponytailed woman riding a fire-breathing dragon. Destiny.
Drakan: Order of the Flame, a third-person action-adventure by Psygnosis and Surreal Software, opens with a buxom, ponytailed woman, Rynn, watching her village get destroyed by some monsters indistinguishable from Orcs. Rynn’s brother gets kidnapped by the baddies, and she goes on a quest to save him. Before leaving town, she awakens an ancient dragon named Arokh, with whom she mind-melds. The player can then either hoof it or wing it; on foot, Rynn hacks and slashes with a bevy of weapons; in the sky, Arokh breathes fire.
When my dragon friend broke into my classroom, I’d climb on his back and ride off into the Virginia sky. The other kids would be very impressed. They’d realize they hadn’t known me at all.
The game was thematically perfect for me: a fantasy kingdom, a female lead, a dragon, giant spiders and gothic cave exploration.
Hungry for dragon knowledge, I searched Drakan on the quaint ’90s internet. Every review I remember talked about Rynn’s boobs and compared her to Lara Croft: “Rynn’s just a medieval Lara Croft riding on your average dragon . . . with her absurd Barbie-doll figure and her poker face,” said Gamespot. GameOver called her “the medieval equivalent of Lara Croft, but much sexier and more of a warrior.” “There’s no doubt that someone in the Psygnosis offices not only saw some cleavage when they were playing Tomb Raider, but saw some pretty bouncy dollar signs as well,” said IGN. A user review on GameFAQs (the user is “DC,” but I swear it wasn’t me) wrote, “Sick of Lara this, Lara that? Here’s another adventure game with a babe for you to control. This time, her name’s Rynn, and she’s almost as good as Lara.” My personal favorite comment comes from GameFAQs user “JW Ace,” who wrote, “Ryhn [sic] is hot, (I would say hotter than Ms. Croft, yes even after Angilena [sic] Jolie played her)…I mean a female who won’t take crap from even a dragon!!!Whats [sic] this girls [sic] phone number? Why aren’t there more women like you? I mean 50% of the women I know are scared of grasshoppers.” C’mon, Ace, how big was your sample size?
In an interview with IGNPC, Surreal Software’s Alan Patmore said that “the only similarity between Drakan and Tomb Raider is that both games feature a lead female character.”
Honestly, I was indifferent about the whole cleavage thing. While I knew Rynn’s proportions were unrealistic, her scant armor illogical and definitely unsafe, her dragon-riding prowess made her relatable. If everyone in her village hadn’t been murdered, they would have been impressed when she rode off on Arokh’s back. They’d realize they hadn’t known her at all.