176: Woman, Mother, Space Marine

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TsunamiWombat:

Escpasim is the act of removing oneself from the real world, you can have a great deal of active thought with it. Escapism isn't just shutting down, it's removing onesself from reality and typically, difficulty, for enjoyment.

Two problems here. First, I deny that playing a game means escaping reality. You're not denying anything about the world or pretending that you're in any world different from the one you're in. You're just doing something fun.

Second, games are usually difficult.

TsunamiWombat:
Lets face it, Twilight and Gears of War are literary equivilants.

No; they're not. The experience of reading is entirely different from the experience of playing a game. Games can frustrate us in a way that books simply cannot. There is no book that prevents us from turning a page if we haven't read it. All games do this.

TsunamiWombat:

No.

Did I win?

No; you just continue to ask a silly question. It's as if you're asking if humans can laugh at jokes or fall in love. People can empathise with other people. Even sociopaths understand that the phenomenon of empathy exists. If you want to deny a fundamental human experience, that's your prerogative, but I think it'll be a hard row to hoe. Good luck!

Hm.. Not a terrible article, but unfortunately, your main point that Ripley-like maternal figures are unrepresented is rendered completely moot by a little game called Metal Gear Solid 3.

Underrespresented in games? Certainly? But MGS3's The Boss is an awesome enough mother figure to carry the entire industry's worth of maternalism, if you ask me.

Ray Huling:

TsunamiWombat:

Escpasim is the act of removing oneself from the real world, you can have a great deal of active thought with it. Escapism isn't just shutting down, it's removing onesself from reality and typically, difficulty, for enjoyment.

Two problems here. First, I deny that playing a game means escaping reality. You're not denying anything about the world or pretending that you're in any world different from the one you're in. You're just doing something fun.

Second, games are usually difficult.

TsunamiWombat:
Lets face it, Twilight and Gears of War are literary equivilants.

No; they're not. The experience of reading is entirely different from the experience of playing a game. Games can frustrate us in a way that books simply cannot. There is no book that prevents us from turning a page if we haven't read it. All games do this.

TsunamiWombat:

No.

Did I win?

No; you just continue to ask a silly question. It's as if you're asking if humans can laugh at jokes or fall in love. People can empathise with other people. Even sociopaths understand that the phenomenon of empathy exists. If you want to deny a fundamental human experience, that's your prerogative, but I think it'll be a hard row to hoe. Good luck!

There is no game that prevents us from just turning it off. I see what your trying to say but I don't inteirly agree- the whole POINT of movies is inspiring emotions, provoking thought, challenging us. At least, the classics- The Godfather, Alien, ETC. The same is of course true of some games.

Then there are blockbuster movies that just make you think WEEE EXPLOSION! And then, there are games that are the same. So perhaps the real truth of the matter is that movies and books and games are analogous- they convey thoughts in different manners, but in the end they grant us the same experiances.

I'm not denying the fundamentals of human existance either, but I think it's a bit silly to think you can REALLY understand what it's like to be a woman following a lifetime of social and biological conditioning that runs different to yours (and the counter is true for women). Men and Women are fundamentally different in this regaurd, and apparently MANY people have difficulty emphasizing if the divorce statistics are to be trusted.

A Man will NEVER really understand what it is for a woman to mother a child- either biologically or socially. Thats their thing- we can understand what it means to be a PARENT, or to have a child, these are things we share in common; but women are just bloody wired different.

All I said was "Hey, your a dude, why are you complaining about dudes complaining about your article written about women? Seems a little silly"

BUT I want to reitterate, so you don't think i'm trolling, I do like the idea of a Matron/mother soldier figure in videogames in leiu of the beefy testoster-ine. I did mention it would be hard to impliment... and maybe it would, especially if you wanted to do it without becoming a trope, but an angry mother is more badass then a man any day.

One thing - Why is Ripley as Mother the important aspect of her, rather than her strength of character as a person that happens to be female?

You say that it is the failure of the Father Figure Lieutenant and the rise of the Mother Ripley and say that a better lieutenant would not have helped. But you just replaced one parent with another - when really - what they do get is a better lieutenant in Ripley - one that is accepted as part of the chain of command because of her strengths and proven capabilities. It is she that takes command of the situation and rescues the survivors in the plant. Not as a mother but as a cool thinking, quick acting person.

Also on Heinlein

In the USA, if you are a convicted felon in some parts of the country (or all) you do not have the right to vote, and if you are under 18 you do not have the right to vote.

In Starship Troopers - if you do not serve the government for the two years it takes to become a franchised citizen, you do not get the right to vote.

In what way are these different restrictions on the right to vote different? I would hardly call the current USA fascist but what is different about Starship Troopers that makes it fascist?

Also - it is polemic against arms control - when the enemy is known to be lying about their own efforts to do the same.

He was angry because the USA signed a treaty halting tests, without the provision of foreign observers in each country. A treaty that the USSR immediately broke - resuming tests soon after - Proving Heinlein right.

JediMB:
I'm not seeing it.

Twilight Princess added a lot of new battle techniques and tools in addition to the classic ones carried over from previous games, and it was easily harder than The Wind Waker. Whether it was harder than Ocarina of Time or not I can't say, since OoT was the (and my) first 3D Zelda, which means that I'm more experienced now than I was then. Regardless, there was much depth added to both the battle system and how the two parallel worlds worked when compared to previous games in the series.

Twilight Princess was originally in development for the Gamecube and was ported over at the last minute.

Brawl is slower paced than Smash and has an added element of randomness. Ask anyone who plays Brawl at a higher level and they'll tell you that even a new player has a fair chance of beating a good player in Brawl. This wasn't necessarily the case in Smash. It's the same with Mario Kart Wii. You are correct about Metroid 3 though, but if you look at the Wii library of games overall, I can probably count on one hand the number of games that would have the depth and challenge to appeal to a dedicated gamer.

