Indigo Prophecy Reinforces White Male Supremacy, Part IDecember 22, 2006
Figured I’d break in my spiffy new MacBook with a post on Indigo Prophecy. This is actually derived from a paper I turned in for class, but it’s chopped down to cater to shorter attention spans. =) As usual, there are a few significant spoilers in this post, but Indigo Prophecy really isn’t worth playing for the plot twists, so who cares? Read on.
For those of you unfamiliar with Indigo Prophecy, it was released about a 16 months ago by Quantic Dream. David Cage directed the game, and made it very clear that he was aiming to create a game that married film and video games together in the name of telling a “mature’, compelling story that appealed to adults in all places on the gaming spectrum. This, by itself, is an interesting and possibly laudable goal. Unfortunately for Cage, Indigo Prophecy doesn’t really manage to live up to his own hype (cop the post-mortem articles at Gamasutra and 1UP.com for more examples). Instead, Indigo Prophecy‘s “alternative-ness” gives us a game where our straight white male main character manages to save the world from evil Mayan sorcerors and the Internet pretty much solely by virtue of being a straight white male. While Cage goes on at length about the “elasticity” of Indigo Prophecy‘s storyline, particularly in regards to the multiple playable characters, everyone in the game eventually disappears because they’re either not-white or not-male.
Indigo Prophecy‘s protagonist, Lucas Kane, is our straight white male of the hour. He seems like an unlikely hero at first. Instead of a conventional health meter, the game tracks his mental state (which fluctuates between “neutral” and various states of depression all the way to “wrecked”, where the game ends with Kane committing suicide) and as the game progresses, the player witnesses Kane experiencing all kinds of hopeless, despairing, confused emotions. The more we learn about Kane, the more he seems even less like our typical Hollywood heroes; he’s sad about having recently broken up with his girlfriend, he favors fairly light independent rock music, he has a guitar and a punching bag lying around his New York loft apartment that indicate his hobbies. His apartment is somewhat tastefully decorated, he works a desk job (systems administrator at a big bank), and he looks good in a sweater – a far cry from the routine over-muscled male video game protagonist, and perhaps the first cue the player has that the story is not intended to be inspired by your average action flick.
Kane’s “alternative hero” image becomes substantially eroded when sex enters the picture. During the course of the game, Kane winds up bedding both his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany, as well as his primary foil, Carla Valenti (more on her later). Hooking up with Tiffany is a particular surprise, not only because the two broke up before the events of the video game take place, but because she winds up helping Kane hide from the cops, tells him she still loves him, and dies shortly thereafter, only to have Kane move on to Carla. Tiffany is an object rather than a subject of sexuality – in order for the two to have sex, the player must successfully seduce her with Kane’s guitar – and in what will become a reoccurring trend for Indigo Prophecy, whatever agency she maintained was lost in the face of Kane’s apparent masculinity.
Also worth noting is Kane’s ridiculous physical transformation. As the game progresses, Kane becomes physically stronger and more agile. He gets powers roughly equivalent to those of Neo from The Matrix; the only difference being that he manages to attain similarly superhuman levels of ability despite no apparent training montage or mentored guidance from an equivalent Morpheus. Instead, Kane manages to best an immortal Mayan sorceror (notably a man of color!) at a contest of combat skill despite said sorceror presumably having had thousands of years of experience using the same kind of powers. Watch out for white men, Indigo Prophecy tells us, for even an emo bumbler like Lucas can win with little effort. What’s more, the struggle between Lucas and the sorceror is over the “Indigo Child”, a young, virginal white girl. This game equates saving the world to saving white girls from predatory not-so-white men. Yes.
Next: On Carla Valenti