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[Gamer Diary] Isaac’s Lament: Treacherous Women

2012 February 22
The character Isaac Clarke, crouched down with his hand up to his head and a weapon in his other hand. Image shared under Fair Use guidelines.

Isaac doesn't like Spoilers either

Before you go any further, I’m going to issue you all with a SPOILER WARNING for both Dead Space and Dead Space 2.  Although neither of these are new releases, we all know that not everyone plays a game as soon as it hits the market.  If you have intentions of playing either game and don’t want to know what happens… quickly click this link to escape to the relative safety of some pictures of baby rabbits.  Go now, and never look back!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Dead Space franchise, it’s a horror/sci-fi universe that spans more than just games – there are also animated films that tell us parts of the story.  I’m just going to look at the games, though, which focus on our protagonist Isaac Clarke in our two space vessel settings: the USG Ishimura vessel and the Sprawl.  In the first game, the Ishimura drops out of contact with, well, everyone – and nobody knows why.  Isaac and his shipmates are sent on a rescue mission as it is believed the Ishimura crew have just had a bit of damage to their communications array or somesuch.

Not so.  Long story cut very over-simplistically short, all the crew have either a) gone loopy, b) been killed, or c) turned into necromorphs.  These are horrible scary alien things that loosely resemble what might once have been human.  Isaac gets separated from his crew, who promptly start dying off while he tries to find out what’s going on and how to escape.  Moving towards the end, there’s three of Isaac’s team left (himself included)… then there are two.  Isaac and his female crewmate Kendra Daniels.

She’s been helping to guide him on all his trekking about the Ishimura as they try to deal with the shitstorm of scary things.  They discover this thing called the Marker has been causing all the bad stuff and have to transport it back to the planet below for any hope of survival.  BUT THEN.

Kendra betrays you.  She’s actually intending to take the Marker back to civilisation for the government and the Church of Unitology (who seem to think the Marker will raise them up… or something).  Don’t worry though; she dies. It’s OK, the nasty traitorous lady gets splattered by a giant alien.  So, you know, she deserved it.

Fast forward to Dead Space 2 and now we’re in the Sprawl.  Isaac is being held in some description of government institution for the psychologically unstable.  After a traumatic session, in your little cell, in your straight jacket: something is wrong!  Someone bursts in and tries to free you, but his head gets skewered from behind – NECROMORPHS EVERYWHERE.  You run around in your straight jacket for a while until you are sliced free.

Over the comms comes a woman’s voice, saying she’ll help you escape the necromorph threat if you follow her instructions.  Super, right?  A nice kindly person wants to help you not get dead.  Realistically, Isaac should’ve gotten suspicious as soon as she led him through an infested Unitologist Church… you’ve guessed it!  She too is a treacherous baddie!

Now, I hope you can forgive me for not really explaining the story properly, but what I wanted you to know was that Isaac really seems to have terrible luck when it comes to trusting people.  Or, more importantly: trusting women.  I find it a bit more serious than an unfortunate coincidence that the two people who most obviously betray him are women.  Surely this concept is a bit tired by now?

This ridiculous notion that ‘we must not trust the womens or they will betray us and bad things will happen’ has been around for thousands of years and yet here we are in the 21st century still being subjected to it.  Why is that?

Let’s look into the past.  If we consider the medium of ‘a game’ to be a new way of storytelling, perhaps we’re experiencing old tropes that are merely being reimagined into this burgeoning format.  If we look back, a long way into history, at Clytemnestra and Helen (of Troy fame), these two women were, in certain versions of their tales, manipulative, deceitful and traitorous.  What happened as a result of their treachery?  Bad things, that’s what.

Through the centuries storytelling has evolved but often still has its roots in these ancient tales – in more ways than just this example – so why should games be different?

Another way to view these female characters and their actions plays out in a more positive light: they are ‘strong women’ with important roles, independently-minded enough to choose their own paths, which also involves being smarter than all the men around them in order to remain trusted or to be able to give the orders.

So how should we see it?  Archaic retelling of worn-out old storylines, casting women as dubious, underhanded Judases or powerful, intelligent and self-assured women who just happen to be baddies?

Or does it even matter, seeing as they both end up dead anyway?

One Response leave one →
  1. north5 permalink
    February 23, 2012

    Seems to me like just laziness in games design. WOW HEY WHO WOULD SUSPECT A WOMAN TO BETRAY HIM ITS LIKE THE ULTIMATE UNEXPECTED TWIST HAHAHA. They’re playing on the more established game trope of woman-as-loyal-accessory (would Zelda betray Link? Nope.) and “cunningly” subverting it.

    Does it matter? Yes.

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