Paradigm shift


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Warning: the following discusses semi-adult themes and materials in blunt language.

A paradigm shift describes a fundamental change in a particular viewpoint.

So I had a thought the other day that completely derailed my train of thinking about Crusader: what if the Captain is a woman?

Now hear me out.  I actually started thinking about it and managed to fanwank several pieces of evidence against it into being, at worst, neutral (with a little twisting, some even became evidence for it).

The first and most obvious: the masculine build.  But that armor looks pretty obfuscating, and real athletic women rarely have particularly large breasts.  The ones that compete at Olympic level certainly either shed them or find themselves behind others despite a possibly higher level of talent.  Female gymnasts displaying great potential have had to quit before reaching the top tier of the sport, for example, because they simply can't get their cleavage to go away; the extra weight and its position throws them off balance.  Besides that, there are way too many female protagonists in video game with ridiculous tits already.  Time to break the mold.  Which is ironic, because the masculine-shaped armor is quite rigid.

Second: the numerous references to the character being male, from the occasional address of "sir" to Senator Snell's calling the Silencer "one man" to the Wizard's nickname of "Tin Man".  This is also easy to explain away.  "Sir" could have longed stopped being a gendered pronoun, at least in military service, by that time.  While most modern militaries have begun using "ma'am" as proper terms of address for female superior officers, speculative fiction is rampant with female officers not only being called "sir" but preferring it.  The various WEC personnel who assume the Silencer is male, from enemies saying "I have him in my sights" to Snell tremulously asking how "one man" would waltz through WEC security to Leach's lieutenant saying "he" may not be working alone don't know the Silencer at all.  They just see a hulking figure in red armor with a big gun.  The human brain still has that wired for "male", and I don't think two hundred years of rigidly enforced matriarchy would change the biological assumption, let alone the more or less egalitarian leadup to the future of Crusader.  Lastly, and to me most obviously, Wizard clearly has a sense of humor.  Why wouldn't he address a female Silencer as "Tin Man", for added irony, once he was sure she wasn't going to kill him for it?

Third: Aside from the above, no one ever refers to the Silencer with a gendered description.  Further, there is nothing indicating Silencers can't be female.  Even the mono-gender military forces the player faces can be wanked as being budgetary.  Oh, you want female soldiers, too?  Well, that doubles the rendering and sound file requirements for units.

Fourth: Resistance reaction.  It could be argued, though it is a stretch, that someone like Brooks, who has worked hard to become the respected and almost feared top NCO of her unit, would not like another woman suddenly swooping in with an officer's commission and a reputation of being one of the most dangerous human beings alive.  Meanwhile, Vargas, who seems very much the opposite of Brooks, has no trouble dealing with the idea of another powerful woman.  Why?  Because a) She's the mole.  (Spoiler alert.)  b) She is the Silencer's superior officer.

Fifth: The Silencer never speaks.  Why?  Well, the obvious advantages of a mute protagonist is that it allows the player to more readily identify with said protagonist.  It could, however, have been intended to lead up to the surprise of "Holy shit, it's a chick!"

Sixth: Physicality.  This one is easiest of all: whatever the hell is done with the Silencers, they're clearly barely human anymore.  Any biological limits there might have been due to gender would be removed.

Seventh: Voice.  This one is trickier.  After all, when the unshielded Silencer takes a hit, you hear a clearly masculine grunt of pain.  Except...well, everyone else seems to assume all Silencers are male, and while they might be even more equal-minded with regards to the sexes than we are, the people of the future might still have it hardwired (as noted above) that male = more scary than female, all other things being equal.  And to increase that, why not make all the Silencers sound the same?  It would not only make it harder to identify an individual Silencer, it would make them seem even more inhuman.  But then you come to...

Point eight:  In the opening cinematic, Vittek and Zurovec both have masculine voices...and they're different voices.

Well, shit.