But yeah, this topic was about the "mother" figure in games, right? I'm not sure how we got on this topic.

kubinschu:
But you just replaced one parent with another...It is she that takes command of the situation and rescues the survivors in the plant. Not as a mother but as a cool thinking, quick acting person.

She doesn't take command. She creates a consensus (well; except for Burke!). Everybody has an opportunity for input. She barks Hudson into line, but that doesn't make her his commander--just one member of the team pissed at another.

Her motivations are important, too. She is out to protect Newt at all costs, and, yes, she derives strength from this motivation. Ripley in Aliens is very different from Ripley in Alien. Experience is one reason why, but saving that little girl is another.

Also, I think it's important to keep in mind that the company colonizing the planet wanted to use the alien as a weapon--that's how this whole mess got started, back in the first film.

kubinschu:
In what way are these different restrictions on the right to vote different? I would hardly call the current USA fascist but what is different about Starship Troopers that makes it fascist?

They're different because they're opposite: in the U.S. everyone has the right to vote, with exceptions; in ST, no one has the right to vote, with exceptions.

ST features diatribes against democracy; the U.S. is a democratic republic.

The other screeds in the book also set out a fascist ideology: the state above individual rights; not just service, but extensive indoctrination, before you can vote; a heavily militarized society.

Keep in mind, too, that the reason currently serving members of the military can't vote is because they might vote not to fight. Permanent war against a totally vilified enemy.

It's unclear how the economy works, but it's certainly neither capitalist-democratic, nor communist.

kubinschu:

He was angry because the USA signed a treaty halting tests, without the provision of foreign observers in each country. A treaty that the USSR immediately broke - resuming tests soon after - Proving Heinlein right.

Everybody knew the Soviets would cheat. That wasn't the real argument, which was moral. The sheer immorality of nuclear weapons was the reason people were arguing for limitations on them.

And, in the end, it turned out Heinlein was wrong: we know today that our intelligence agencies vastly overestimated the Soviet arsenal, particularly in the late fifties and throughout the sixties.

Even further, Heinlein was arguing the moral point, not the mere practical one. ST says that military service is the most important service a person can undertake. Military strength is the supreme strength. The book has clean nukes. It argues that nuclear weapons are moral.

Novan Leon:
Twilight Princess was originally in development for the Gamecube and was ported over at the last minute.

Brawl is slower paced than Smash and has an added element of randomness. Ask anyone who plays Brawl at a higher level and they'll tell you that even a new player has a fair chance of beating a good player in Brawl. This wasn't necessarily the case in Smash. It's the same with Mario Kart Wii. You are correct about Metroid 3 though, but if you look at the Wii library of games overall, I can probably count on one hand the number of games that would have the depth and challenge to appeal to a dedicated gamer.

But yeah, this topic was about the "mother" figure in games, right? I'm not sure how we got on this topic.

Not exactly "last minute", considering that it was in development for another year after they started working on the Wii version, and the motion controls do a great deal for the general feel and user-friendliness of the sword and shield techniques.

You know what? I had pretty much the same thought about Melee when it was released. It felt slower, more sluggish, and more random than the original N64 game, while also feeling a lot more crowded with the increase in graphical detail.

Mario Kart Wii was a big step up from the, in my opinion, much more casual-oriented and gimmicky Double Dash. Plus, it gave us the option to eternally play online without ever having to join a new game or search for new players. I will admit that its offline modes didn't come close to those of Mario Kart DS... which incidentally was also released in a platform appealing to casual players.

Zack & Wiki, Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda, MP3:C, RE4, RE: Umbrella Chronicles, Okami and Super Paper Mario alone would leave you with an eight-fingered hand, although I suppose that would depend on your definition of a "dedicated gamer". :)

Well, I always enjoy a good off-shoot discussion, but I think I'm gonna try to get a bit more involved in the main subject now.

Ray Huling:
Her motivations are important, too. She is out to protect Newt at all costs, and, yes, she derives strength from this motivation. Ripley in Aliens is very different from Ripley in Alien. Experience is one reason why, but saving that little girl is another.

Keep in mind, though, that Ripley went through quite an ordeal to get her kitty Jones with her into the escape shuttle in Alien. ;)

JediMB:
Keep in mind, though, that Ripley went through quite an ordeal to get her kitty Jones with her into the escape shuttle in Alien. ;)

Ha ha ha! You're right about that! One of the most fascinating aspects of Aliens is that it has a completely different tone from the original, but the plot structure is almost exactly the same.

Ray Huling:

JediMB:
Keep in mind, though, that Ripley went through quite an ordeal to get her kitty Jones with her into the escape shuttle in Alien. ;)

Ha ha ha! You're right about that! One of the most fascinating aspects of Aliens is that it has a completely different tone from the original, but the plot structure is almost exactly the same.

Different directors, I think. Aliens is an action movie, Alien is a suspense/horror movie. The plot structure IS exactly the same though, isn't it? I guess because they figured out it's a winning formula.

Interesting article, but one of the more disappointing feminist interpretations I've encountered of media (second to that godawful Portal review I saw somewhere). You seem to be a bit too intent on interpreting your sources in a manner that will support your viewpoint, resulting in a sort of dissonance between the talk and the walk that weakens the article - for me, severely so.

