Plus One Player's Shoutout to Women in Games
Women have always been present in video games, even if in the past the role they mostly played served as the damsel in distress plot point, allowing the male protagonist to "shine." I’m happy to say that female video game characters are (for the most part) no longer being shoehorned into that role and that female representation across video games has increased dramatically with strong, independent female characters more commonplace now than ever before. The development and improvement of women’s roles in modern video games is one I’m proud to see occur and in honor of yesterday’s International Women’s Day, here are some of my favorite women in gaming.
One of my favorite princesses and the namesake of The Legend of Zelda franchise, Zelda was originally the royal gal who needed the hero’s help in order to save her kingdom. As the series continued, however, she took on a more active role in the stories and plot-lines and became a more fleshed out, well-rounded, and powerful character. Her most recent incarnation in Breath of the Wild is particularly poignant to me as I find her to be the most realistic of the "Zeldas." Wielding devastating magics and her powerful bow of light, she is one princess you don’t want to mess with, and that makes her a complete badass.
Whenever I think of an action game heroine, my mind immediately goes to the one, the only, Tomb Raider, Lara Croft. Lara was one of the first video game icons that I looked up to because she didn’t have to rely on anyone but herself in order to get the job done. The bombshell archaeologist, who was famously depicted in the films by Angelina Jolie, was overly-sexualized in her early days, which unfortunately isn't that uncommon when it comes to women in video games. In the Square Enix reboot, however, we see a much more realistic and gritty Lara and I love it! To see her transformation from a curious young woman into a hardened explorer was incredible, and I’m very much looking forward to the new film coming out next week.
The Lightning Kick Goddess set the ground rules for women in fighting games. She was the first playable female character to be introduced in a one-on-one fighting game in 1991’s Street Fighter II. While not ranking with the heavy-hitters, Chun-Li is an agile character and has always been my go-to gal in the Street Fighter series, especially since I prefer the quick-moving characters over the slower albeit more overtly powerful ones. Seeing a woman go toe-to-toe with traditionally "manly" characters like Ryu and Zangief resonated in the hearts of many young girl gamers. It’s because of Chun-Li's popularity and SFII’s success that female protagonists became more commonplace in the years after the game's release.
Having the option to choose your gender during a game's character creation is always a plus, and what a great option that was for Bioware’s Mass Effect trilogy. Being able to shape the character’s morality based on the choices you made in the game was interesting as well and allowed for players to have their own unique experience. What is important to note is that Shepard is treated by other characters with the same level of respect regardless of choosing a male or female version of the character, which is powerful in and of it's own right. It is also worth noting that the voice acting for FemShep is (in my opinion and many others) much better than her male counterpart. Plus, you get to romance Garrus who is the best space boyfriend anyone could have.
Well those are my picks, but I’d love to know who some of your favorite female video game characters are. There are many other heroines out there in video games who are incredible in their own right and female protagonists are only becoming increasingly more widespread. I’m very much looking forward to seeing who the next iconic female character will be in the world of video games!