11/12/2012

My Favorite Women in Video Games: Cortana


Games she appeared in:  Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2-4, Halo ReachIs she being rescued/saved as a key plot point: Cortana is the one who will discover the deus ex machina to save the day or protect anyone under her care.

For our video game BFF date, we would: I would prefer her to appear on my iPhone and give me helpful hints and motivate about my day, but Master Chief needs her more.

In honor of the release of Halo 4, for today’s column, we will be looking at the ever present and evolving female AI of the series Cortana. Master Chief’s constant companion, Cortana is a smart-AI program, based on the cloned brain of a female doctor who both created the SPARTAN-II program and series’ recognizable armor. Throughout the game, Cortana guides and assists Master Chief through his missions and goals. But while normally a female AI wouldn’t qualify as a kick-ass woman in games, the developers of the series put in the work to make the character well rounded and evolving throughout the series. Cortana isn’t just a computer program, she is his caretaker and friend, concerned with ensuring that Master Chief isn’t just safe, but happy as well.

As a game, Halo has always suffered from the stereotyping of its characters and its players, faceless space marines controlled by a player-base more interested in what weapons they can find over a storyline. However, moving into the fourth game, the developers made the interesting choice to deepen and further explore the relationship between Cortana and Master Chief. While many people’s enjoyment of the series is based around the multiplayer, adding emotional depth and developing Cortana’s mortality further adds a new layer into the single player experience. For players like myself that value the experience of a single-player play-through, they are inviting us back to the setting and back to care about these characters again.

In my personal case, it means I will be making room for the latest installment on my constantly crowded gaming dance card.

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