Name: Ema Ryan
School: Bayview Secondary School
Hobbies and Interests: Physics, Aviation, Video Games, Writing, Sci-Fi, Zombies.
Appearance: With two short parents, and four short grandparents, Ema was never expecting to be even 'average', let alone tall. At exactly five feet tall – her habit of slouching doesn't help either - and weighing an ever-so-slightly underweight 83lbs, the leprechaun jokes she occasionally hears are hardly unwarranted. And height isn't the only department she's small in – to put it politely, Ema similarly lacks any visible feminine curves, much to her chagrin. Build and flatness aside, she possesses an eminently stereotypical Irish complexion; pale skin, a heavily freckled area between her cheekbones, and vibrant ginger hair, which she mostly neglects, leaving it at about shoulder-length, uneven and messy. Her eyes are a pale sea green, and her face could best be described as 'cute', with fairly large eyes, high cheekbones and a small, slightly upturned nose. Her ears are comparably small as well, not that they're ever visible under the mess of hair covering them.
Her usual attire tends to be an unimaginative, all-black affair, generally jeans, trainers, a jacket in which's myriad pockets she keeps most of her stuff, and all manner of unusual t-shirts as the only real variable. Coupled with her figure, it's unsurprising that Ema's often mistaken for a short, effeminate boy.
Biography: A dreamer in every sense of the word, Ema's lived her entire life dreaming of being, doing or becoming something or other. For the most part of her adolescence, Ema was decidedly average; natural academic talent just about counteracted inherent laziness to keep her grades at satisfactory levels, but never anything special, save for the sciences – her passion had always been physics, and in all three of the sciences she excelled. At the time, her greatest dream was to fly in the Air Corps, aviation being one of the major reasons for her interest in physics in general.
In her spare time, Ema rarely did much worth mentioning, no outlandish or exciting hobbies of which to speak - save for her occasional attempt at fiction writing - and an almost nonexistant social life. For the most part, Ema's adolescent days were passed in front of a computer screen, writing drafts of novels she knew she'd never get around to finishing, or playing games; pretty much everything from strategy to shooters, to RPGs and the occasional roleplay online. Other than that, usually after too many complaints at too much time "locked away with that bloody computer", Ema liked to read, in part for escapism, and in part for inspiration for her own projects. Unlike the broad range of games that appealed to her, her bookshelf was limited mostly to science fiction, steampunk, horror/mindscrew and the odd fantasy, with the only exception being her small collection of crime novels, all by Harlan Coben. Once upon a time, Ema delighted in spending time out in the sun with her family and friends, but a single sting from a wasp bloomed into a full-grown phobia of "anything that buzzes", and time spent avoiding the menaces gave rise to a distaste for the bright sunlight she used to love. Not only that, from a few days before then and ever since, anyone paying enough attention might well notice an odd string of bad luck, nothing major, just minor misfortunes that always seemed to target Ema, but could easily be written off as clumsiness, lack of spacial awareness, or plain inattentiveness.
Originally from Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, her seventeenth birthday 'present' was the so-called adventure of moving to the States – obviously, it wasn't a spur of the moment thing, her father had been offered an enviable promotion.. the only catch being that it was in Minnesota, quite the commute without moving over there permanently. She didn't much mind, as a matter of fact, her life at home left a lot to be desired - as an only child, Ema was often the object of playful envy from sibling peers, who seemed to think she was lavished with the kinds of things brothers and sisters had to share; attention, gifts, and so forth.
It was true, for her younger years, where she wanted for nothing and had the undivided attention of a loving mother, Erin, that stayed at home almost 24/7, and her father Alastair made an admirable effort to free himself from work - in those days, he had the unspectacular job of administrating a small courier company, which he'd riden a motorcycle for as a younger, single man - as early as possible to be with her. But, heartless as it may sound, the novelty wore off around the same time as Ema turned thirteen... or at least, that's how she herself saw it, the reality was far less depressing - both of her parents were hit hard by the early stages of the recession in Britain and Ireland, forcing her father to take a better paying job in big business with longer hours and a longer commute (Dublin, no less), and her mother to take a full time job at a local school herself. No, not out of material greed, but to provide for a daughter they still loved dearly, a daughter whose adolescent mind saw the opposite, and decided to follow suit and distance herself from them. Evenings were no longer 'family time', Ema preferred to pursue more solitary entertainments, in that time finding her fascination with science and engineering, mostly thanks to whiling away hours on end browsing whatever interested her on Wikipedia, or re-reading those science fiction books she'd lost interest in before. Her new, self-inflicted status as a pariah within her own family soon began to have a knock-on effect on her social life, and without even meaning to, Ema managed to alienate old friends and new acquaintances alike, soon losing all but the closest, mostly those with the empathy to decipher her odd mindset, but without the gall to point out how wrong it was.
