Appreciating the Women in Games
Killzone is a 2004 game developed by Guerrilla Games. As a whole, the plot is fairly predictable and the villain is extremely campy. However, the character interactions are well crafted and hilarious. One of my favourite quotes is from this game. The player picks up new playable characters as they progress through the game, eventually reaching four. The second character encountered, after Jan Templar, is Luger. She is the Shadow Marshal (assassin) on the team. And she just so happens to be awesome.
To her, the mission comes first above all else. This makes her, arguably, the most competent member of the team, although the others have their moments. She doesn’t let her emotions on the current mission or events affect her judgement. Most importantly she is equal to all the others on the team. She is never questioned because she’s a woman. Her plans are given equal weight to the others. At the same time, the game is clear on her being woman; she doesn’t feel like a male character with female pronouns.
At some point, prior to the events of the game, she was in a relationship with Jan Templar. However, she broke it off to train as a Shadow Marshal and isn’t overtly interested in Jan anymore. At the very least, she’s certainly not interested in being the girl that Jan thought she was. A female in a game showing agency, and choosing not to be romantically involved with the “main” character is refreshing, but unfortunately unique. I would prefer if her status was not defined by being Jan’s ex, but as the game goes on, she is very obviously not simply the ex-girlfriend. Unlike many other narratives, this previous relationship actually serves a purpose. It contributes to the rag-tag nature of the group in game. They all have reasons why they don’t get along, and yet they manage to accomplish great feats despite their differences. Not to mention that, if the team hadn’t been full of clashing personalities, the game would not have been as interesting. The snide banter between all the characters is really what made the game for me.
Her visual design is also something I really love. She is dressed appropriately for what she does and who she is. The way Luger values practicality and logic over all else comes across in her dialogue, but it is further reinforced by what she is wearing.
The game developer does not flaunt her, either in the interests of proclaiming how diverse they are or in the interests of fanservice. They don’t feel the need to constantly reaffirm to the player that this person is awesome woman, which I like, but this may be one of the reasons why she is not often listed when talking about examples of women in games. I feel torn about this as I feel that good characters should be celebrated but I wish that women did not have to be singled out for particular excellence (as exceptions to the norm).
Unfortunately, she is one of only two females in the game (the other being an unnamed comms officer who has one line), which I found a bit disheartening; the developer proved that they could handle female characters with maturity (as in don’t treat them much different than male ones) and I would’ve liked to see more. However, at the same time, I would prefer one awesome female character to several cringe-worthy ones.