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Friday, November 30, 2012

30

Girl Talk: Alyx Vance

As I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner last week, I had a number of things to be grateful for — family, food, shelter, the usual; the persistence of my friend Bethany, who finally convinced me to play Half-Life 2; and Alyx Vance. Guys, I've got it bad.

In the eight years I've somehow managed to move through life without personally experiencing the magic that is Half-Life 2, I thought I understood the widespread Alyx attraction. She's gorgeous! She's got a great voice. She's talented and athletic and intelligent. She's funny! She's one of the few women of color I know of to feature prominently in a video game. She wears clothes. I knew these thing about her, but I didn't know the half of it.

Alyx is one of the first friendly faces you encounter in the game (after Barney, but he's kind of a dope. No offense, Barney!). Where other allies offer instruction, a health pack, and a lot of encouragement to “get going,” Alyx saves your ass. Like it's no thang. 'What up, dude who vanished off the face of the earth following the Black Mesa incident when I was a kid. Nice to meet you!' Her initial response to the Free Man's presence stands in sharp contrast to most people you come across, particularly the sycophantic Judith Mossman, and she just continues to get more incredible from there. 

The woman just. doesn't. get. flustered (except when her dad embarrasses her, and damn, is that endearing). Upon meeting up with her in Black Mesa East, you learn that Alyx has a dog. And what a Dog it is! Who has a pet that can hurl a 16-passenger van into a crowd of aggressive enemies? Alyx Vance, that's who. And she added all his spare parts herself! Of course Alyx is the character to introduce you to the gravity gun. Dream first date, right there.

The combination of Half-Life 2's first-person view and lack of cutscenes with Alyx's matter-of-fact attitude toward your accomplishments contributes significantly to her appeal. In HL2, you never see Gordon Freeman. You never hear from him. You are him. Or he is you! And you are a badass. You're already a hero to nearly everyone you meet based on your doings during the course of the Black Mesa incident (which I, personally, did not do, but was more than happy to take credit for). Black Mesa incident or no, you run through HL2 picking random weapons up off the ground and using them to blow away intimidating enemies with aplomb! You jump into experimental vehicles and speed off like you're playing a casual game of Mario Kart! You continually triumph over increasingly impossible situations, and most people you run across in-game regard you as some sort of Messiah figure. As you progress through the game, you blow through levels accomplishing outlandish feats of derring-do, music blasting, slaying enemies on all sides ... or you limp out of the end of a dark, hard-won fight against terrifying zombies. Either way, your adrenaline is pumping, you are flush with the thrill of victory, and then you run into Alyx, and ... wait, what?!

Alyx, how the hell did you get here? Alyx, you're ... just wearing your usual old jeans outfit! I wore an HEV suit and used God-knows-how-many health packs to survive this chapter, and you're all, “Oh hey, Gordon; I thought I'd find you here.”

How does she DO that?! It's ridiculously attractive. She just SMOTE me with capability. I am smitten.

Alyx can hack into computer systems you can't touch. Alyx can reprogram turrets. Alyx has a zappy multi-purpose tool that can bypass security systems. Alyx jumps over rails instead of climbing stairs. After a ridiculous firefight in which you guard her back while she hacks a gate, does Alyx need a break? Does she need you to figure out how to get to the next area (*ahem,* Barney). NO, Alyx does not! Alyx just scales some damn pipes and climbs up the side of the building to tell you where you need to go. Please do tell me more, Alyx. Whenever she tells you to be careful upon parting, I swoon a little bit inside.

Alyx loves her dad. Alyx loves her Dog. Alyx fights for the Resistance, and is not about to be swayed by any bullshit excuses about allying with the Combine for the good of the human race. But Alyx is also generous! She can forgive, if need be for the sake of survival.

I've often compared video game crushes on non-protagonist characters to a motivational dangling carrot, but I should probably switch that to, I don't know, some kind of delicious candy on a string. Seeing your game crush intermittently isn't the only thing that keeps you playing through tough sections of a game, but it's a helluva lot of fun to spend a minute or two with him between hard-fought battles. Or in this case, her. Alyx's appearances functioned very handily in the delightful-reward-between-killing-dudes regard, in my experience. I was PSYCHED to see her each time I got a chance. And the one time I fell back too far in Nova Prospekt and let her die in combat ... well, we won't talk about that.

Though I already knew better, I was so ready to make out with the girl at game's end. And dudes, did I feel CHEATED when that kiss-blocking G-Man showed up to whisk me away to whatever inter-dimensional space Gordon hangs out in between games! Fortunately for me, I still have yet to play Episodes 1 and 2. Barring tragic plot developments, I'm going to enjoy this particular crush as long as Valve will let me. And! Since only the G-Man knows when Half-Life 3 might become a reality, that could be a very long — time — indeed.

 

Previously: Garcia Hotspur.

Jennifer Culp is also fond of Father Grigori, and would love to have a Lamarr of her very own.



30 Comments / Post A Comment

wee_ramekin

Oooo...she's cute.

