13 November 2010


This video was recently brought to my attention and, while i haven't played Other M, I have seen the youtube uploads, read the reviews and seen other comments from gamers on the characterisation in the game.

So basically, it’s some guy saying that Metroid: Other M is a good game because the writing is perfectly fine and that if you're opposed to what they've done you view women in one of two extremes (in the kitchen or cold-hearted, man-hating witch). I feel i just have to respond to balance out the stupidity. Onward!

He says that Stoic means that someone overcomes their negative emotions through a journey – however, that’s not the dictionary definition, nor how society uses it ERGO that is not what it means.

Stoic means to overcome your emotions through not allowing them to control you. You’re stoic if you show emotion but don’t let it affect you or your actions in a negative manner just as you’re stoic if you control your emotions so that they don’t shine through and are observable to the outsider.

Now that that is out of the way, I’ll move onto the orders thing. Samus and her team have all the equipment needed to survive in the game but are under orders NOT to use it until told to use it. Game mechanic-wise, it’s no different from finding a piece of equipment and being able to access a new area. Logically it is BATSHIT INSANE.

Seriously, if we’re going off the logic that Samus is a trained and battle-hardened bounty hunter and that this team of military personnel are similarly experienced then they will have full authorization to use necessary force and equipment to allow their survival. No right-thinking military commander is going to expect his troops not to put on their gas masks and biohazard suits if the shit hits the fan just because he didn’t give the order. It’s completely counterintuitive and takes away from the human reality that is projected onto the game. If this was a game about ants or bees where those lifeforms mindlessly obey their superiors then, yes, that makes more sense… but these are human beings and we, being human, understand the human condition very thoroughly.

Next we’ve got the personality switch for Samus. We’ve got a development studio that is known for their disrespectful and immature portrayal of women (i.e. oversexualisation, huge boobs, whiney voices and ‘helplessness’ even though they are hugely capable warriors) compared to the stoic (though I would never have described Samus as such), strong, non-sexual, lethal and capable Samus Aran. To put it into film terms (and ignoring Batman because that’s the example the video uses), Leon: The Professional, trained his whole life to be the best at what he is, he’s smart, logical, tactical, fit, capable and taciturn (perhaps stoic too). Even in the face of absolute terror and the finality of death his focus is pin-point sharp. Samus has also been compared to characters like Ripley in Aliens who is a little more emotionally weak than Leon but she still has most of the other characteristics however, she has to rely on her luck and anger/inner strength to get her through those situations so in my opinion she’s less like Samus than Leon is.

So, what do we get in Other M? We get the Hayden Christensen version of Darth Vader in comparison to James Earl Jones. It’s a slap in the face of the character and I’m wracking my brain to think of another action ‘hero’ like this to compare to Leon but there aren’t any I can think of – the closest is Shia LeBoeuf in Transformers. Honestly, I despair if the meaning of multidimensional characterization means that characters who are established as being strong and capable and free thinking in dangerous situations become self-doubting, helpless and mindless drones. It’s a completely ridiculous to argue that this is a good thing and provides character development when it’s completely the opposite. Leon would not cower in fear at an enemy he had previously thought he’d vanquished. He would not turn into a quivering wreck and be unable to act.

And regarding his Princess Peach comparison? Was he not around when the discussion about the fucking tantrums and emotional ‘powerups’ in Super Princess Peach was ongoing? He comes off as a completely unknowledgeable and anti-progress in computer games writing and characterization. There’s a world of difference between continuing to portray a character as weak and fragile and subservient and actually regressing a character to that state.

Then he takes GREAT leap of logic to assume that people who dislike this change in characterization is those people equating a “strong independent woman” with “pathological man-hating ice queen”… He just used a straw man (no I mean in the video) right before this bit to devalue the arguments opposing this change in character. I mean, the irony is strong with this one. /Yoda

This guy’s argument is vacuous and mindless in its stupidity.

Then he goes on to say that a slight change in gamers’ perception of Samus’ character has resulted in a huge blow out of anger… And yet, these are not small changes these are huge changes. Darth Vader is Stoic – Anakin Skywalker is not. But at least in those films it makes some sort of sense – there’s a character progression, a suppression of his human emotions (except for a seething anger that powers his dark side force powers) as he becomes less than human. If, in the middle of The Empire Strikes Back, this type of character change had manifested itself everyone would have collectively gone “WTF?!” and been very angry with the writers and director for breaking some pretty cardinal rules of human interaction and storytelling. Unless someone’s having a huge emotional or mental breakdown (of which there are many signs beforehand) then there’s no justification, no logic to doing that…. And yet he’s defending exactly this in his argument. In a word: Ridiculous.

