Friday, December 28, 2012

Prototype - Part III - My Dear Sister

Screenshot of Dana Mercer, from the Prototype Wiki.
This is the third in my Game Story Reboot series regarding Prototype (2009).

Here's Part I -  Missed Opportunities, and Part II - King Of The Gods.  Remember the goal - to take the framework of the story in Prototype and make it actually worth experiencing.

Dana Mercer, in the original Prototype, is a major missed opportunity.  She is the first sympathetic person Zeus comes across.  She says that she and Alex hadn’t spoken in five years when he turned up a few months previous to the events of the game and asked her to start looking into GenTek.  She provides some leads for Zeus to follow up on. She’s then kidnapped by Elizabeth Greene and rescued by Zeus, but remains unconscious and out of the picture for the rest of the game.


We’re going to keep only  one thing: Alex and she hadn’t spoken in five years. From there on, what we have is new.

The Good Child

Dana Mercer was every bit as  smart as her sociopathic brother Alex, but because she was a “little sister”, she avoided much of the rather nasty attention that Alex got from their awful parents.  She isolated herself from her family as much as possible, a child of the Internet age, hanging out on BBSes when she had to be home, and with “normal” friends when she couldn’t avoid it. So she grew up with a decent sense of right and wrong (if, in the end, she's a bit snarky and cynical due to more or less being raised by the Internet), and knew her brother, though she loved him, would undoubtedly do wrong with his intellectual gifts.

Dana studied journalism, and went abroad to help people in developing countries expose injustice and fight for their rights through electronic, broadcast and print journalism. Back in the U.S., she became an influential blogger and investigative freelance reporter regularly called on by prestigious publications.  Nevertheless, because she wouldn't buy into the corporate journalism model, she remained an outsider, without much in the way of money or resources, pursuing her stories only with her wits and sources she developed over time.  Unlike Alex, who could play any horrible game put before him with no more moral qualms than he might feel over a game of Risk, Dana has had to fight hard for what she believed in and she really feels the impact of her decisions personally. 

Three months ago, Alex showed up on her doorstep.  He seemed shaken, genuinely remorseful and frightened by what he had seen at GenTek. Dana wanted to believe him. She knew he was as much or more a victim of their upbringing as she was – and although she knew he was also a victimizer, she genuinely wanted him to turn over a new leaf.  Nevertheless she was cautious until even the most basic digging on GenTek revealed major problems right below the surface.  Alex was giving her something good, and she began to believe in him.

Dana believes Alex, over the last few months, at least, has been really trying to do something good, perhaps the first good thing he’s done.  So when Zeus shows up, that's how Dana interacts with him.  Zeus responds to her belief that he is doing good things by continuing to do them.  Dana’s role in our story reboot is that she is the initial source of Zeus’ morality, its conscience. 

In other words, what Dana says is good, Zeus believes is good.  Ironically, Dana is really echoing to Zeus Alex’s lies about what a good person he is.  Zeus, not knowing differently, when he follows Dana’s directions, is becoming the person Alex pretended he was.  She tells Zeus what Alex told her about his goals and qualms about GenTek and Zeus thinks that's what he believes too.  She may even warn Zeus about some of Alex's (fake) goals being too dangerous, and Zeus then pursues them, achieving something truly good (that Alex never intended to pursue or achieve.)  This can be expressed by conspirators (detailed in Part II) getting angry at "Alex's" activities on Dana's behalf or in pursuit of an agenda they know is fake but which Zeus believes is real.

Dana and Zeus, from the Prototype Wiki

What Comes Next

Dana must be a fully realized character.  Her goal is simple: uncover the truth about GenTek and Blackwatch, and expose it to the world.  Only by exposing the truth will justice be served.  In order for this goal to be dramatically significant, there must be consequences to her pursuit of it.

At first, what Dana tells Zeus to do is in line with what she thinks Alex's goals were, to stop GenTek's illegal experimentation.  But as she begins to spread the information that Zeus obtains for her, things change - people begin to panic. Zeus sees a huge group preparing a suicidal charge at one of the quarantine stations.  They feel they're dead either way - at least this way someone will survive to get away.  (Blackwatch correctly believes this will result in infection beyond the island.)  Zeus has to scare the mob off, back onto the island.

Late in the game, the authorities, acting on Dana's information, denounce GenTek as illegitimate and order Blackwatch to stand down just when Elizabeth Greene's viral dominance threatens to spread to the rest of the world. Now the question is one between Dana's ideals and Zeus'. (Alex would never have given a shit.)  Can Zeus fight for humanity while keeping them at least temporarily in the dark to prevent panic? Or does that presume too much?  Who is he to decide what people should or shouldn't know?  Will he let Blackwatch step back and Greene take over?

Dana's suggestions and actions will constantly be aimed at gathering and spreading information and evidence - intercepting couriers (not swallowing them, that makes their information useless), hacking terminals, hijacking vehicles, raiding labs, commandeering radio towers, cellphone towers, and Internet hubs to transmit her stories.

In the hurry and hubbub to reveal the truth, Dana makes one big mistake in the existing game: she helps Zeus identify Elizabeth Greene.  They think of her as a victim (which she is) rather than a threat (which she also is).  This could be the first time that the two of them conflict...but it shouldn't be the last.  And when Zeus is off doing his thing, she should be off doing hers.  Across the time of the game, she should appear in many places, working to achieve her own goals, with or without Zeus.

Fan sketch of Dana by kayo96 at DeviantArt


What is Dana willing to do or not do in order to pursue her goals?  We never know in the original game because she gets knocked out, ho hum.  In our story reboot, how far is she willing to push it?  Would she share information with shady people who might misuse the scientific secrets of GenTek?  Would she count it a win if Blackwatch was shut down, even if the authorities that replaced them weren't as effective at combating the spread of Elizabeth Greene and the virus?  If Dana backs off, it should be a huge moment for her, the pivotal moment of her character. Maybe her ideals aren't as unwavering as she believes them to be.  And if she is willing to run the world right up to the edge of destruction, does that include her own brother?  Does it include Zeus?  Would she turn against them in order to get what she wants?  That should be the endgame for Dana.