Because going back to point seven, why make everyone sound male if you're not also going to make them sound exactly the same?  Maybe my mind doesn't work the right way, but it seems like there would be too much effort for too little gain, psychologically speaking.

So that put the kibosh on that.  I realized that unless she had a voice like Doctor Girlfriend from Venture Bros., there was no way the Captain was female.  That last point was simply too much of a stretch.  Even if I got the license, I wouldn't retcon Zurovec and Vittek's voices just to enforce my idea.

But let's ignore that, just for the sake of argument.  What if that wasn't too much of a stretch?  What if, say, studies had shown that a male voice is significantly more frightening than a female voice, even given the same tone and words?  What if the Silencer was female?  How would that play out if it were revealed in the next game?

First, she would not be sexual.  Far more than having an extremely fit body as opposed to a Lara-Croft-style pornstarlicious body, she would not think as a sexual being either.  She would be, I think, too damaged.  Maybe I read too much into it, but I don't see Silencers as the kind to get romantic or even physical.  They would have an almost Zen-like control over such urges, because a super-soldier who can't control that sort of thing isn't much of a super-soldier.  She, and other female Silencers, might even have forced hysterectomies early on to prevent them from ever getting pregnant should they prove to be weak enough to give in to any biological desires they may have.  So if you catch her staring at you, she's not interested in you beyond, "I wonder how many ways I could kill that?  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Eleven.  Twenty-nine.  Forty-two.  Eighty-seven.  Three hundred fourteen..."  This is not to say she could not be attractive--like it or not, electronic media with an outright ugly female protagonist simply would not sell well, at least not if the gender of the protagonist were known--or even that she would only ever be seen in full armor, but that the designer would work hard to make her more disturbing than enticing.  Even if you walked in on her coming out of the shower naked and wet, or in a sports bra and shorts exercising and all sweaty, rather than engaging one's "mate or masturbate" response, she would engage "fight or flight" mode.  Preferably flight.  (Similarly, if she did appear naked in the game, she would have no modesty and no rush to put clothes on; not for fanservice purpose, but for character development purpose.  I have this idea where all Silencers feel naked if they're not suited up in their armor, no matter how much they're wearing, so it would be no different to her than wearing cotton pants and t-shirt.)

Second, she would not be a victim.  I had mentioned in another thread that maybe they try to make Silencer into a more sociable person, taking him (now her) out to a hidden club they use to foment rebellion among younger people.  Perhaps someone tries to get too frisky.  Now, the standard response in drama from a woman being grabbed in a way she does not appreciate is to struggle free and then be uncomfortable for the rest of the night.  The response of the Silencer would be to break anything that touched her somewhere she didn't want, and possibly anything connected to that, and so on.  Best case scenario, the offender loses use of his arm.  She would then categorize it as an assault, learn what she could, and file it away in her memory, and forget about it.  She would not see the difference between physical assault and sexual assault because either way, it's an attack, and the proper response is swift and painful.  She would react no differently if someone punched her.

Third, any character in game who called into question her soldiering ability because she's a woman would not be beaten down.  They would, in fact, be ignored, as any extraneous data is.  I don't notice the carpet in my basement, because there would be no point.  If it ripped itself off the floor and tried to eat me, sure, I'd have to respond, but otherwise, it's carpet.  On the other hand, anyone who picked a fight with her because she's a woman might never leave the infirmary.

Fourth, the relationship between her and her fellow officers would shift slightly, if only from their perspective.

Fifth, people would still call her "sir" (and maybe Brooks would start calling her Tin Man, as much in jest as in memory of Wizard), in order to keep faith with previous games.

Finally, it wouldn't be revealed at the end.  Suddenly making the presumed-male armored protagonist a female at the end of the game is too blatant a ripoff of Metroid.  What I propose is that the gender would be revealed midway through the game...and none of the characters would react.  They would, of course, know, having worked and fought alongside her for months now.  The only surprise would be for the player.

