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‘Resident Evil 7’ and the Portrayal of Mia Winters

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If you haven’t finished Resident Evil 7 yet or intend to play it at a later date, come back to this article after you’re familiar with the whole story. ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

The latest entry in the successful franchise, Resident Evil 7 (subtitled Biohazard in the West) left fans skeptical when it was first announced at least year’s E3. The change in perspective was a bold move from Capcom, but despite the risks, the final release has proven to be a major success. Criticism seems to focus mostly on the game’s overall feel and lack of character development (or rather slow development, as we do get to know the Bakers a little more through files). Almost two weeks after the release, however, and few to no people seem to have given Mia Winters any credit besides the damsel in distress.

It’s difficult to blame players for perceiving Mia solely as such when developers deliberately made it so. As soon as protagonist/caring husband Ethan arrives in the Baker property and finds his missing wife, it’s clear that she’s been through some hell in the past three years. She seems ill, both physically and mentally, but it doesn’t take long until that perception is thrown out of the window.

The second half of the prologue, which takes place in the eerie house from the Beginning Hour demo, has Mia and Ethan in a clumsy dance, as she shifts from indefensible and nurturing to inhumanly strong and homicidal. It becomes obvious that she’s being controlled by another entity, or as it’s explained later, a very particular bio-weapon that she was supposed to safeguard and terminate should things get out of hand.

Resident Evil 7

Mia and Zoe

Eveline, the creepy little girl created to pose as an unsuspecting weapon in wars and domestic conflicts, sees in Mia the mother figure she never had. Winters’ employees specifically mention that the girl needs this sort of bond, which is why she is tasked with guarding her whilst dodging competitors who were concerned with Eveline’s existence. Simply put, everything that happens in Resident Evil 7 and the reason why Ethan was drawn to the Baker estate at all is that Eveline formed a deep bond with Mia.

This suggests a few interesting aspects of RE7, whether they were intended or not. First, it enforces the idea that women are always more likable and relatable than men, as seen with how Alan Douglas, Mia’s coworker, refers to Eveline. Their troubled relationship and the man’s ultimate fate leave the notion that Alan was what some people think of men: too tough to demonstrate affection, too manly to care for someone else. This idea is also seen on Ethan, because although he traveled all the way to Louisiana to find his missing wife, he’s emotionless for most of the game. For most of the prologue, but especially when he’s fighting off Mia, Ethan says nothing. There are only a handful of comments regarding her state, and many missing opportunities for character development afterward. We don’t get to see her for a long time, and when they’re finally reunited, she receives little attention.

That’s when the game’s poor character development starts to pick up. After defeating Jack Baker for good, Ethan gets to choose who receives the serum shot that remained after the conflict with the patriarch. Whoever he chooses, the next section has players taking control over Mia. The change is unexpected seeing as how her usefulness early on came from the infection, but as she explores the stranded ship and remembers what happened three years prior, the second aspect of the title becomes clear: Mia Winters is a badass. She received military training and was physically capable all along. As she looks for Eveline, it’s obvious that she is not a damsel in distress and that her previous situation can be attributed to Eveline’s control over her. Winters is a powerful woman who “gets shit done” without hesitation.

Since she’s such a badass that this begs the question: why did she have to be the damsel in distress? Why did she, alongside Alan, have to be written in such a way that she’s the figure Eveline bonds with? Why not make it so Ethan is supposedly a great father and is charged with taking care of Eveline with a woman the girl doesn’t like that much? Why couldn’t we have played the majority of the game as the capable Mia instead of the obvious husband?

Resident Evil 7

Jill Valentine in her last leading role, accompanied by Parker Luciani and later, Chris Redfield.

This may sound like your typical feminist talk, but when we stop to think about it, when was the last time a woman was the sole protagonist of a Resident Evil game? Besides Jill Valentine on 3, that never happened again, as they were mainly accompanied by men. The spin-off Revelations 2 at least had Claire and Moira as the leading characters, however, Barry (who hasn’t appeared since the first entry in the franchise) also plays a relevant role. Resident Evil 6 had a whole campaign dedicated to Ada Wong, but it served to support Leon’s.