I would be inclined to attribute this fault to the limited space you were presented with for this article, but your forum responses push me back towards my gut instinct. The Sarah Palin comment is particularly unsettling, as the only thing she has 'inspired' is the image of the mother as incompetent and out of place (daresay, the metaphorical kitchen?) in the male-dominated arena of politics. I've seen absolutely inspiring examples of female politicians, and Palin is not one of them. If anything, she sullies the reputation of women in general in a way that makes me think of ancient cultural practices like the gladiatorial games, where women were placed in a "man's" arena because their 'incompetence' was so absurd and amusing.

I honestly have no intention of descending into an ad hominem criticism, but even further than the rather willful interpretation presented in the article, you're acting in a manner that is either inflammatory or ignorant with comments like

Ray Huling:
Boys (and I know you're boys!)

Which, aside from indicating ignorance or apathy to the question of gender roles and sex on the whole, quite frankly is the last thing feminism needs to be associated with if it is to shed the unfortunate popular perception of a doctrine as shallow as "vaginal superiority". Compounding that, presuming these members of a gaming forum to be 'boys' implies that video games are inherently masculine and childish, and negatively so.

Or so I perceive it that, perhaps, your efforts have ultimately been counterproductive.

Saevus:
Interesting article, but one of the more disappointing feminist interpretations I've encountered of media

Interesting comments, Saevus. Is there anything in the article you can point to that disappointed you?

Saevus:

Which, aside from indicating ignorance or apathy to the question of gender roles and sex on the whole, quite frankly is the last thing feminism needs to be associated with if it is to shed the unfortunate popular perception of a doctrine as shallow as "vaginal superiority".

I guess I can just reply to this.

It seems there's an ambiguity I need to resolve. I hadn't anticipated that this aspect of the piece would be ambiguous, but your and others' comments have convinced me that it is so.

You see: I'm not advocating for more women game developers; I'm not advocating for more women gamers; I'm not saying games should never indulge boyishness; I'm not even making a an argument for vaginal superiority, though that would be awesome.

And I think that it's this one ambiguity that I've let slide both in the piece and in my comments that accounts for the misinterpretations of my position that we've seen here.

Without further ado, then, I'll give you the one, short, simple declarative sentence that, apparently, I should have included somewhere in the front of the piece:

James Cameron is a man.

Ray Huling:

Saevus:
Interesting article, but one of the more disappointing feminist interpretations I've encountered of media

Interesting comments, Saevus. Is there anything in the article you can point to that disappointed you?

Not particularly, though journalism is decidedly not my forte. It was well-written, ideas flowed cohesively, and it was decisive, all of which resulted in a clearly communicated point.

Though personal bias is practically necessary for expressing an interpretation (or any opinion), try to watch that you don't veer into a tangent as you did with Starship Troopers. In directly referring to it as a terrible book, you've shifted into a different topic altogether, even if it's only briefly, which has a jarring effect. A summary without "It is a terrible novel" and "Heinlein takes this shit seriously" would've communicated the same point more subtly, as the ensuing connection drawn between ST and the Marines implies what is wrong with them.

To sum it up and quote some more science fiction, "Stay on target, stay on target!", lest you end up with readers that get hung up on "Why the hell did you call Starship Troopers terrible?! You pulled that out of nowhere!" instead of thinking about the main point.

Ray Huling:
James Cameron is a man.

This made me laugh, in a good way; and I get that you're less interested in what's between the gamers' legs than the experience being presented to gamers. But any sort of gender or sex-based generalization just brings bad connotations to the table when you're talking about something that's important for cocking up those sorts of preconceptions.

I would argue for vaginal superiority. Because lets face it, it sure isn't us guys who are in charge when it comes to down there :\

Saevus:

Though personal bias is practically necessary for expressing an interpretation (or any opinion), try to watch that you don't veer into a tangent as you did with Starship Troopers.

I dig the performative contradiction here. You do realize that personal bias doesn't necessarily have to do with divagation? This is just a subtle joke, right?

Saevus:
In directly referring to it as a terrible book, you've shifted into a different topic altogether, even if it's only briefly, which has a jarring effect.

Starship Troopers pertains directly to the point. Cameron was making a critique of Starship Troopers in Aliens. Why was he making this critique? Because the book's terrible.

I knew what kind of reaction my saying that would draw from the kids, but that, too, is the point: I'm showing them that things aren't how they think they are. Yes; I realize that I'm going about this in a confrontational way, but I think this macho approach is reasonable.

Saevus:
I get that you're less interested in what's between the gamers' legs than the experience being presented to gamers.

Then you're still not getting it. Cameron's a man. I'm a man. I would bet all the money in my pockets that every single person who responded to this piece is male. And if it's not 100%, then it's 90.

Gender means everything here. I wrote a piece about masculinity for a predominantly male audience.

The essay's about choices made by men. For twenty years, male game developers have borrowed material from Aliens in order to cater to boys. This is not the only choice it is possible to make. Cameron made a choice different from Heinlein's, different from what we find in Gears of War. Yes; Aliens is fun for the boys, but it's not indulgent of them; in fact, it kind of has it in for them.

This is because Cameron, as a man, chose to follow his curiosity about motherhood. The result was ( I stand by this claim!) one of the best movies ever made. Game developers should realize that they have similar choices before them, even if they are men.

Is there outright proof that Cameron was harpooning Starship Troopers with his movie? Is it not possible he had his actors read it simply as motivation/inspiration for them? I always saw Aliens as, yes, an affirmation of how badass the mother warrior is, but not as a direct shot at the masculine soldier through that. Riply simply was who she was in the first movie- a no nonsense woman who understands hardline action needs to be taken. If anything Ripley is an endorsement of the "Shoot first shoot second don't ask any goddamn questions" attitude promoted by Starship Troopers. Her first comment on the Aliens is "Dust off, nuke the site from orbit", faintly echoed by SST's "If you see a bug hole, nuke it".

