Doing it Right is a feature that looks at games that I think are making positive strides in regard to females and representation in games. While it’s important to call out games when they are sexist and reinforcing negative stereotypes, I think it’s equally important to recognize the games that are succeeding at elevating themselves away from that.
Remember Me was released by Dontnod Entertainment in June of 2013. It’s an action-adventure game set in future Paris, in a world where memories have become a commodity. A large corporation, Memorize, has developed technology to allow people to upload and share their memories, as well as get rid of the unpleasant ones. This gives the corporation an immense amount of information and power as they have access to everyone’s memories and the ability to erase them. The main character Nilin is a memory hunter who can steal and remix people’s memories and is intent on taking Memorize down.
Remember Me was not very well received and the reviews were mediocre. To each their own, but I thought the game was very enjoyable. It looks great – it’s really cool to see the familiar Paris landmarks in a futuristic setting. It reminded me a little bit of how Earth is portrayed in The Fifth Element. I appreciated the story because it was something different from the norm. The specifics were kept a mystery for much of the game and you didn’t always know if you were working for the right side, so it kept me intrigued.
The combat was fun, and quite similar to the Arkham series with basic melee attacks, combos, dodging (instead of countering) and a couple ranged abilities to take advantage of. However, unlike the Arkham games, I never felt like the fights were excessively long and hand cramping. Every so often you’d get access to a new special ability which kept a sense of progression throughout the game. You could also create your own combos which gave combat a surprising amount of depth. You could add attacks that regenerated health or reduced the cooldowns on special abilities, allowing you to tailor combat to your enemies or your personal preferences. Aside from combat there was also a lot of fun, though not particularly challenging, platforming. All of the action was very fluid and slick-looking.
The one part of the game I had the most issues with was the memory remixes. Though this was a very innovative idea, I didn’t think they were executed all that well. It was interesting to watch them, and see how a small alteration could result in a vastly different outcome, but they weren’t that fun to play. The controls were irritating and the solutions were pretty much a guessing game. However, there were only four of these sequences in the game so they didn’t detract too much.
Overall though, I’d definitely recommend the game. Nilin is a great main character with lovely voice acting, and the story will keep you entertained. Some of the dialogue occasionally veers into melodrama, but I found those instances rather fun and campy. I played this on PC and it took about 10 hours to finish. I really recommend playing with a controller rather than mouse & keyboard if you play on PC, the controls are 100x better (if I had played through with the keyboard my rating would have been lower).
Rating: 9/10 – Smooth combat and platforming, a beautiful futuristic setting, and a novel story concept make this game well worth playing. There is the occasional sequence that is less well done, but overall the game is a lot of fun.
Remember Me’s protagonist Nilin is one of the most powerful and well-known memory hunters. Before the game begins the authorities had arrested Nilin and attempted to wipe her memory because they feared her and what she could do.
Nilin is a mixed-race female who stands in stark contrast to the bevy of stoic, white males who usually lead games. While there are actually quite a lot of female protagonists, they are also generally white so it’s refreshing that Dontnod wanted to represent someone else. The developers know that different can be scary to some consumers, but thought it was important enough to do it anyway.
“…we wanted Nilin to stand out. I think these sort of issues become self-fulfilling prophesies; people saying that only white males sell so then everyone only does white males. If you start believing these things you get your head inside this cold marketing strategy that you cannot get your head around. It becomes a pretty fucking racist and misogynistic way of thinking about lead characters.”
– Jean-Maxime Morris (source)
Nilin is capable, sarcastic, and compelling. She’s also very human. She has to make a lot of difficult decisions throughout the game, she hurts and manipulates people to achieve her goals and we get to see that Nilin is internally conflicted about many of these actions. When it comes time to act though, she never lacks conviction.
Remember Me has a distinct lack of the male gaze when it comes to Nilin and the other female characters. Nilin is beautiful, but the camera never treats her as a sexual object – there are no gratuitous butt shots in the game.
A World of Women
Remember Me’s future Paris is filled with women characters. The game opens with an image of a woman. And not just a woman, an older woman, a demographic which gets very little representation in games. Though this character is only used to help set the stage for the game world, choosing her face as the first one we see makes me feel like the developers aren’t afraid to do something different.
Women play many of the most important roles in the game and they are all powerful, smart women with their own motivations. Women get to be both the protagonists and the antagonists.
Besides Nilin, we also get Astrid Voorhees, the power-hungry and sadistic governor of La Bastille prison, who delights in wiping the memories of her prisoners. She respects Nilin’s power, but also considers it a challenge to overcome.
Scylla Cartier-Wells is the president of Memorize and built it up to become the most powerful corporation in the world. Though brilliant, she’s also bitter due to events of the past and approaches the business of memories without thinking about who is being hurt.
These are strong, independent women who are real characters. They have their own backstories and goals.
Even the characters who are more minor still get fleshed out and we learn something about them. Olga Sedova is a feared bounty hunter trying to make money to save her sick husband and one of the only opponents that manages to give Nilin a real challenge. Alexia Forlan is in the midst of leaving her husband because she doesn’t want to be his trophy wife anymore when Nilin comes into their lives. Kaori Sheridan is one of Paris’ most brilliant architects and holds the secrets to gaining entry into the most secure places.
It’s very clear that in the future world of Remember Me there are a lot of women in the most powerful and respected jobs.
In addition to being a fun game with a cool story, I found Remember Me to be a very positive experience from a feminist perspective. Nilin was presented as a strong, capable woman, but not a perfect one. I think that showing game protagonists as complex and nuanced characters is a great thing, not just from a feminist standpoint but also from a writing standpoint. Most people aren’t all good or bad, most people aren’t 100% confident they’re doing the right thing all the time. Creating more characters like these in video games will take games to a much deeper and powerful place. Aside from Nilin, Remember Me was full of female characters who had their own stories and were often leaders in their fields. It’s really nice to see a big budget game where females fill so many of the roles and none of them are being exploited.
Dontnod has just announced they are working on a new title – Life is Strange – with Square Enix. It looks like another game that will be full of interesting female characters and I’ll be following it closely.