176: Woman, Mother, Space Marine

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Lord Krunk:
EDIT: Another example of the 'Fighting Mom' in movies would be the militant Sarah Connor from Terminator.

Please don't forget The Bride in Kill Bill vol 1 and vol 2 as well.

---

Honestly I have been surprised by some of comments being against a motherly protagonist. Heck, I am surprised that the article advocates against the fatherly figure too! From my own experience being a parent with my lady love is we are both very protective of our child and I could easily see a character who is a parent, whether male or female, having protection as a motivation - though not necessarily fear, though there are people who approach parenting like that and they are in my experience mostly mothers; I don't think I am the only one to have noticed ladies tend to be over protective of their children to the point of stunting their development in any number of ways they perceive as being too dangerous, especially physical defense and aptitude. But warrior women do exist, they are not a myth - to assert Ripley was "just" a civilian is to ignore that she was inadvertently a first encounter scout in the first movie and survived, a feat that was purposely ignored to make a attempt for profits. She was just as much a fighter as any of them at that point, if not more so for being a specialist in that particular hostile xeno-lifeform.

The author would certainly be remiss to ignore Samus but I do find myself in agreement with them that there needs to be more women protagonists for more reasons than just that their model's assets are nicer to look at than the male models' - that's just a bonus on account of the player's preference for a view. The stories should be richer in variety of characters, just as varied as our own can be - a limit to certain personalities is a self defeating limit.

Gamers are getting older, we expect more than what our hormones used to be selling us - some of us are becoming fathers and mothers, believe it or not.

wildcard9:
I enjoyed your article, up until you spewed needless bile upon Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

Hear, hear!

Anyone with half an understanding of philosophy and basic reading comprehension should know that Starship Troopers is not about *unquestioning* loyalty to the state but about loyalty to what the state *represents*: humanity. While I disagree with many of Heinlein's philosophical formulations, ST is an *excellent* book.

Half of it is a paean specifically against the type of "greenhorn" officers that were so disastrous in Vietnam--showing an entirely different and radical approach to military training, organization, and professionalism. But I guess that was too subtle for Mr. "Quote out of context" Ray Huling.

Boys (and I know you're boys!), let me make it all clear about Heinlein.

Of these things, there is no doubt:

1) Starship Troopers depicts a fascist society.
2) Heinlein wrote the book to praise the worthiness of such a society.
3) The book is a snooze.

Now, it's true that Heinlein was a complicated fellow. The fascist society he depicted lacked much of the racism and sexism we endure to this day. But Heinlein wrote the book as a rejoinder to a nuclear test ban treaty in the real world. When the teachers in the book talk about violence, they are serving as Heinlein's mouthpieces.

The militarism in Starship Troopers is hyperbolic, but the hyperbole serves to make a militarist point. Don't kid yourselves.

Does this mean that all of Heinlein's books sound the same fascist overtones? It does not. He was complicated. This does not mean he was your friend, however. He remained always a firm believer in Lieutenant Dad, and he remained one of those poor, earnest souls who just couldn't understand that permitting women to fuck at will did not end sexism.

In the end, Heinlein's work is all about indulging boys. That's what I don't like about it.

JMeganSnow:
Half of it is a paean specifically against the type of "greenhorn" officers that were so disastrous in Vietnam--showing an entirely different and radical approach to military training, organization, and professionalism. But I guess that was too subtle for Mr. "Quote out of context" Ray Huling.

Well; that's a problematic statement, given that the book was written prior to Vietnam, but let's pretend you've got your history straight.

The radical militarism is precisely what I said is wrong with it: the book's about how to build a better lieutenant.

Heinlein would have looked at Aliens and said, "that fuckin' Gorman! They needed a real soldier in there!"

I'm saying--and I think Cameron was saying in Aliens--that a better lieutenant is not the answer.

ccesarano:

In terms of mentioning Gears of War, that is a game that is often misunderstood. If you want to get a real idea of the game, check out some of the commercials and trailers released for it...

As for "the military answer is always the right answer", I must wonder if you stayed until after the credits of Gears 2

There's a post-modern viewpoint for you! The meaning of a game lies outside of the game! But if "facing impossible odds" isn't part of being 'macho', then Butch and Sundance went about it all wrong.

It's unclear what Fenix's Dad meant at the end of GoW 2, but I'm willing to bet you dollars to doughnuts that Gears of War 3 will involve a lot of Space Marines killing motherfuckers.

Or do you think it'll be a game of resolving conflict through consensus-building and skill-shares? Perhaps Marcus Fenix's mom will facilitate?

Time will tell!

Ray Huling:

JMeganSnow:
Half of it is a paean specifically against the type of "greenhorn" officers that were so disastrous in Vietnam--showing an entirely different and radical approach to military training, organization, and professionalism. But I guess that was too subtle for Mr. "Quote out of context" Ray Huling.

Well; that's a problematic statement, given that the book was written prior to Vietnam, but let's pretend you've got your history straight.

