22 February 2016 @ 03:49 pm
on villains and heroines  
I love talking about narratives, and I kinda need to get this out of my system at the moment.

So recently I've been watching playthroughs of Shadow of the Colossus again. That game is still as stunning and poignant as ever, if not more. One thing I noticed, however, is how I view it rather differently now. It's going to be littered with spoilers here and there, as usual I changed the font color to white, so you've been warned.

Basically, the one that I viewed as the villain when I first knew the game... is no longer a villain after I got into it again. And now that I've watched the playthrough again, that view is being reaffirmed. What is a villain, anyway, when all these characters are basically just pursuing their own motives?

I felt that Shadow of the Colossus is a prime example in video game narrative of a world that can't simply be put into black and white. Or perhaps, because there is a lot of questions unanswered as well, especially regarding Dormin's motives. But what I'm trying to say here is how nobody is trying to destroy the world, nobody is tricking anyone -- Dormin was honest with Wander regarding the consequence, and Dormin did fulfill the agreement with Wander at the end. It's a simple transaction, give and take, and for players to paint Dormin as the "villain" is mainly because they did not expect what happened at the ending. Simply put, Wander wants Dormin to revive Mono, Dormin wants Wander as their new body. In the end they both got what they wanted. That's it. That's all. Even if it wasn't spelled word for word at the beginning of the game -- nobody is playing hero or villain here.

As for Lord Emon, well, let's leave him aside. He's actually a rather sad character in my opinion, only written to play as an expository character for Wander and Dormin, and to conclude the story. I wish he was written more like the narrator in Bastion, at least he felt more genuine and real.

The other case, is about how the heroine was basically useless through the whole game -- but I never felt bothered, or even called it the "another game made for the male gaze". In fact, Shadow of the Colossus still stands as one of my top 10 video games of all time. But why?

As we can see here, Mono served in the whole story as a motivation for Wander. Mono was already dead at the start of the game. Wander claimed that her life was sacrificed because she was cursed, and therefore he wanted to bring her back to life. That's why he went to Dormin. Everything in Shadow of the Colossus happened because of Mono. At first I thought, great, here's another damsel in distress again. But after finishing the game, I actually (kind of biasedly) see this trope in a new light.

I think one MAJOR savior for Mono was the fact that we know so little about her, and that Wander was killed off when she was brought back to life.

In most stories, we were fed with the relationship between the hero and the heroine before she got into trouble, and then he saved her and ta-da, live happily ever after. Developers do that for a good reason - so we feel the need to help or save the heroine, and after we do, we feel rewarded. Or at least we are supposed to feel that way. I often find this trope annoying, honestly, for example Kairi in Kingdom Hearts... At least Namine actually does something, and had her own character development. We'll leave that for another time, lol.

But for SotC, we had zero idea of who Mono actually is. She is very important to Wander, since he went to "the end of the world" and confront some unknown being to revive her. But we had no more details. She is blatantly placed as a passive female character, pretty and pristine and dead. I rolled my eyes and thought, oh what, is this going to be another power fantasy story? But no, because at the end even though Wander succeeded in resurrecting Mono -- he had to pay with his own. Additionally, because Wander goes from a normal boy into something less and less of a human as we killed more Colossi -- that added to the whole act on its own too. In a way, Shadow of the Colossus reversed the trope, it's calling for a price instead of a reward.


I have a lot of trouble pining this down when I first played SotC, honestly. I already had the impression that that was one of the most progressive games, but I could not figure out why. I'd love to discuss about this further, but I have no idea who else would be interested in discussing gender issues and had played SotC as well. :( Oh well, at least I got it out now.