When was the last time you played a videogame where you talk to your late girlfriend’s mum, or try chatting up a former co-worker whose mental breakdown was technically your fault? You might not expect such wrinkles from a videogame, but we encountered exactly those wrinkles this week. Plus, a question for all of you after the video…
“HUMAN REVOLUTION” (2011)
“INVESTIGATING THE SUICIDE”
Hello, and welcome to the third episode of this miniseries.
As usual, let’s recap earlier episodes.
Your character, Adam Jensen, is head of security for Sarif Industries.
Sarif, a biotech firm, was brutally attacked by mercenaries months ago.
This forced Sarif to rebuild your body with biotechnology, to save your life.
Coincidentally, biotech is growing increasingly controversial in the U.S.
Recently, pro-human radicals occupied one of Sarif’s factories.
In our previous episode, we were able to defuse the situation, non-lethally.
Mysteriously though, one radical shot himself after hacking Sarif’s computers.
More mysteriously, this pro-human radical was clearly augmented with biotech.
Now your boss, David Sarif, wants you to look into it.
The dead radical’s body is at a police office in downtown Detroit.
David asks you to find a way inside, so you can check the body for clues.
He wants to know what the radical was doing, and why he shot himself.
But as always, he defers to your judgment in how you should proceed.
Once again, the game demonstrates its depth.
Freedom to choose your actions is fundamental to feminist gaming.
Another fundamental is the presence of humanised characters.
In most games, characters are little more than cardboard cut-outs.
They exist solely for you to slaughter, to demonstrate how manly you are.
But “Human Revolution” is more mature than that.
You can actually spend more time on talking to folks instead of killing them.
Consider this exchange, for instance.
On your way to the police office, you encounter Cassandra Reed.
As you can guess from her last name, she’s Megan Reed’s mother.
You may remember Megan was head researcher at Sarif.
Presumably, she was killed when mercenaries attacked some months ago.
But she was also your character’s former lover.
Now, in most games, romantic relationships are perfunctory.
They’re simply there to show what a skilled womaniser you are.
Not so in “Human Revolution”.
Being Megan’s former partner means you’re part of her mother’s life as well.
It’s an unexpected bit of maturity, for a videogame.
In “Human Revolution”, relationships have ramifications, as do actions.
This maxim also proves itself true at the Detroit police office.
Here, we choose to talk to the desk jockey first, instead of shooting everyone.
Well, the desk jockey is your former co-worker, Wayne Haas.
Both of you were officers for the Detroit police.
But Wayne was demoted after you left, in part due your past actions.
And Wayne still blames you for this.
Trying to reconcile with Wayne isn’t easy.
But if you succeed, Wayne becomes your ally.
He can help you to access the morgue, where the dead radical is.
Now obviously, we could use other means to access the morgue.
We could kill all the staff in the police office, or find a way to sneak inside.
But most importantly, we’re able to choose our approach.
This is possible because the game presents us with freedom to choose.
We choose to use our social skills.
But our social skills are useful only because Wayne has actual depth to him.
Such characters lend complexity to a gamer’s interactions.
Choosing to shoot or spare someone becomes a more nuanced process.
This is why humanised characters are fundamental to feminist gaming.
They force you to consider the impact of your choices.
In the future, we’ll discuss how this changes the way gamers approach games.
So thanks for watching.
We hope to see you again, when we upload our next episode.
For now, we’ll end with some footage from our next episode.
Whilst we’re focused on Human Revolution now, some of us are already looking at improvements to make when we transition to analysing our next game, Mass Effect 3. Unsurprisingly, we’ll use the transition as an opportunity to further refine the look and feel of our project, as evidenced in this screenshot…
But more importantly, we’re also debating whether to shift the focus of our videos when we transition to Mass Effect. You might recall in our previous series, we split our critiques into sections focused on 1) overview, 2) visibility, 3) agency, and 4) progress. With this current series, we simply play through the game chronologically and comment on whatever feminist intersections we notice.
So our question to everyone is: Do you prefer the earlier system where we focused on one aspect of feminism at a time, or the current system where we simply play chronologically? We can do either, but we’ll do what people here believe would be more enlightening.
Let us know in the comments!