Through the blueprint of Dorothy

Dorothy is, in many ways, one of my biggest accomplishments as a writer so far. And today’s her birthday, so let’s jump into how she came to be from the very beginning.

On Alma’s blueprint I mentioned how a soldier I wanted to write (who eventually became Sei) was replaced by Dorothy. Our train of thought went kinda like “We have a hacker and a mercenary, we’re kinda missing the sex worker”.

And then Kiririn said: “what if we make her a loli?”. And this is where things got interesting.

My first thought was “Loli prostitute? Maybe we shouldn’t”, a thought immediately followed by “But… why shouldn’t we?”. As desensitized as I am to the loli archetype as a whole, the idea of an underage-looking sex worker felt… taboo, and shouldn’t that be more motivation to go for it? Not in a David Cage sense of putting things in for the sake of being artistic, but rather an honest attempt at developing that idea in a genuine way. Valhalla is, after all, an exploration of normal people in a cyberpunk society, and sex workers are always present in said works, mostly in very reductive, often PROBLEMATIC (ha ha!) roles.

It was time for justice.

At that moment and with the previous questions in mind it became clear that, to put it simply, video games kinda lack a good pair of balls. They still carry the stigma of being a silly means of entertainment rather than a bona fide artistic medium. Themes that wouldn’t be that out place in movies or books suddenly become scandalous because they’re being depicted in video games.

And having second thoughts about the underage-looking prostitute is what opened my eyes to that fact, since my doubts stemmed from the mindset of “I’m gonna get in trouble for doing this in a videogame”, and as long as that mindset isn’t broken the medium won’t be pushed forward enough to encourage more artists to be bolder.

Excuse me while I keep mastubating furiously.

The thing is… sex workers also have a poor history with the way they’re depicted in media, let alone games. They are usually portrayed as broken people, always pushed to the limits of despair and props ready to be disposed of.

Plus, sex alone has very distinct gravitas to it. It’s seen as everything from a happy ending to a display of dominance to a rite of passage… and that’s fine, but it’s not EVERYTHING sex is. The problem is that instead of being depicted like a normal part of everyday life, the most common depiction of sex in games is no better than a little kid’s.

But let’s go back to Dorothy.

You might notice many of the ideas at some point included “[…]and then Kiririn said” and that sums up our team dynamic, really.

For Dorothy we used a similar base as Alma’s. If Alma was a hacker that broke the nerdy/geeky norm, Dorothy should do something similar. As such, our core idea was to avoid making her a victim or a bitter sex worker. Dorothy does her job voluntarily and she likes it, she’s in full control of her situation. The interesting thing is that we actually indulged a bit in archetypes. By avoiding the bitter sex worker archetype and making her peppy and cheerful, we actually fell into traits commonly associated with the little girls in anime.

Moreover, related to what I mentioned before about the depiction of sex. We wanted to make her sex friendly but not actually sexual.

Dorothy is the kind of person that really likes her job, it just so happens that said job is related to the horizontal mambo. We made an effort so that her character could be transposed with relative ease if she wasn’t a sex worker. If she was a teacher she’d tell dumb stories about the students. If she was a nurse she’d talk about the gross shit she treats. If she was a nun you can be pretty damn sure she’d tell you about the questions kids have during Sunday school. All of that with the same upbeat and cheerful behavior.

With this last paragraph some of you might be wondering “Then why make her a sex worker if it could be replaced with something else?”, if so, you might be missing the point of character depth. It’s not a matter of “Why make her a sex worker if her personality would be the same?” but rather “If you take out the sex worker part, what are you left with?”. Character depth is all about making a character that works beyond a superficial level.

And this is related to our effort of making her “sex-friendly but not sexual”. Dorothy isn’t actively sexualized, as there aren’t characters lusting for her in-universe, she doesn’t show a constantly horny behaviour (only one time and that’s after hearing how hacking works) and her invitations are usually jokes of the moment.

We wanted to fully explore the idea of writing a sex worker instead of making a shocking one-off joke, and the first step was to make her a human (heh) first and foremost.

My closing thoughts on Dorothy? I’m honestly proud of what we did with her, as she is an important milestone in character creation for us. Without her I doubt this game would have been as successful.

And if you wanna use the header of this article as a wallpaper, click here to download a higher res version.

4 thoughts on “Through the blueprint of Dorothy

  1. Intenté dejar un comentario muy largo como de tres párrafos explicando mi admiración por su equipo de escritores, pero internet me ha troleado fuerte y me mandó un mensaje de error, así que resumiré lo que había dicho:

    Dorothy se me hacía insoportablemente MOE, pero con el pasar de la trama entiendes su forma de ver el mundo y la AMAS, y se convirtió ella en mi punto de soporte para aguantar las partes más crudas de la historia. Sigan trabajando así Sukeban, desde México, les aprecio incalculablemente <3

  2. Great job! The level of depth on each character and the universe they share, shows the passion of the developers during the development of the game. I love the way every character feature a unique personality and visual. The first time I’ve played VA-11 Hall-A the visuals, music, and most importantly, the characters, really made me think “Man, this game is going to be great”, and it actually was. The moment I finished the game it insta-went to my all life top 3 without any doubt. Thank you guys for sharing the making of such creative and awesome characters and thank you for spending your time and effort to create this lovely game! Much love from Brazil, waiting for the next game of this incredible studio!

  3. Aaaaahhh, I’m so happy to finally see a breakdown for my favorite Va-11 Hall-A character! Dorothy is perfect and I want to be her, and I’m gonna miss her so much now that I’m done with the game.

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