What Makes a Man

The modern man is a confused creature. Since the advancement of civilisation replaced mammoth hunting with Tesco Express, males have become increasingly disconnected from their masculinity. Sometimes I lament the social neutering of my more primal instincts. Sure, I can open mayonnaise jars and put up trellises and shit, but these activities are poor substitutes for the critter-clubbing antics enjoyed by my heavy-jawed forebears.

It seems that the traditionally phallo-centric games industry has been struggling with similar feelings of emasculation. Rather than embracing their softer nature by making curtain-hanging simulators, male game designers have done what all males do when they feel their manhood is threatened: grossly over-compensate. Here are five examples of what happens when a man at odds with his own masculinity tries to encapsulate the essence of his gender in a video game character.

Jet Set WillyWilly (Jet Set Willy): Give a sexually-deprived nerd access to BASIC and what do you get? A game that sounds like the adventures of a rocket-powered penis. In fact, Jet Set Willy was based around that most blokey of situations: waking up after a party with a massive hangover to find that your house and its contents have been remorselessly shafted by your conspicuously absent mates. Factor in a despotic mother who won’t let him get any shuteye until everything is in its proper place and Willy transcends his pixellated limitations to become one of the first virtual lads, one which boozy, feckless men the world over could unite behind. But not in a gay way.

Space MarineSpace Marine (Doom series): Having communicated a dislike of authority figures to his commanding officer by way of his pulsating, ‘roided-up fists, our marine arrives on Mars expecting to be lumbered with hall monitor duties for the remainder of his ruined career. But when the entire science team is reduced to a highly-qualified smear on the laboratory wall, it’s time for Nameless to step up and flip Lucifer the double-vees. All the elements of true manliness are present: six-pack, bullet-repellent chest and steady nerves in the face of slavering hell-spawn. What’s more, he manages it all without muttering a single syllable. Refusal to ask for help and propensity towards brooding silence? Man at his most man.

Ethan ThomasEthan Thomas (Condemned series): Man should never be afraid of fisticuffs. Faced with getting into a fight for no earthly reason or calmly backing down and offering the hand of reconciliation, man backs down, offers his hand, then smashes it into his aggressor’s face. Ethan is a man who favours knuckles over nailguns, and spends the majority of Condemned punching seven shades of schadenfreude out of dispossessed transients. Soon Ethan is a jobless, unshaven alcoholic who has to slug a bottle of Jack before each bout of tramp-wrestling just to keep his shit tight. A brutal portrayal of man’s capacity for violence and self-destruction, or the troubling fantasy of a game designer offered the Big Issue once too often?

Marcus FenixMarcus Fenix (Gears of War series): His bulging musculature lends him the physical bearing of a 10-tonne testosterone factory. His voice rattles in his throat, as if every word is an angry cougar clawing its way past his larynx. He carves up enemies with the relish of one who knows that a day without spilled entrails is a day wasted. He is secretly delighted that his friend’s wife is probably dead, because it means that his buddy will have more time for arm-wrestling and chest-waxing and all the other things that manly-men enjoy doing together. Marcus is a hyper-man, the result of someone squeezing a semi-enraged Hulk into power armour and then teaching him that guns can smash things too. Now SUCK PAVEMENT.

Duke NukemDuke Nukem (Duke Nukem 3D): Some are born men. Others have men thrust upon them. Those people are usually called women. But some men are created to be all that man can ever hope to be. I knew a man once. He wore dark glasses, chewed gum and boasted pecs of sculpted bronze. As ripped as a pair of Wolverine’s mittens, as buff as car polishing kit, as callous as the skin on the ball of your foot, the Duke is, without a shadow of doubt, the King of Virtual Machismo. And although the king may be dead, his legacy lives on in every two-dimensional, shamelessly chauvinistic character that still roams the gaming landscape, spouting misogynistic one-liners and fondling their weaponry.

What does the modern man do to prove his manliness?

He creates an imaginary asshole to play with.







3 responses to “What Makes a Man”

  1. Van-Fu avatar

    What does the evolution of videogame women say about the modern man? From Samus to Lara to Joanna to Hitomi. I daren’t even begin to think about it. Great blog.

  2. Simon avatar

    Absolutely fantastic, cracked me up about 7 or 8 times.

    “refusal to ask for help” from The Doom Guy in particular……

  3. Celeste avatar

    So you finally managed to open that mayonnaise jar, huh?

    Your theory makes me want to meet Shigeru Miyamoto even more so than I did prior to reading this. One look at Mario tells me he’s one of the most self-assured, machismo-threat-free men to grace our planet. I mean, the man carries a tape measure around. How much more ‘man’ do you want for God’s sakes?

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