In my years of playing games it always brings me great joy when I can play as a strong female, or even have a strong female interact with my character. While there are a number of good characters out there I feel that the following truly stand out. They display strength, and most of them have wonderful personalities to back that strength. I also feel they serve important roles in changing the way women are represented in video games.
Female Shepard: Mass Effect Series
What made Shepard so wonderful was the fact that gamers really did have a lot of control of how the character developed and who Shepard was at the core. Making a male and female version of Shepard was an added bonus. Female Shepard was just as well developed as male Shepard. She had as many romance options, certain interactions dedicated to the female version. Jennifer Hale also did an amazing job voicing female Shepard which really added to the overall character. As far as getting to play a female character this was one that made me feel really empowered.
Lilith: Borderlands 2
I am specifically saying Borderlands 2 because in the first the characters don’t really have personalities. Lilith is part of the group leading the resistance against Handsome Jack and she jumps out a lot more. She cracks jokes, is comforting to her companions, suffers loss, and is even captured. Lilith however doesn’t seem to give up at any point. She remains dedicated to those around her, but also retains that criminal underside that you know they all have. I really enjoyed watching Lilith as a character, but was sad that she didn’t have so much personality when I actually got to control her. Either way she is a badass lady.
Bonnie MacFarlane: Red Dead Redemption
I think a lot of people discount Bonnie because she is not a playable character, and after the first part of the game she is almost completely forgotten about. However, I think this is rather unfair because she truly is an amazing woman. First it’s worth noting that you are introduced to Bonnie when she saves John Marston’s life. Bonnie then serves mostly as a guide to help the gamer through the tutorial. In the process you learn that Bonnie pretty much runs this massive ranch as neither of her brothers were up to the task. She lives in a world that doesn’t respect women, but she forces them to respect her. She steps up to do a job that is unforgiving and does it well. As far as women that you should respect Bonnie deserves a place high up on the list.
The New Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Personally I had a few issues with the older Lara Croft, she was by no means a bad female character, but I feel a lot of people gave her more credit then was really due. She was a pretty flat character, but the new Lara Croft fixed that. In addition to being strong she is actually very complex. The problem with simply making a “strong” female is that without some depth they really lose a lot when compared to the more interesting male characters out there. The reboot of Lara Croft is the perfect answer to this.
Alyx: Half Life 2
Alyx serves mostly to help the gamer by helping Gordon. She gives him important weapons, saves him, and even fights along side him. Alyx is an extremely useful ally throughout Half Life 2 and it’s various episodes. She also has a wonderful personality, she is kind, smart, and often times hilarious. Alyx is the perfect counter part to the silent Gordon. I have to say her addition was one of the best choices made in the Half Life universe, and I greatly enjoy playing along side her. Next step, I would like to have the chance to actually play as her.
I mulled over whether or not to add Samus to the list. The way it is revealed that she is a girl in the original game is a bit problematic to me. However, why she made it on the list is because of the change she made for gamers. Metroid was a lot of fun and people really enjoyed taking charge of that character and fighting through the epic world. Then bam at the end, this hero that people enjoyed so much was a girl. It was a shocking moment, and it was wonderfully crafted because a lot of players didn’t have a chance to say “Oh I don’t want to play a girl” before they fell in love with the game. The bikini though, but over all Samus has earned her spot.
Hammer: Fable 2
A lot of people would argue that an important female character can’t simply be a strong woman, but needs to develop. I would say this applies to characters regardless of gender. Hammer is a very complex character especially considering how little time she commands in this game. She starts out angry about having to be in her peaceful world, she wants to fight and finds her drive to do so. Hammer then enjoys the violence and believes that she is making the world a better place. However as the game progresses she comes to the realization that all the violence she and the other heroes are committing is only bringing about more violence. This is an amazing development to watch, and what’s even better is the end she finds the strength to go back to being peaceful. Hammer shows not only strength but different types of strength, and this is why I think she should not be over looked.
Elaine Marley: Monkey Island
What I find so impressive about Elaine, and the game that she appears in, is how much they turn the traditional set up of video games on it’s head. While the gamer does control Guybrush, and he is supposed to fill the hero role it is evident he is not the real hero. He is bumbling and while hilarious fairly useless. The game takes it a step further by having Elaine kidnapped, a theme in video games. However, when Guybrush shows up to the save her the implication is that Elaine was going to get herself out of trouble and Guybrush’s heroics cause her more problems than solutions. In most games up until this point, and even after it the captured woman depends on the male character to rescue her. Elaine can take care of herself, and the male hero is not that skillful. It’s amazing that this was written into the game so long ago, because at this point female characters that were better off taking care of themselves was not really a theme yet.
Honorable Mention: Voiceless characters from various action RPGs
Credit has to be given to games like Fallout, Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, and games like that that allow you to play a female avatar. The female characters have the same options and development of the male characters. However, they only get an honorable mention because the lack of real “voice” kind of makes it harder to associate with them as awesome ladies. This is far from a complaint though, I encourage all games to let people choose to play a female if they want. I also think in these games the lack of voice works just fine. If designers are going to make free form characters like this please, please allow people to play a woman because simply put there is no reason not to. So thank you to these games for giving us that option.