So, without any choice in the matter anyway, Ema made a surprisingly easy move from her school to Bayview Secondary; she had few friends left to leave behind, and little that she cared about enough to miss from her home town. Blissfully unaware of the next surprise move she'd soon be making, she continued on as always, and as not only something of a layabout and a geek, but an outsider too, she didn't exactly fit in too well. By and large, though, Ema got along fine, by her own definition. Just as much as she didn't manage to cultivate a friendship any more familiar than an acquaintance, she had nothing close to an enemy either. But not being the type to crave popularity, she never much cared; after all, it's easier to lose oneself in thought when you're alone.
Advantages: Despite being the loner type, Ema's quirky and inoffensive personality makes her quite likeable and trustworthy to most.. but her tendancy to distance herself from others emotionally - the reason she ends up alienating most - means that, as much as she'd be tortured by her own morality later on, Ema would have less trouble killing to save her own life than most. Her borderline-obsession with science and engineering might just come in handy too, particularly if it involves her passion; aeroplanes.
Disadvantages: Cute as it may be in a social situation, depending on who's describing her, Ema's short stature and weedy build makes her close to useless in a straight fight. Similarly, her tendency to get her head 'stuck in the clouds' could well mean she never gets the chance to even have a fistfight. And on top of all of that, Ema's decidedly meek, so regardless of whether she's able to fight and kill in self-defence, the odds of her actively seeking a fight are low at best. A morbid fear of flying insects and dislike of direct sunlight isn't exactly an advantage, either, and her inability to hold a friendship together could well prove a disaster to any alliance later in the game, assuming she lasts that long.
Designated Number: Female student no. 045
Designated Weapon: A Timeturner replica (from Harry Potter)
Conclusion: If only you could turn back time, G045, perhaps you could make some friends who would actually support you here. As it is, I see you getting killed by someone pretty quickly. Good luck keeping allies; it's hard enough for the people who are actually likable.
The above biography is as written by Chib. No edits or alterations to the author's original work have been made.
Handled by: Chib
Killed By: Saul Fetteralf
Collected Weapons: Timeturner replica (assigned weapon), Falcata (from Hayley Kelly), Vector CP1 (from Andrew Mitchell), Colt Anaconda .45, Type 14 Nambu (both from Janet Binachi), Taurus PT99 (from Hayley Kelly), Katana (from Nick LeMonde, discarded), Hunga Munga, Tranquilliser Rifle (both from Nick LeMonde)
Enemies: Raidon Naoko
- "You know what? Maybe I am a bad person. But fuck these guys, I want to live."
- Her threads tend to be named for Morrissey songs, given that she often gets his lyrics stuck in her head.
- The start of something truly absurd
- It's hard to walk tall when you're small
- Sorry, Mom. Sorry, God.
- Going Round in Circles
- Pleather for Breakfast
- Without Love, It Cannot Be Seen
- Sprint for the Finish Line
- The Guilty Ones
- The Youngest Was The Most Loved
- Everyday is like Sunday
- The Stoner Always Dies
- Harlequin Girls
- Hatful of Hollow
- Confiscate the Crown
- Who Died and Made You King of Anything?
- Ever Since We Met...
- The Girl With the Thorn in Her Side
- Et dans ces instants, j’aimerais être comme toi par moment
- Director's Cut
- Dead-End Scenario
- Used to be a sweet girl...
- We Can Live with the Sadness
Your Thoughts Edit
Whether you were a fellow handler in SOTF or just an avid reader of the site, we'd like to know what you thought about Ema Ryan. What did you like, or dislike, about the character? Let us know here!
- I'm not going to beat around the bush on this. Ema was my least favorite character in V4. To be entirely fair, I think a large part of this comes from a combination of her being derailed from an actually fairly interesting and promising path and from her lasting a lot longer than she really fit the narrative.
Ema had much less pregame than her ex-girlfriend, which meant that, going into V4, we didn't have a particularly good idea of Ema as a person. Her first few threads on the island were unremarkable, mostly consisting of her wandering around. She soon reunited with Hayley, though. A big problem here is that none of their underlying problems ever got addressed in any way. Ema and Hayley broke up for pretty specific reasons, and didn't seem like a very good match in the first place in pregame, but this gets shoved aside (as does Hayley's far more sympathetic and interesting current boyfriend) in order to deal with their reunion and the rekindling of their relationship. The issue is, there's still no real reason they work well together. Both are scheming and looking out for themselves first and foremost.
If this had persisted or been developed, I think it'd have been really cool. I actually thought Ema had a very interesting plan and style in the early part of the game while with Hayley. It became clear very quickly that Hayley was psychotic, a thing she basically admitted. Ema hid behind her, never directly urging her into killing but enabling her by telling her everything was okay, all the while consciously hiding behind her and letting her do the dirty work. What made this a cool dynamic was that Ema seemed fully aware that she wasn't cut out for long-term violence, and also seemed pretty hopeless as a manipulator. Rather, she was an opportunist, willing to throw people she cared about under the bus if it helped her but not very capable on her own. This made her, in its own way, an interesting and fairly despicable villain. If Ema had stuck that way, I think she'd be one of those characters I loved to hate, and a really good V4 icon (at least in play style; there are some serious writing issues I'll get to later).