The radical militarism is precisely what I said is wrong with it: the book's about how to build a better lieutenant.

Heinlein would have looked at Aliens and said, "that fuckin' Gorman! They needed a real soldier in there!"

I'm saying--and I think Cameron was saying in Aliens--that a better lieutenant is not the answer.

What "history"? I said the *type* of lieutenant they had in Vietnam. I'm sure lieutenants of similar stripes have existed in every war, probably even when Heinlein was himself in the military (the Navy, I believe), which is what probably brought him to write the book. I just didn't want to sit down and list out all of that lieutenant's features, so I used your example.

Military organization is massively dependent on having better lieutenants (and captains, majors, colonels, and generals) because of yet another thing Heinlein pointed out in his book--chain of command. Loose cannon civilians, regardless of their abilities, are poison in any military organization. The best soldiers are the smart ones who think, and think well, on their own. Very likely they also HATE taking orders, because people who think on their own are also fiercely independent, but if they take their profession seriously they also know that working *together* requires them to take orders and obey them on principle.

It is this requirement for many people to work together as a single unit that determines the nature of military organization and culture. In private organizations, outside of war-time conditions, if a subordinate refuses to act, there are options. You part company (possibly even amicably!), and the problem is solved. But in the military *you cannot do that*--and a soft spot in your team could get everyone killed and lead to failure to secure your objective. Losses like this easily spiral out of control.

Rebellions may be managed by a few guerrilla fighters, but to maintain a country you need an army, a *professional* army (either that, or a good solid alliance with someone who has one), not a rag-tag of half-civilians who cannot be depended upon. So, yes, the solution, ultimately, is a better lieutenant. There is no other.

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.

Jordan Deam:
After 24 years of holding out, this article is what finally made me rent Alien. (I'm following up with the sequel later this week.) Thanks, Ray!

We popped his facehugger cherry! Let us know how you like it.

I havn't read Starship Troopers, I keep meaning to- I'd just like to say that while I think Riply was particularly badass for a character, it's a bit difficult to bring that into a game successfully. She was shown at her most vulnerable during her downtime with Newt- that scene where she's cleaning her face with a rag is probably the most touching in the film. How would you convert that to a videogame?

Indulgence can be fun, but it's not what games are best suited for. We don't play games to indulge ourselves; we play them because we enjoy how they frustrate us. You can't lose to a movie or a book; you can lose to a videogame. Games are a medium suited to frustrating expectations.

I would also like to respectfully disagree with this and point out the self defeating irony that you wrote this article for a magazine called "The Escapist". You have it completly backwards. Escapism, not frustration. It is film and book we turn to for intellectual frustration- that is our inteir 'interaction' with the otherwise passive medium. What is makes us think and feel against our wishes is our enjoyment in cinema and literature.

Do we not applaud games with excellent and intruiging storylines, then in the same breath add "But sadly the gameplay falls short"? No one plays a videogame to LOSE, they play to win and act out a fantasy- such as the hypermilitarized fantasy of Gears of War or Starship Troopers, best viewed from a distance and the lense of fantasy and preferrably not experianced in reality. Star Craft had a great story, but would anyone remember it if it's gameplay was shit and frustrating? No, it would be relegated to cult classic at best, brought up only when someone wants to make a top ten list of "Games that should've succeeded" or "Hardest games ever".

If the narrative is all that was important, point and click adventures would still be boss and Gears of War would be a niche game only played by intellectuals.

PS: I find it a little surreal that a male author wrote this piece and is complaining about his critics being 'boys'. Can any male truely emphasize with a womans maternal instict? Can any woman truely emphasize with a mans emotional struggle to be without emotion?

While It isent a unexplored Venue, but i think its underused

Thanks for a thought provoking article Ray!

I think I'm like a few other here in that my only objection is
your characterization of "Starship Troopers"

1. "Starship Troopers" depicted a fascist society?

I thought it was enfranchising anyone who thought fit to risk life and limb in federal service (not necessarily limited to mobile infantry or whatnot). It depicted a
militarized society, yes, but is that the same thing as a fascist one? I mean, I think Heinlein made efforts to keep the military separate from civilian government by stipulating that soldiers couldn't exercise their franchise until after their honorable discharge. It looked like government was democratically elected, free speech protections existed, people were free to discuss and think about politics and government etc. etc.

Whether or not it glorified a militarized society is another issue altogether. (Personally, I think it glorified the military inasmuch as it described the fraternal bonds of the men serving directly with each other. The military as a whole seemed to be somewhat indicted by the absurdities of the skinnies and training)

I thought the military was important because it was an obvious and salient way to show the cost of AND need for civic responsibility. I mean every step of the way up until the aliens it felt like Heinlein was making sure Rico knew how much of a risk he was taking (the limbless recruiting officer, the crummy boot camp experience).

