Published on December 17th, 2012 | by Stephen Beirne5
The natural order of things
Society is a beautiful kaleidoscope of human diversity. All about us we can see spectacles of seity, of differences in personalities and demeanours not unlike the Mister Men and Little Miss universe. Oh, such a wonder to behold!
However, not all people are different to one another. Many fall into groups that denote similarities of character, and although folks in clashing groups may differ from one person to the next, those who share the same group always conform to the group’s defining traits. A common example is the variance between men and women, as is faithfully represented by the games industry: while men are more muscular and emotionally-deprived, women have uniformly smaller figures than men in real life and they can turn invisible. It’s normal, it’s natural, everybody knows it and it’s true.
This natural order of things is why we tend to see more male protagonists in video game land. Most games are about jumping or shooting, making them practically destined to be stuffed to the brim with leggy, fingery, manly men. Recently there’s been a bit of a spurt of games prospecting for the things of feelings and vulnerability, the domain of women, increasing the population of lady protagonists in gaming by at least three. Everybody has their place, after all.
But did you know that there are other perfectly natural groupings of people and their characteristics that are also conventionally accepted by the gaming industry? It’s true! Most of these personal attributes usually fly under the radar of the typical gamer because they’re so normal but once you stop to notice them then you become a little bit surprised and drop your glass of milk. Here I have gathered a never-ending catalogue of how games further depict the world around us.
Among people of the male persuasion, one such grouping of characteristics is that of the nerd. Although nerds only make up a small minority of real life people, within gaming communities they can be found in wheezing abundance. Since video games cater especially well to the housebound and misanthropic alike, it’s no surprise that the group most representative of these traits has established squatter’s rights over the entire industry. On that note, never has their occupation been so rewarded as on the release of popular nerd ballad Half-Life 2.
Bestowed upon gamers in 2004 by Valve Corporation On High, Half-Life 2 drops the player into the prescription shoes of physicist Gordon Freeman as he is tasked with saving the world through the use of physics. Instead of guns and grenades, weapons adopted forms symbolic of nerd culture, from nasal-born projectiles and explosive acne to Yu-Gi-Oh! trap cards. Progress through the plot revolving around the player constructing levers to disprove the hypotheses posited by mid-level bosses or to drop heavy things on bad guys with gravity.
The daily lives of the demographic saw further reflection through the use of some clever narrative devices. Enemies took forms analogous to the struggles of the modern nerd: the prime villain is a rival scientist commanding an army of jocks from space, equipped with guns and alien war machines in subtle mockery of Gordon’s geeky emasculation. Similarly antagonizing the player is a disorganized horde of trans-dimensional zombies, representative of the uneducated masses that plague the common nerd during desperate expeditions into the real world. Most notably is how Gordon Freeman acts as a wholly silent protagonist, stemming from his staggering social anxiety and abysmal self-esteem.
Nevertheless, the audience can rest assured that the cute female character will immediately fall right into the arms of the player-character. This is a fantasy, after all.
Boasting a spirit of multiculturalism second only to the Eurovision and wars, The Saboteur entreats the personalities of various parts of Europe with loving effortlessness. You play as poet laureate Sean “Paddy” Devlin in his quest to share the drunken and chaotic ideals of Ireland with mainland Europe.
Set in the baguette-shaped streets of Nazi-occupied Paris, Sean tasks himself with freeing the cowering French from the rigors of an overly-efficient German administration. Gameplay is largely divided up between shooting people with croissants, driving under the influence, blending in with the snorty, onion-wearing locals, and hurling clovers at all the evil German thingies until they explode.
It’s quite unfortunate for the Nazis that Sean and all his English friends were over for the holidays as otherwise their occupation would likely have gone down a garlic-flavoured treat. Of course, that’s what happens when you combine fine British tactical thinking and tally ho with the luck of the fighting, gabbing, whoring Irish. There’s even a bit later in the game where Sean sneaks inside the enemy compound by dressing up as a giant potato. It just goes to show how uniquely diverse people can be, thanks to national genetics.
