Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jade: An Enlightened Character.

Throughout much of their history, Video games have been marketed to boys and young men. A majority of the most popular game franchises in the world (Super Mario Bros., Call Of Duty, The Legend Of Zelda, etc.) revolve around boys and men living out fantasies that appeal to them. Even the most popular female characters (Samus Aran or Laura Croft) are just avatars made to be projected on. There are almost no interesting, strong female characters that are the stars of a game. 
 Jade, from UbiSoft's Beyond Good And Evil, is one of those rare characters that makes one think. 
 One of the ways that game developers slip in female characters is by making them "one of the guys". Gears Of War, for example, does feature female characters; the only problem with these women is they are essentially treated as faceless men with breasts. Jade is not, at all, like "one of the guys". She is an excellent martial artist who can do some real damage with a jō, but at the same time she isn't unrealistically strong or powerful. Her strength comes from her agility and speed. In that way, Jade feels not only like a woman you could relate with- but an actual person; there is something refreshing about controlling a character that doesn't crush spinal columns with a single strike. Instead of relying on brute force, Jade uses stealth and intelligence to stay alive and get ahead.
 The first time you see Jade, she is meditating with one of her charges (an orphan). In just a few moments of cutscenes one of Jade's defining features is inferred: she has a passion for truth. She seems to be enlightened in a Buddhist sense; Jade is a master of self-control and meditation. Unlike many cartoonish video game women (think JRPG characters) she never flies off the handle, or loses control- even when everything is falling apart around her. Her clear interest in truth and understanding of the world informs her profession; she is a government reporter armed with a camera. The whole drive of the game comes not only from external sources (the advances of the propagandizing Alpha Sections against the planet of Hillys) but from Jade's quest to obtain real evidence of the truth. 
 Finally, the third interesting part of Jade's personality is intertwined with her own inner enlightenment and understanding of the world. She loves her family. Every time she talks to her "Uncle" Pey'j, you can tell their bond is something unique in games. Their rapport is, on the surface, witty and fun; below the surface one can tell that Jade loves her pig uncle. When they hug or touch the game goes a long way to make players see how much deeper their relationship is than any other I can think of in video games. Jade also treats the orphans she takes in like her family, as they are the only family (besides Pey’j) she has.
Her entire life is devoted to helping the children of her lighthouse orphanage and discovering truth. She is an intellectual character, an emotional character- an important character.

No comments:

Post a Comment