I guess I could see some aspects of fascism maybe in that only enfranchised people teach, vote, hold high office, etc. etc. but I think that's a short slippery slope to indicting meritocracy as a form of fascism. I mean, if you are going to hire people to government positions you want them to be qualified and loyal. You want them to understand the worth and weight of their decisions, even now we view military service as an experience that indicates that.

2. Heinlein wrote the book to praise such a society...
Yes, I think Heinlein wrote the book to praise a society where the government was a democracy whose Citizens (voting peoples): First, are people were invested in and informed about their government to the point that they risked life and limb for the right to have a say. Second: are people who understand the import and impact that their political decisions have because they spent part of their lives carrying them out. Third, were people who were respected irregardless of race, religion, sexual-orientation, political orientation. Their vote was based on service.

3. it was a snooze.

err... to each his own :)
I thought the ideas were provocative and that it was exciting.

ok... too much fanboyness and wall of textyness.
Thanks again for the wonderful article.

Sorry, Ray, but this is an indepth look into a problem with an easy explanation: marketing. The majority of gamers are males, males who like the "tough space marine" protagonist. A fighting Mom might appeal to a minority, at the cost of alienating the majority. Not that there aren't female gamers; they're a strong and vocal group. The marketroids, however, go where the money is (or where they perceive it to be)

This article is "deep" where it doesn't need to be, and Rolling Stone explored the "Good Mother versus Bad Mother" shortly after the movie premiered. As for slamming a Hugo Award Winner, and one of the top ten Sci-Fi movies of all time . . . good luck grinding THOSE axes, guys, you won't convince anyone, heh.

PopcornAvenger:
Sorry, Ray, but this is an indepth look into a problem with an easy explanation: marketing. The majority of gamers are males, males who like the "tough space marine" protagonist. A fighting Mom might appeal to a minority, at the cost of alienating the majority. Not that there aren't female gamers; they're a strong and vocal group. The marketroids, however, go where the money is (or where they perceive it to be)

Popcorn, I strongly disagree with this point. Games are made for boys, because boys make them.

Marketing guys couldn't care less what they sell or to whom. They would love to sell console games to women and girls. Imagine virtually doubling the sales of a game like Halo.

Aliens is the best-selling entry in the franchise, dudes love it, and it's feminist.

Look at the Starship Troopers movie, too: all kinds of gung-ho chuckleheads love that movie, without realizing that Verhoeven made it for anti-militarist guys like me, not them. The message went right over their heads. But we both bought tickets.

This kind of thing is possible for games. You just need people capable of doing it.

Ray Huling:
There's a post-modern viewpoint for you! The meaning of a game lies outside of the game! But if "facing impossible odds" isn't part of being 'macho', then Butch and Sundance went about it all wrong.

It's unclear what Fenix's Dad meant at the end of GoW 2, but I'm willing to bet you dollars to doughnuts that Gears of War 3 will involve a lot of Space Marines killing motherfuckers.

Or do you think it'll be a game of resolving conflict through consensus-building and skill-shares? Perhaps Marcus Fenix's mom will facilitate?

Time will tell!

I didn't say THE meaning of the game lied outside of it, but they personify a lot of the mentality in those commercials.

Look, it is easy to see Gears of War being all about macho men shooting everything in sight (partly because one of the purposes of the game was to provide a better simulation of how combat in warfare worked, so surprise surprise that a shooter game is about shooting). However, it is also EASY to look at Aliens and think of it as man fighting aliens and nothing else. All that stuff with Ripley you did? That's from analyzing the film.

So let's analyze Gears of War a bit. We have the character Marcus, who starts off in prison. Why is he in prison? Unfortunately, they never really tell you in game. Just in the manual and online back story and in a novel (really bad move). He defied the orders of his commanding officers to try and save his dad from the Locust. Huh, rebelling against his military commanders for an emotional purpose? Doesn't sound like the military to me.

Now let's take his best friend Dom (which, is it possible a key idea to this game is friendship? Sure, it's all MANLY friendship and guy love and shit, but it is certainly there). In the first game we are introduced to the idea that he is looking for someone, and throughout the second game it is always his top priority. Yeah, he serves the military, but he is also using them every chance he can get to find his wife. He even risks the mission to save humanity to save his wife. This is not only human, but it also represents a character flaw. He is risking the good of the many for the sake of the good of the few. And what is it all for? To find his wife scarred, wounded, starved and a mere shell. I don't know if she HAD to die, but considering the circumstances, there was no way to get her out without her being a serious liability. Brings up an interesting scenario that makes one wonder if there really was any other way, and even if you did get her out alive, would she even be the same person? Might it be that she snapped?

Then there's that new Hawaiian guy, known as being tough, able to survive anything, but the Locust broke him so bad that he'd rather die than keep going. If such a tough, manly man can be broken down like that, what does it mean for the rest of them?

Other people on the forums have mentioned themselves that the "macho" attitude seems like a purposeful facade, to cover just how scared they all are. Which, in that sort of situation, is what SHOULD be done. A proper leader doesn't let his men (or even women) know that he is scared. He has to be confident and act as if he can take anything, to keep them motivated to do the same.

