My First Crush: Badass, Manipulative, and Pixelated

1998 was a big year for me. I was turning 12. The big 1-2. It was my golden birthday. Turning 12 on the twelfth. A lot happened for me that year. It was the year of our last move as a family, and the year I found my passion for storytelling, cool characters, and cool moments.

I had flirtations and crushes throughout my years with girls and boys my age, and one who was way not my age, but those were solid tangible relationships. I could talk to my first crush at lunch time, or stare in wonderment at the 17 year old life guard at the neighborhood pool, or hold hands with the guy next to me in science class under the desk. All of these were real.

A few years after moving for our fifth, and final time, as a family, my Mom and Dad told us they were separating, and I instantly shut everyone out of my life. They called down the thunder, and I retreated to video games. Sure, Mario could die, but he was reliable. I wouldn’t let him down, and he wouldn’t let me down. I was blowing through games left and right, and thanks to my Blockbuster Pro membership, new adventures were always at my fingers, for a couple days at a time anyway.

Kerrigan

Then one day when my mother was at her new job, and my brothers were hanging out with friends, I found myself home alone. I didn’t have a car, and Blockbuster was way too far to walk to, so I started digging through our old computer desk for games. I had fond memories of playing an old school Duck Tales game on a 7 and a half inch floppy disk, so maybe I could find something cool to entertain myself, since only a loser would do homework while he was home alone.

I had known about Starcraft since it came out, but mostly played it as a multiplayer game with my brothers or friends. I had never dived into story mode beyond the tutorial, so I installed it on my laptop that I bought for myself after slaving away at my first job, and started to play through the story mode.

The game is simple enough to understand, you use your mouse to manipulate tiny armies of people to fight off aliens, or play as aliens trying to kill all of the people. Building your base up means you get access to things like tanks or giant aliens made of light. But there was an honest to god great story behind all of that. The first of three standard campaigns follows a gruffy Terran marine named Jim Raynor as he fights against a government who didn’t care about the little guy. Pretty basic stuff.

Ghost KerriganInfested Kerrigan
Ghost KerriganInfested Kerrigan
Ghost KerriganInfested Kerrigan

Enter Sarah Kerrigan, a special psionic operative known as a Ghost in the StarCraft lore. She was everything Jim Raynor was, except she wasn’t a cry baby bound by morals. She could cloak and become invisible to armies, picking off helpless units standing outside of bunkers without them even knowing. Sure, gaming as a whole is full of power fantasies like this, but having access to so much power without any repercussions made me connect with Sarah Kerrigan unlike any other character I had manipulated over the past few months. She was cool, confident, and could get shit done.

And then they killed her. They took my power away from me. I was helpless again. Jim Raynor, the stupid trope machine that he is, vowed to take revenge on Arcturus Mengsk for sacrificing her. The second campaign focused on the slimy and vicious Zerg race, as they protected a new biological weapon growing inside of a chrysalis. Sure, standard sci-fi fare. The chrysalis hatches during the fourth mission to reveal…

Sarah Kerrigan.

This time though, she is a half alien psychic hybrid who just murders and manipulates everyone. She has ditched the latex stealth suit for chitinous armor and a badass pair of bone wings. Throughout the remainder of the Zerg campaign, Kerrigan remains a slave to the Zerg Overmind, acting as it’s right-hand, bringing terror and vengeance to the galaxy. At the end of the Protoss campaign, Tassadar kills himself to destroy the Overmind, shattering the control of the Zerg and turning them into a primal race from hell. Kerrigan doesn’t really start to become the badass I fell in love with until Brood War, though.

Kerrigan

The Zerg campaign starts the Brood War expansion, and Kerrigan takes center stage. She begins going from planet to planet taking control of the scattered Zerg Broods with a clawed fist. The other races are shattered from the events of Starcraft as well, with the Protoss trying to heal a racial divide between the Dark Templar and the Templar, and the UED fighting to lay claim to the remains of the Terran Confederacy.

Kerrigan seizes this opportunity of strife to manipulate her enemies through the use of double agents, sending the Infested Ghost Duran undercover in the UED, and taking control of the Dark Templar Matriarch Raszagal. Duran completes his mission for Kerrigan and then disappears, revealing that he was never under Kerrigan’s control. On the Protoss side of the betrayal, Zeratul, the Dark Templar hero, ends up murdering Raszagal to break Kerrigan’s control of the Dark Templar caste. The finale of Brood War has Arcturus Mengsk, Artanis of the Protoss, and the remains of the UED try to kill Kerrgian. Emphasis on try. She ends up kicking their ass and leaves them to lick their wounds as she builds her forces up. She declares herself the Queen of Blades, and nobody fucks with her.

Starcraft exploded in South Korea and Blizzard attempted to bring the franchise to consoles with the cancelled stealth shooter Starcraft: Ghost. Finally 12 years later, Blizzard released the first of three planned versions of Starcraft II, dubbed Wings of Liberty. The entire story followed Jim Raynor in a quest to reverse the Zerg infestation from Kerrigan using an alien artifact. Blizzard uses Raynor’s guilt to showcase the climatic moment when Kerrigan is betrayed in the original Starcraft in a brand new gorgeous cinematic.

In Heart of the Swarm, the Zerg based expansion, Kerrigan straight up rejects her new human form, and proceeds to reclaim her Zerg form by incubating herself with Primal Zerg DNA. The narrative follows a lot of going back and forth on if she is really Kerrigan or the Queen of Blades. I am happy to say at the end of the Protoss expansion, Legacy of the Void, the Queen of Blades is the only visage left of the red-haired sniper I fell in love with.

What’s great, is that now that Blizzard is expanding their games and reach, I can enjoy Kerrigan outside of Starcraft. She is one of the playable characters in Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s Free-to-Play MOBA game. She regularly appears in the Starcraft comics and novels, and Blizzard uses her for a lot of promotional artwork. For some, she is the face of Blizzard.

Kerrigan
Kerrigan in Heroes of the Storm

For me? Kerrigan is everything I want, and got, in a woman. She overcomes a situation outside of her control to put herself in an even more powerful position. She see’s the long game and plans for it. She makes people cower, and makes the best of her situation. Sarah Kerrigan is not only my first fictional crush, but my absolute favorite villain in all of fiction.

I am a Colorado based freelancer and soon to be graduate who loves movies and games. My wife and two stupid cats keep me grounded.

Follow me on twitter @RyanMHolt.

Ryan M. Holt

I am a Colorado based freelancer and soon to be graduate who loves movies and games. My wife and two stupid cats keep me grounded.Follow me on twitter @RyanMHolt.

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