Ladies I have Loved: Melanie Bronson

System Shock 2 is a game that I speak of frequently; I seriously love this game. It has many great female characters that each have their own lives, motivations and relationships. I found them to be interesting and highly varied, which is sadly unusual in video games, where there is often only one female character, if there are any female characters at all.

One of the characters in System Shock 2 is Melanie Bronson. (I should really write about Dr. Marie Delacroix someday, but today is Bronson’s day.) She is the Chief Security Officer on board the Von Braun, the space ship most of the game takes place on. She isn’t a particularly likable person, and many of the other characters mention that they hate her or her by-the-book attitude. Actually, I can’t think of any character in the game that say that they like her. I feel that it is rare to find women in media that are unlikeable, but also with understandable motivations. I definitely don’t agree with every action she takes, but she always acts in the way that she thinks is best, the way that she thinks will secure the safety of the ship and the crew.

So when the ship starts getting taken over by The Many, she believes it falls to her to stop them. Her motivations are very clear, and she makes some very militant decisions (arguably the wrong ones) in order to keep the peace on board the ship while everything is spiraling out of control. She orders fully-armed turrets to be set up, and when they are hacked, tries to get them offline. She personally tracks down the man who hacked them and executes him. She enforces martial law, locks down several sections of the ship and orders her security personnel to kill anyone who gets in their way.

If anybody is found to be interfering with the normal operations of this ship or impedes the work of the security forces they will be shot on the spot.

She follows through on that threat and murders several potentially innocent people. All in an attempt to regain control of the ship and do what she thinks is right. Let me be clear: I am not saying that her conviction in her own actions makes them the right actions. What I am saying is that there are few female characters in video games who make the wrong choices–for what they believe are the right reasons–and have the conviction to stand by them till the end. This conviction meant that her battle against The Many could only end with her death or her triumph. And appropriately, she is fatally wounded in a last-stand firefight, during which she leaves a final message to the player. Even the message itself tells the player to never concede. She never compromises, even when everyone else hates her, even when she knows everyone else hates her, and it costs her her life. I wish there were more characters like Bronson: very different from the roles that women are usually put into. For me, Bronson is a breath of fresh air.

Bronson's Last Stand
“They’ve killed my men and now they’ve killed me. […] This is bigger than my little life, the lives of my men and the lives of the people I was forced to kill. Resist. Humanity demands it! Resist!”
  • AndyB
  • Andy B has an Anthropology-Computing background and as such, is accustomed to bridging the gap between social issues and technology.