Warning: This post is highly nerdtastic and full of Mass Effect jargon. I apologize if you’re one of the dozen people who haven’t played the original Mass Effect. Also, it’s long. Like, really long. You've been warned.
Soooo, Mass Effect 2 comes out at midnight.
I am of two minds.
First mind: OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG
Second mind: Hmmm. The female characters seem…unfortunate.
My biggest problem with games is that I, having boobs and a womb and such, inevitably range from mild indignation to the highest degree of face palm-age while playing almost any given RPG. Despite numbers suggesting that girls play as many games as boys, game developers continuously thrust scantily-clad, innuendo-spewing female characters into otherwise unoffensive games. Take Dragon Age: Origins, another BioWare offering. Loved the game, hated the lady-characters. First of all, they’re modeled after female, um, “glamour models.” Don’t believe me? See Maxim
. Secondly, they have personalities that can be distilled as follows: Morrigan: Slutty and crazy. Leliana: Crazy and slutty. Wynne: Sage and old and thus of no consequence. And that’s even from a team of writers that included several women…! The biggest problem with these characters is that if they were re-imagined as men, would they have been made nearly as sexy? Of course not. But in order to pander to male gamers (or at least the horny ones), practically every RPG features these sorts of characters.
DragonAge: Awesome and horrifying all in one package.
Alas, during the pre-release stage at least, Mass Effect 2 seems to fall prey to the same traps as Dragon Age. I can’t know for sure until the game actually comes out, but I did have some initial observations based on the game’s promotional trailers and website.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
The first woman I’ll cover seems the least interesting (and least offensive) to me, Miranda Lawson
. Despite her obviously Renegade-skewed personality and Australian accent, she comes across as Ashley redux (only probably minus the bizarre religious angle and anti-alien agenda). Her bio is trying to put her out there as some kind of no-nonsense get-shit-done type who “doesn’t have patience for incompetence or recklessness…or heroes.” Sounds promising, right? Except her introductory trailer heavily features her thigh-high hooker boots (which I’m sure must be super comfortable, seeing as she apparently wears them into battle). And despite her everything-for-the-mission attitude, what do you bet that you can end up sleeping with her during the course of the game? (Yeah, BioWare. I’m so onto you.) Still, she seems to be the least offensive of the bunch, at least in terms of blatant sexification.
Miranda's boots: Now on a lovable hooker near you.
would seem to be off to good start, at least from reading her character bio. “Samara is a Justicar, an asari who has forsworn having children and given up all worldly possessions aside from weapons and armor, to wander the galaxy righting wrongs — as defined by their unwavering code of justice.” Hey, pretty cool, right? A feminist who’s also a serious warrior, definitely a step up from the first Mass Effect’s Matriarch Benezia. Yeah, I know they gave Benezia super biotic powers or some shit, but the character in general was poorly-executed (I mean development-wise, not game-wise…I’m pretty sure I executed the shit out of her the first time around with my good ol’ Tsunami IV assault rifle, BOOYAH). But really, how are gamers supposed to take her seriously as a figurehead of a Serious and Potentially Threatening Galactic Race with OMG HUGE BOOBS IN YOUR FACE ALL DAY LONG? Oh, I’m sorry, did you forget? Let me remind you:
This, from a race that is supposedly both male AND female. Riiiiiight.
But, since Samara is obviously intended to be like Judge Dredd or a Boondock Saint or something, her character design is obviously going to reflect her “calculating and resolute” nature, right? RIGHT?!
Oh, COME THE FUCK ON. Really? That’s the best you could do, BioWare? Armor with BELLY BUTTON-DEEP CLEAVAGE?! I pulled that image from the actual character trailer. I didn’t crop it. Yes, they actually slow-motioned a boob shot. Maybe they’re aiming for the “Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball–in space” look. Except Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball (despite serving mainly as a game for horny young boys with too much time–among other things–on their hands) actually has MORE credibility in this arena, seeing as bikinis are actually appropriate attire given that game’s environs.
But the most offensive character to me so far is Subject Zero.
Ahh, where to begin with this one. Subject Zero is labeled a “psychopath” on BioWare’s website, along with this bio: “For every kill she has a tattoo, and she is covered in ink. Subject Zero has been around; ran with gangs, joined a cult, and kept the haircut. A powerful biotic with a mysterious past, not much is known about Subject Zero other than she is drawn to brutality and violence.”
Artist's rendering of Subject Zero's tattoos.
OK, so I know Hot Topic takes a lot of crap, but I’m clearly not here to shake up any stereotypes, so is she TOTALLY Hot Topic or what? Seriously though, there is so much wrong with this character. Firstly, she has Samara syndrome–that is, revealing clothing despite a game full of laser rifles and explosions and shit. (Semi-relatedly, if she has a tattoo for every kill, she’s not going to have any damn skin left at the end of the game, seeing as I got achievements for a net of at least 600 kills during the first Mass Effect.) Secondly, something feels wrong about making someone with an obvious mental illness sexy. Not saying that people with problems can’t be sexy (case in point: ME), but the problem with Subject Zero is that the developers are clearly suggesting that her “dangerous, unstable, and extremely violent” personality is the root of her attractiveness. They mention her “emotional instability,” which is bro-code for “crazy but also willing to do anything, including having sex with me.”
One last note on Subject Zero: “Subject Zero’s skills and abilities will be a valuable asset to Shepard’s team, that’s if he can keep her under control.” Odds that you’ll be able to sleep with her in the game? Highly likely.
Making out with a professed psychopath? Wow, BioWare. So edgy.
Will I play the game? Of course I will. I played the shit out of the first Mass Effect and am planning to do the same with this one. I just wish that developers would realize that huge boobs and mental problems do not interesting female characters make.
(Luckily, good ol’ dependable Tali
seems to be the same. But if she has a Metroid-style Samus-reveal moment
, I will FLIP OUT AND TAKE ALL OF YOU WITH ME.)
Well, that’s about all I can take. (I suspect you’re feeling the same way by now, too.) So as a reward for reading through all of that ranting, here’s a reward: Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball: BUTT BATTLE!