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Is height a requirement for a serious character?

Anne Stickney

I'm 5 feet 3 inches tall. When I wear heels, I call them my tall shoes because they make me tall. Not taller, because that would indicate that there were some degree of tallness to begin with. Trying on platform shoes is an exercise in seeing the world through the eyes of someone tall enough to see all the things without standing on their tiptoes. My kitchen is organized by "things I need", "things I don't use often," and "things I put on the top shelf because I'll never use them anyway." There is an upper third of my closet that is nothing but stuff I should save but will never pull out and look at in at least five years.

That said, it's not bad being short, either. I never hit my head on door frames or overhead lights. Low ceilings don't particularly bother me, aside from design aesthetic. I can fit into literally any car on the market; there's never a problem having to squish my legs under a steering wheel. Plane seats have plenty of room for my legs, which is great on long flights. I have smaller hands, so my dad constantly asks me to pull things out of tight spaces, thread needles, or mess around with teeny-tiny wires and screws.

That said, it's continually kind of weird to look at all the short races in video games and see characters that aren't taken particularly seriously.

Raging Monkeys wrote an interesting post on the subject of short races in MMOs, citing several and wondering why exactly most seemed to be cute, friendly, benevolent or otherwise downright childlike. From gnomes in WoW to the Taru-Taru of Final Fantasy Online, Raging Monkeys wonders why small creatures in magical worlds automatically equal friendly and cute. Apparently, there's a race in the upcoming Guild Wars 2 that might break that impression, which is all well and good -- but oh goodness, did that post get me thinking.

Warcraft is full of short races -- and the moment gnomes were mentioned as being friendly and cute, my mind leapt to the goblins, who are only friendly if it somehow presents a profitable advantage, decidedly not the standard definition of cute. But then I started to think a bit more about that and about the other, non-playable short races of WoW.

We have the gorloc and the wolvar, both introduced in Wrath and both pretty much primitive races with odd and charming cultures as demonstrated by the Oracles and the Frenzyheart. We have the pygmies of Cataclysm, who seem to be a primitive sort of heavy-metal-inspired dudes with rocks for brains and no intelligible language. We've got murlocs, who on the one hand seem to be dead set on killing players; on the other, we're given a weird, serious storyline in the Blasted Lands that was uncharacteristically out of place.

Not all of these races are cute, adorable and friendly. Some of them are mean, kind of ugly and not exactly intelligent. But what they all have in common is the joke factor -- there's something about them that makes them charming or endearing or otherwise funny.

They don't appear in cinematics. I remember a giant uprising by the gnome fans of WoW to have a gnome included in a cinematic. It's not bound to happen -- because while gnomes are cool, they just aren't epic enough to be taken seriously.

Which made me wonder ... Why is it that height seems to be a requirement for being serious? Is this a normal thing? Does a race need to be tall to be taken seriously, and is this just a video game thing or a reflection of society in general? Now before you pull out the pitchforks and skewer me for taking a game too seriously, let me point out I'm not particularly offended by this phenomenon in one way or another. I'm just sort of perplexed over it.

So I'm opening it up for discussion, just to see what the general public has to say and whether this is just a commonly accepted fact of game design. Is it possible to have a small race that's presented completely seriously and taken as such, too?

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