See? It's easy to read more deeply into Gears of War than what's on the surface!

Granted, Gears appeals to me since I'm really huge into war shooters. Hell, I never really liked an FPS (aside from Aliens vs. Predator 2) until Halo, because it appealed to my fascination with the soldier on the battlefield. It wasn't a single guy stomping on everyone in sight, it was a war. I've always had major fascination with warriors and soldiers and the concept of fighting for something larger than yourself. Hell, maybe this is one of the reasons Starship Troopers the book appeals to me. I find the man that is willing to die for his cause to be more appealing than the man willing to talk for his cause.

I won't argue points of Starship Troopers, though, since others seem to be doing enough of that. Still, what can you say about The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress? Have you even read it? Are you at all aware that Heinlein suggested ideas ASIDE from such a government as in Starship Troopers?

Then again, the fact that you like the movie for any reason aside from how horribly shitty to the point of comedy it was kind of says something about your own character. In which case, we are likely destined to disagree.

Ray Huling:

PopcornAvenger:
Sorry, Ray, but this is an indepth look into a problem with an easy explanation: marketing. The majority of gamers are males, males who like the "tough space marine" protagonist. A fighting Mom might appeal to a minority, at the cost of alienating the majority. Not that there aren't female gamers; they're a strong and vocal group. The marketroids, however, go where the money is (or where they perceive it to be)

Popcorn, I strongly disagree with this point. Games are made for boys, because boys make them.

Nonsense. A business creates a product with the audience in mind, otherwise they don't sell. Nintendo began targeting non-gamers and you can see how their products changed accordingly. Hobbyists generally create games for themselves, so your statement might make sense in the for the hobbyist/modding community or in years long past when most videogames started as independant projects, but in the current business world this is wholly incorrect.

Truth is, young males play traditional console videogames more than any other demographic, so this is who the games are marketed to. You can change the target demographic like Nintendo has, but there is a risk associated with stepping into unknown territory like they did (with equally significant rewards for doing so).

Marketing guys couldn't care less what they sell or to whom. They would love to sell console games to women and girls. Imagine virtually doubling the sales of a game like Halo.

Again, more nonsense. Marketing cares very much what they sell and who they sell to, i.e. the largest demographic, hence the largest potential for profit. The better tuned the product is to the target demographic, the easier job Marketing has of selling the product and ensuring that it gains maximum exposure among the target audience.

The problem with developing games with both girls and boys in mind is that it's impossible to please everyone, every time. Boys and girls, men and women, have different interests and designing a game that tries to cater to everyone is a challenging task. If you create a game that is too blue, you lose the pink crowd. If you create a game that is too pink, you lose the blue crowd. If you make a game that mixes the colors, you risk losing people on both sides. It's not impossible but it's challenging, and there are some videogame genre's that are inherently marketed towards blue or pink.

hamster mk 4:

I could see this being instinct being harnesed in other ways. For example if they ever get arround to making a good Battle Star Galactica game. Imagine if each ship in the fleet had a unique face and voice that went along with it. Even if the responses were always the same the fact you would never see that face or hear that voice again if you allowed that ship to be destroyed would cause a great attachment between the player and that ship. It is not exactly maternal but the core emotion would be the same.

Oddly enough Valkyria Chronicles has a unique voice, appearance and personality for each soldier. And if you can't get a medic to them in time they are gone for good.

EDIT: On the topic of Ultimate Mother Figures, I really cannot wait for more game designers to get ahold of the whole manga version of Miyazaki's "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind", best female character ever in my opinion.

I've got to say that I find the thought of playing as a "fighting mother" character, as you call it, very appealing. In fact, I think it could work extremely well in a game similar to Mass Effect, with its good combination of action, roleplay and character-interaction.

I mean, just look at how Ripley approached Newt in Aliens, and then consider how their relationship could develop differently depending on your different Mass Effect-style dialog choices. Your attitude towards this child would affect her own attitude towards you, and in turn be a huge part of deciding your feelings towards her. And at the end of the day... do you face untold horrors to attempt to rescue the child, or do you put your own safety first and disappear into the sky inside your dropship?

(And there could be all sorts of plot branches besides that. Perhaps your aggressive approach stopped you from saving the child to begin with, or maybe you find yourself forced to take her life yourself at the sight of a dead Facehugger next to her?)

And as a sidenote, I'd like to say that I personally find it much more appealing to identify with female characters than male ones.

Tabloid Believer:
I would normally agree with this but...the subsequent films are a violent departure from James Cameron's vision and the work of other authors and directors. In that sense, each movie is almost its own story with its own narrative and its own themes. The should not be seen as one contiguous work.

Personally I think Alien 3 fits pretty well with how things were portrayed in previous movies. Most of the time I simply choose to disregard Alien Resurrection, as that movie seemed to have a bit of an identity crisis.

