October 24th, 2005

In the past, no one has really cared much about women in Halo. Sure, every so often, you’ll hear someone ask, “Why aren’t there any chicks?” But for the most part, it’s a male world – both for the Spartans and the Elite – and they like it that way. No need to shoot fancy for the ladies; no need to give a damn how your hair looks under that helmet.

Some of us, myself included, have always been optimistic that maybe those gender-ambiguous suits contained people (and aliens) of both sexes. Apparently not.

Now, with screens from the upcoming Dead or Alive 4, we can see what women Spartans would actually look like – that is, a little more room in the hips and some carefully placed boob-padding. This new, female model has caused something of a stir.

We could ask, Why is she appearing now? But no one seems so interested in that. Instead, everyone, I mean everyone, just wants to take off her helment.

Why? On the one hand, I understand: men like women (at least these men) and that they’re excited about another blond bombshell, a high-res Samus Aran, to satisfy their fantasies. But heterosexual women have been playing Halo with male Spartans for years, and no one’s sent up cat-calls for a peek under their masks.

Sure, some people have speculated about the face of Master Chief – but when he was male, we didn’t care so much about his physical appearance, his actual identity. Now that there’s a woman on the horizon, it’s all that we can think about. Is it really as simple as wanted a glimpse of another beautiful lady? Or are we just scared by the prospect of a woman whose face we cannot see, who we cannot qualify and compartmentalize through beauty – especially when that woman steps into a traditionally male-empowering realm, like video games?

A person who wears a veil of any kind exists, in many respects, outside the boundaries of judgement and society. Maybe we can’t deal with that kind of power when wielded by a woman. We want to set ourselves at ease; we want to know: what’s behind the mask?

Tags: Blog

19 Responses to “Mrs. Master Chief: Taking off the Mask”

  1. FerrousBuller Says:

    Boy, wouldn’t it be funny if she turned out to be, like, some hideously scarred cyborg? HA! Teach those fanboys to be careful what they wish for – not EVERY girl-bot is gonna look like Tricia Helfer, dudes. :-)

  2. Bonnie Says:

    That really would be wonderful. She can kick your butt, and she’s ugly. The worst of all worlds.

  3. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    …wouldn’t she be “Mistress Chief”?

    And I’m totally into the scarred cyborg idea, even though I have no idea who Tricia Helfer is. -sj

  4. Bonnie Says:

    How about just “La Maitresse”? – get a little naughty school teacher in there with your extra-marital connotations. As for Tricia Helfer, I assume somebody, well, hot. Let’s see… Yup, as I figured: type it into google and you get porn (ish). Personally, a little skinny for my tastes.

  5. FerrousBuller Says:

    Jeez, does nobody around here watch neo-Battlestar Galactica? Seriously: what kinda poseur NERDS are you guys? ;-)

  6. Bonnie Says:

    So true, so true :-).

  7. Melchoir Says:

    I think its one of those things like this quote:

    If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential – for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints; possibility never.”

    -Soren Kierkegaard

    I think things are viewed like that. The mystery of a woman behind a mask is sometimes more exciting then seeing the women. The possiblities are what keeps us interested. Behind that mask, she can be anyone’s/ur own dream girl. Once u put a face on her, its over, it becomes the definition of beauty, by the artist who created that image.

    As for why women dont have the same interest in seeing Master chief’s face. I would naturally assume, with his voice, he’d be some sort of fatherly type with a ‘hard” face. Someone like Clint Eastwood type. And i mean who would be attracted to that?

  8. Bonnie Says:

    I’m sure someone out there thinks Clint Eastwood is hot. In fact, I’m sure there a lots of someones :-).

    You make an interesting point, that what’s masked is more interesting than what’s known. But I think it’s a least one level more complicated than that. We don’t seem to be content with the idea of the thrilling unknown – we want to know. In this case, we literally want to see what’s under the mask (I mean, not me personally, but us as a gaming community). So, while we’re excited by the mystery of the unknown, we want the gratification of uncovering that mystery.

  9. hikaru Says:

    Actually, if you read the Halo novels, about half the Spartans are female. The thing is, after heavy genegineering, sexual differences would not be very obvious. For instance, if you didn’t know that the DOA4 character were female, you would never guess. She’s more built than Hayabusa.

    And people have for a long time wanted to see what’s under MC’s helment. In fact, I would guarantee you more people want to see his face, than this new marketing device…

  10. Bonnie Says:

    hikaru, I guess my point isn’t that people don’t want to see Master Chief’s face, it’s that it hasn’t been such a knee-jerk response to his appearance, an automatic connection. With MC, we see him, we play as him for a number of years, we get interested in him. And so, somewhere along the line, we want to see his face. But with this DOA4 female version, the very first response is “Take off the helmet, baby.” I really think there’s a difference of intentions and motives there.

    As for Halo novels… Oh my God, there are Halo novels? Maybe this is common knowledge, but I hadn’t heard it before, and I’ve love to see links, thoughts, whatever on the topic – or just the general topic of making games into books. The whole thing seems so odd to me, I figure it must be worth some uncomfortable probing :-).

