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Anaksha: Female Assassin

Yeah, this game is over three years old. I feel like talking about it anyway, namely because most of you probably have never seen it.

I generally consider it a good thing when a game can make some sort of statement, some lesson about how the world works. That’s what constitutes “art” in my mind — if a game can explore a topic in a meaningful way. And Anaksha: Female Assassin has a very distinct and memorable lesson: Men are evil.

Before I go on, I want to clarify that I haven’t beaten the game. I only got to the beginning of Act 2, because that’s when I felt the game had taught me enough.

Anaksha: Female Assassin is an assassination game, as indicated by the title. In each mission you’re given the description of your target (along with a lengthy cutscene establishing why he’s a super horrible person) and then you’re set into a sniping position where you wait for your target to appear and then shoot his face.

And every single target is a cartoonishly-huge jerk who abuses his wife. Often he’ll also be a drug dealer, or a regular visitor at a strip club (which is apparently just as horrible). The exact atrocities of each target varies slightly, but the general gist of it is always the same: He’s an abusive asshole.

The protagonist, Anaksha, is established to have been traumatized when she saw her best friend abused and murdered by her husband (of course). As such, she feels duty-bound to kill every single ‘scumbag’ in this great big city until they’re all dead. Now, this could make for an interesting character, but only if there’s an interesting character arc to go along with it. It would have been very interesting and compelling if she was forced to mature and face the fact that her actions have ethical ramifications and consequences.

Amusingly, this almost happens at the end of Act 1. She kills someone who apparently abused his wife (obviously) and deals drugs to kids. Then she hears on the news that this man who recently mysteriously died by a sniper shot to the face was a good guy who donated lots of money to charity and was super nice. She freaks out and goes to an old friend of hers, a man who sort of serves as a surrogate father figure, and confesses her crimes.

Wow! This might actually become interesting!

Then he tells her that the news reporter lady was wrong, and that the guy actually was a horrible person, and that what Anaksha did was totally okay and cool.

Oh. Never mind then. I guess the world really is that black-and-white. There are Good People and Bad People, and the best way to make the world a better place is to kill the Bad People.

See, this is what bothers me. The game constantly glorifies Anaksha’s line of work, even though she’s ultimately murdering countless people in cold blood. Yes, those people may have committed crimes, but does that make it okay to kill every single one of them without a second’s hesitation?

I’m really reminded of Rorschach from Watchmen. The crucial difference here, though, is that Watchmen never glorifies what Rorschach does. He’s never envisioned as some amazing do-gooder who’s making the world a better place. He’s envisioned as a fucking sociopath, which is what Anaksha is. And it seemed like the game was so close to actually embracing the concept, and then it completely turned the other way.

I really hate to give this game such a beating, because it’s clearly trying to do some good for the industry. This isn’t a game about a white man; this is a game about an Indian woman. And it’s supposed to be about female empowerment. But it isn’t, really. It’s just another game about a hypocritically violent, self-righteous psychopath who’s considered the “good guy” because her enemies are even less likeable than her.

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6 responses

  1. ‘Murder is ok as long as you kill unlikable people’ is one of the staple lessons of most video games, though. The entire Uncharted series is often held up as an example of this.

    Is the game itself worth a lunch break?

    October 12, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    • JPH

      No. The gameplay is extremely lacking.

      October 12, 2011 at 5:52 AM

  2. sumanai

    It would be interesting if at the end the game would reveal that she imagined the conversation with the male friend and has been killing random guys throughout the whole game. And then what those people were really doing will be shown along side with what she “saw”.

    I doubt that will happen, but one can dream.

    October 13, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    • JPH

      There’s apparently a sequel being made where she continues to assassinate dudes who were bad to their wives, so I don’t think that’s the case.

      That would be awesome though, in a Braid sort of way.

      October 13, 2011 at 10:54 AM

  3. What about “her old friend is actually in on a conspiracy to get Anaksha to clean up the ‘dirty’ loose ends by playing up her misandristic tendencies” as a hidden plot? That would be interesting.

    It doesn’t do that, does it.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    • I played through the entire game. In the end, she is vindicated, so no, it doesn’t do that.

      It should have, however.

      October 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM

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