Post Script

Why Guer­rilla’s fic­tional ma­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety sets a new stan­dard for videogame nar­ra­tives

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Last year, Sony pres­i­dent of world­wide stu­dios Shuhei Yoshida re­vealed that con­cerns were raised in­ter­nally about the po­ten­tial risk of launch­ing Hori­zon with a fe­male lead. Guer­rilla, de­spite mov­ing out­side of its FPS com­fort zone, stuck to its guns.

Aloy is fierce, de­ter­mined, out­spo­ken and dressed for the weather. But she also has real per­son­al­ity and char­ac­ter­ful flaws. Her backstory, which sees her re­jected from her tribe for not hav­ing a mother, and crav­ing the fa­mil­ial bonds that she is forced to watch other chil­dren en­joy from a dis­tance, is a mov­ing one, but it feeds into who she grows up to be – a highly ca­pa­ble sur­vival­ist and war­rior who is both kind­hearted and self­less. None of these char­ac­ter traits have any­thing to do with her sex, how­ever, and the fact that she is a woman is an at­tribute that feels re­fresh­ingly in­ci­den­tal when it comes to what de­fines her char­ac­ter.

But Aloy’s sex does have pointed rel­e­vance in Hori­zon’s story, and within Guer­rilla’s fic­tional ma­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety. Moth­er­hood is sa­cred in this world, and to be with­out that bond is tan­ta­mount to a sin. Aloy’s very per­sonal prob­lem re­sults in the shun­ning she ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up, and drives her to be­come self-suf­fi­cient. These tra­di­tions are up­held by the trio of fe­male shamen who lead the Nora tribe in wor­ship­ing All Mother, a fer­til­ity god­dess who they be­lieve gave new life to the world af­ter the apoca­lypse. While one of the three has a soft spot for Aloy, and steps in as a dis­tant mother fig­ure spo­rad­i­cally, in a com­mu­nity so driven by the con­cept of ma­ter­nity the cause of Aloy’s pain and re­jec­tion is thrown into even sharper fo­cus. Her des­per­a­tion to find out who her mother was, and her sub­se­quent search for that in­for­ma­tion, trig­gers the cas­cad­ing events that take her well be­yond the Nora tribe’s small patch of land.

But con­vinc­ing fe­male char­ac­ters aren’t con­fined to Aloy and the shamen. There are all man­ner of women lead­ing armies and tribes, hold­ing po­si­tions of power that more typ­i­cally fea­ture male in­cum­bents in videogames. And it’s all so deeply em­bed­ded within the cul­ture of the world and, for the most part, free of lazy stereo­types that it feels just as nat­u­ral as it should.

Aloy is the kind of hero we can all look up to, and the kind of videogame char­ac­ter more de­vel­op­ers should as­pire to cre­ate. The artis­tic merit of Guer­rilla’s cre­ation is un­likely to calm the nerves of pub­lish­ers in an in­dus­try so fo­cused on white, male pro­tag­o­nists, but if Hori­zon can make a de­cent re­turn, per­haps the idea of pow­er­ful women will be less ter­ri­fy­ing a prospect to the peo­ple in charge of fund­ing projects such as this.

The fact that Aloy is a woman is an at­tribute that feels re­fresh­ingly in­ci­den­tal when it comes to what de­fines her

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