Madison Paige – The Blueprint For Gaming’s Perfect Heroine
This editorial has been stewing in my noggin since I finished Heavy Rain about a week ago. It was a bit hard to figure out my initial approach to the subject as I’m not an overly sensitive person let alone gamer. I guess I’ll start by asking a question. Are women portrayed realistically in video games? It’s probably one of the easiest questions I’ve ever answered because the verdict is an overwhelming no. From the Princess in Super Mario Bros on up, women in the world of video games are depicted as either damsels in distress or overtly sexy supermodels with breasts that are bigger than their guns. Only a handful of female characters are realistic heroines, and Madison Paige of Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, is the gold standard for what studios should strive for in the future. So what makes Madison so special? The following editorial will hopefully answer that question.
From the first time we meet her, we find out that Madison’s character is deeply flawed. Our introduction to her character shows an unexplained insecurity and inherent fear for her life. She suffers from insomnia. She’s awkward at times, namely in her solo mission, “Sexy Girl”, wherein she has to play the party girl at a night club. Her struggle to objectify herself is painfully apparent. She’s also heavily conflicted as the game goes. The struggle between her compassion and job becomes more prevalent.
Madison proves to be more than capable, physically, several times throughout Heavy Rain’s narrative, without going overboard . When we’re first introduced to her, it’s during a sequence that ends in her fighting for her life against several intruders. This proves to be nothing more than a dream, but it more than sets the tone for her character. She’s responsible for saving Heavy Rain’s main protagonist’s life on several occasions by giving him medicine and treating his wounds. Madison also defends herself in real life situations that pose a mortal threat to her. I found the psychotic Dr. Adrian Baker’s attempt on the reporters life to be the most compelling. Madison is bound and helpless after being knocked unconscious, and a small window for escape is afforded when the doctor is called away momentarily. This was easily the most visceral confrontation you’ll encounter while using her character. Her escape and subsequent murder of Dr. Adrian Baker (in self defense) is the best example of her ability to protect herself, and it was done without the use of a machine gun, a sword, or a batting of her eyelashes.
Madison’s investigative prowess and intelligence, traits that are absent from most female video game characters, also play a vital part in her role in Heavy Rain. At one point in the story, we find out that she’s been gathering information on the prime suspect and lead protagonist, Ethan Mars, for some time. She later uses her quick thinking to save Ethan from being arrested after he completes a forced act of brutal self mutilation. She uses her smarts to track down a series of leads that yield the information needed to eventually find her final informant, an elderly woman that’s completely forgotten the existence of her second son. Through her own ingenuity and ambition, Madison, not the main protagonist or the FBI agent (both male), solves the mystery of the Origami Killer.
On top of it all Quantic Dream designed their heroine with a surprisingly modest stature and natural beauty. Her character doesn’t force sexuality like many other female portrayals in video games. Even the scripted sex scene is done tastefully without objectification. As mentioned earlier, the only time she’s required to be the “sexy girl” is in the Blue Lagoon night club mission, and it’s no easy sell for her. However, she’s smart enough to use sex as a means to an end (like any intelligent woman) in her investigation.
More writers should take note of Madison’s character. She’s not oversexed, naive, or helpless and she still caught the attention of a gamer that hasn’t honestly enjoyed a female heroine since Jill Valentine. Strong female characters are in short supply in our current selection of video games, and there’s no justifiable reason for it. More women are turning to gaming for recreation and social interaction. Madison’s portrayal as a highly capable, adept, and sensual woman more than makes her the perfect blueprint for female characters in video games. The future is here and its name is Madison Paige. Take heed, gaming world.
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