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Psych Eval: Samus Aran

A discussion of the personality of Samus Aran based on gameplay mechanics, and filtered through the lens of the Meyers-Briggs personality profile.

Games offer us a unique way of exploring a character. We not only see the world from their eyes, but we actually interact with the world through their choices. We use abilities in games that echo the choices the character would make when presented with a certain situation. If there is a gap in the floor that we must cross, the game might present us with a button to press to traverse the obstacle, but the choices the character has made decides what that button does. In Prince of Persia, we are given the abilities of someone who has obviously spent years training in parkour techniques, and so when confronted with incomplete ruins, and a fight for his life, the character chooses to use those techniques to survive. These sorts of abilities define the characters in our video games more accurately than even the narrative that we are presented via sound or text. When the two don’t align, we automatically look towards the actions of the player character to tell us what kind of person they really are. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Given this, I would like to take a more in-depth look at some of gaming’s most iconic heroes.

In this article, I am diving into the personality of Samus Aran, bounty hunting star of the Metroid series of games by Nintendo. I’m going to take a look at the actions she takes in order to build a complete picture of her personality profile. I’m choosing to frame this personality profile in a way that is specific enough to give us an idea of who Samus is, but also vague enough that we can build a full profile with minimal information. The framework I have chosen is the Meyers-Briggs personality profile, because of its simple formula, and ease of understanding. I will attempt to sort Samus into one of the sixteen possible personalities defined by Meyers-Briggs.

Let’s go!


To begin, let’s look at Samus’s career history. Samus is a bounty hunter. She travels through space, hunting down whatever pays well enough to be worth her interest. She has built herself a reputation with the Galactic Federation, and when reports come in of something related to the plague of terrible monsters known as Metroids, Samus is called to handle them as only she is capable. She has worked with the Galactic Federation on a number of occasions, and in doing so has made an enemy of the Space Pirate gangs, with whom she regularly battles.

Samus is most well-known for her power armor, which she uses to survive the harsh environments and creatures that she faces in her travels. This armor has its origins in an alien race of beings known as the Chozo. It is not shown exactly when or how Samus got this armor from the Chozo, but we repeatedly see their influence on her travels as she picks up powerups in their ruins. These powerups include things that enhance the laser cannon she has attached to her arm, as well as various ways of traversing the landscape, or surviving particularly harsh conditions.

So that’s Samus.

 


Let’s look at this information, and make a few logical extrapolations. Samus is a bounty hunter who seems to work exclusively alone. Metroid Prime 3 introduces a few characters with whom she appears to be friends, but she never works too closely with those people, merely interacting with them as is necessary/beneficial for the job at hand. Metroid: Other M confronts Samus with members of her old military unit, but she has clearly left that group for a number of reasons, so let’s ignore that bit for now. This tells us she tends to prefer to be on her own. A preference that is evident in every game in the series. The core theme of the Metroid series is that of loneliness and isolation, so Samus being a loner seems pretty much a given.

Another point of interest is her power armor. We don’t know how she got it, but we do know that she uses it in every mission we’ve seen her undertake. She never swaps out that armor for a different set, she only ever upgrades the set that she has. Even in the games where her armor is corrupted, she stubbornly continues to use it, even while risking her own life to do so. We can assume she LOVES that armor. That armor is clearly a source of intense pride, and a reminder of some great personal moment in her life. If it were not, she would not be so adamant about using it when it becomes damaged or dangerous. She also starts off every game with a clean slate, not using any of the abilities of the previous games. Obviously, this is a gameplay concession by the designers, but let’s look at it as a personal choice. If Samus loves her armor as much as she seems to do, perhaps it has become “her baby” in much the same way as a car enthusiast might think about their vehicle. While she’s on a mission, she finds upgrades to her suit that are beneficial to her task. When the mission is done, however, she removes them all and returns the suit to a state where she is most comfortable. Probably a place where she can best perform repairs and keep the suit running as long as possible, rather than stressing its power supply with extraneous parts.

And with that, let’s segue over into gameplay mechanics, starting with the types of weapons she carries, and how she uses them. Samus’s primary weapon is a beam cannon that is attached to her arm. This cannon shoots a variety of different energy projectiles, and the types can frequently be changed on the fly, as is needed for the combat scenario at hand. This cannon is also capable of switching modes to fire explosive projectile “Missiles” for a more powerful attack.

Samus’s other iconic gameplay mechanic is the morph ball. In this mode, Samus tucks herself into a ball, using her suit’s chozo technology to squeeze through tight spaces or crawl up walls. In this mode, Samus drops bombs that she uses both to defend herself, and to blow holes into the terrain to help her exploration. The bombs she uses are generally only divided into two different types, a regular bomb and a power bomb that has a much greater explosion radius and strength.

