As a woman who plays games, I’ve always found it a bit of a task to happen upon games with female characters that I can identify with and look up to. In the past there has certainly been too much “tits and ass” in videogames, and when you consider some popular fighting game franchises it still does seem to be business as usual – let alone what happens in mainly Japanese-released titles of a certain other genre.
Part of the problem is historical, and it’s ingrained in our storytelling psyche: most cultures in the world centre their stories on heroes rather than heroines. Look at the market for games outside casual and social, and you’ll see titles that mainly have male protagonists – as a lecturer of mine once told me – “getting the business done”.
But all is not lost! So, may I introduce to you the ten female characters in games that I look up to, because they don’t solely rely on their appearance to get what they need, kick ass and save the world/all of existence/work on their own scheme: generally, they get “the business done”.
Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2
You could say that FF X is all about Tidus, and you’d be partly right, but the game is equally about Yuna. The turnaround that occurs in Yuna during the course of FF X is so huge – from dutiful servant of the system – Yuna becomes a force to be reckoned with as she opens her eyes to the hypocrisy that surrounds her. Plus that moment she jumps off the ledge at her wedding to Seymour: awesome. Just a shame she had to kiss him first.
09. Ada Wong
Resident Evil 2, 4 and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Femme fatale, anti-hero, good at butterfly kicks and included in many game hottie lists – so what’s she doing here? You may well ask. Ada isn’t out to save the world; she’s not there to fall head over heels in love with some idiot: she’s just working on her own agenda, doing what she knows to in order to survive. The fact that she doesn’t enjoy her alliance with Wesker marks her out as a free agent, and a loose end that it would be stupid for the remnants of Umbrella to underestimate.
Left 4 Dead 2
She’s a career woman; don’t you know? Before the zombie apocalypse hit, Rochelle was a hard working associate producer, “for a big-name news station.” When her co-workers began to drop like flies, did Rochelle stop making news? No, not until most of her news crew had been devoured and she found herself teaming up with Nick, Coach and Ellis. And she plans to go back to making news one day; it’ll just take the reboot of civilisation for it to happen, but mark my words she will not let the small matter of millions of undead stand in the way of her career.
Beyond Good & Evil
Breaching the gap between the mundane and the fantastical, never before has a hobby (photography) taken one person so far. The exact opposite to the likes of Ada, Jade steps up to the job of getting to the bottom of things in order to save her friends and fight for the good of the people. Nothing like the threat of a Soylent Green scenario to make a character fight on the side of justice. And that Zidane Final Fantasy IX moment before the final boss fight gets underway reminds us all that it’s not what you were, it’s what you are that counts.
06. Female Shepard
Mass Effect 1 and 2
Eighty percent of people who have played Mass Effect 2 have done so as male Shepards. So what? Taking on the Mass Effect series as a female character allows for a far varied experience, and offers the portrayal of a woman in a military organisation that is so much more empowering and positive then the nearly non-existent portrayals in actual mainstream media and press – though only if you play through as a Paragon. ‘Course part of the appeal just may well be down to superior voice acting.
05. Lara Croft
Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider III, The Last Revelation, Chronicles, The Angel of Darkness, Legend, Anniversary, Underworld, Tomb Raider (Game Boy Color), Curse of the Sword, The Prophecy & Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
If this were more than four years ago, I would not have even contemplated putting Lara on the list. Times change, and for once, a female character’s bust line has decreased. Since Lara was brought down to reality in Legend, she has certainly shown that it is skill, rather than looks, that will get a woman far in the world. Lara is also a poignant reminder of how I used to dream of becoming an archaeologist as a child, because that’s what being brought up on a diet of the Indiana Jones films plus Time Team will do to a poor girl.
Recently more divisive than Lara Croft, Bayonetta sent the collective fingers of the internet wagging during its release earlier this year. Falling into issues of representation and objectification, with claims of too much sexualisation – there were a lot of people who couldn’t “handle” Bayonetta. For me she was just a female Dante. Yet how is it that I look up to her as a source of inspiration? She’s witty, caring and independently minded.
03. April Ryan
The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
My main exposure to April comes from The Longest Journey. Now while her role in an epic storyline is awe inspiring, it’s how she is as a person in Stark that makes me smile. An art student, paying her way through college: it’s that higher learning aspect, along with not dragging herself into relationships that will get in the way of her studies – gives her an edge. While similar to the number one entry… she’s still missing a certain je ne sais quoi.
02. Samus Aran
Metroid, Metroid II: The Return of Samus, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, Metroid Prime, Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Metroid Prime Pinball, Metroid Prime Hunters, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Metroid Prime Trilogy and Metroid: Other M
While her choice of occupation as a bounty hunter does not thrill me, it’s what she does whilst being a bounty hunter that is fantastic. Samus is fearless, resourceful, and seemingly unstoppable, which makes me go, “Wow”. Even though she’s chosen a life of private enterprise, Samus knows when she needs to step up for the greater good. It’s this selflessness that causes me to look up to Samus and go, “If intergalactic travel were possible, and I could wear your suit, I’d be off killing Metroids too.”
01. Alexandra Roivas
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
She didn’t have to stick around and look into the mysterious circumstances of her grandfather’s death. She didn’t have to read The Tome of Eternal Darkness. From the moment she saw the headless corpse of her grandfather, all Alex had to do was just walk away and leave the Rhode Island mansion of her ancestors forever. Alex could have just returned to her cushy existence at university studying “abstract mathematics and number theory”. Instead Alex decides that she’d rather get to the bottom of things, a process that means facing down unimaginable horrors of both the mind and the flesh. For me, Alex’s blatant going beyond the call of duty, and kicking the ass of gods is why I look up to her.
Come back on Friday next week for a full BeefJack retrospective on Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.