The Little Things

Jacob, Izzy, Dalton, and Naya from Fuse
Jacob, Izzy, Dalton, and Naya. Source.

Sometimes, when you’re hunting for signs the world is changing, you gotta look in strange places. And a lot of the time, those strange places don’t have any super obvious indicators. Which is why you have to keep an eye out for the details.

I’ve been playing a game called Fuse recently—so far it’s not brilliant, but it’s fun, colorful, and solid third-person tactical shooter goodness, which is really all I want for my free time. Not every shooter can be a Tomb Raider or a Mass Effect. In a nutshell, the four main characters, who constitute a mercenary organization called Overstrike, all come into possession of crazy-ass space guns while attempting to prevent the bad guys from stealing crazy-ass space gun technology from Groom Lake.

Yes, that’s Groom Lake, as in Area 51.

And so begins a globe-trotting effort to keep the bad guys from blowing up the world using stolen crazy-ass space gun tech.

All pretty standard. Got the special weapon? Congratulations, that’s the only qualification necessary to save the world! So nothing particularly new here, storywise.

The thing that really made Fuse stand out to me was the main cast. You can see them pictured up top there. There is a remarkable amount of diversity in that relatively small group. You have two women and two men, including a black guy and a woman whose ethnicity isn’t immediately identifiable (she’s a Londoner), but who certainly doesn’t appear to be white.

Who is also voiced by Jennifer Hale, of FemShep fame. But that’s beside the point.

The point is that it’s not four white dudes. And not only is it not four white dudes, the two women are actually dressed perfectly sensibly. In a weird twist, the dudes are actually wearing less than the ladies just by virtue of not having sleeves.

And then you have their personalities. I’m not very far into the game yet, admittedly, so there’s not a great deal of depth to any of these people at the moment. But Jacob is not defined by being The Black Guy. For the most part, he seems to act as a foil to Dalton’s overbearing machismo. Izzy, the redhead, is primarily defined as being a largely amoral but gifted hacker. Naya, the Londoner, is introduced as a former assassin and covert ops specialist. And at no point during the game have I heard Jacob or Dalton say anything that suggests they consider Naya and Izzy to be anything less than full and contributing members of the Overstrike team.

Hell, everyone is even facing full front on the box art.

Fuse box art
No spine-twisting T&A poses here, folks! Source.

Now, I know it’s not much. I know that Fuse didn’t do particularly well, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pick it up for five bucks from Xbox Live only two years after its release. But it’s a AAA title that made the stupidly stunning choice to have its four protagonists be defined by who they are—that is to say, professional motherfuckers—instead of what they look like.

And I’m sure there are people who are like, “But James old boy, if they’re defined solely by their professional motherfuckerdom, why not just make them all white dudes?”

Lots of reasons. So women who play video games can identify with their on-screen counterpart. For visual variety. To show a common humanity. To reflect reality’s crazy fucking diversity. And maybe, just maybe, so James doesn’t go bonkers from having to play as Boring Vaguely Thirtysomething Brown-Haired White Guy With Stubble #405,968 for another ten goddamn hours.

That last one in particular is a noble cause.

What I’m trying to say is this: Insomniac Games, you did good. Your game’s not unequivocal genius, and it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s good and fun and it has human beings as its heroes. And when that happens, sometimes you just gotta appreciate the little things.

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