Tabloid Believer:
The original Doom was obviously an homage to Aliens

Indeed. They even put in the atmospheric processors from Aliens in some of the backgrounds on Phobos.

Meanwhile, Quake II had its fair share of references to the then-recent Starship Troopers movie.

Beery:
or even Hayao Miyazaki's 'Princess Mononoke' or 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind'.

There's no "even" about it. Kaze no Tani no Naushika is pure love. Just like Aliens.

Ray Huling:
Wow! I actually envy you. I'd love to see both of these movies with fresh eyes. I do have a recommendation for you about Aliens: don't watch the extended version. If the disc advertises extra footage, turn away! Or choose the cinematic release option. This is one movie where the streamlined cut is actually better.

What makes you say that? Personally I love the extended version of Aliens quite a lot. The only point I see in watching the theatric/cinematic release would be if you (or someone you're watching it with) is entirely new to the franchise and hasn't seen the original movie either.

The original Alien's Director's Cut, however, is pure crap. It adds scenes that don't make a bit of sense with the continuity established in the rest of the series, and completely disturbs the flow of the sequence they're injected into.

Novan Leon:

Truth is, young males play traditional console videogames more than any other demographic, so this is who the games are marketed to. You can change the target demographic like Nintendo has, but there is a risk associated with stepping into unknown territory like they did (with equally significant rewards for doing so).

Yes; I'm suggesting that game developers should take this risk, and Nintendo's success should suggest to them that this risk is worth the potential reward. Where's the controversy?

Novan Leon:
Marketing cares very much what they sell and who they sell to, i.e. the largest demographic, hence the largest potential for profit.

Again, I'm suggesting that a demographic of all people is larger than half of all people.

Novan Leon:
The problem with developing games with both girls and boys in mind is that it's impossible to please everyone, every time.

Now, that's a serious rejoinder. Except for all of the pink and blue stuff, which is borderline offensive.

I think it's hard to make games that appeal across gender, but that it's certainly possible to do so, but when your development team consists entirely of the Cliffy B. demographic, it's never going to happen.

Ray Huling:

Popcorn, I strongly disagree with this point. Games are made for boys, because boys make them.

Marketing guys couldn't care less what they sell or to whom. They would love to sell console games to women and girls. Imagine virtually doubling the sales of a game like Halo.

Aliens is the best-selling entry in the franchise, dudes love it, and it's feminist.

Look at the Starship Troopers movie, too: all kinds of gung-ho chuckleheads love that movie, without realizing that Verhoeven made it for anti-militarist guys like me, not them. The message went right over their heads. But we both bought tickets.

This kind of thing is possible for games. You just need people capable of doing it.

I'd like to see the numbers and percentages of female programmers and artists, I bet there's more than you think. Their gender, alone, however, doesn't mean they'll be innovative or be able to think out of the box.

Novan pretty well summed up any counter-arguement I'd make. I would like to clarify: Marketroids go where the money is (or where they perceive it to be). Marketing is infamous for wanting to expand on proven successes (i.e,, sequels and expansions) and not wanting to take risks on new or non-traditional material. For some companies its often a tug-of-war over creative control between the artists/developers and those holding the purse strings.

I wasn't saying a game with a strong female protagonist wouldn't sell (Tomb Raider, anyone?). It's just that since the male gamer largely outnumbers the female, it's whom Marketing wants to develop for. I can tell you that -this gamer- *prefers* the female protagonist; I have ever since Aliens. I'm still in love with Ripley. Finally, I must admit, if the game's in 3rd person, I'd rather stare at her behind than a dude's ;).

Marketing, and, yes, some creative talents, either don't want to break the mold, or are afraid that doing so means the game won't sell. They forget that the first game in a series are almost ALWAYS groundbreakers in some way.

It comes back to money.

I think Mass Effect, a great game, would have been elevated to stellar status if they'd only dared to make the central character female. Oh, well, chances lost. At least you can see to that yourself.

Lastly: Starship Troopers. Verhoeven's message didn't fly over MY head, and although I remain a fan of his Robocop series, I felt the movie was a slap in the face to Heinlein and his Hugo award-winning novel. The movie was a joke, and a poor one at that.

Besides, they didn't even have power armor, and that made it Loser with a capital L in my book ;)

I'm saying that your analysis is unnecessary, at least for many of us male gamers, because you're telling us what we already know: tough chicks with guns rock our world.

ccesarano:
He defied the orders of his commanding officers to try and save his dad from the Locust...Now let's take his best friend Dom...it's all MANLY friendship and guy love and shit...he serves the military, but he is also using them every chance he can get to find his wife...I don't know if she HAD to die

You're making points against some other interlocutor, not me. None of the things you mention changes the tone of Gears of War. It's a macho, militarist fantasy. I mean: what's more macho than shooting your brain-dead wife, then going off to kill her torturers?

Keep in mind that this is the most interaction with a woman that we've seen in two of these games.

