While the uninitiated may look at the character of Cortana and blame her nude appearance on the teenage boy stereotype that so often plagues the first-person shooter genre, Halo franchise director Frank O’Connor has shed some light on the true reasons behind her design. Not long into a livestream with GamesRadar, O’Connor revealed that, while Bungie never addressed Cortana’s design in lore, 343 wanted to shed some light on it.
The explanation for the pseudo-nude appearance of the character makes quite a bit of sense, as it turns out. Halo lore buffs will know that, unlike most other AI’s, Cortana is based off of a real person – none other than Catherine Halsey, director of the Spartan-II project. Because Cortana was made off of a real, living human, she is much more nuanced and 3-dimensional (and yes, more human) than many of her AI counterparts.
While other AI’s simulate clothing that reflect their personalities (With UNSC naval AI’s sometimes choosing to don naval uniforms, etc.) Cortana approaches social situations “from a different angle.” Cortana, unlike many other AI’s, wants to hold the upper hand when speaking to others. She has agendas of her own, and wants to direct the flow of the conversation she’s having.
Her decision to appear with minimal clothing furthers this end, breaking the fundamental social barrier that is adhered to in conversation. By appearing without clothes, Cortana makes everyone around her uncomfortable, and can direct her conversations as such. She makes people feel vulnerable, and when you have the brain of one of the most intelligent people humanity has ever seen, that vulnerability can do a whole lot of work.
If you don’t buy that, then hey, feel free to default to the tried-and-true reason of sexual objectification in video games. That theory definitely has some credence – at least it did back in 2001 when Cortana’s character was designed. Either way, it’s nice that 343 has made some effort in explaining one of the more odd portions of Halo’s lore.Further reading: Cortana, Halo