It’s too much to accuse developers of misogyny. It’s common for some writers to work with their own gender, as the experiences brought by it are more familiar to them. That doesn’t have to translate into a strong word such as misogyny; it only means that that’s what the writer is most familiar with. Still, it’s curious that fan favorite Jill Valentine is only relevant in two installments (and a DLC for another), or that Rebecca Chambers only had a prominent role in Resident Evil 0 and now will serve as the damsel in distress in the upcoming CG movie Vendetta.

There’s no denying that the women of Resident Evil are great protagonists, and that fans would love to see them leading the fight once again. So why has Capcom been focusing on male-centered plots, especially with Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy? Why not change the pace once again and charge Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Sherry Birkin, or even Moira Burton with defeating the baddies in Resident Evil 8, whenever that may happen? Fans would be pleased with a main entry that doesn’t focus so much on the obvious heroes from Resident Evil 4 and 5, as well as 6.

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn't grow up with video games as many of his colleagues did. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Noble Alfred

    February 7, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Wow. I really don’t know what to say to people like you. Just because something inherently fits a trope doesn’t make it misogynistic. You reading too much into it and asking it to be changed simply because you view it as such is most certainly misogynistic.

    And you answered your own question. RE7’s aim was to portray the player as weak and powerless, obviously playing as Mia would mean it won’t capture that feeling.

    Also, your accusation to a franchise with badass female characters and always had at the very least 1 female protagonist in every game till this one is downright insulting. And you seem quick to dismiss the females in 6 because they aren’t independent. Please tell me who exactly is the misogynistic one here.

    • Jessie

      February 8, 2017 at 5:51 am

      “It’s too much to accuse developers of misogyny. It’s common for some writers to work with their own gender, as the experiences brought by it are more familiar to them. That doesn’t have to translate into a strong word such as misogyny; it only means that that’s what the writer is most familiar with.”

  2. Amith Thomas

    February 8, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Atleast you didn’t accuse them of misogyny. Basically you want a game where you play as a female protagonist, and that’s fine. That’s up to the devs.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Dark Souls’

Despite the difficulty and learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the Dark Souls series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers.

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Dark Souls Remastered Review Nintendo Switch

Over the course of the last decade a lot of games have made large and influential impacts on the medium of gaming but few have done so as significantly or triumphantly as Dark Souls

The pseudo-sequel to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls took the framework of the original title and altered it considerably. Gone were the many individual stages and hub area, replaced by a massive open world that continuously unfolded, via shortcuts and environmental changes, like a massive metroidvania style map. 

Dark Souls also doubled down on nearly every aspect of the original. The lore and world-building were elaborated on considerably, making the land of Lordran feel more lived in and expansive. An entire backstory for the game, one that went back thousands of years, was created and unfolded through small environmental details and item descriptions. 

Dark-Souls-Remastered-Darkroot-Garden

The bosses were bigger, meaner and more challenging, with some of them ranking right up there with the best of all time. Even standard enemies seemed to grow more deadly as the game went on, with many of them actually being bosses you’d faced at an earlier time in the game. Tiny details like this didn’t just make the player feel more powerful, they added to the outright scale of the entire game.

Still, if we’re here to talk about the biggest influence Dark Souls had on the gaming world, we have to talk about the online system. While the abilities to write messages and summon help were available in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls improved on and enhanced these features to the point where they changed the game considerably. 

The wider player base made the online components work more consistently as well. Rarely were players left standing around for 15-20 minutes waiting to summon or be summoned for a boss fight. There were more messages on the ground to lead (or mislead) players, and the animated spirits of dead players warned of the hundreds of ways you might die while playing through the game. 

Dark Souls

The addictive nature of the game and its rewarding gameplay loop would lead to the establishment of the Souls-like genre. Like with metroidvania, there are few compliments a game can receive that are as rewarding as having an entire genre named for them.

Since 2011, the year of Dark Souls’ release, dozens of Souls-likes have emerged from the ether, each with their own little tweaks on the formula. Salt and Sanctuary went 2D,The Surge added a sci-fi angle, and Nioh went for a feudal Japanese aesthetic, to name just a few. 

Either way, Dark Souls’ influence has been long felt in the gaming industry ever since. Despite the hardcore difficulty and intense learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers. For this reason alone, Dark Souls will live on forever in the annals of gaming history. 

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Game Reviews

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

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Earthnight

In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

“[Earthnight is] an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”

Earthnight

Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.

Earthnight

At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.

Earthnight

Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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