Perhaps you might also remember Killzone 3, a patriotism simulator where you shoot baddies from another planet for being unhappy with the way they are being oppressed by your government. Don’t let that fool you, though – the evil Helghans are evil because their skin colour and physiology slightly differ to that of the identified goodies. They’re inherently different, so, by the process of patriotism, they’re also inherently bad. What do you expect when your race is entirely comprised of Cockney Darth Vader Nazis who steal your bicycles in the multiplayer and make fun of you when you can’t catch up? In a good old show of Us versus Them, the righteous colonists prevail against those uppity natives and blow them to smithereens. Ah, delicious peace!
You may have asked yourself while playing Killzone: why, where are all the women in this game? Eaten by the Helghans, that’s where! Their organs have been fashioned into tools of war against the virtuous ISA freedom gang, such as the Helghan laser blowpipe and the tendon-harp of supersonic doom. What horrid savages they are, don’t even know to maintain their renewable baby resources.
The Killzone games teach us about the joyful nature of imperialistic governance and the intricacies of interplanetary socioeconomic relations. They also teach us how those grey-skinned bastards are subhuman, look at them, disgusting isn’t it. It’s conventionally agreed that foreigners are the worst, especially when they have something you want. And since they won’t share, it’s only morally right for the goodies to go in and run the place properly for them. It’s unfortunate that some of the locals may resist progress but since they’re not really human it’s not really murder. In fairness, we’d rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Nothing uplifts the masses like a good old underdog tale, so little could be more inspiring than the story of an ultra-rich madman who punches poor people in the face. In Traumatized Capitalist 2 – known in some circles as Batman: Arkham City - players were greeted with such heroism as takes the form of social and physical white superiority. What could be more natural than being born into fortune, rather than having to struggle to earn your income like a common muggle.
Unconstrained by the legal limitations of normal mortals, Batman’s adventures regale us of his civic duty to rid Gotham City of its vast criminal underbelly. Since he’s a man who can turn into a bat, Batman’s remedy of choice largely involves gracefully maiming all the angry poor people he meets and drinking their poverty-blood. After all, peasants can’t steal if they can’t use their arms, and they can’t get in with the wrong crowd if they can’t leave the hospital. I guess between escapades Batman donates to the Gotham Philanthropists for Moral Justification Charity or something, but that’s a side dish to the big juicy punching poor people roast ham.
And he does it without any of that “oh they’re victims of society” Green Arrow socialist hippie crap. Falseomatic. If they wanted to be good people they should have tried building an arsenal of hi-tech weaponry, gotten trained by ninjas and spent their evenings railing on the great unwashed. That’s what Batman did and that’s why he’s the hero. It’s an established fact: poor people tend towards evil because they’re uneducated and filled with diseases. Who better to combat that than a playboy billionaire?
You know what happens when you get a bunch of homosexuals together in one place: fabulous explosions of colour and muscles! In the family-friendly Muscle March, you play as a homosexual partaking in a fashionable willies-out conga line in order to retrieve your stolen Be Sexy food. Homosexuals lie in that subset of people combining the physical manliness of being a man with the sensitivities and carnal lust for men that comes with being a woman, hence the subtle symbolism.
Promiscuity and sexual predation are key ideals within the common homosexual and these flourish in force for Muscle March. As well as chasing after the strapping young (presumably) heterosexual who has thieved their jar of recreational drugs, each homosexual trails after those sex-beings in the lead and in turn is pursued by a line of lusty lovers. What happens when the rapacious bodybuilders catch the (probable) virgin? Oh ho, something related to sex I’d wager!
It amazes me how wonderfully diverse people can be, depending on their breeding and other mystical factors of nature. There are of course as many sources of innate attributes as there are forms of generalizations. All you need to do is imagine them and they can become real, just as Dead Space Man willed himself into a vocal role after disliking being a silent protagonist. For as much as video games are about boundless imagination and the realisation of escapist fantasies into surrealist landscapes, it always warms my heart to see the medium never stray so far away from reality as to contravene such immutable facts as these above. Consider, for example, a woman wearing pants or not being explicitly sexy. Oh, the thought!
But I shan’t go on, for time is an everlasting bubble of poots. I’d like to hear what you have to say, though, dear readers. Can you think up any other examples of nature’s finery? Perhaps you’ve noticed how some groups are unusually inclined to eat honey and live in caves or burrows? Drop a comment below and let us know!