Look, as you say, Gears appeals to militarist desire. There's nothing inherently wrong with that; I enjoy it myself. But there is something wrong with pretending it's something other than what it is. Don't worry about it!

It's okay that Gears is a particularly stupid shooter. I'm just saying that I'd enjoy some other experiences, too. There's a limit to how much I need to indulge the boyish side of me.

ccesarano:
Still, what can you say about The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress? Have you even read it? Are you at all aware that Heinlein suggested ideas ASIDE from such a government as in Starship Troopers?

Yes; but I can't say much about it, because I read it in high school. I'm well aware that Heinlein presented many different settings throughout his oeuvre. But Starship Troopers is a special case. He wrote that book with two intentions: 1) to respond to nuclear arms control; 2) to educate young men on the meaning of citizenship. The latter is especially important. Starship Troopers was written for a young adult audience. It was the last of Heinlein's books intended to cater to this audience specifically. This partly explains the goofy tone of Rico's narration, especially with regard to women.

Heinlein really did mean for his book to influence young men in a positive way. And it's a polemic against arms control. I find it despicable for both of these reasons.

We'll see how Lightning (FFXIII) turns out, hopefully she'll be a good female game lead. Until then we'll always have Celes and Terra.

I think getting into the debate over Heinlein's novel drags us off-point. You either love it or hate it; if one is interested in the raging controversy that follows the novel to this day (and to this forum!) I'd suggest reading it's Wiki entry.

As for the best counter-argument ever made against the philosopy of Starship Troopers, you need look no further than Joe Haldeman's The Forever War.

TsunamiWombat:
...the self defeating irony that you wrote this article for a magazine called "The Escapist"...Escapism, not frustration. It is film and book we turn to for intellectual frustration

I think the Escapist is an ironic name: clearly, there's a lot of hard thinking about video games going on here. The whole magazine does precisely the opposite of escapism.

I disagree, too, that we turn to books and film for intellectual frustration. The biggest-selling books and movies are clearly not out to provoke thought.

But games always involve frustration. Play takes effort. They are not like movies, where you can simply watch the space marine kill the alien; you have to do it yourself. And if you're not good enough at the game to play through a part, then you don't get the satisfaction of winning it.

TsunamiWombat:
can any male truely emphasize with a womans maternal instict? Can any woman truely emphasize with a mans emotional struggle to be without emotion?

Yes.

Ray Huling:

It's unclear what Fenix's Dad meant at the end of GoW 2, but I'm willing to bet you dollars to doughnuts that Gears of War 3 will involve a lot of Space Marines killing motherfuckers.

I'm sure it will. However, the atmosphere of the games are that doing so is counterproductive. Almost every scene and interaction, especially in Gears of War 2, underscores how Marcus and Dom are essentially men broken by the endless grind of losing everything and everyone they know to war (Tai's death in GoW2 is a particular example, just look at Marcus' face). Every major military operation, the lightmass bomb, the sinking of Jacinto, the invasion of the Nexus, is a costly failure which at best achieves nothing of import and at worst makes things significantly worse for humanity.

So, how is this game glorifying the macho attitude to conflict exactly?

PopcornAvenger:

I think Mass Effect, a great game, would have been elevated to stellar status if they'd only dared to make the central character female. Oh, well, chances lost. At least you can see to that yourself.

Everyone with any sense plays Mass Effect as a female character. The voice actor for ManShep is a bit useless, whereas Jennifer Hale is awesome.

GloatingSwine:
Almost every scene and interaction, especially in Gears of War 2, underscores how Marcus and Dom are essentially men broken by the endless grind of losing everything and everyone they know to war (Tai's death in GoW2 is a particular example, just look at Marcus' face). Every major military operation, the lightmass bomb, the sinking of Jacinto, the invasion of the Nexus, is a costly failure which at best achieves nothing of import and at worst makes things significantly worse for humanity.

So, how is this game glorifying the macho attitude to conflict exactly?

By giving macho heroes a reason to act macho.

The atmosphere of Gears of war is gloom and doom, because this is precisely the sort of atmosphere that befits stoic, fatalistic, fight-to-the-last-breath heroes.

The fighting hasn't solved anything yet, because GoW is, at the very least, a trilogy, not because the series has something negative to say about war.

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 that's good, because it's the only thing you can do in the game.

GloatingSwine:
Everyone with any sense plays Mass Effect as a female character. The voice actor for ManShep is a bit useless, whereas Jennifer Hale is awesome.

So... does Hale do every single "tough chick" voice in video games ever, or what? =P

(A shame they didn't go for Joe Flanigan for the male voice, though.)

krans:

Cameron had the actors playing his marines read Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers before filming. It is a terrible book.

Actually, I think that statement unfair, and unreasonable. The fact that I disagree with the philosophical and/or moral arguments presented by an author in a book (or in any other medium) does not make that work "terrible". Bad spelling/grammar, incomprehensible plot, incredible* characters -- these are all arguments for calling a book "terrible". For all that I disagree with the societal structure Heinlein argues for in Starship Troopers, it is good, fun read, and he presents his viewpoint through compelling characters and well-written dialogue.

