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Dishonored : The depiction of women and violence

Article By: Sam Smith
Editorial and opinion

A short article about Dishonored.

Submitted:Apr 8, 2013    Reads: 21    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   

I recently bought Dishonored (for 15 pounds, I bought it second-hand) because it sounded like an interesting game despite what I'd read about it online.


In Dishonored you play as Corvo, the bodyguard of the Empress, returning from a diplomatic mission to seek aid for the plague ravaged whaling city by the name of Dunwell. At the start of the game the Empress is assassinated, her daughter Emily is kidnapped and Corvo gets thrown in prison from where you escape with the help of a rebel group called the Loyalist Conspiracy. Odd name. These kind of groups tend to have more heroic sounding names.

Dishonoured is a pretty damn good game, the story is good and the gameplay is fun but there is definitely a problem with its depiction of women. I can only think of four women of any kind of importance to the story and even they don't get to do much. The Empress who gets assassinated at the beginning, the heir to the throne who is sidelined for much of the game, Callista who is Emily's caretaker and not much else and Lady Boyle, the only villainous woman of any importance in the game. The only woman of these four with any kind of power to effect the story is Emily, the Empress is killed too early in the game to be able to really do anything (Though to be fair from what little we see of the Empress she seems to be a fine ruler.) and Emily only really has any say on things at the very end.

Yes she is an important character throughout the game but aside from Corvo she is seen as someone to be controlled and used by the other character. She is only a means to an end. Emily only exists in the game in relation to the male characters. Her screen time is short, her characterization limited and her role in the game is to serve as a motivation for Corvo and as a tool for the Loyalist Conspiracy and the Lord Regent and his regime.

Other women in the game are servants of all kinds and other minor unimportant characters. All characters of real importance to the story with the power to change things are male. The rebels are almost all male (I think there are two women in the group.) as are the villains lead by the Lord Regent. The problem is that there are no characters like Brianne of Tarth and Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire to fight the oppression, to balance things. I can definitely see why women might find Dishonored irritating and uncomfortable.

On the violence side, the chaos system is quite cool. I tend to play games like this the Axe Crazy murderous rampage style. I got the high chaos ending. In this game there are consequences to such rampaging. The violence has a clear effect on the story and the world you play in. You don't have to slaughter your way through Mooks and if you do the game doesn't shy away from showing you how your actions impact the game and its characters.

Dishonored despite its failings is worth playing. There are many ways of doing things and your choices shape the story in meaningful ways.


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