We’re pleased as punch to present the first instalment of our new review series, analysing feminist themes in one of the most acclaimed videogames of all time. But since we’re sleepy from weeks in production hell, we’ll let our work do the talking (literally)…
“HUMAN REVOLUTION” (2011)
“WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION”
Hello, and welcome to the first episode of this YouTube series.
Before we begin, this project may require a bit of explanation.
Namely, why are we doing feminist playthroughs in the first place?
And why this game, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”?
First, let’s explore the game’s background.
“Human Revolution” is a reboot of the original “Deus Ex” from 2000.
The original game dealt with issues of power, technology, and humanity.
But it was most acclaimed for its freedom of choice.
The reboot preserves that element of choice.
Here, you see I’m sneaking by these mercenaries, instead of shooting them.
In “Human Revolution”, you play the way you want.
Kill hostiles, knock them out, or sneak by them.
You can even negotiate or reason with people, if you have the social skills.
Such freedom is uncommon in most games.
That’s what makes “Human Revolution” perfect for a feminist analysis.
As most educated people know, feminism is about choice.
Do you aspire to be a CEO, housewife, or something else?
Only you should be able to choose.
Society shouldn’t force a decision on you.
Likewise, “Human Revolution” lets you decide what actions you take.
You can play the role of a killer or pacifist, for example.
This diversity of roles extends to other characters in the game.
The lady on the right is Megan Reed, head researcher for Sarif Industries.
Sarif is a biotech firm, where you work as head of security.
In this introductory sequence, you see Megan talking to her staff.
Notice how no one here, male or female, has ridiculous or sexualised bodies?
That alone already tells you you’re playing a more thoughtful kind of game.
Here’s another member of Megan’s team, Nia Colvin.
Nia is depicted as an educated woman of colour with an MIT degree.
You don’t see characters like that in videogames very often.
People of other nationalities also appear in the game.
Here, you see a Canadian general talking to a Russian-American researcher.
They’re discussing military applications for Sarif’s technology.
But this exchange also underlines the game’s concept of choice.
“Human Revolution” revolves around transhumanism.
In this world, people can actually upgrade their bodies with technology.
However, the game doesn’t portray this as inherently good or bad.
It comes down to how you use it.
As usual, the plot kicks into gear because of an inciting incident.
Armed hostiles attack the headquarters of Sarif Industries.
Soon enough, you realise you’re not dealing with ordinary criminals.
You’re facing a black ops unit of private military contractors.
What becomes apparent is how multinational this elite unit is.
The woman assassin you see here is Yelena Fedorova.
She’s of African and Russian descent.
And she’s not in the game to be sexy or infantile.
According to the developers, they did consider it.
Here, for example, she was originally to taunt you by blowing a kiss.
But ultimately, they dropped that idea.
They didn’t really think it was something a woman would actually do.
Clearly, the developers care about respecting their audience.
We’ll delve more into this in future episodes.
“Human Revolution” is widely acclaimed as one of history’s finest games.
Frankly, games deserve such recognition.
Society has long dismissed videogames as mere toys.
The time has come for games to receive the serious analysis they deserve.
And “Human Revolution” has earned that privilege in spades.
Over the coming months, we’ll analyse subsequent chapters in the game.
Feminist or not, we hope you learn something from our playthroughs.
For now, we’ll end with some footage from our next, upcoming episode.
The challenge in doing a project like this, we think, isn’t so much in the analysis. After all, critics and academics alike have analysed feminism in cinema, television and other mediums since before the days of Laura Mulvey. Applying that same critical lens to videogames isn’t much different, other than an exponential increase in the possibility of rape threats (hence our reason for sticking with a male narrator).
The main challenge in doing this project has been technical. Granted, by now we’ve solidified our grasp of design and editing, and the astute may notice we tested something similar last semester, to see if we could release videos in a timely manner with such a format. We found we could, so we adapted said format to this new series and used that as our launch pad.
Unexpectedly, the biggest issue pervading this whole project has been getting the bloody game, Human Revolution, to run acceptably. We hadn’t thought it would be a problem, but large chunks of the game simply refused to run at decent frame rates. Since one of our technical goals is to showcase games at 60fps (partly to deflect criticism that we don’t understand games), we didn’t want to include subpar footage in our videos. In the end, we rewrote the script to exclude parts of the game we couldn’t show, and focusing on other parts instead.
(If we weren’t already committed, we probably would have said “**** it” and done another project instead. We imagine that other feminists choose to blog about games instead of vlogging, for exactly this reason – they encounter technical roadblocks and don’t have anyone to help them out.)
Anyway, we’ll likely do five episodes of Human Revolution, before switching to another game and doing five episodes of that, and so on. Originally we’d planned to play all the way to the end, analysing each chapter in the game along the way. But since we find ourselves playing a game beset with technical problems, we don’t want to force ourselves to play for more than a few chapters. In the future, our choice our games will be subject to technical factors as much as narrative ones.
But in the meantime, if you have suggestions for games you’d like to see in this series, let us know. Thanks for joining us on this ride.
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