And lastly, Samus’s visor. This is a helmet attachment that samus often has upgraded alongside her weapons, but which she does not use as a weapon. The visor upgrades do, however, often get used in combat while fighting enemies that are otherwise invisible (at least in the Prime series of games, where the first-person perspective makes this more reasonable/interesting).

 


One thing I want to note here is what Samus considers to be essential equipment for a mission. Most of what Samus can do in the games is unlocked over the course of the game as you find those upgrades in the field. Samus usually only starts her mission with a bare essential set of upgrades on her suit. As with the armor powerups, this is obviously a gameplay concession, but it also says a lot about our protagonist all the same. We may as well accept that Samus starts every mission with a similar loadout, and whether the designers intended it or not, this tells us she considers these to be essential. Perhaps it’s because this is how she first found the suit, perhaps it’s power or maintenance reasons, but it happens all the same. So let’s look at her default loadout:

Her visor upgrades are gone. Samus has never once started a game with an upgraded visor. She generally starts her missions with the morph ball upgrade, though it is frequently lost at the start of the game and must be reacquired. While she may generally start the mission with the morph ball, often she does not have the bomb powerup to begin with, instead unlocking that early in her missions. Her beam cannon is always present from the start, but usually in only its most basic configuration. Much of the time she does not start her missions with missile launching capability, but some of the games do include it from the start. All of Samus’s various upgraded modes for her missiles or beam cannon are left to be found during the mission, rather than taken along from the start. The one exception is the charge shot that is a frequent inclusion from the beginning.

So let’s step back and examine what all this means. Samus starts her mission without any upgrades to her visor. That means that either the visor upgrades are incredibly unstable, which I have a hard time believing, or that she views them as non-essential. She can see just fine on her own, and her visor DOES tend to include some form of scanner in the games where we see directly from her perspective, so it seems this is enough for her to get the job done. This tells us that she feels one type of scanner is enough for a standard mission. As long as she can gather basic information about her surroundings, she feels comfortable. The fact that she leaves a scanner on her at all times says that she is cautious, and relies on her mind to keep her alive as much as her body, but the fact that she leaves only the one visor says that she doesn’t get lost in her studies. As long as she has enough information to survive, she’s good.

The morph ball is a tool used primarily as a means of exploration, but also as a means of escape. It is common for the games to find Samus in a situation where her morph ball is used to get out of a bad situation. The morph bomb is primarily used as a means of exploration, though it is sometimes used in combat as well. The fact that Samus leaves the morph bomb off of her list of basic equipment says that she thinks of the morph ball as primarily a means of getting into and out of tight spaces. She’s less worried about its usefulness as a combat ability, or even as an exploration ability. This shows her concern for her own well-being. It would be easy to remove this upgrade entirely, and sometimes she does, but the ability to curl up and hide in a hole until an aggressor leaves seems too good to pass up much of the time.

The arm cannon is a widely useful tool that Samus seems to find absolutely essential. She may leave off some of its abilities, but she always carries a weapon with her. So much so, that this cannon actually exists in place of her right hand. She sees more value in her ability to fight than in her ability to interact with her fingers. Granted, we have to assume she’s left-handed and can interact comfortably enough with that hand, but the fact that she removes one entire arm for the sake of firepower says quite a lot about who she is. She’s not overly aggressive, however. A person who is obsessed with power might be inclined to leave the upgrades attached no matter what. Samus seems content with only the most basic of beam weapon (though she does usually include a charge laser, so she definitely wants to keep the upper hand).

What interests me the most about her arm cannon, however, is how she decides to use it. One recurring theme throughout the series is that the doors respond to her shooting at them. This is another gameplay concession, but once again we’re going to take a look at it as if it’s not. What type of person shoots at a door’s energy field in order to pass through? Obviously these doors were not designed to exclusively be opened by having someone fire upon them. Presumably there’s a switch somewhere that would lower the shield and allow passage. I mean, we see them even in the galactic federation bases that Samus visits. No one seems to mind her shooting at them, but not everyone in those stations has a weapon either. At most, the doors might be wireless and require a type of key that doesn’t always exist, thus rendering their normal mode of interaction impossible. Samus doesn’t stop to examine this, however. There’s bound to be some other way to interact with these doors, but Samus has found a way that works and so she uses that. Different doors require blasts of different power to disable them, but always she interacts with these doors using brute force. Maybe she does it because she has anger issues, maybe she does it because she thinks it’s hilarious that an ancient civilization would make doors that are taken down by simple weapons fire, speculating on that would be pointless. All that we know is that every time Samus Aran sees a door shielded by colored energy, she shoots it.