So, there's my idea.  Laid out in anally detailed fashion, rather pathetic, given that I know it would never work and even given the option wouldn't put it into play.  Ah, well.  That's me.  Sometimes I just lock on to something and I won't let go.
Quite an interesting read, good to see you back.

We can look at more visual evidence. There's a rare death animation in No Remorse (not sure about No Regret) where you can actually see into his (her?) helmet, and see that he (she?) is blonde. The hair looks short and male-like. But that doesn't need to be taken into account, since probably military haircuts are probably still in effect then.

We can also go out of the game and read what the creators say about it. Beverly Garland, in the No Remorse strategy, when talking about the design of the Silencer, keeps referring to the Silencer as a "he". No need to take that into account either.
The above is mostly if there's a new game with the Silencer's appearance nailed down.  Part of the reason for characters being so ill-defined in older computer games, particularly shooters, is technology and budget.  When you have game budgets running into multiple millions of dollars, though, and development times of years, and technology like that of Mass Effect, such becomes easier.  The other reason is that shooters don't really need well-defined characters as long as the missions are some variant of "Go here and destroy this" and interaction between missions is kept to a minimum.  Also, the fewer defined characteristics a character has, the easier it is for players to identify with them.

Ideally, however, a new game would allow for some customization.  Eye color, skin color, some facial features, maybe even voice.  (However, the hair, at least, has been defined as pale in previous games; maybe that would stay.  I like that idea--stark white hair as a sort of marker for Silencers, making it harder for them to hide if they go rogue--they either stay in their armor, which marks them, go without it, and expose their hair, or wear something on their head, which can draw a little attention.)  Assuming a new game were made, though, Crusader has a very small built-in audience; a sequel that was true to the originals wouldn't quite be Halo, or Tomb Raider, anything else on the market I can think of.  This would likely result in a reduced budget, and one of the quickest ways to save money would be to cut down on things like texturing and extra models for a lead character that really won't change gameplay no matter what it looks like.

If it were reduced down to a single character model, skin, and voice, the above is my argument for making it female, but it's not enough to justify it, in my opinion.  It was just something I thought I'd float.
Great post. I have been a huge fan of the Phantasy Star series even before coming into contact with Crusader, that game also leaves a lot of room for speculation and is done so in similar fashion on a dedicated forum. I always love what people with creative minds like you come up with :) Especially if they take the time to find reasonable explanations.

Shadowen link said:
Fifth: The Silencer never speaks. 
Seventh: Voice. 
Point eight:  In the opening cinematic, Vittek and Zurovec both have masculine voices...and they're different voices.

I was wondering about this. As far as I recall the very first thing you hear in the intro cinematic is "What good'll that do?". I always found *that* voice to be both different from both Vittek and Zurovec. If I listen closely it goes like this:

"What good'll that do."
"Oh man, we shouldn't have let them go." <- That was a different voice and is Vittek, judging from the next response.
"Shut up Vittek, they were civilians not rebels." <-That is a different voice again and is Zurovec who now starts arguing with Vittek about what to do while the third Silencer (the Captain) remains silent and obviously notices something's wrong (a stalking Vetron).

I really think that this first sentence is spoken by the Captain. Not only is the voice different as far as I can recall, it wouldn't make any sense to be Zurovec. Clearly something is questioned. A group of people had been found who had to be terminated. It turned out to be innocent civilians, not rebels, so the Silencers refused, probably with Zurovec having the lead vote. I guess they are arguing about it, Vittek moaning they should have killed them, or at least did something, making our Silencer wondering what good that would have done, prompting Vittek to moan again and Zurovec stepping into the argument. That would not only make the Captain not an entire Silent protagonist, but this voice, distinct from Vittek and Zurovec also sounds very male. Of course, that would be no true evidence to a male gender. As you said, male voices might be found more intimidating and it's possible they built in voice distorters into Silencer helmets to distort their voice, giving them a more intimidating feature, especially for female Silencers.