And after reading it, who didn't dream about what it would be like to be a member of the jumpsuit-clad, superhumanly-tough Mobile Infantry?

As controversial as its socio-political agenda might be, that book invented the futuristic warrior. Warhammer 40,000's Space Marines, Halo's Spartans, the marines in Aliens, and the Terran Marines of Starcraft: the list of sci-fi fighting forces inspired directly or indirectly by Heinlein's soldiers goes on.

* Incredible: impossible to believe in.

I concur, just because you disagree with the politics involved doesn't make it terrible. It is well thought out, well written and created an archetype of soldier that thrives today, and invented a conceptual type of armour that the military is still trying to get its mits on. Just more black and whitism.

Ray Huling:

Novan Leon:

Truth is, young males play traditional console videogames more than any other demographic, so this is who the games are marketed to. You can change the target demographic like Nintendo has, but there is a risk associated with stepping into unknown territory like they did (with equally significant rewards for doing so).

Yes; I'm suggesting that game developers should take this risk, and Nintendo's success should suggest to them that this risk is worth the potential reward. Where's the controversy?

You said that "Games are made for boys, because boys make them.", which is completely false (using Nintendo as an example).

On a related note, I applaud Nintendo's move but you have to be blind not to see how they've alienated many dedicated gamers by making this move. Yes, some of Nintendo's games appeal to everyone, casual and dedicated gamer alike, but they essentially had to make a judgment call on which audience they wanted. It's the audience that dictated the type of games that were made.

Ray Huling:

Novan Leon:
Marketing cares very much what they sell and who they sell to, i.e. the largest demographic, hence the largest potential for profit.

Again, I'm suggesting that a demographic of all people is larger than half of all people.

A "demographic" of "all people" is an oxymoron. The reason marketing people use demographics is to identify a target audience precisely BECAUSE pleasing everyone is unfeasible. Saying that marketing doesn't care what they sell and who they sell it to is utter nonsense, since that's essentially what marketing is all about.

Ray Huling:

Novan Leon:
The problem with developing games with both girls and boys in mind is that it's impossible to please everyone, every time.

Now, that's a serious rejoinder. Except for all of the pink and blue stuff, which is borderline offensive.

I think it's hard to make games that appeal across gender, but that it's certainly possible to do so, but when your development team consists entirely of the Cliffy B. demographic, it's never going to happen.

Offensive? To whom?

So your argument is that a development team full of males between the ages of 18-55 can't make games that appeal to other demographics, females in particular? What male to female ratio do you think works in the development houses at Nintendo? How many women were involved in the development of the Rock Band and Guitar Hero series?

Novan Leon:
On a related note, I applaud Nintendo's move but you have to be blind not to see how they've alienated many dedicated gamers by making this move.

It always bothers me when people go wailing about how Nintendo have alienated or betrayed them, when the Big N had put out a Zelda, a Metroid, a Super Mario, a WarioWare and a Super Smash Bros within the first year and a half from the Wii's release. And, of course, they're hard at work making yet more games, but as usual choose to not show anything off until they feel good about doing so.

Nintendo themselves clearly aren't making any less "hardcore" games than before, so what about the third party developers? Well, while most of them do seem to mostly spit out "casual" games and shovelware, the consumers likewise don't show much appreciation for games like Zack & Wiki.

karpiel:
It seems a bit much to claim that Aliens is one of the greatest movies ever. The original Alien was really brilliant. I find that its sequel doesn't really draw me in emotionally like the unbearable suspense and technical virtuosity of the first does.

One of the greatest movies ever? No.

But a great movie? Yes.

JediMB:

Novan Leon:
On a related note, I applaud Nintendo's move but you have to be blind not to see how they've alienated many dedicated gamers by making this move.

It always bothers me when people go wailing about how Nintendo have alienated or betrayed them, when the Big N had put out a Zelda, a Metroid, a Super Mario, a WarioWare and a Super Smash Bros within the first year and a half from the Wii's release. And, of course, they're hard at work making yet more games, but as usual choose to not show anything off until they feel good about doing so.

Nintendo themselves clearly aren't making any less "hardcore" games than before, so what about the third party developers? Well, while most of them do seem to mostly spit out "casual" games and shovelware, the consumers likewise don't show much appreciation for games like Zack & Wiki.

If you play any of these traditional Nintendo games for the Wii (with the possible exception of Mario Galaxy) in the context of Nintendo's prior games you'd see the obvious gameplay differences in the newer games. The new gameplay is generally more shallow and newbie friendly, leaving behind some of the more hardcore game mechanics in favor of mechanics that are less punishing and more appealing non-gamers.

Besides, it's not just the first party developers but the third party as well. Nintendo has made it clear that they're vying for the non-gamer crowd and the majority of third-party developers feel no need to re-invent the wheel, so they jump ship and focus on the X360 and PS3, restricting Wii development to greatly dumbed-down ports of games built for the other consoles.

