Breaking the Mold - ace13 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Breaking the Mold

While sexism has always been an ongoing battle within and outside of the game industry, it's been discussed a lot more recently. If you have ever read the comment section of any article, you’ll see a lot of sexist and other derogatory insults being thrown around as defenses.

In society, common phrases such as “man up,” “you cry/scream like a girl,” “grow a pair,” etc. are tossed around frequently as well. Last week, I was channel surfing the radio and came across a delightful discussion called, "ladies, let's talk about your man's girly habits!" It’s 2013, and while it may seem like common sense, being male doesn't equate with having more strength, while being female isn't a synonym for weakness. This got me thinking about male character and strength in games.
 
One of the most important things I couldn't stress more to any developer is: don’t rely on stereotypes to tell your story. Let your character’s personal actions, thoughts, and the story itself take the reins. No matter what gender, race, etc, a person is, the best heroes aren't perfect by any means. They have some imperfection or vulnerability that makes them human. This is why we can relate to, and even see ourselves, in them.
 
If you have ever read my blog before, while I have written about women in games, I haven’t really discussed men before. While I do think there is a big problem with female objectification, that doesn't mean that there aren't issues with male portrayals. Like other media, the major stereotype for men is that they are supposed to be lone wolves, very “rough, tough and buff.”
 

Now, there is nothing wrong if someone is genuinely that way, but it shouldn't be expected or pressured upon anyone. A strong male (or female) character doesn't have to be physically large in order to be strong. I've come across some amazing male characters that break this mold, and aren't defined by stereotypes. They may not have hulking, silent frames, that probably can’t even tie their own shoelaces, but that doesn't mean they aren't heroic. They’re compelling and strong in their own unique way.
 
**Character blurbs contain minor spoilers**



Alistair, Dragon Age: Origins

 
Alistair (in most cases, depending on the player's character origin) is the first companion to join the player's party, and is a fellow Grey Warden. Alistair's creators drew inspiration from Xander Harris and Mal Reynolds (characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly/Serenity, respectively) in developing his character. If you're a fan of either show, it's easy to note the similarities between them. Alistair is incredibly charming and sarcastic, spouting off witty one-liners constantly. Once you get past his jokes though, which are used to deflect serious issues, he opens up about his family, and the loss of his Grey Warden mentor/surrogate father, Duncan. As the secret son of King Maric and a serving girl, Alistair actually is an heir to Ferelden's throne, but if players want him to eventually become king, you'll have to work to convince him. Wielding power over others and making big decisions makes him uncomfortable and besides, Alistair is more than content to simply follow your lead. He's incredibly loyal, and supportive, with a strong sense of justice, and will only leave your party if Duncan's traitor is not brought to justice.  



Double H, Beyond Good and Evil
 
 
Jade may be the (amazing) protagonist of the game, but Double H is an important part of her team. He may look very physically imposing with his military armor and hammer, but Double H is rare in that he can be air-headed and silly. However, he’s one of the most endearing characters I've ever encountered, with his incredible sense of justice and big heart. As a former member of the Hillyan army, he joins the IRIS Network as a spy to help Jade stop the immorality he discovered as a sergeant. He works so well together with her,  following Jade’s commands and plan of action, but they both lean on one another for support both on and off of the battlefield. Teamwork is very essential to him, as evidenced by the amusing, heartwarming quotes he constantly says about loyalty and “not breaking up the team.”
 
 
Eli Vance, Half-Life Series
 
 
Dr. Eli Vance is a groundbreaking African American character. He's a physicist, researcher and father who is a pillar of the Resistance, a group that has been working to overthrow the Combine, who have taken over the Earth. Did I mention he's done this while raising his daughter, Alyx, by himself? Eli has to be one of the most charismatic and open characters I've encountered in any game, and even though players don't see him too often, his appearances are memorable, mostly due to the relationship between Alyx and Eli. He's incredibly warm, and affectionate, calling Alyx 'honey' or 'sweetheart',  and often saying that he loves her. Even with Gordon, he's like a surrogate father, telling him he couldn't have been prouder if he was his own son. He's helped design some pretty awesome gadgets, such as the awesome Gravity Gun, and Dog, Alyx's mechanical companion/protector, but I think the most noteworthy thing he's accomplished is Alyx. I've praised her before, but Alyx is one of the best sidekicks you could ever ask for, and she's an important part of the Resistance too. She's a tech wiz, can hold her own against the Combine, and she's as good-hearted and charismatic as her father taught her to be. 


Tenzin, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
 
 
As Uncharted fans know, we actually don't learn too much about Tenzin. We do know that he lives in a small Tibetan village with his daughter Pema, which is where he brings the protagonist, Nate Drake, and helps him recover from his mortal wounds. Tenzin doesn't speak any English though, and resorts to using (hilarious) gestures when conversing with Nate. The two work very well together despite this. Despite the language barrier, you can still see that Tenzin is a soft-spoken, good-hearted man, and a devoted father. But don't let his gentle demeanor fool you though, because Tenzin is tough. He agrees to accompany Nate on a mission to help find Karl Schafer's lost expedition, and he helps solve the mystery, and save Nate's life.


Ethan Mars, Heavy Rain

 
Ethan Mars used to have an idyllic, normal life with his family. After the tragic death of one of Ethan’s young sons though, his life falls apart. His wife separates from him, and his remaining son, Shaun, becomes distant. He barely scrapes by, suffering from blackouts, and living a life full of remorse and guilt. However, upon waking up from one of these blackouts, Ethan realizes Shaun is missing. The Origami Killer, notorious for kidnapping local boys, asks him how far he's willing to go to save someone he loves. To make matters worse though, the police are hunting him because they think he's the Origami Killer. Ethan isn't a soldier or a spy, he is simply a loving father. That is the source of his strength. Using his wits and natural abilities, he suffers great emotional and physical pain by working through the killer's trials, which earn him clues to Shaun's whereabouts. 


Lee Everett, The Walking Dead
 
 
One of the most lauded games of last year, The Walking Dead, starred (what I would have to say is) the most memorable African American character I’ve ever played as. You start the game out as Lee, handcuffed in the back of a cop car, headed towards prison. However, the zombie apocalypse breaks out, and suddenly, he’s free with a clean slate. While he did commit a violent crime of passion, Lee is no stereotypical “black man.”  Before the apocalypse, he was a history professor, who was raised by a loving, respected, nuclear family. He stumbles upon a little girl named Clementine, and takes care of her as if she was his daughter. This relationship was something he had always wanted, but never achieved with his wife. Lee always thinks of Clem before making any decision, and he nurtures and teaches her how to survive the horrors of everyday life. 

 

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