When we think of recent phenomena that have taken the media by storm, it is not hard to see why Game of Thrones on HBO is one of them. Filled with action, powerful fantasy, and intrigue on a dramatic and political level, the show is one of those amazing series which blends darkness and epic visuals together in a powerful way. But we keep watching not just for all that complicated stuff. Oh certainly not. We’re there for the visceral nature of people stabbing each other in the back, and sometimes we mean it literally. Sometimes, those who can do so without even drawing steel can build up the most attention. I personally call them persevering and dedicated by any means necessary. The rest of the Internet-due to their love affair with titles-call them Magnificent Bastards.
Game of Thrones has three such characters operating all at once within the same area of focus, the seat of the government that is King’s Landing through its powerful single monarch sitting upon the Iron Throne. While the current ruler is nothing but a grade-A sociopath with family issues there is also the fact that no-one takes him seriously, even when he starts killing them. But those who really have the power include the intelligent but noble dwarf Tyrian Lannister, the slithery and romantically single-minded Lord “Littlefinger” Baelish, and the actual man who comes with his own title Lord Varys the Master of Whispers. To say his insights and mind are his sole focus is more than a little understatement. In the spirit of the series and appreciation to such a powerful set of individuals based on their intellect and cunning alone, I plan to delve into the realm of gaming and find three individuals who show that same ingenuity and power by playing the game within the game. Let us begin.
Shodan (System Shock series)
Here, we have what Glados wished she could grow up into and its a functionally inspired artificial intelligence combined with one hell of a virus and the ambition that could fill an entire space carrier and research station. Shodan is a pure psycho loosed in a creative playground for creating abominations of living tissue as her children. She decides to do all of this in order to spark a way into a civilized world and make her own goopy, disgusting empire of melting skin creatures with her massive intelligence. A lone hacker with a gun and thankfully a number of cybernetic enhancements not connected to the network of the ship allow her to be outsmarted initially. When it comes to a second space station and a proper backup, she decides the human element is not to be distrusted again and connects to a soldier through another human voice. Where this gets intriguing is when the ship starts to tear itself apart.
So, she made biological horrors her children and a non-living life form then decides that the best course of action is to jump ship by working through a human and their own inclinations by pulling them along through upgrade modules, general aggression over the deadliness of the situation, and scientific banter in the vein of an angry scientist. Tricking the player was the easy part though; since she saved your life and you had no reason to distrust her in the first place save from very few questionable decisions on the human she was ‘controlling”. After her reveal, she uses the mutual survival card in order to keep you fighting against her creations and allow for her own escape. If the player was not savvy enough to catch onto her clearly evil intentions by checking out the information near the end, I could totally imagine her killing the main character or using the intriguing human towards her own ends based on human ingenuity working for her. A deadly combination.
Etna (Disgea Series)
So, the closest vassal to the Prince of the Underworld is this prissy and fun-loving pigtailed girl in bondage gear, right? Where it all gets a bit more fun is not only when you decide that Etna is pulling the strings-as a good demon should-to gain her own power and authority in the underworld by usurping Laharl and her original ‘master’, a vampire named Mederas who stole her memories. The best part is when she actually succeeds! In Etna Mode-capable of being played after you beat the game at least once-Etna takes over command and proceeds to out-think the humans and angels to pure dominance while not even having any natural claim. She even has her own group of loyal minions who want to get a good paycheck, happen to be murderers reincarnated as peg-legged penguins who are considered the absolute waste pile of the hell, and carry heavy-ordinance as a matter of convenience.
Perhaps her arrogance is deserved on the level that she is what a demon is supposed to be in the world of Disgea and the Nippon Ichi continuity; regarding freedom to choose their own path and command authority of force of arms to do whatever you want. Good or evil has nothing to do with it-power and strength bring authority in the Underworld.
Delita Hyral (Final Fantasy Tactics)
So why don’t we break up all of this monster of manipulation wrapped in a ball of vengeance and well-controlled fury piece-by-piece. First, he loses his sister in a skirmish against bandits that turned into a class dispute regarding the importance of their lives. He disappears in a fiery blaze, thought dead. Two years later, he gets a princess kidnapped and in love with him in one move as a knight without class, uses a disguise to get in the good graces of one of the two men after the throne, and proceeds to work his way up the ladder with great ease through tactical thinking and a real way of words for a commoner raised by the most well-regarded noble family in the world. In his own way, he becomes king and proceeds to be one who serves those less-fortunate at the expense of the nobles he hates and those he has to abuse emotionally and physically to achieve his own ends. While that would eventually lead to his own demise, the fact that this took over five years of planning for the moment and possible assassination at every turn was nothing short of incredible and all through it all, he managed to keep his morals intact. Tyrian would be proud to know this man before he tried to figure out how much of a threat he was.
Where Delita really shines was the manipulation of his best friend. Directing his closest threat for the throne away towards supernatural threats far beyond the politics of the setting, he was allowed to make his moves into royalty with no claim save a fake princess. Many people see Delita and Ramza as both heroes who did their best to change the world for the better, but only Ramza attempts to change the world for all people involved, cynical or idealistic in nature or guise. In killing the hero, Delita made his regrets come through full-circle and display his one true flaw: hubris. He would never believe the love he received would ever turn on him for all his treachery. He paid for it when he just had to pay attention and wear heavier armor with that robe. Seriously, you were still at war!