The difference between the soldiers and the mother Ripley is not in their sexuality or strength and weaknesses, or politics. But very simply:

Ripley, the mother is fighting to save something, the little girl. She gets her kicks from saving something that means the world to her. She is willing to die in exchange for someone else's life.

The space marines, were fighting to destroy something, the aliens (who are life as well). They get their kicks out of killing something that means nothing to them. They are willing to die in exchange for someone (aliens) else's death.

In every FPS you play as the latter, all of them are just Doom clones (PC), and Halo clones (consoles). I have yet to play a FPS (including CoD) that makes me feel like I'm fighting for something other than to kill the other guys. Whilst that is fun and entertaining, it is also mindless and shallow. How great would it be to play a FPS based on the former? So at the end of the game you think "Wow! I've not just wasted the last 10 hours of my life squeezing a virtual stress ball. No. I've really done something worthwhile and saved some real thing worth virtually dying for."

To make a "Hardboiled tough guy" video game protagonist you don't need a typical space marine who is: a macho, bullet munching, muscle popping superhuman; wearing complicated, shiny, futuristic armour; wielding a huge assult rifle with a grenade launcher and chain saw. NO. All you need is an average person, just like you and me, then put them in a setting that gives them something worth fighting for. It is much more thrilling to be an under armed and weak civilian in a town filled with zombies/aliens/terrorist/enemy soldiers; knowing you are fighting to save a little kid.

I always thought it wasn't the bullet dodging and Kungfu moves that makes a good action film great, but rather the ordinariness of the main characters fighting for survival, fighting for their families, fighting for justice. For example, I recently watched Denzel Washington's film "Man on Fire", which has a very low body count compared to action films I usually watch, but it was a cut above the rest because I was watching him fighting to save something, not fighting to kill something.

My only bummer about this article was the image they used for marketing it: Samas carrying a sign reading, "It's a Metroid, Not a Choice." I understand why you chose it. I see how it relates. The article was insightful and stimulating intellectually. But God, with something that f-ing funny, I wish that had come to play somehow.

On a side note, I hadn't realized Palin was dead. You just made my day! (I'm kidding, I know she's not, but a guy can dream.)

I have to wonder about the 'Space Marine' stereotype - is there another 'realistic' futuristic soldier? Really?

I mean, an armoured fighter who's armour makes him soldier and more mobile. Even the US army is looking into it for future tech.

But seriously, aside from the Power-armoured tank or the bio-warrior, can anyone see how a future combatant would seem like? Excluding stylisted approaches, heh. Even the commander sherpard from Mass Effect had body armour with at least power in it for the shield.

Novan Leon:
If you play any of these traditional Nintendo games for the Wii (with the possible exception of Mario Galaxy) in the context of Nintendo's prior games you'd see the obvious gameplay differences in the newer games. The new gameplay is generally more shallow and newbie friendly, leaving behind some of the more hardcore game mechanics in favor of mechanics that are less punishing and more appealing non-gamers.

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 parallell worlds worked when compared to previous games in the series.

Metroid Prime 3 also expanded a lot on what the previous games in the series had done. Things were changed around to be more intuitive, but nothing was dumbed down.

WarioWare was still WarioWare.

Super Smash Bros Brawl took the same formula as the previous two games, but just added more of everything.

What is it that's dumbed down and shallow again? (But, jeez, this totally isn't the right thread to continue this discussion. <.<)

ZenKai:
My only bummer about this article was the image they used for marketing it: Samas carrying a sign reading, "It's a Metroid, Not a Choice." I understand why you chose it. I see how it relates. The article was insightful and stimulating intellectually. But God, with something that f-ing funny, I wish that had come to play somehow.

Actually, that picture's from the "Pixels and Picket Lines" article.

Ray Huling:

TsunamiWombat:
...the self defeating irony that you wrote this article for a magazine called "The Escapist"...Escapism, not frustration. It is film and book we turn to for intellectual frustration

I think the Escapist is an ironic name: clearly, there's a lot of hard thinking about video games going on here. The whole magazine does precisely the opposite of escapism.

I disagree, too, that we turn to books and film for intellectual frustration. The biggest-selling books and movies are clearly not out to provoke thought.

But games always involve frustration. Play takes effort. They are not like movies, where you can simply watch the space marine kill the alien; you have to do it yourself. And if you're not good enough at the game to play through a part, then you don't get the satisfaction of winning it.

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.

If you count the smarmy bullshit books that sell well and point to them as proof that they are not intended to frustrate, I point to the safe male fantasy games you are deriding as proof that games are are not intended to frustrate. Lets face it, Twilight and Gears of War are literary equivilants.

Ray Huling:

TsunamiWombat:
[quote="TsunamiWombat" post="6.77419.944754"]can any male truely emphasize with a womans maternal instict? Can any woman truely emphasize with a mans emotional struggle to be without emotion?

Yes.

No.

Did I win?

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