Next he somehow gets onto an idea that the strong characterization of Samus (that gamers projected onto her) is rejecting her femininity. I mean…. WHAT THE FUCK?! I know of no women who would instantly pulverize this guy (probably metaphorically) for being such a huge sexist scumbag. Either the straw man he’s constructing here is so big he doesn’t see the looming shadow of ridiculousness OR he really has no idea that femininity does not equate to weakness and subservience. I am actually a little lost for words at this point because his arguments make no sense and are offensive to fans of Samus and other strong women in media.

Yes, being a strong woman does not mean you reject your femininity…. But, and this is a HUGE thing here, women can define what they feel is feminine. I’m a guy and I’m not some hulking brute of a man. I’m sensitive and I cry occasionally and I get overwhelmed when things get tough but I don’t collapse and I don’t become a mindless drone to a superior ‘just because’ or because I have unresolved emotional issues regarding my parents. I consider myself to be a strong man. I still have weaknesses but that doesn't mean they rule me.
You know what? Those people do exist and it is difficult to get out of those sorts of things (having my own separate issues, I know about this) but you don’t tend to find a person’s character altering so suddenly very often. A strong woman will not usually suddenly become all weepy eyed, subservient and emotional when an older, father figure man comes into the picture. A strong, stoic woman would recognize these feelings and keep them in mind as she’s doing her job to the best of her abilities. It doesn’t preclude her from being feminine (whatever she defines that as) and it certainly doesn’t make her a man-hating ice queen because she doesn’t instantly give in to those emotions. This is no binary situation you can be strong and sensitive and even strong in some ways but weak in others… but it’s very rare (and possibly impossible? Maybe the psychologists can answer that one) that you are simultaneously strong and weak in the same area. You don’t not fall, crumpled into a ball at the sign of another soldier dying or surviving wave after wave of enemies only to suddenly and completely cave in when it happens again a moment later. Usually you just go through the actions and sort the emotions out later on and if you don’t that’s where things like post-traumatic stress come into the picture. You know what would be good? It’d be good if perhaps Samus had that as another aspect to her character. Does she? No. Instead she has (as his video points out) “daddy issues”.

Some people might, at this point, try and point out that Samus shows PTSD in Other M - specifically in relation to her encounter with Ripley. These people need to go and read the definition of PTSD, the wikipedia entry on PTSD and then they need to go and look at where Other M falls on the Metroid timeline. Once they've done this they should hopefully recognise that Samus has been in similar situations to the original attack on her colony (resulting in the death of her parents) in conflict with both the Space Pirates and Ridley many times before Other M comes along. This portrayal does not include PTSD and there's no logical reason for her to be suffering, all of a sudden, after defeating the guy and the pirates many times from PTSD or this level of PTSD. Instead Samus falls into the 'revenge' and externalised/internalised anger side of things rather than being unable to process and cope with her emotions regarding that original incident.

…. and finally he compares her to Ripley, saying that she is an anti-social loner who is strong but cold and emotionally distant. I’m thinking that somehow we watched two very different cuts of all the Alien quadrilogy films…. It’s as if he completely misinterpreted Sigourney Weaver’s acting and the character of Ripley. I seriously don’t get it and I think it’s possibly where a lot of his argument comes from and simultaneously falls down. They take a lot of pains to show Ripley's emotional side and the complex interactions between fear, survival instinct, anger and motherly protection in those films. She is never a loner or anti-social or emotionally distant.

This, all in context, makes his high-horse ponderings about other gamers’ views on gender hysterically funny and very sad and worrying. The problem is that a lot of the things he mentions in the conclusion are good parts of a three dimensional character (add your own echo effects here) but that the execution and depiction of those character flaws and intricacies in Other M are so childish, out of character and (I’m going to repeat childish here) immature as to be offensive to the majority of sane people. If you’ve ever watched any of the “Awesome” series you’ll be intimately familiar with over-the-top characterizations of erstwhile human emotions and troubles and that’s the line of portrayal that Samus has in Other M. There’s no subtlety or loving craft gone into it…. Instead it feels like the designers have looked at the checklist of ‘interesting’ human traits (like this guy reels off at the end) and chucked them in without any sort of thought on the logic behind those choices and how they’d fit with a murderous bounty hunter in space.

You know who had ‘issues’? Boba Fett. He was not only conditioned against the Republic but also saw his father beheaded by the Jedi order. Sure, his character wasn’t fleshed out but did you see him fall into a quivering blob during the fight above the Sarlaac on Tatooine when faced with a Jedi Knight (Luke Skywalker)? No!! And you know why? Because that would have made no sense.
His insulting final thought that there’s only two extremes for female characters being ‘allowed’ by his opponents just seals the deal and it’s sad that so many misinformed, like-minded individuals have latched on to his pretty much derogatory and intellectually worthless comparisons and arguments to reinforce their own negative opinions of what is allowed for female protagonists and characters. There is nothing progressive about Other M’s characterization of women.

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