Also, refresh my memory, how is the book terrible (honest question, I don't remember if this was addressed in the article)

I am a bit concerned by your "Macho" (as you put it) approach, I almost felt insulted by the "even sociopaths understand human empathy" comment.

Ray Huling:

Her motivations are important, too. She is out to protect Newt at all costs, and, yes, she derives strength from this motivation. Ripley in Aliens is very different from Ripley in Alien. Experience is one reason why, but saving that little girl is another.

From an in-universe perspective, that's true.

The real reason for the difference between Ripley's character in the two films is that in Alien, only one role was written as gender specific, Dallas (Dallas was supposed to look like the Kirk, the character who you know is going to be the hero and survive, to make it more shocking when he bought it halfway through the film). The other characters weren't gender assigned beyond having two women on the crew, and so no-one has any explicit gender role, at one point in production, after the bones of the story were in place and it was decided that the "Ripley" character was going to be the one that survived, someone said "why not make Ripley one of the women".

In Aliens, Ripley was female from the start, so she could be assigned specifically feminine gender qualities (and strong women/mama bear is one of Cameron's personal fetishes)

(Also, bear in mind, that the slasher flick wasn't really established when Alien came out, only Halloween of the major ones being out, so the cast being whittled down to the Final Girl wasn't the expected norm yet)

Ray Huling:

Do you believe that Epic included the scene with Dom's wife to turn the player off of fighting more? Or the scene with Tai? Those scenes are meant to provoke a vengeance response. The whole torture scenario makes the Locusts impossible to reconcile with. The player is meant to say at these points, "Boy, now I really want to kill those fuckers!"

And yet the characters' reactions don't play on that. Marcus' reaction to Tai's death isn't rage or hate, it's despair that yet another friend has died to a pointless war he was all but conscripted into. The same emotion comes out when seeing the graveyard at the end of the first chapter, full of people killed in another war. And none of what the Locust do to humans is worse than what humans did to each other at New Hope.

GloatingSwine:

And yet the characters' reactions don't play on that. Marcus' reaction to Tai's death isn't rage or hate, it's despair that yet another friend has died to a pointless war he was all but conscripted into. The same emotion comes out when seeing the graveyard at the end of the first chapter, full of people killed in another war. And none of what the Locust do to humans is worse than what humans did to each other at New Hope.

Ha ha! Man, you are working hard, and I appreciate that. The problem is: you're working harder than Gears ever has.

Look, I just passed through the cemetery on my second playthrough. Fenix does sound sorrowful when he talks about the dead soldiers. He then expresses his wish that they were still alive--so they could do more fighting now!

I haven't gotten back to the Tai scene yet, and I'll check it out, but the fact remains that Fenix's reaction has no effect on the game or the story. He just continues on the missions assigned to him by his commanders. And he performs his duties in the same, gung-ho "got one!" manner.

The same holds true for the scene with Dom's wife. Directly after Dom shoots her in the head, Fenix picks up the mask of a Theron guard and says, "I think I figured a way to get into the palace, but if you want to go in with guns blazing, I understand"--or something to that effect.

I don't know that anything the humans did to each other was as bad as the Torture Barges employed by the Locusts (and you have paid attention to their moniker, right? I mean: locusts?!), but I do know that Gears borders on Holocaust imagery here. You can't look at all of those torture pods and think there's any chance someone's going to say, "can't we all just get along?"

Everything in Gears of War is meant to keep us fighting--and to keep us enjoying the fighting. We're supposed to love the game's action, not feel bad about it. The big innovation of this game is a maneuver called 'chainsodomy'--surely, the best thing ever to happen to junior high. You can't make a game in which players are supposed to get a thrill from chudding dudes in the crotch with a chainsaw bayonet and then claim you're saying something deep about war.

TsunamiWombat:
Is there outright proof that Cameron was harpooning Starship Troopers with his movie? Is it not possible he had his actors read it simply as motivation/inspiration for them?

I don't know what outright proof would be. I'm making an argument here, not doing a math problem.

Cameron said he wanted to portray a high-tech military force losing to a lo-tech enemy, as in Viet Nam. This is the direct opposite of the tenor of Starship Troopers. Look at the Colonial Marines who survive their first encounter with the Aliens: Vasquez, Hudson, Gorman, and Hicks. Vasquez is combat infantry and a woman, something Heinlein argues against in the book. Hudson is a goof-ball, panic attack Private--not the best representative of Heinlein's vision of highly disciplined space marines. Gorman is the opposite of Lieutenant Rasczak, the perfectly competent father figure.

In fact, Gorman showcases one of Aliens' quotations from the novel: Gorman reveals to everyone's dismay that he has limited combat experience--an illusion to a cap trooper in the novel who scoffs at Napoleon's achievements by asking how many drops he made.

Hicks is a competent grunt, but he might be the biggest traitor of all: he works in concert with a civilian to make military decisions.

The "bug hunt" phrase comes from Heinlein, only Aliens reverses the outcome. The Marines, with all of their exotic weaponry get their "asses kicked, pal!"

So, the film makes extensive use of material from Starship Troopers, but in every case, turns things on their head. Sure looks like a critique to me.

TsunamiWombat:

I am a bit concerned by your "Macho" (as you put it) approach, I almost felt insulted by the "even sociopaths understand human empathy" comment.

Medic!

Ray Huling:

Ha ha! Man, you are working hard, and I appreciate that. The problem is: you're working harder than Gears ever has.

You think? You think the way they've presented every single trailer for Gears, down to using deliberately slow and melancholy songs like Mad World is designed to evince feelings of RAAGH Fuckawesome chainsaws?

