“Children of the night finally making music in the day” or some thoughts on FEMALE LIQUIFIED VIOLENCE and BLOODRAYNE 2

The game is a decent sequel to the 2002 original. The plot continues where the original left off, following a female protagonist, Rayne, half-human half-vampire on her path of revenge. You feed on your enemies, raising your blood levels that are quantified by the game’s interface as health points and ammunition for your blood-based weaponry, while simultaneously accumulating rage and carnage points, that can be spent on various blood arts (macabre tactics of pure suppression of oncoming life force). 

The game is an eroticised (the protagonist even appeared topless in the October 04’s issue of Playboy) simulation of a MILITARISTIC BLOOD-FLOW, its insatiable appetite supported and driven by the economics of rage and carnage. Although quickly gaining in speed and strength, the flow is alas faced with its eventual depletion as the enemy (the resource) is but finite – or at least the game is.

“BLOODSTORM: Rayne envelops her entire Rage meter and creates a blood whirlwind that destroys everything in an entire room. Too bad you acquire this move at the very end of the game.” (Walkthrough, IGN)

Still, there is something off with this finitude, or at least with how it is introduced. The game leaves us with the leader of the vampires dead and the shroud-producing factory that would allow them to roam freely during the day (marking the dawn of the vampiric age) in the hands of the protagonist (herself only half-vampire). The task at hand would now be to “rein in” the last of the vampires, while also prepare for the arrival of the shadow patrons or accomplices of the now-dead leader that will (at least so it is speculated by the protagonist) come and claim “his property“ for themselves. This is an odd task for what was up till now solely known as a militaristic blood flow (heavily eroticised, hyper-female, radical liquified violence). The metropolis was momentarily overtaken by power, that although singular was capable of absorbing and metabolising an entire cabal of no less powerful vampires with ease, yet not only has the king not lost its head but at the moment of his decapitation, the protagonist suddenly morphed from a radical figure of liquified violence into a desperate freelancer nervously looking for a new job (as if “Bloodstorm” was merely an edgy nickname for a questionable temporary gig)!?

“I’m looking for work now, too. “Empress” might not be a bad job title. Until something better pops up.” (BloodRayne 2)

What was deemed as the outside, effortlessly sweeping through the inside, has suddenly submitted to the inside, to the familial segmentation that makes the radical overturning of the metropolis into a simplistic game of thrones (the now dead leader being also the father of the protagonist, *eye-roll*) – of course, making space for further sequels of the game, yet simultaneously also emptying it of any significant imaginary that it might have somehow accidentally stumbled upon.

Such re-Oedipalisation of carnage left unchecked is nothing new. Most action movies encompass some level of emotional distress at the beginning of the story, “letting their characters find catharsis through violence” (Russel 2002), rather than the violence becoming a de-humanised figure of its own. And while video games (especially 1st or 3rd person shooters) follow this convention more loosely, it is nonetheless in effect. The one exception being the female protagonists that have been traditionally left underwritten, yet exactly as such spared from the segmentation that would made them all-too-human: weak, feeble, and a reactionary element of their surroundings.  

It is only in recent years, that this lack of backstory and emotional drive in female protagonists has been somewhat rectified and addressed. For instance, when Lara Croft emerged as a prominent video game avatar for 90s kids, she was but a few pixels graphically arranged so to somehow elicit the notion of a female form — a form that was necessary since there was no background story that would otherwise sufficiently present who the character was and what was driving her all across the world to destroy cultural landmarks and cause eco-genocide. It was only with the 10th instalment, that the character received a radical redesign, losing her eroticised image (exaggerated female bodily proportions, that were first introduced as a pragmatic solution to pixel limitation, but later kept as a sleazy sales tactic to tap into the libidinal market of pre-pubescent boys) and gaining the full Hollywood treatment of drama and cheese that turned the gameplay into an interactive blockbuster with backstory galore.  

One could, of course, argue, that the character was finally done justice; saved from the mute cage of its sexualised proportions. Yet it also lost the very thing that made her an appealing character in the first place: the mute supernatural wit and carnage, that had no respect for the notion of human fatigue, day and night cycles, or archeological ethics. Instead of allowing her (granted through design oversight that made her an underwritten character, to begin with) to explore her inhuman desire, she was rather re-Oedipalised with her backstory (again, segmented according to her familial relations). Her liquified violence dissipated and what was an intriguing phantasmal stumble of 90s game design, turned into conservative domestication of a figure daring to lose its humanised baggage. 

It is up to speculation now, to figure out what could be the true ending of BloodRayne 2 (or if there even would be one). What phantasmal imagery could be produced if the game would be allowed to run its course, if the figure of liquified violence could proceed to its conclusions, instead of being tamed and made inoperative by an imposed narrative ark? What world would we have the chance to see, if the militaristic blood-flow, its rivers of blood, would wipe its surface clean?   

Author: Domen Ograjenšek

Writer, art critic, curator

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