Advent Rising: Laying it On Thick

The plot of Advent Rising falls pretty firmly into the category of Wish Fulfillment Fantasies for Boys. That’s a pretty big category, which includes a large portion of all videogame releases — probably a majority of the AAA titles. But Advent Rising seems like an especially egregious example. This is a game that’s so concerned with showing the player character as the most special person in the world, it double-layers it.

First of all, when you make first contact with aliens in the first chapter, you find out that the entire human race is the most special and miraculous species in the galaxy. Humans are spoken of in legends of old, and thought by many to be entirely mythical. Others have devoted their lives to seeking us out. When they find us, they either kowtow and address us as “Exalted ones” or exterminate us, smashing the very planets we inhabit to pieces. But either way, it’s all about us.

Then, on top of of that, Gideon, the player character, is of course the most specialest human. You are of course the very best at magic alien Jedi powers, but even before you get them, you’re already special. You’re a VIP, part of the First Contact delegation (if only the pilot). You’re the first human to receive a universal translator implant, and after a certain point in the story, you’re the sole surviving human with one — and thus the only person who can understand aliens. I mentioned a scene where you get into a fistfight with resentful space marines, jealous of you but of course ultimately not as good at you at fighting, which is supposed to be their specialty. There’s another scene shortly afterward where one of them actually gets so fed up with how much better you are than him that he tries to murder you — possibly as foreshadowing of the invasion to come, as the Seekers seem to have similar motivations. You can either kill him in self-defense or subdue him non-lethally without much consequence either way, because you’re just that much more important than him. Come to think of it, this must be part of Orson Scott Card’s contribution to the story. It’s a lot like the weird social dynamic in Ender’s Game, but with less justification.

All this makes it just wish-fulfillment fantasy. The part that makes it specifically wish-fulfillment fantasy for boys is the wardrobe. Starfleet miniskirts are standard issue for female supernumeraries, while the two human female characters who have names — both of them young and hot, one of them Gideon’s fiancee — sport midriff-baring short tops whenever they’re not in spacesuits. The manual has a picture of the two of them together, and I actually laughed when I saw it.

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