I don't know that anything the humans did to each other was as bad as the Torture Barges employed by the Locusts (and you have paid attention to their moniker, right? I mean: locusts?!), but I do know that Gears borders on Holocaust imagery here. You can't look at all of those torture pods and think there's any chance someone's going to say, "can't we all just get along?"

Intentionally mutating unwilling human captives into Locust-like monstrosities, possibly even the Locust themselves, isn't bad now?

Everything in Gears of War is meant to keep us fighting--and to keep us enjoying the fighting. We're supposed to love the game's action, not feel bad about it. The big innovation of this game is a maneuver called 'chainsodomy'--surely, the best thing ever to happen to junior high. You can't make a game in which players are supposed to get a thrill from chudding dudes in the crotch with a chainsaw bayonet and then claim you're saying something deep about war.

Everything in a game is designed to keep us playing the game. A game designer doing anything else is Doing It Wrong.

However, the overarching plot of Gears of War has always been that the actions it prompts you into taking are presented overall as being futile. It's not as simple as you think it is.

GloatingSwine:
You think? You think the way they've presented every single trailer for Gears, down to using deliberately slow and melancholy songs like Mad World is designed to evince feelings of RAAGH Fuckawesome chainsaws?

The trailers are usually made by the PR department rather than the developers, though. You can't include the marketing when talking about the achievements of the game itself.

Other than that I can't really say anything until I've had the chance to play Gears of War myself.

GloatingSwine:
You think? You think the way they've presented every single trailer for Gears, down to using deliberately slow and melancholy songs like Mad World is designed to evince feelings of RAAGH Fuckawesome chainsaws?

I don't think the Mad World trailer is meant to elicit feelings of chainsodomy, but, after the release of GoW, there was a lot of talk about how that commercial had nothing whatsoever to do with the mood of the game. There was an interview in EGM--I think it was Dah Hsu--in which he asked the guys who made GoW, "what the hell was all that back there?" The answer was essentially JediMB said.

GloatingSwine:
Intentionally mutating unwilling human captives into Locust-like monstrosities, possibly even the Locust themselves, isn't bad now?

For one thing, it's not entirely clear to me what was going on at that lab, except for an allusion to the Tyrant breakout from the first Resident Evil.

For another, if the lab was evidence of atrocity committed by the humans, doesn't that mean that there should have been some comeuppance?

Let me explain what I mean in reply to your next comment.

GloatingSwine:
Everything in a game is designed to keep us playing the game. A game designer doing anything else is Doing It Wrong.

I wasn't clear enough here. My point was that nothing changes in the gameplay. No matter what happens, you continue to fight Locusts as determined by Fenix's superior officers.

Here's a counter-example. In Army of Two, you play as mercenaries employed by a Private Military Contractor. When the mercenaries you play as discover that the company you work for is getting U.S. troops killed to advance its own interests, the tenor of the missions you undertake changes. In the end, you end up fighting your own company.

It's called anagnorisis and peripeteia: the revelation of knowledge and then the reversal of circumstances.

There might be a revelation of knowledge in Gears, but there's no reversal of circumstances. That's what I mean when I say you just keep playing the same way.

Simply because quote trees make me choke on my tongue, I'll risk a bit of confusion here.

I meant more "You have to have an opinion to express an opinion" (But the line "This is just a subtle joke, right?" did give me another illuminating laugh). Bias and divagation (unlike exhortation) aren't necessarily related at all. Indeed, there was a good chance I misinterpreted your intentions and you felt that emphasising Starship Troopers as militant patriarchal crap was necessary for the very reason of strengthening the connection and contrast you proceeded to make between the fantastic success of this system in ST versus its fairly plausible failure in Aliens. And I suppose that, to an extent, a direct approach is key for journalism in general. But all the same, I personally feel it could've been integrated more smoothly: regardless of intentions, I found the result detracted from the cohesion.

Alternatively, if you are interested in 'showing how things are', you could play up the real-world evidence - plenty of people can argue against "I don't agree with his philosophy, so the book is shit", but it's a lot trickier to rail against the Vietnam War that shot several irrefutable holes in the ideals Heinlein espoused. Your words could be better spent on hard, trenchant evidence than polarizing vitriol, even if that vitriol serves a purpose in the article.

Secondly, I think that I phrased the bit about the gamer vs. the experience presented in the wrong way.

What I meant to say is that your interest is in men approaching, presenting, and experiencing something that is absolutely not masculine (in this example, motherhood) in the context of media that is generally happy taking the expected, masculine route; and even when some guy goes and breaks the mould, what do men looking for inspiration find? "I EAT DANGER AND SHIT BULLETS" space marines, either missing the point of that method's utter failure, or simply reasoning that the highly visible and identifiable marines will be more appealing to their demographics. As you say, it's continuous boyish indulgence (especially frustrating when the origin of ubiquitous space marine did the opposite of indulge these "Oorah!" fantasies), and it fails to challenge us ideologically when we are playing the game precisely for a challenge (though generally of a different nature). I'd even go as far as to say that games are, in general, failing us all by almost universally wasting immense potential to be something more; perhaps this is the glass wall between games and the 'art lounge' inhabited by film, literature, drama, etc. - whether this is entirely the fault of the game designers is a bit questionable since it is supposedly a living, but I don't know enough about the economics of the games industry to gauge how much financial concerns hold back developers (Though that begs "If a hugely popular and well-regarded film could pull it off, so could a game").

Of course, that may have not been what you intended to communicate and at this point you slap your forehead and bellow "Dammit, do these people even read the article?!"; but that is what I got from it.

To sum up pretty much everything I've said in this thread, I think I see what you mean, and if I do, I think that you've got the right idea; I just also think that you went about communicating it was disappointing.

