August 24th, 2007

I can’t say I’m surprised that the “Little Sister” mechanic in Bioshock has got everyone up in arms–but at least it’s getting attention. If you’re not familiar with that part of the game (my copy is in the mail; until it comes, I can only drool from afar), Little Sisters are creepy, young girl-like enemies whom you can decide to kill for extra power, or save for potential future reward, and/or the overall moral good. Little Sisters are also protected by larger enemies called “Big Daddies.” Have I mentioned yet how absolutely amazing this is? Can we say overtones of pedophilia, incest, child abuse? This is just the kind of complicated, anxiety-causing, thought-provoking material that we need need need to raise the artistic expectations for mainstream video games.

Of course, some people are already raising red flags over the fact that, simply put, players can kill what appear to be young girls. What’s even more interesting are the players’ own responses to the question: Do you harvest or save the Little Sisters? Most seem to be sparing the girls, or at least promising to play the game a second time and spare them. As Wired has pointed out, Bioshock itself takes place in an Ayn Rand kind of world–which is to say, among other things, that the individual (i.e. you) comes first–so it’s not surprising that many players are approaching the question strategically. Myself, I’m just fascinated by the role of monstrous female enemies in games, as well as the role of little girls. So the fact that the two have come together… Let’s just say there’s going to be some seriously giddy analysis going on here once that game final arrives.

Update: My copy just came in. I know what I’m doing this weekend…

Updated update: Leigh, who is somehow my magical video game doppelganger, wrote her Aberrant Gamer column this week on the same subject. Check it out for much more on morals, humanity, redemption… and the rest of those Billy Idol lyrics.

Tags: children, controversy, new games, sex/gender imagery

10 Responses to “Hey ‘Little Sister,’ Shotgun”

  1. darkpen Says:

    Pedophilia? Incest? Child Abuse? Red flags everywhere, huh.

    Jeez… I don’t even know what to say in rebuttal, probably because the insinuation is too strong. Bah, you know people are going to enjoy the game nonetheless. Films have done worse anyways.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I don’t know how to explain this without sounding creepy, but I really do mean that those (“pedophilia, incest, child abuse”) are good things. Well, obviously, not good things per se. But worthwhile, meaningful things to put into a mainstream game–even if they’re just implied by imagery and language. Rich things to analyze. Daring things. Better?

  3. Leigh Says:


    I get a freaking tag on HS? Rock on!

  4. Cybersexy Says:

    The interesting part of this is how game design is being raised to the level of literature. Symbolism? Double entendre? Whatever you want to call it, I consider it a step in the right direction when we can actually look at games and they give us more to think about on a purely intellectual level.

  5. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Cybersexy!

    And of course you get a tag, Leigh. I was catching up on my Sexy Videogameland reading this morning…. Always an excellent time :).

  6. Christopher Says:

    Looks at bank statement, cries. I can’t afford another game for a while.

    Creepy little girls are awesome. When it’s done right it can gets you thinking while pulling some heart strings. The little sisters always make me think of my favorite animes, Gunslinger Girl. Little girls abondoned by the world, are picked up by the government. Then turned into brian washed cyborg killers. It might not get sexual, well at least not anything as obvious of ‘big daddy.’ Still there are plenty of topics to think about. You should check it out.


  7. Leigh Says:

    Totally totally Cybersexy — if they can have Dakota Fanning humping a lamppost in her panties and it’s thought-provoking art, why can’t we have this stuff in games?

  8. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Cybersexy, I’ll actually have to check that out.  I’ve been on the look out for good new animés.  A friend tried to get me to watch Death Note recently.  That didn’t go over so well…

    Also, wait a second, I think I missed something. When and where is Dakota Fanning humping a lamppost?

  9. darkpen Says:

    oh hey, Gunslinger girls. Yeah, I’m surprised you’ve never watched/read Gunslinger girls, Bonnie. I’m sure you’d enjoy it.

  10. Jade Reporting » August 25 Says:

    […] Explores Little Girls in Horror The Aberrant Gamer: ‘Suffer the Little Children’ Hey ‘Little Sister,’ Shotgun Would you kill ‘Little Sisters’? Quincy company challenges taboos with game violence […]

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