Recognizing The Unfair Role Mothers Have In Video Games… - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Recognizing The Unfair Role Mothers Have In Video Games…

Gamers are a unique lot. It's easy for non-gamers to collectively call us all gamers, but really we're very different. Some of us like shooters and some of us like role playing games. Within those genres we're equally distinctive too. In our shooters, some of us prefer stealthy tactics while some of us take a more Rambo'esque approach. In role playing games some of us are fighters relying on brute strength while wielding sword and shield while the magic users rely on wisdom, intellect and mystical ability. But if there is one thing we all share as gamers, it's the fact we have/had a mother at some point in our life. Regardless of whether you're best friends with your mom or the complete opposite, we all went through the same process to get to where we are today. And today is the day that recognizes and/or celebrates that fact. Personally, I'm not all that close with my mom, but I still pause on this day and recognize the significance of the gift of life I was given by my mother.

Now, to apply a video game flavor to the topic of mother's day...I thought I'd share my thoughts on perhaps one of the most ill-treated non-player character types we see in our games. I say non-player character for the simple fact that playing a mom or motherly figure in a video game is not all that common. In fact, I can't think of a game that I've ever played where I took on this role. I did a few quick Google searches just to see if I was missing something glaringly obvious - I read a few top female video game character lists and didn't see any entries that screamed they were moms. I don't think Lara Croft or Elena Fisher ever mentioned having a few rugrats at home while they were off gallivanting around the globe.

No. Let's be honest...

When do we see mom's in video games.

Well, when we do...it's usually not very pretty.

Oh sure...there are games like Heavy Rain where there is a mom character. I'm only a few hours into the game, but I can tell you the mom (my in game wife, mother of my children) gets on my nerves. If you play the game, its short lived...because she ends up leaving you, heh heh. I'm not quite sure what will happen by the end of the game, but for the time...I'm kind of relieved she's not there harping on me when I don't do the things she's asked me to do.

But that game is kind of the rare exception...

Usually mom characters are used as the catalyst to motivate the hero male character into action, and as unfortunate as it is...it's usually because they are *ahem* killed. This spurns the hero to seek revenge or motivates them in a certain direction.

For example, the Punisher...my favorite comic book series, one of the original comic book to movie crossovers and inspiration for a few video games...stars Frank Castle as the Punisher.

The Punisher is a vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his war on crime. Driven by the deaths of his wife and two children, who were killed by the mob when they witnessed a gangland execution in New York City's Central Park, the Punisher wages a one-man war on the mob and all criminals in general by using all manner of conventional war weaponry. His family's killers were the first to be slain. A war veteran, Castle is a master of martial arts, stealth tactics, guerrilla warfare, and a wide variety of weapons.


This formula has been used in some rather popular and fairly recent games.

I vaguely recall the original Max Payne, but I'll never forget that chilling scene where Max's family is killed. It's perhaps one of the most grisly scenes I've experienced from a video game.

Back on August 22, 1998, Max returned home to find that a trio of apparent junkies had broken into his house while high on a new designer drug called Valkyr. Max rushed to aid his family, but was too late and his wife and their newborn daughter had already been brutally murdered. After his family's funeral, Payne transferred to the DEA.


What that description fails to mention, and what words can only describe but don't convey the same grisly tone...is when Max returns home you hear his infant crying, then something like a shotgun blast followed by silence. It was a gripping turn of events.

Then of course there's everybody's favorite outlaw turned good guy - John Marston, the star of Rockstar's open world Wild West action game. We're told John's wife Abigail dies from unknown causes a few years after the climatic ending of Red Dead Redemption, but we do know Abigail and their son Jack were used to coerce John Marston into doing dastardly things.

In 1911, John Marston, a retired outlaw formerly of a gang led by Dutch van der Linde, is taken away from his wife Abigail and his son Jack by the government. Government agents then tell Marston that he will be returned to his family if he kills the remaining lead members of his old gang. Marston agrees, then travels to the territory of New Austin to kill one of his old friends...

A man will do unimaginable things to protect his family, and John Marston certainly proves this.

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Another one of the most gripping stories featuring a motherly non-player character has to be the tale of Dominic Santiago, one of the big names of the Gears of War series. Unless you've played the game, it's hard to summarize the totality of this story thread, but it is certainly one that pulls on the heart strings.

Dominic Santiago is the deuteragonist. He is a veteran soldier, first introduced in the original Gears of War as a second playable character. He is close friends with Marcus, his longtime comrade. Like Marcus, he is a seasoned veteran with a strong sense for family, and often thinks of his wife Maria, whom he attempts to locate in Gears of War 2. They lost their two children, Sylvia and Benedicto, on E-day, and, four years later, when that day's trauma became too much, Maria disappeared. He finds his wife eleven years later, imprisoned by the Locust. He euthanizes her because she has been tortured and traumatized beyond recovery.

No doubt his story sets the tone and foreshadows his fate, which was somewhat predictable but still a shock when it finally happens.

Now, the final motherly character I'm going to mention contradicts the rest...and isn't entirely a motherly type character. But it is one that I thought had some motherly inflection...or perhaps, evil stepmother connotations.

In Portal and Portal 2, GLaDOS starts out as a warm and welcoming voice that leads you through a series of test chambers; a sort of motherly influence in a world of mystery and intrigue. By the end of the series she clearly becomes evil, and not just by her actions, but also the vile thing she says to you in an effort to break your mental and emotional state of mind.

GLaDOS, short for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System, is a fictional artificially intelligent computer system in Valve Software's Half-Life video game series and the main antagonist in the video games Portal and Portal 2. She is responsible for testing and maintenance in Aperture Science research facility in both video games. While she initially appears to simply be a voice to guide and aid the player, her words and actions become increasingly malicious until she makes her intentions clear.


There are a few times GLaDOS mentions your parents...and even simulates calling them on the phone at one point.

GLaDOS: Well done. Here are the test results: You are a horrible person. I'm serious, that's what it says: "A horrible person." We weren't even testing for that. Don't let that horrible-person thing discourage you. It's just a data point. If it makes you feel any better, science has now validated your birth mother's decision to abandon you on a doorstep.

I'm sure there are other examples, and perhaps you know them and want to comment and share them. I would encourage you to do that. There are a few female gamers that I am aware of that hang around the Game Informer community, but the only one that I know for sure is a mother, is our very own Oni no Tenshi.

So, to Oni no Tenshi, those of you who are mothers that I might not know...to my own family and to all the video game mother characters out there who paid the price to breathe life into our video games...

Have a Happy Mother's Day!

Cheers.

 

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