P.S.: Have you ever played the Penumbra games? Specifically, the second one, Black Plague. There's a moment in it that's exceptionally memorable (and a huge spoiler) that I think you would find interesting.

Saevus:
P.S.: Have you ever played the Penumbra games? Specifically, the second one, Black Plague. There's a moment in it that's exceptionally memorable (and a huge spolier) that I think you would find interesting.

Another game I just have to play. I mean, it's even Swedish and all. <.<

I tried the original demo and loved what little I got to experience.

There's so much to talk about with this article, so I'll start with the ubiquitous Starship Troopers point, then go onto the more relevant stuff.

Firstly, as much as Heinlein seemed to express the idea of Lieutenant Dad, he can't have failed to realise in his time as an officer that most starting officers in the modern system are horribly incompetent compared to his ideal. A lieutenant typically knows loads about the theory of war, but little about the practice, proven by Rico later in the book when he becomes a cadet. I expect that Heinlein would have said less, "Get a proper officer" in there, and more, "Where the hell is that lieutenant's sergeant?", because anybody with a bit of military knowledge should realise that it's pretty damned difficult to find a decent lieutenant, and it's the platoon sergeant that does the hard work. In fact, the book even acknowledges this with Rico's time as a Lieutenant, when he's pretty much saved by Sergeant Zim.

Not that I think much of Heinlein's ranking system. I don't know what the hell Heinlein was thinking, but trying to cut down the percentage of logistics and combat support personnel by giving these tasks to the grunts just sounds like a recipe for disaster. And that's a criticism I have before I even get to the system of brevetting soldiers. Brevet officers? They haven't used those since the days when cavalry used sabres and muzzle-loading revolvers, because the system was hopelessly corrupt! Apart from the other points of didacticism and fascism which have already been covered, which I will not cover for matters of brevity, this was something which completely boggled me. It seems like just about the worst military ranking system which still has some structure I could ever conceive of for a modern military. Note: There's a good reason why logistics officers are rendered separate from the grunts.

Now, onto the important point. As much as we need a shift away from the militaristic, "The space marine will always succeed" attitude, and Aliens held a pretty potent point among the action about this, I'm not so sure that the aspect of a mother is something which can be accurately simulated with the computer game medium. Give me a lightly armed civilian, sure, or give me somebody with a different perspective to the military, but I'm sure that I wouldn't have the empathy for a perspective looking through the eyes of a mother. I mean, most gamers can't even get through escort missions without steam pouring out of their ears!

new guy here, I'm going to start this out short and simple... This articular while interesting, is interesting the way a Nazi propaganda sheet is. It's full of ideas, passions, and intellectual points to support them, but it's not really all that high up on the 'practical applications tree' Not to related that you sir are a Nazi, I just have a fondness for extreme and outlandish similies and metaphores.

In more detail you Talk about a Problem you percieve, real or illusioned I'm not touching with a ten foot poll covered in herpes complex B, but you don't really approach any practical solutions. as an editorial these are supposed to be all encompassing works. not only should they present a problem and explain it, but they actually give a atleast one example on how to realistically approach the problem... going back to the nazi parable, even they had a opinion on how they should change things even if it wasn't really the best Idea...

the second part on your journalistic style itself is the manner in which you present Opinions and interpretations (pay attention to that word) as undeniable factors lends to tear your own credibility out from underneath of you. You over analyze the subject material and blow away any illusion that you are not -emotionally- attatched to the idea you are championing which is important for journalists to impart a message.

Once you impart your passion in visible and recognizable form into a essay or editorial, you remove yourself from the realm of legitimate debate, and are now seen as -at best- a scholarly note of interest on "how people reacted to these things"

and no offense, I don't want a emotional opinion from any published editorial writer, I can find plenty of intelligent and passionate view points well written out here on the forum and a large number of other places.

Now, I'm done with tearing apart your essay in itself, I'm going to move onto the issues presented... Glee!

First off, women as a protagonist will always be held up to a finer and more speculative measure of critique, even by the teen age boy market is they do not meet the TnA factor. as such a proposed renewed vigor in female role models in gaming will not produce anything more spectacular then the tripe we are used to with our male leads, the only difference is we won't identify with them nearly as much due to a gender difference in the absence of likable and well written characteristics. given the amount of shovelware gamers tend to get these days that means if they are not demeaned to T'n'A in absence excellence..

and let me explain why in very simple terms, to the male psych a woman is one of a small handful of things, A mate, A mother, or a Sibling.

the TnA obviously attracts to us as a mate, while a strong well written female can attract us as a mother figure, at the same time as a plausible romantic interest. while any who are neither mating nor mother material are subliminalized as Siblings, and siblings are by the large marginalized and forgotten unless there are significant bonds made with them.

this is best represented in it's best case by Vasquez, who is for all her rough and tumble One of the boys. while there will people who disagree with me on this particular note, every one looks for different things in mates.. back on subject, while we look back fondly on vasquez, she was not a meaningful contributor to the family (while an excellent contributor to the story in my opinion) as such we don't tend to place a lot of focus on her.

Now onto mating... Mating as you may have guessed goes One of two ways, the instinctual urge to sow the oats and give your dna a better chance of replicating... lust, lara croft is a good example of this, or the urge to start a family and make something out of it. one such strong woman I really think you all have neglected to bring up is Feena Of the Grandia series in this aspect, a fully fleshed out character who had flaws aswell as strengths.

either way, why would we want to further cheapen what you claim to want by trying to force them into the market of what is filled with largely uninspired characters, destined to be either forgotten, or turned into wank material?

also... Sarah palin? come on, can we please leave politics out of this? this is a gaming forum we already have enough to fight about.

re: Heinlein

It's relatively clear that you don't understand the difference between a good piece of art and an agreeable one. You've gotten your three pages of comments out of it, which I'm guessing is why you added the unnecessary comments on Heinlein.

