God from the Machine: Five Cybernetically Awesome Video Game Characters

God from the Machine: Five Cybernetically Awesome Video Game Characters   (photo)

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One of science fiction’s greatest promises is the melding of man and machine. For decades, authors and creators have imagined what humans would be like with all of our free will bonded to inexhaustible carbon alloys or polymers that would replace bone and muscle. Of course, the question arises as to just how human a person is when silicon circuitry commingles with blood circulation.

In some fictions, there’s no angst whatsoever, Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers seemed pretty well-adjusted for being 40% (or whatever) robot, in the classic 1970s TV series “The Six-Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman.” On the other hand, “Robocop” showed future Chicago police officer Alex Murphy’s humanity as deeply submerged under all that plating.

In video games, cyborgs have prowled the virtual worlds of arcade machines and home consoles since almost the very beginning. “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” features Adam Jensen, the latest machine-augmented hero in the storied cyberpunk franchise. Jensen follows in the footsteps of J.C. Denton, the protagonist of the original Deus Ex. While both seek to root conspiracies in their stories, Jensen’s tech is a generation or two behind Denton’s, since “DXHR” is a prequel to the 2000 release. These two characters aren’t alone, though. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the most memorable bionic warriors to show up in video games.

Nate ‘Rad’ Spencer from “Bionic Commando”

If he’s not the first cyborg hero in video game history, then he’s definitely the most memorable. The 1987 arcade title featured a special agent The gimmick in Bionic Commando was that the playable character couldn’t jump–a rarity in those days–and instead had to navigate the game’s tiered platforms with the grapple hook attached to his arm. The excellent “Bionic Commando Rearmed” remake in 2008 hit the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, and the downloadble hit featured co-op play so two people could get their hook on. (There was also a modern, gritty 3D update in 2009 that, frankly, sucked.)

The Big Daddies from “BioShock”

Any game rises and falls by its antagonists and one of the reasons that “BioShock” is regarded as a classic is because of the Big Daddies. These hulking monstrosities had their organs transplanted into armored diving suits so that they could protect the creepy Little Sisters who harvest the ADAM substance require for genetic splicing. You often heard them before you saw them in the iconic underwater city of Rapture and any encounter with them was brutal and often humiliating. “BioShock 2” casts you as a prototype Big Daddy with free who searched for the Little Sister he was once paired with. For as much as they’re fearsome figures, the Daddies are also a pitiable example of the cyborg’s lost humanity.

Master Chief from “Halo”

Arguably the most recognizable cyborg in all of video games, the hero of Microsoft’s “Halo” franchise is the one-man army players control in a massive war against an invading alien collective. Also known as John-117, he’s the last of the Spartans, cybernetic supersoldiers who represented humanity’s best hope against the Covenant, a marauding alliance of various extraterrestrial races. The Chief is a terse character, but shows some depth when relating to Cortana, the AI who guides him through most of the games. Microsoft’s putting out “Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary” to celebrate the 10th birthday of the game that started it all. And the Chief’s story will continue in “Halo 4,” announced this year at E3.

Jax from “Mortal Kombat”

Magic gets all the attention in the gory, long-running fighting series but the human warriors of Earthrealm have a few super-science stalwarts who can hold their own against Outworld’s demons. Chief amongst them is Major Jackson Briggs, better known as Jax. He’s a special ops agent who gets embroiled in the extradimensional conflict while searching for his partner, the leggy and lethal Sonya Blade. Jax’s robot arms give him superhuman strength and the ability to launch ranged enemy attacks. His Fatality finishers generally involve pounding the stuffing out of the poor fool who lost their fight, proving that this guy’s gun show is no joke.

Yoshimitsu from “Tekken”

Ninja + robot parts = awesome. The bionic shadow warrior in Namco’s hallowed martial arts franchise conforms the Robin Hood archetype and his reasons for entering the King of Iron Fist tournament usually have to do with fist-to-face wealth distribution. The radical changes in Yoshimitsu’s appearance from game to game get explained as various redesigns of his chassis. He’s the only character in the game who wields a weapon which make him just a bit cooler than the rest of “Tekken” crew.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.