Keenan Weaver link said:
The hair looks short and male-like. But that doesn't need to be taken into account, since probably military haircuts are probably still in effect then.

In regards to hair. I think that no matter what the policy on haircuts would be in the WEC military, short hair would be mandatory. Long hair would simply become impracticle with those close fitting suits and helmets. Hair would have to kept short at all times to make sure the helmet was comfortable enough. Imagine a Silencer (male or female) with a ponytail, I'd imagine that would yield issues with the suit.
I think even after reading through that the Captain is male.

Maybe one can think what he wants because the captain is like mentioned a character that never talks and doesnt show much of his personality or never reveals his face. So you can imagine yourself if the captain is a male or female.

But alone by his voice I clearly think he is Male, in No Regret you can hear that grunt sound even better ;)

Some would say that they could have something like a voice-distortion in their helmets or how its called but honestly I dont think so and dont see a reason for it.

Most likely every WEC military unit seem to be male and nobody of them seem to have distorted voices, it just sounds like they are wearing a helmet and if they say something its like you speak into a can. (ok there is vargas and leach but they are more like the superiors who tell the soldiers what to do :D )

Another thing worth mentioning is that we may go too much into detail with those kind of things, after all its just a video game. It could be that they wanted the player to choose to be male or female or like in most action games the character is male orientated so its a hero that they can identify with so they make everyone notice the male appearance.

I think they just didn't had the budget to do such things, and if one think about it it would need some extra video sequences and voices for the silencer if he would look/sound different. In the end they probably thought that it really isn't necessary.

There was also a women reviewing the game who also thought that he is male and said that it would be good if you could choose your gender.

Just my 2 cents  :)
The Silencer link said:
I really think that this first sentence is spoken by the Captain.

I don't.  Listen carefully.  It has that nasal tone shared by Vittek.  It's Vittek vetoing some suggestion or another.  In his vehemence, his voice has gone up a few pitches.

Lt.JC link said:
There was also a women reviewing the game who also thought that he is male and said that it would be good if you could choose your gender.

Yes, I've seen that review.  That's my point, in fact.  I was as much reviewing the viability of introducing a choice in another sequel as I was stating a theory that the Silencer is actually female.

Also, I want to reassure everyone that the idea is not in any way related to the quote in my signature.  Well, not entirely.  I just think warrior women are hot.  As for the quote, I think it really describes the Silencer's state of being.
Oh I forget to say about that first sentence in the intro.

I dont know who said it but the reason that it sounds different is just because they are in a tunnel/sewer and the first camera is a few meters away from them so you just hear the reverb or how its called and that can sound a bit different :)
I always thought the "I have a bad feeling about this" line was spoken by the main character in that intro video, since it zooms in on him.
Yeah that must be spoken by the captain.

Also on the english intro at least it sounds like he is kinda whispering it to himself :)
If you listen really carefully, I think "I've got a bad feeling about this" is, again, spoken by Vittek.  It makes sense in context, too.

"Look, we didn't find any Rebels, so we couldn't have let 'em go, right?"
"I know, I know, it's just...I've got a bad feeling about this."
I can't comment on the "I've got a bad feeling about this", I'd have to rewatch the intro again. I listened again to the start and I'm still not convinced that the very first line is Vittek.
Well, I always thought it was pretty conclusive that our captain is silent.  The first clear line "What good will that do?" is in the same voice as the second - which is Vittek.  However, now that I listen again there is a line which is very hard to make out just before that one.  I'm pretty sure the voice is Zurovek, but since it's so muffled there's always the possibility of it being the captain.

Here's the scripts for the intro.
Metroid: Other M has made it clear to me: if there is a sequel eventually made by a big-time studio, we must push for the option to choose male or female, because after Other M, gamers need a strong female character in armor to remind them what Samus used to be like. :p