Unfortunately, all the subtlety and development there were jettisoned in pretty short order. Ema began to care about Hayley in a more sincere way, and became her willing and direct partner in crime rather than the person willing to benefit but not get her hands dirty. There are a lot of really jarring, out of place sex scenes and bits that seem forced in to titillate, some of which are anatomically improbable. Ema also develops a really random streak of sadism, which does not at all match anything in her profile or her early game. She starts killing directly, which removes all the tension from things. If we now know Ema can cut it as a killer on her own, she no longer needs Hayley and is thus only sticking with her due to her feelings. That turns their story into a love story, but the chemistry isn't there and both characters are irredeemable people, so there's no investment in how they do as a couple.
The narrative, especially Ema's, seems blissfully ignorant of this, though, Hayley and Ema are constantly spun as antiheroes at worst. They are clearly meant to be our protagonists, and their bad behavior is spun as humorous while anything that inconveniences them (say, someone actually returning fire when they try to murder the person) is treated as some kind of moral affront. Ema's narrative picks up a lot of quirks from Hayley's writing as they spend more time together, too. Hayley had some annoying but at least consistent sarcasm and forced humor in her voice; Ema picks it up and so it doesn't even seem a good fit for her. Ema's narrative is also completely bogged down in how referential it is. There are tons of in-jokes and references, usually to music or webcomics. This is doubly annoying since Homestuck didn't even exist at the time in which V4 is set, so it comes off as unintentionally anachronistic.
Ema is always treated with sympathy and awe by the narrative. It is very concerned with reminding the reader often why she is awesome, especially as she starts getting her hands dirty more. This is coupled with a truly improbable increase in her proficiency. Like I mentioned earlier, one of the cool parts about early game Ema is that she was almost a damsel in distress, just a really evil and twisted one. That gets jettisoned in favor of her being an action heroine. She shows no moral understanding of anything, no remorse, and no reason for being that way. We're in her head constantly, and that's a really bad thing for a villain with sketchy motivation. I'm one of the first to defend the portrayal of Kazuo Kiriyama in the Battle Royale novel and movie, but that's because both edge more towards the gonzo extreme than SOTF and also because Kiriyama is clearly a plot device of a villain. He never speaks (except in flashback in the novel), we never get into his head in any meaningful way, and he exists mostly to be a threat and mow down b-list characters (with an occasional kill the audience cares about). His competence is also set up at least a little bit. Ema's like Kiriyama if half the book was from his perspective and he constantly made jokes and mulled over how awesome he truly was, and also if he was really inefficient with his kills despite his competence.
This becomes especially apparent in the later parts of V4. Characters who atren't great often fly under the radar, but Ema snatched up a bunch of kill rights right in the end, slaughtering a whole bunch of characters more interesting than her. Ema is thrown into stark contrast with a bunch of characters, including villains and anti-heroes, who all pull off what she was trying for with way more style and interest, and she kills them all in silly ways while her narrative treats them as throwaways. It feels disrespectful, and because of the way Ema's narrative works it doesn't even come off like the sort of sudden, shocking death SOTF often plays with, since Ema's voice is the dominant one and she sees it about like grinding aliens in a video game. I think I've complained about this several times before, but a massive kill streak is something that is doable but really demands planning, understanding, and a lot of cooperation, and Ema just came off like she was trying to score points by killing big names without it really even meaning anything.
This also leads into the realism issues again. Ema shrugs off all her injuries until it's convenient. Even a lot eye is pretty much a flesh wound until she gets rolled. She doesn't really have a huge reaction to being maimed; there are some throw-away lines and musing but she forgets or jokes about it a good deal. Then, once she has to die, she suddenly is dying despite having been fine a few posts ago. It was pretty clear that the hope was Ema would make Endgame, probably to function as the big villain a la Mariavel, but the setup there didn't work at all with her death. Her death scene also treats her like this huge hero, and not just from her perspective. It's sure that the reader has been coaxed into going along with the ride and viewing Ema as a protagonist, but for anyone not invested in her that way it's another really jarring example of the dread "dignity death" in which a character lingers a long time and tries to be profound before passing away even though it doesn't fit well.
Chib is, I should make it clear, not an incompetent writer. He wrote two very good characters, one of whom was one of my early-game favorites in all of SOTF. The problem is, I think, Ema reads like he's emotionally invested in her and rooting for her while at the same time not acknowledging that she's a bad person, beyond the cursory winks at that. There's just so much putting Ema up on a pedestal, and it makes her very tough for me to read. It's really too bad, because Ema had some really great promise there and seemed to be heading in an interesting direction, but as it is she hits every one of my V4 and player pet peeves and really comes out a mess. - MurderWeasel