Has anyone else thought about Aloy’s appearance in Horizon Zero Dawn? (Just so you know, regardless of what I say in this post, I’m still in love with Aloy. Also, this post will probably not be as coherent as it could be, but it’s late so…)Anywho. Aloy, while the perfect blend of independence and snark, is a physically interesting character. I mean look at her:
She’s young, beautiful, and a redhead. A redhead! I am blanking on the last time I saw a redheaded lead character in a video game. Besides the hair, Aloy is relatively unique because she is a female protagonist in a video game. Yay!
However, getting to the point of this post, I’ve read a few comments on the interwebs discussing how Aloy looks weird or odd because the game puts off a “tribal” vibe and a white character doesn’t seem to fit with that. I don’t really understand that thought only because everyone on earth was affected by the apocalyptic events in Horizon. It only makes sense that everyone, white people included, would experience a kind of “wipe”-without the technology and knowledge that they once had, humanity was rebooted in a way where everyone had to suddenly start surviving off the land again or die. They became hunters, reorganized socially, and did whatever it took in an effort to survive. Now, I’m not saying that technology alone gives a society worth or that “tribal societies” are somehow inferior. I’m only saying that everyone was impacted by the apocalyptic events of the game and had to start over in many ways.
But, if you were to look at the game and its marketing material as hinting at Native Americans or other native peoples, then sure, Aloy would look weird in that frame. What is a white, red headed woman doing dressed the way she is? Why does she use a bow? It would be jarring, but the context of the game doesn’t seem to fit that narrative, not in my mind at least. So take my opinion as you will. While I was pleased that the game stars a female protagonist, it would have been even more interesting if Aloy wasn’t white, but that’s another topic.
While I don’t think Aloy’s appearance is especially out of place given the game’s context, the same kind of questioning could be made of Far Cry Primal‘s Takkar.
He looks like a white wilder-man going for a majestic mane and facial hair, but he’s still a white dude in a game set in prehistoric times (I can’t remember if the game specifies a date so feel free to help me out there). In the meantime, some of the other characters in Primal look like the following:
I know, they’re from different tribes. But come on. If we were to trim up that beard and give Takkar a haircut he’d look like an average guy walking around today. I’m not saying that Takkar’s appearance is necessarily offensive, but the choice of using white males as protagonists in video games is both standard and stale. Now, if the protagonist of Far Cry Primal looked like the woman above that would be a different and unique choice.
Again, it’s late and my mind might not be right, but I think that the appearance of a game’s protagonist should fit the nature and context of the story instead of being solely based on the developer’s bias or the expectations of the audience. I know that it might not matter as much in first-person games where, barring a reflection or cut scene, the protagonist is rarely seen, but not knowing what the protagonist looks like is a rarity in gaming these days. Should more thought be given to how video game protagonists look?
I think there’s a lot more that could be said about this topic and that I have not done it justice at all. I would be interested in looking into such protagonists more. What other games star protagonists who might be considered narratively jarring considering the game’s context?