Advertisement
Games

In 'Prey,' I Could Deal with Violent Aliens, but not the Gaslighting

In my 'Prey' universe, Morgan is definitely a woman.

by Carli Velocci
Dec 11 2017, 6:00pm

All images courtesy Bethesda

When I booted up Prey for the first time, I chose to play as a woman Morgan Yu because if a game gives me a gender option, I prefer to play that way.

The game proceeded as normal, to the point where I forgot that there was a gender choice to begin with. However, after I completed the game and went to look up the other endings online, I was confronted with male Morgan for the first time. What struck me the most—besides the stark difference between the voices—is that something felt off. Male Morgan (or MM as I will call him) doesn’t fit into the Prey narrative because the story is about the experience of being a woman. At the very least, it’s a story about oppressed and marginalized groups.

(Major spoilers for Prey below)

There isn’t a true villain in Prey, since the whole point is to let the player question Morgan’s actions. However, the closest we get is Morgan’s brother Alex. He begins the game as the authority figure that walks you through your first day at work—playing the part of the supportive older brother—but that quickly changes once your realize things aren’t what they seem. At first, you come to understand that you’ve been a part of a simulation and that Alex was in on the scam. But then you find clues that suggest the simulation was your idea. Later, you discover that Alex is preventing you from leaving the station.

One of Prey’s conceits is uncertainty. Morgan is jolted out of the simulation and left to wander around the space station Talos I, which is overrun with alien monsters. There are both robots and humans insinuating you not only know more about the situation, but that you were instrumental in a lot of what went wrong. There’s a lot to pick up just from the first 15 minutes, including the fact that maybe Alex tricked you into going into the simulation, or that the entire company seems to be in on it. It’s a disconcerting start to a game that only continues down that path.

You begin to understand that a lot of this is your doing, especially as you talk to your robot companion January and pick up people from around the station. Morgan is as much a villain in Prey as Alex or any of the other company employees, but the game allows you to change that if you wish. However, even if you attempt a path of redemption, people like Alex still seek to get in your way.

Alex’s role in Prey is not so much to be your supportive big brother, but to be the authority figure that makes you question yourself. I guess he’s being supportive in his own way, but he’s also looking out for other interests. Especially towards the latter half, when you’ve come to your own conclusions about Morgan’s past and what her goal is for the endgame, Alex becomes a main antagonist, sabotaging you at every turn and trying to get inside your head.



All of this is to say that Alex treats Morgan less like a little brother and more like a stereotypical little sister. He doubts her. He treats her like a nuisance, not like an equal. And worst of all, he treats her like she is unbalanced, untrustworthy, as if he knows her mind better than she does. Alex is the voice in the back of Morgan’s head, making her question everything. He even tries to convince you not to trust yourself.

Their ages are clearly a factor in this power dynamic, but watching Alex consistently gaslight Morgan, even when he’s faced with the embodiment of her personality, is hard to watch. Alex is full of himself, constantly worried about failure, and would sacrifice his own sibling to ensure that things go his way.

His purpose is to make Morgan question everything. At one point, you have to make a choice between January and Alex and throughout the exchange, he's telling you how you would act. According to him, you would never blow up the station or give up research. That, to me anyway, seems like a distinctly marginalized experience.

This is very much in keeping with the kind of gendered gaslighting that women and nonbinary folks deal with on the regular.

When I was in college, I had a strained, complicated relationship with a man much older than me. When I would bring up something he did wrong, he wouldn’t take the blame, instead putting it back on me or making an excuse. I would be left apologizing when he, for example, called me the c-word after I asked him about his questionable career prospects and self-sabotage. When he tried to turn another friend against me by spilling private conversations and twisting them to his own benefit, I was left apologizing. When I had to eventually leave an apartment because of him, I wondered if it was because I couldn’t handle it.

Gaslighting doesn’t always go from men to women, but when we’re talking about me as Morgan, a victim of gaslighting by men in authority positions throughout the decades, I’m left to wonder why there was an option to play as a male Morgan at all.

If Prey is a story about confusion, uncertainty, and distrust, then why not make the power dynamic between the genders more obvious and central, by making Morgan (canonically) a woman? Why not go all the way and comment on how men in power belittle their victims? If Alex and January represent two voices that can exist inside a person’s head—one resolute and the other negative and questioning—than why can’t it be the ones I’ve known?