Ladies I have Loved: Luger
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.
“And she just so happens to be awesome.” I laughed out-loud when I read this. Also what did you mean by “she is equal to all the others on the team. She is never questioned because she’s a woman … At the same time, the game is clear on her being woman; she doesn’t feel like a male character with female pronouns.”? I know that femshep is used commonly as an example of a male character with female pronouns, but at the same time I find it interesting that they can acknowledge a female character in a post-sexist world and not have it fall into the femshep-trap.
What’s the femshep trap?
What I believe Sarah means is that Femshep isn’t any different from ManShep, other than some pronoun changes and romance options. However, I’m a bit uncomfortable with a term like “femshep-trap”, it sounds like something bad. Unless we’re going to define “manshep-trap” as well, the male will be made the “default” as only female characters could fall into this trap. Personally, I think that Commander Shepard is a gender-neutral character, which ManShep and FemShep are based on. This does mean that FemShep is still somewhat genderless, just with female pronouns. But to diminish her because of that seems to impose limits on what kinds of characters female ones are allowed to be. I was the one who said: “male character with female pronouns”, but I’d like to clarify that such a character isn’t necessarily bad. Just that Luger isn’t one of them.
As for your question Sarah, Luger just feels like a woman to me. It’s hard to explain. Perhaps being written as female from the start means she exhibits certain tropes that I still subconsciously presume to be more feminine, yet ones that are not blatantly sexist. I wouldn’t say that it’s a post-sexist world, entirely. There does seem to be some sexism involved, however Luger overcomes it by deciding to be her own person instead of being content to be Jan’s sweetheart. And although Jan seems to be uncomfortable with who she is now, he never questions her competence. The game does not compel the player to sympathize with him over her change either. I felt that was more about how stuck in the past Jan is. One of the other characters even dryly muses that Luger is a much better person as she is now.
That’s actually super awesome about Luger. And as for my def of “femshep trap” I was just think about how developers often design the male character first and the female protagonist is often just a duplicate with a female body, or forgotten about entirely. However it does comfort me to imagine shepard’s awesomeness as a pre-designed gender neutral.
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