I don't play video-games, but I can appreciate a butch lady character when I see one. #roawr

carolinaclay

holyshit, had to share this.@y

Bunburying

I thought Alyx's main flaw was that... she didn't have any flaws. She was a little TOO perfectly competent to be a really compelling character. I mean yeah, clothes are good and I support them, but how can she not need an actual HEV suit of her own to survive all those zombie chomps?

Bunburying

Also, can we talk about why Strong Female Characters so often have some butchy name like "Sam" or "Alex"? Cause like, fine, but also we've established it's possible to murder zombies while being named Jill Valentine, you know. Female names aren't going to give male players the cooties.

Bunburying

I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT WOMEN IN ACTION GAMES

TheBourneApproximation

@Bunburying Speaking of lady companions in FPS action games, I am more than a little worried about the Elizabeth character in BioShock Infinite. For all I know, this could be a fantastic, nuanced female character, but seriously, BioShock? You had to give her the face of a 12 year old and the body of a Playmate? Cue ten thousand gamer dudes protesting that "Corsets are historically accurate attire!!"

Jennifer Culp

@TheBourneApproximation Did you see the box art yet? Hollaaaa, hot Booker DeWitt! Cue zillions of dudes: "Where's Elizabeth?!" "This is SUPPOSED to be BioShock, not Uncharted!" "Should've been Elizabeth." And so on.

TheBourneApproximation

@Jennifer Culp Heeeh, I am of two minds towards that box art. 1) "Aah, why does every single game nowadays have to star a Serious Looking Brunette Man?" 2) "Daaaaaaaaaaang!"

Danzig!

@Bunburying I just got the feeling that her dad was a big GnR fan and just did the best he could adapting "Axl" for a baby girl

Also the hypercompetent (too hypercompetent!) lady character in The Walking Dead (Episode 4) is named Molly, which is a super girly name!

Onymous

@Bunburying I get your point but all the Alexs I've ever know were women.

@Danzig! the feminine Axel is Axelle.

Danzig!

@Onymous Yes but what's the feminine of Axl? ;)

Onymous

@Danzig! well as Axl Rose => Oral Sex and oral sex is a neuter term I'd assume Axl is itself neuter and doesn't need to be feminized.

Danzig!

@Onymous oooh you're no fun

TheBourneApproximation

Oh good! I was afraid that we weren't going to get one of these this month!

Nyaargh, and this is not helping with my guilt over never having played Half Life 2!! My backlog is already so long... *Looks at newly purchased copies of Mirror's Edge and Dishonored.* Damn you, Steam Sale!

TheBourneApproximation

@TheBourneApproximation

(P.S. Fenris for Christmas/Hanukkah yes plz?)

Jennifer Culp

@TheBourneApproximation Got a super-special Christmas surprise lined up, but Fenris!! I was just recently introduced to the magic, and I've gotta get up on that soon.

TheBourneApproximation

@Jennifer Culp OMG Christmas surprise! And OMG blog! Yay! Fenris is, in my mind, by far the best example of the "Videogame Crushes are dependent on Voice Acting" theory. Someday I'll finally play Awakening (it currently won't run with my copy of DA:O, sigh) and meet Anders before he became a creep, too. Now, is time to go play the (apparently disappointing) ME3: Omega.

Roaring Girl

@TheBourneApproximation I'm late to this party, but I totally agree with your theory. When Fenris showed up, I shouted "BALTHIER!" and immediately started compromising my pro-mage ethics to please him. In my next playthrough, I was so annoyed by everyone being all "I'm terrible, stay away, I'll only hurt you," that I was totally won over by Merrill just blurting out "I love you" in her awkward, earnest, Scottish-y way.

youresmalltime

I hardly ever get girl crushes in games simply because the selection is generally so poor. Well, except Sheva Alomar, but I mean, hello, am I a one-trick pony or what.

Half-Life hasn't really been on my radar due to one incredibly annoying "friend" who wouldn't stop talking about it long ago. REVISIT TIME, perhaps.

In other news I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT GAMERVESCENT. Love it, Jennifer!

aliceandstuff

Barring tragic plot developments

Oh honey.

Pocket Witch

Fuck yes Alyx Vance.

I wish I had a well-thought-out, insightful comment, but no. Except to say that I'm also pretty fond of Barney, and where the hell was he in Episode 2? Coulda used some levity. "Now … about that beer I owed you."

The Mayor of Bethville

Now, if I can just get to Resident Evil 4, we'll be even.

youresmalltime

@The Mayor of Bethville Don't worry, you'll be fine, as long as you land on your butt.

i'm going i'm going sorry i'm on my way out

angelan

My inner fourteen year old girl's hope that Gordon and Alyx were going to run off into the sunset together was all that sustained me for the first five hours of half life 2, which was the first FPS I ever played. I was terrible, but I had to make it to the next bit in hopes they'd make out. AND THEN THEY NEVER DID. Although episode 3 is just never going to happen, so I suppose I can just pretend they killed the combine with science and ran off into the sunset together.

Megasus

@angelan this is what fanfic is for girl!

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