- Name: Samantha Everett
- Game(s): Gray Matter
- Creator: Jane Jensen
Sam is a magician from Washington D.C. who, while traveling abroad through the English countryside on her way to London, gets misdirected and winds up near Oxford. Her motorcycle breaks down outside a mansion called Dread Hill House. The mansion is owned by David Styles, a reclusive neurobiologist. Out of money and without transportation, Sam quickly pretends to be a student sent to assist Dr. Styles. From there she gets caught up in his mysterious projects, which perhaps breach the border of the paranormal. Meanwhile she tries to gain access to the Daedalus Club, a renowned albeit secretive magician’s organization. If these two tasks weren’t enough to have on her plate, strange, inexplicable things start to occur on the University of Oxford campus.
Wow, now that I’ve typed that out I realize just how strange Gray Matter‘s story is. It’s an excellent game though. And Samantha, as has already been suggested, is a superb protagonist. A cunning motorcycle-riding street performer who travels in a foreign county solo and can clearly work out a situation to her advantage. She’s also a perfect foil for Dr. Styles, whose moody Byronic behavior she responds to on equal footing. And her appearance is just so totally punk rock.
We’ve seen an early incarnation of Samatha Everett in Jane Jensen’s Gabriel Knight series: that of Gabriel’s assistant, Grace Nakimura. Sam’s response to Dr. Styles’ moodiness mirrors Grace’s response to Gabriel’s chauvanism: A unimpressed sigh and a touch of sarcasm. While Grace is fantastic in her own right, she’s always overshadowed by Gabriel. In Gray Matter we see their positions flipped. What’s more, all the flirtation that went on in Gabriel Knight is nonexistent in Gray Matter. Meaning that a man and a woman can be partners without having to be romantic partners. (Not that that will stop fanfiction, but I digress.) Wow!
Jensen’s protagonists are always outspoken and, to an extent, unfeminine. She recently came out as writing male-on-male romantic fiction under a pseudonym (which is something I’d like all my adventure game writers to do) and explained why she avoids strict gender alignment in her characters: “My own personality has many traits that would be considered masculine, and I’ve never been one for pink and lace. I think we are all a balance of masculine and feminine in our deepest selves in ways that go beyond gender and sexual identity.” This reaching beyond gender norms, I think, adds another important level to Samantha. It shows a clear intention to write a compelling character in general rather than a compelling “strong female protagonist” trope. And with this androgynous approach, even the most rigidly binary men and women should see aspects of themselves in Samantha.