You don't mention, of course, that Heinlein was primarily a writer of fiction, not of polemics, nor that he was fantastic at the job (the latter point, you seem to disagree with, but it's hard to credit your opinion over those of his peers and the bulk of SF readers). He understood - every fiction author understands - that his audience would be coming from all directions. He wrote a book about a military in a militaristic society. It also reads, by the way, as a tale of male comraderie. And one of developing from boyhood into manhood. And a parable about accepting responsibility (which, to a large percentage of men, is the same as the boyhood->manhood theme). But he did hold some strong opinions about the military, so that must have been the only reason he wrote the book. Those other things are, of course, entirely accidental, because the only thing that he was writing about was how awesome the military is.

The other thing, the thing that actually completely fucks up your thesis on Starship Troopers is the heavy emphasis placed on the fact that 99.75% of the voters (follow the math: 95% never see combat. of the other 5%, 5% make it out alive. 1-(.05*.05) = .9975) in that society see zero combat. It even goes to great lengths to point out the similarity of most service to a different kind of service - in my case, I thought of my friends who've done a stint with charitable organizations in Africa. But all he's talking about is an authority-first, balls-out militaristic society, right? I mean, these aren't levee builders and firemen - oh wait they are, that's the only duty most of them can be given. Oh. Well, they're still members of the terrible authoritarian organization that bends them out of shape - but all of them have to volunteer for the actual "terrible" parts, 95% of which we never see and so can't comment on. Right. Well.

As to the main thesis, personally, I don't think Ripley represents a "warrior mother". She's a hybrid of male aggression and female psychology. From a general biological standpoint, motherly displays of violence put the reproductive capability in jeopardy; fatherly displays only remove a potential gene source. From a human standpoint, the dedicated father or brother is far more likely to engage in physical violence proper than the dedicated mother or sister. Basically, the entire notion of a warrior mother as an archetype stinks of begging for attention rather than any level of analysis. The part that really screws it up for me is the bit where Ripley stops being any kind of mother archetype when she starts killing children. I don't know what she is at that point, but it isn't a mother. A plain old motherfucker maybe.

I really enjoyed this article. I was never a big fan of the Aliens franchise, but it truly is amazing how much games borrow a ton of ideas from the movie and still seem to miss the point of it entirely by minimizing the role of the "fighting mother." I do have to disagree with the notion that this archetype is never used or hasn't been noticed by the game industry.

In the same way that the games latched onto the idea of a bad ass space marine who's only job is to blow the hell out of everything, games also took the idea of an equally bad ass woman. It's hard to look at a character like Samus Aran and then look back at Ripley in the exoskeleton and think that they aren't somehow related. I can even picture the meeting that took place at Nintendo.

"I saw Aliens the other night and at the end of the movie she kicks the alien queen's ass with a cargo loading robot. Now think if she had that robot exoskeleton the whole time? Wouldn't have that been awesome? I think we can pull that off."

As my example illustrates, they probably missed some of those minor character traits Ray Huling talked about. However, they took a few steps in the right direction that eventually lead to the best example of a fighting mom character in all of gaming.

Yes, there is one character that embodies all the ideas of a fighting mother. That character is The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3. This is a woman who gave everything she had without a second's hesitation with the idea that it would benefit her "child".

It's fair to warn you that there are some MGS3 spoilers ahead.

It's easy to see Naked Snake as being the son she never got to raise, but while Snake does see Boss as a mother figure, Boss doesn't seem to "raise him" to be a son. If that were true, why not bring Snake along with her into the Cobra unit? No, she's really raising Snake to be her successor, to prove that he is worthy of taking care of her real baby known as the United States of America. She didn't give her life for her country like a marine does, not simply an unfortunate end during their tour of duty. She accepts the mission knowing she's going to sacrifice everything she has, including her life. Now that is something a mother would do for their child.

There are key differences to be sure, such as her child being her country instead of a physical person and, ironically noted by the author that "the cinematic release [of Aliens] was right to cut this storyline," that she had previously lossed her biological child to the Philosophers. Despite the technical differences, the character of the Boss is as close to Ellen Ripley as we have gotten so far. If you would just take the motivations of someone like the Boss and made it the main character's motivation instead of the final boss, we may be very close to the type of game described at the end of this article.

Video games have taken the ideas of the space marine and adapted it to both genders, but the archetype of the fighting mom has begun taking shape in video game form. We are not far from the type of game described by Ray Huling, a game where we must desperately fight for something that we care for. Something that is more important than humanity itself. Something we can never bear to lose.

Gamers are ready to be a mom.

I'm a lifelong fan of both "Alien/Aliens", and I found this article to be extremely entertaining and insightful. Ellen Ripley in both films is given to the viewer as the most unlikely of hero's; she's not the captain of the ill-fated "Nostromo", and she has absolutely no authority to begin with on "Aliens", yet her ability to adapt to her situation is more valuable than all the high-tech weapons and military training of those around her.

Cameron does an excellent job in "Aliens" of giving the viewers a perfect storm of FUBAR moments. Nothing in that film goes right for Ripley and the Marines, until the very end. Poor command structure, painfully lacking in information, complete ignorance as to the situation they were facing... the list goes on and on. "Aliens" does an amazing job of presenting a worst-case scenario without going completly nihlistic as any movie I've ever seen.

I do think it is a shame that more game developers haven't concentrated on what made Ripley such a force in those movies. It wasn't training, weaponry, or some great paranormal power. Ellen Ripley survived because of her intellect, her ability to adapt, and her refusal to believe in the inevitable.

To me, Alien is a fascinating, yet awfully illogical film.