  11. Geoff Says:

    Yeah, there are Halo novels. Bungie, the companie that made Halo, is big into storyline in their games, and Halo was no different. I’ve only read the first one (of three, currently), but in it there were several spartans, both male and female.

    To get another viewpoint on this issue, think about Samus in Smash Brothers, and now imagine that they added another character who looked like Samus, but they told you was a guy. Do you think players would want to see his (and Samus’) face now? I do.

    Back when it was just Master Chief as the main character in Halo, he didn’t really have to be a person. The suit was extremely recognizable, and he was just the thing you controlled to play the game. He could have been a robot or a tank or a giant ball that stuff sticks to. He wasn’t interesting in and of himself, only in his capacity as “the thing I use to do stuff in this game.” Now you’re presented with two of the suits that look alike, and you’re told they contain people, one is a man and one a woman. That makes their humanity more significant, and you want to know what makes the two of them different, you want to see it.

  12. Bonnie Says:

    Do you think players would want to see his (and Samus') face now?
    I personally don’t think that would be people’s reactions, but I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion until it happens. I think people would be quite ruffled by it, but their first response wouldn’t be to go for a face.

    That makes their humanity more significant, and you want to know what makes the two of them different, you want to see it.
    That’s a really fascinating point, and I’d like to say, “Hey, you’re right!” – except that, if that is the case, then why isn’t everyone suddenly trying to steal a look under MC’s helmet, only his female counterpart?

  13. Bonnie Says:

    I just came across this nice little piece by Wired’s Clive Thompson, on the game novel issue we mentioned before:
    Check it out.

  14. Illidan Says:

    Got a counter-example for you.

    There’s a gaming show, named Pure Pwnage, centering around “pro gamer” Jeremy and his cameraman Kyle.

    The twist is that Kyle never, ever shows his face.

    And believe me, the clamoring to see Kyle’s face as a percent of the breathless Pure Pwnage audience dwarfs the percent of Halo fans who want to see Master Chief, Missus Chief, and Poodle Chief combined =D

    Halo books! I read the three. Not exactly high-flying literature. Gender-wise, they’re quite fair.

    Kelly is the fastest Spartan, and Linda is the best shot; before you think they’re biased towards speed and agility for them, hear that John (playable character in the game) was not the strongest either, but all rounded with the best tactical mind.

    I didn’t like the books all that much not because of major plot failures but simply because I’m used to better writing quality. I think the Star Wars or Star Trek novels are as bad or worse.

    They made the characters real in several ways. Master Chief isn’t just a robot anymore, he’s a person, a person with the responsibility of command, and that responsibility HURTS when you know in the best of all possible situations if everything works out perfectly and the enemy has no secret advantages, luck, plans, or smart officers (Ha-Ha, not happening) people under YOUR command are going to die and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

    On the worst, they’re all going to die. And it’s your decisions that sent them there.

    None of the characters are really sexually objectified in the least. Unlike most movies, they’re more concerned about saving Earth and staying alive then getting their rocks off.

  15. Bonnie Says:

    Mmm, “getting your rocks off”. Language is strange.

    Anyways, in response to your counter-example, Illidan, I would say in that case the clamor to see Kyle’s face, as you explain it, is more straight forward and therefore less related to the idea of knowledge and masks than the Mrs. MC example – in that, it seems, that the gag, and therefore people respond by wanting to see his face. Like what’s-his-name on Home Improvement: the next door neighbor. Or maybe you I’m just reading it wrong, and people are really just uber-curious to find out about a guy behind the scenes…?

    Interesting stuff about the Halo books. I would imagine, as you say, they’re not high art. Has anyone read the Warcraft books? My little brother (He’s 15.) is a pretty intelligent, well-versed guy, but he read the first one and was blown away. Now, on the one hand, that might say something about the dorkiness of my brother, or maybe there really is something appealing about the conversion of an interactive experience to text…

    Any thoughts?

  16. Illidan Says:

    Bonnie, I think it says something about society treating even female gamers better then it does “dork” gamers >>

    Nevertheless, if you do a switch and the original MC was a female, as was the audience for Halo..

    and you add a new guy character in..

    I think you’d have roughly the same response. It’s true that generally people are more interested about characters of the opposite (or same, depending on their orientation) sex.

    As for the WoW books, novelisations of established universes generally suck, and that very badly. Why?

    To be canon, you’ve got to stick to the boundaries of the work Mr. Movie-or-Game-Maker made.

    They aren’t yours, they don’t fit with your story, and neither your style. Sorry.

    Your objective is to accomplish #1 list of things while making sure you don’t violate canon and letting those with more creative control disembowel your manuscript because this and that deviates from what the company itself is planning.

    Generally, their sales come from fan-devotion to a product. In that case, you don’t really need good material for reasonably good sales; you just need a receptive audience. Thus, whatever writer/hack you can get will work just fine.

  17. Bonnie Says:

    Illidan, you’re of course right that’s it crap material, and that it runs entirely off fan sales. But you don’t think (and I don’t know if I think) that it could be done well?

  18. SAMAS Says:

    Yeah, it’s late. I just found your site. ^_^

    I actually have wondered what John-117 looks like under his helmet. Personally, I blame Samus. She pulled the great switcheroo on us long ago, and nowadays, we just want to make sure.

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