As most of my regular readers and followers would know by now, I have a very big distaste for agenda pushing and politics in the entertainment industry be it in movies or in video games. And I will be the first to call out that type of bullshit when I see it, but having said that I am also against crying wolf or portraying something as being something it is clearly not, in the long run, it damages movements like Gamergate because to someone looking from the outside in. It seems we are willing to run after every white rabbit we see and jump down said rabbit hole at every opportunity we get. So when I read articles like these on oneangrygamer I can only shake my head. Making comparisons between two different type of games, developed by two different companies, one developed in a Western country and another in an Eastern country.
So should I be the first to point out the elephant out in this room regarding different design and story philosophies between these two games and companies? Any gamer worth their salt who would know and have noticed this if they played a fair amount of video games. I am not going to delve too deeply into the design differences because that is a whole different debate on its own. And not really the main reason why I am writing this article, but if you want some good reading material regarding the topic I would recommend heading over to cgmagonline and read their article entitled: “The divide between Eastern & Western game philosophy”. Which will give you a good idea of the different design and story philosophies between Eastern and Western developers. The only real similarities you can draw between these two games have is that they both feature female protagonists and post-apocalyptic settings.
So as someone who has spent more than 60+ hours in the game so far and busy with my second playthrough I want to highlight a few issues with the article. “She’s portrayed as being as dangerous and proficient as the Specters from Mass Effect, but with far less experience and at half their age.” If the writer of the article actually played the game the first 4-5 hours of the game showcases Aloy’s growth and the fact that she started training from the young age of six by her foster father Rost. And like I stated in my review of the game, she isn’t raised on a golden pedestal and she was definitely not being groomed by Rost her foster father for greatness. Instead of learning her skills to become a heroine, she learned her skills out of necessity and to be able to survive alone and as an outcast from society. It was learned out of a pure need for survival and not a want.
Only later does she start using these skills in a heroic fashion when her search for her mother ends up crossing paths with a much larger story. “Everyone in Horizon’s world also projects their admiration and adoration onto Aloy as a savior.” Yet again has the writer of this article even played and finished the game? She is an outcast from her tribe, looked down upon by everyone. Early on in the game, we learn that her tribe is not allowed to interact with her or speak with her, or face punishment from the tribe. And at one point get’s attacked by the village kids for being an outcast. She had to complete a trail to gain access to the village and even then she was shunned by most of her people and the village matriarchs for being a motherless child.
And during the hunting lodge missions and many other missions, people refer to Aloy as being barbarian or animal and is constantly being reminded of her heritage and status as an outcast. “Aloy is rarely ever in danger, and even when she does end up in a pickle, we know she’s going to get out somehow… and she does!” Again if you played the game on anything normal and above running into a fight unprepared meant a quick death for Aloy, especially if you ran into your first “ThunderJaw” or “RockBreaker”. Also, doesn’t every story of a hero end up with them getting out of a tight spot or surviving against all odds? How is it different from Nier or any other story where you play the hero? “In Horizon: Zero Dawn, the player is the recipient of the developer’s intentions to convey the values of Aloy in how she shapes the world of Horizon”.
Aloy does not shape the post-apocalyptic she is in, yes her action shapes the outcome but she has no control over the world she lives in. She is a young motherless woman looking for her mother and answers while trying to find her place in the world when the only life she knew was that of an outcast. That was what the developers of Horizon were trying to convey. “Majority of the people you come across in peril will be incompetent or have servile personalities.” This is now the third time the writer of the article has made it clear he did not play the game. Most people you come across in role-playing games that need your help are incompetent, that is why they ask the hero or in this case, the heroine’s help. If all the NPC’s in a video game were competent people and fighters then there would be no need for a hero or heroine in a story.
“Only one character who aids Aloy stays somewhat independent and autonomous as far as the narrative is concerned, a character named Sylens.” Yet again another statement based off not playing the game. So just off the top of my head: Rost, Erend, Olin, Varl, Sona, Nil and Talanah and I am pretty sure I missed a few. All these characters have their own needs and motivations during the course of the story. For example, Talanah’s motivation is becoming “Sunhawk” which is basically the head of the hunting lodge. You even help her later to take down “Redmaw“ a legendary ThunderJaw in the same vain as the white whale from Moby Dick. And then there is Nil, a hunter of bandits who’s only concern is proving himself to be the strongest there is, which later culminates into a fight with Aloy.
“Some people have noted that the men in Horizon are portrayed as emasculated and weak, and it’s mostly true. The most noteworthy warriors in the game are women.” Again not true, Rost, Olin, Nil and Erand comes to mind. I already mentioned the example of Nil. But having said that the world Aloy lives in is a Matriarchal society so of course, the woman will also feature as noteworthy warriors it fits in with the theme and story of the game. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. “In fact, the world is thrown asunder due to (white) male greed and ambition, and only a woman is able to save the world” No no no! Fuck you, now you are just being disingenuous as fuck, never once does it get mentioned in the game that it was due to white male greed. If you read the log files and holograms you find during the course of the game you would know this.
And nowhere during the course of the game does it tell you that only a woman can save the world. And yes, the villain is a white male, but so what? There are plenty of white male villains in video games, why should this one be any different? “The first time includes wiping out the evil white man’s machines, the second time is restoring the world’s ecosystem, and the third time involves Aloy saving the planet.” Again race, sex or color is never mentioned even once. I cannot go into more detail regarding the rest of the comment because it contains massive spoilers for the ending. But those who played and finished the game would know that comment is utter bullshit, and flat out shows the writer did not play the game till its conclusion.
“The body count is extremely small when it comes to the robosaurs killing people, and the majority of the violent deaths happen at the hands of other humans.” Yet another flat out dishonest lie, entering the second part of the map a few hours into the game, Aloy is tasked with hunting and killing a “Sawtooth” in “The Point of the Spear” said Sawtooth completely massacred and destroyed an entire village. Then there are various missions where you need to defend different villages from robots who were attacking and killing villagers. This includes a side quest “Fatal Inheritance” where an entire family including their servants were slaughtered by machines. So no the body count is not extremely small as the writer makes it out to be. But in the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn, humans also pose a threat to humanity and its survival. As they do in most post-apocalyptic settings.
“Even when you compare Aloy to other characters, she doesn’t go through anywhere near the same kind of hardships or ordeals that they go through, nor does she have any particular difficulty in her journey.” So her growing up without a mother is not hardship? Being exiled and growing up alone without friends or family is not hardship? Being treated as an outcast and an animal by her fellow tribesmen and woman is not hardship? “Even still. it’s hard to feel much for a character when her journey was essentially mothering other less capable characters and simply becoming more powerful than everyone in the land.” You just described every single fucken video game hero/heroine in existence. No one wants to see a wimpy, whiney weak bodied hero save the day. They want to see their hero grow and become stronger as they progress through the game.
Bullshit, disingenuous poorly researched articles like these piss me off just as much as the agenda pushing Social Justice Warriors trying to insert themselves into video games and other popular cultures. Clearly, the writer of this article desperately wanted the game to have a feminist agenda so much so that he tried to compare it to another game that has been in the spotlight recently due to the Social Justice Warriors finding umbrage due to the ass cleavage on display during the course of the game. The “strong independent woman” angle does not always equal some sort of hidden agenda being pushed by feminists. Clearly, the writer of the article does not like the character of Aloy. But trying to find something that is not there so you can find fault with it is being disingenuous. There is plenty to fault the game for, but Aloy being a Mary Sue or the game portraying some feminist agenda is not one of them.