The Game Industry 4 Comments

In Praise of Kerrigan

Note: Here there be Heart of the Swarm story spoilers.

Hello! I have briefly escaped from the office to tell you a very important thing, and that thing is that Kerrigan is super cool.

One of the activities I’ve been doing lately after work is watching Jesse Cox and Husky play through Heart of the Swarm, otherwise known as Starcraft 2B. Although I’ve never played Starcraft before I’ve watched a live game or two in the past, and of course as a WoW player I was certainly aware of its existence.  I didn’t know much about the story, though, other than there being a space badass and an evil chick.

Heart of the Swarm is the Zerg chapter of Starcraft 2 and focuses on Sarah Kerrigan, previously a tough Terran fighter who had been corrupted into leading the creepy buggy zerg. (Think Locutus of Borg.) Kerrigan starts out 2B as mostly Terran, thanks to the actions of afore-mentioned badass Jim Raynor, but.. well let’s just say she goes on a journey of exploration over the course of the 26 new story missions. Up until now Kerrigan has arguably been a cypher in the Starcraft series, a character who primarily exists to be Raynor’s ill-fated love interest. Heart of the Swarm, though, is really her story, and it’s surprisingly good.

First things first: Kerrigan does not take any shit. She fights, she leads squadrons, she makes hard decisions. Sometimes she is a jerk and sometimes she is considerate. She’s not afraid to get dirty (or buggy). She doesn’t need rescuing, but she does need friends. Kerrigan is certainly no damsel.

She also has tight pants. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, necessarily. Blizzard dressed Kerrigan in skin tight but combat-appropriate outfits throughout the game, and it never felt too pandering. It helps that Blizzard isn’t afraid to make her hideous in some ways — by the end of Heart of the Swarm she still has a pretty face and curvy bod, but they’re somewhat tempered by her sprouting bizarre bone wings and artificial hair. If we have to accept some modicum of “sex sells” in games (which I’m not sure we do, but whatever), then I guess I’m okay with half-bug women competently leading an invasion of killer worms in tight Tron armor.

Oh aye, I’m dead sexy.

In the midst of a bunch of controversy over games with women as lead characters, it strikes me that Blizzard just slipped one right by us. Heart of the Swarm is told from Kerrigan’s point of view and we play her between missions while she talks to her crew. Although Starcraft has a top-down combat system that puts the player at a distance, Kerrigan is frequently the most important piece on the battlefield. She is indisputably the main character of the campaign.

I mean, it’s a Blizzard game so it has amazing cinematics and a ham-fisted but loveable storyline. The characterization isn’t on a “Cart Life” level or anything, but I’m genuinely surprised to see it from the same company that also just added two busty bikini-clad stone lady “consorts” in WoW as a raid encounter.

The best selling games from last week were, in order, Tomb Raider, God of War Ascension, and Heart of the Swarm. Two of those games have women as main characters: Lara Croft and Kerrigan. And while people are buying Heart of the Swarm for the multiplayer as much as for the campaign, it supports what we folks have been saying all along — if you make a good game, the gender of the lead character won’t be a limitation.

After watching Heart of the Swarm and becoming a Kerrigan fangirl I picked up Wings of Liberty (aka Starcraft 2A) and started reading up on newbie multiplayer strategy. Props to Blizzard: they have created a new SC fan.

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  • Reply
    March 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    To be fair, this isn’t Kerrigan’s first outing. She was the arguably the main character of the original Starcraft expansion, Brood War. Arguably because the original Starcraft did 3 mini-campaigns, one from each race’s perspective. Kerrigan led the Zerg perspective in Brood War, and she won at the end.
    Rohan´s last post: Dungeons versus Scenarios, Part II

    • Reply
      March 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      Huh, neat. Thanks — I’ll have to check Brood War out.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Heh, Tron suit, never thought of it that way. I don’t think she ever did it in HotS, but that suit helps her turn invisible. Quite handy for a psychic assassin.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I started playing computer games in late high school. Caesar III was the first game I ever bought and Starcraft was the second. I loved the campaign and then over the next few years I spent hundreds of hours playing multiplayer against my friends. Starcraft was a big part of my transformation into a gamer; I will always remember it fondly and when I am 60 I will probably still be confusing non-gamers by randomly demanding more vespene gas. Despite my misgivings about Activision, I will definitely pick up HotS at some point. Thanks for reminding me!

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