The whole problem starts with the ill-guided decision to step onto an infected planet.
It is solely done for cinematic purpose, because no one would have liked to see this course of action:

Title - Planetary bombing - The end

The alien itself seems to have been invented directly by Freud himself (brilliantly executed by Giger, nevertheless). It's cannibalism (concerning humans), it's parasitic stages, it's penetration of the human body, it's form and shape and size. The alien is definitely a psychological horror, no questions attached.

But there is much more to this film than just protagonist=female, hip-hip-hooray.
I don't think that this is the main point, albeit at that time (1979!) it was a great novelty, a revolution to have a female action hero like Ripley.

There are other heroes, even bigger ones.
What about that claustrophobic, dark atmosphere?
The emptiness of space? (Which is mirrored in the emptiness of the space ship)
It's cold darkness?
The brutal, life denying vacuum?

If you ask me, the main point was not the discovery that Ripley is a woman/mother, but the foul-foul-FOUL misanthropic utalitarian play on the innocent crew by the corporation.
The most shocking moment was the discovery of directive 931:

SPECIAL ORDER 937: "NOSTROMO REROUTED TO NEW COORDINATES. INVESTIGATE LIFE FORM. GATHER SPECIMEN. PRIORITY ONE. INSURE RETURN OF ORGANISM FOR ANALYSIS. ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SECONDARY. CREW EXPENDABLE."

This, Sir, is the main point of the film. It does not matter whether you have tits or not, when you find out you have been played, terribly fooled and sent on a suicide mission without knowing it. This. Is. Horror. (and a very good picturization of immoral corporational politics, as well)
___________________________________________________________________________________________

As for military defending corporate interests--that's what the military is FOR, to defend and protect the citizens of the country. So if that's what Cameron was actually campaigning against in his movie, both Aliens AND your article get a big fat :P from me.

I'm sorry to point that out, but your otherwise well-informed post is victim to Newspeak. The military does not defend. The military attacks... (unless being attacked first, so you can feel sorry about yourself, do the defense and plan ahead for your nation's next Blitzkrieg). Have a look in historical books: Around the turn of the century you would have trouble to find any "Minister of Defense", because this euphemism wasn't invented yet by some clever propaganda coining bastard. Back in those days leading to WW1 those ministers were called what they are:
"Minister of WAR".

SamLowry:
To me, Alien is a fascinating, yet awfully illogical film. The whole problem starts with the ill-guided decision to step onto an infected planet.

It wasn't ill-advised for the corporate executives who sent the crew of the Nostromo to LV-426 to find the alien, because those executives were not to be exposed to the alien. Only the crew, who had no knowledge of what they were getting into, were at risk.

Are you seriously saying that it's implausible for a corporation to put its employees at risk without their knowledge in order to make a profit? Seems like a logical scenario to me, given, well, the entire history of industrialization.

liquiddark:
You've gotten your three pages of comments out of it, which I'm guessing is why you added the unnecessary comments on Heinlein.

I included Heinlein, because his book played a role in the making of Aliens.

liquiddark:
You don't mention, of course, that Heinlein was primarily a writer of fiction, not of polemics

That's a debatable point! Especially in Starship Troopers! Heinlein received much criticism for the way he shoehorned rants into his fiction.

liquiddark:
nor that he was fantastic at the job (the latter point, you seem to disagree with, but it's hard to credit your opinion over those of his peers and the bulk of SF readers)

The judgement of Heinlein's peers is not unanimous, nor is that of sci-fi fans. Consider Michael Moorcock: "If I were sitting in a tube train and all the people opposite me were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn't disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkein or Richard Adams."

liquiddark:
It also reads, by the way, as a tale of male comraderie. And one of developing from boyhood into manhood. And a parable about accepting responsibility (which, to a large percentage of men, is the same as the boyhood->manhood theme).

Yes; I've said all of this myself. It's Heinlein's ideas about masculinity and responsibility that I find so repugnant.

liquiddark:
But all he's talking about is an authority-first, balls-out militaristic society, right?

"The noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and the war's desolation."

liquiddark:
Basically, the entire notion of a warrior mother as an archetype stinks of begging for attention rather than any level of analysis.

Among most species, the female is the larger and stronger of the sexes. Among mammals, males tend be larger and stronger, but this doesn't necessarily have to do with defending young. Male mammals are large to fight each other for reproductive rights.

Even among mammals, it's frequently the female who rears, feeds, and, yes, defends young. There's a reason another name for this archetype is 'Mama Bear'.

liquiddark:
The part that really screws it up for me is the bit where Ripley stops being any kind of mother archetype when she starts killing children.

I assume you're talking about the part where Ripley kills the alien eggs? That's vegan of you, but allow to me to quote Resident Evil 4: "Insect lives don't compare to human lives!"

In the end, it seems like you're looking to keep the world safe for the space marine hero. I'll leave you with what Moorcock said about that, too:

"Heroes betray us. By having them, in real life, we betray ourselves. The heroes of Heinlein and Ayn Rand are forever competent, forever right: they are oracles and protectors, magic parents (so long as we obey their rules). They are prepared to accept the responsibilities we would rather not bear. They are 'leaders'. Traditional sf is hero fiction on a huge scale, but it is only when it poses as a fiction of ideas that it becomes completely pernicious. At its most spectacular it gives us Charlie Manson and Scientology (invented by the sf writer Ron Hubbard and an authoritarian system to rival the Pope's). To enjoy it is one thing. To claim it as 'radical' is quite another. It is rather unimaginative; it is usually badly written; its characters are ciphers; its propaganda is simple-minded and conservative -- good old-fashioned opium which might be specifically designed for dealing with the potential revolutionary."

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