Alyx Vance

Half Life

by Angela Simpson

Alyx Vance

Alyx Vance is one of the heroes of the award-winning videogame franchise Half-Life. Although the central playable character in the Half-Life series is Gordon Freeman, you can’t play the game without feeling drawn to Vance, his female sidekick, throughout parts of the story. Alyx Vance is certainly able to take care of herself and often helps Freeman out of tight spots; she is self assured, strong, and all-in-all a likable female game character. Those are some of the reasons we’ve chosen to tribute her.

Sure, Alyx Vance isn’t a ‘real’ person, but if she were, she’d be the kind of person you’d want on your side in times of trouble. Valve Software managed to do what few software developers have, they made a sexy, non-sexualised, strong female gaming character that players sympathize with and truly like. The only downside for female gamers is that they never get to play as Vance herself; she’s an NPC (None Playable Character) and acts as a tool for the main game and central character Gordon Freeman. However, Alyx Vance is the focal character in the newly released Half-Life: Episode One—but she’s still not playable. That aside, her characterisation is superbly done, as she, like Freeman and indeed the entire Half-Life universe, somehow feel real. You empathize with them, and this of course adds to the level of game playing enjoyment. Alyx Vance is the daughter of a prominent doctor, Eli Vance, and his wife Azian who was killed in the original ‘Black Mesa incident’—a story that took place during the first Half-Life title. She appears as an African American/Eurasian young woman, who’s intelligent, strong, and a member of the human resistance against the fascistic race of Combine.

You know, that 80’s television show with the pairing of David Addison Jr. (Bruce Willis) and Madelyn ‘Maddie’ Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) as an appealing male and female detective combo. For those not fortunate enough to have see the show, here’s the deal: David and Maddy had a very cool relationship where she’d help him, he’d help her, and they’d solve the crime, plus there would be lots of sexual tension and smart-mouthing between them both along the way, and viewers loved the fact they weren’t together romantically, whilst really wanting them to get together.

How does this tie in with Alyx Vance? Well, there’s some talk that Vance’s and Freeman’s relationship is growing closer with each passing game. Valve, don’t do it! Part of what makes Vance so cool is that she’s not tied into the obligatory ‘gaming girlfriend’ role, she’s not a love interest, she’s an equal and, similarly to Lara Croft, she should remain unobtainable. It adds to the game’s appeal. Oh, and for the record, Moonlighting died a death when the two characters got together (also: see X-files, Gilmore Girls, Mork & Mindy, etc), so here’s hoping anything hinted at in Episode One remains strictly a hint.

The character of Alyx Vance, like Jade in Beyond Good and Evil, shows that it is possible to include female videogame characters that, for the most part, do not have to rely on a boobs and ass mentality to appeal to gamers, either male or female. Vance is a fully clothed young woman who handles guns adeptly, is enthusiastic, intelligent, and shows a true empathy for other people in the gaming world she inhabits. All of these things make her a hugely likable games character, and doesn’t appear to have affected the views of most male gamers either (despite various photoshop nudes of Vance that presently litter the Internet), who all agree that she is an extremely cool character.

Any Alyx Vance fan having seen the Half-Life: Episode 2 teaser trailer may quite possibly have felt an internal “Noooo!” sweep over them. The trailer starts with Vance hanging from the edge of a precipice calling out for Freeman to help her. The trailer then cuts to a scene that apparently shows Vance lying dead in the arms of a distraught Vortigaunt who states sadly, “This is more than anyone can bear, but we will persevere," as he lays her out on the ground. Given that the Half-Life series deals with various time-halting aspects and other notions of ‘make believe’, let’s all assume that the release of Half-Life: Episode 2 will not be the end of Alyx Vance; though, if it were to happen, many gamers would be rather upset and truly feel the loss of a superb character. It is this emotional connection with the character (and indeed the Half-Life universe overall) that makes the series stand out as something truly special within the realm of videogames.

Hopefully, you’ve reached the end here with the thought that Alyx Vance is definitely a very cool female character and one who truly deserves her place in the Gamer Girls Tribute section. She doesn’t have to wear a chainmail bikini to be sexy, she doesn’t have to make orgasmic ‘ohhh!’ noises when she climbs atop a crate, and there’s no need for special in-game physics to jiggle outrageouly around her breast area. Alyx Vance has a depth of character that all-but perhaps the most hormone-driven teen gamer can see, it transcends any visually ogling stimuli. For this reason, and all of those mentioned above, Valve should be congratulated for making a truly great female gaming heroine.

"This article originally appeared at Thumb as 'The Honorary Oakley'. It was written to highlight strong female games characters. They appear at Gamer Girls Unite with permission from fellow female gaming site Thumb Bandits, but remain their IP."