 

 

So ok. We’ve started making assumptions based on assumptions, and have stretched the game lore about as far as it’ll go before snapping into tiny bits. So let’s start in on the Meyers-Briggs personality profile. For those unfamiliar, Meyers-Briggs is a binary system of four unique points, all combining into a combination of 16 possible personality profiles. Every person is said to fall into categories as follows: Introvert or Extrovert, Intuitive or Sensing, Thinking or Feeling, Perceiving or Judging. I’ll go into more detail as we nail these down, and we’ll proceed from left to right, starting with Introvert or Extrovert.

Introverts are people who feel drained by social situations, while Extroverts are those who feel energized by the same. An Introvert tends to spend time in their own company, while an Extrovert tends to be a social creature. For our protagonist, this one’s easy. Samus is clearly an Introvert. She spends her time alone for long periods of time, her ship is designed with only a single seat, she left her military unit to work on her own, pretty much every facet of Samus’s personality reinforces that she is an Introvert. The theme of the games tends to be isolation, as well, so this makes perfect sense.

Intuitive people extrapolate based on data that they are given, while Sensing people look at that information at face value. An Intuitive person will write long articles dissecting the personality of a video game character who clearly isn’t meant to have a defined personality, while a Sensing person will roll their eyes and think them a complete moron. This one’s a bit more difficult. Samus’s penchant for shooting through doors because it works would seem to be a Sensing personality trait, while her use of so many interchangeable weapon types and abilities would lend itself more towards Intuition. Military people tend to be Sensing, but Samus left her military role and began a life as a free agent, which would imply that role does not suit her. Her choices of weapons and armor seem to reinforce her survival instincts, rather than her desire to seek knowledge. An Intuitive person would seemingly keep more of the unique suit upgrades between missions, and so for this very tenuous reason I will say that Samus is a Sensing personality type. (if you see evidence to the contrary, do please point it out in the comments)

Thinking people use their minds to make decisions based on logic, while Feeling people use their hearts to decide based on what they believe. A Thinking person may kill a child if it would save hundreds of other lives in the process, while a Feeling person may find this choice impossible to make. In the case of Samus, we must return to our list of evidence. Samus wears a suit of armor that gives her a great tactical advantage, but she wears that armor often at the expense of her own health. She uses tactical visor upgrades in order to gather more info about her surroundings, but she disables these between missions, preferring to rely on her own abilities. The strongest evidence I have here is at the ending of Metroid II (this will be a spoiler if, somehow, you have not seen/played/heard about Metroid II). Samus is on a mission to wipe out all the Metroids when she comes across a baby Metroid and takes it home with her. Her job is to destroy them all, but when faced with a baby she allows it to live, and takes it back with her. This is clearly an emotional decision, and one that a Thinking person would absolutely never choose. For these reasons, I feel confident in declaring Samus as a Feeling personality.

Judging people prefer to live within a structured environment, while Perceiving people prefer to leave their options open. A Judging person will want to decide where to make their dinner plans in advance, while a Perceiving person will prefer to wait until it’s time for dinner and then figure it out on the fly. Samus Aran spends the Metroid series reacting to the events around her. She has a loose mission that sends her to these planets, but she never seems to have an exact plan of attack. Each game has you exploring your surroundings until some new information pops up and gives you a more specific goal, but you never have a discrete list of tasks to accomplish. This is a pretty strong indication that Samus is a Perceiving personality. She prefers to leave her options open to new input from her surroundings.

Taking all of that together, we arrive at ISFP. To the best of my ability to interpret Meyers-Briggs, this is Samus’s personality profile. I’m happy to debate this, if you have a more thorough understanding of the subject, please feel free to comment below with all the ways I am horribly wrong.

 

Here's a random image from the internet that claims these other characters are also ISFP! Who knows, maybe it's right?!


So what does this knowledge give us? Why did we do all this? Well, knowing what personality type Samus is can allow us to further develop her story. We could design future Metroid games in a way that reinforces her personality, or challenges that personality with tasks that she might not be comfortable facing. We can use this knowledge to reinforce her personality with environmental clues or actions. More importantly, however, is simply the exploration and information gathering that was required to build this personality profile. You may disagree with my choices, but knowing what information I used to arrive at my conclusions will allow you to argue my points. This will also arm you with the knowledge of what your in-game actions say about your characters. Yes, it’s utterly absurd to think that Nintendo had any specific plan for why Samus starts each game with a new weapon loadout. You can tell by how they’ve tended to imply that Samus has all her upgrades, but loses them to some electrical accident at the start of a game, and must then re-find them. However, the more we understand about what our games say about our characters, the more we can adjust. Eventually, we will arrive at a point where every action in a game will reinforce the protagonist’s personality perfectly, and there will be no disconnect between a player’s motivation and the motivations of the player character. The more games able to do this effectively, the better, and hopefully my exploration of this idea here will help bring that reality closer for more people.

I would love to see more discussion below, so please do comment with your thoughts. What did I do wrong here? How can I improve my approach? How is my approach fundamentally flawed? Fire away, folks!

Until next time,

Thanks for reading!

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