The ‘Right’ Way to Build Female Characters

*I will continue to add to this list, so tell me all about what is worthy of induction in the comments.

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THE OTHER SIDE’S ARGUMENT
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I refuse to address the bullshit, old and tired sexist rants that I have already deconstructed to their ugly cores in other articles. Further, I will not be explaining here why (how!?) I — a Dominant, Heterosexual, Slavic Male find these things reprehensible as opposed to joining my knuckle-dragging, slope-browed ‘kin’ in moronic titillation. Instead I will focus first on the ‘reasonable’ sexist.

While discussing a particularly spot on article, I quoted the author with the following excerpt:

“when games with solely male soldiers arrive in public hands, that absence becomes a form of denial that women soldiers exist. It’s disrespectful to female soldiers and the sacrifices they make alongside their male peers around the world every day.”

Which I happened to think was very astute and rolled against the illusion of ‘realism’ many of the military shooters attempt to portray. Another reason I never touched any of the Call of Duty titles.


Pictured: Real life combat soldiers

At this point I received a comment from an individual (male gamer and fledgling programmer) who although professing that the exploitation of women in, and marginalization of women from the art medium of games was unfortunate, was quick to assert that this was the lesser of two evils:

“do you have female soldiers be in the game and be sexualized to the point of being unrealistic, so as to keep it appealing? Or do you ignore them, leave them their dignity, and allow the game to remain a testosterone-fueled adrenaline hit? Female gamers are becoming a larger demographic, but until they get bigger it is a sad truth that good marketing demands sexualized women in games.”

I don’t know about anyone else (and I don’t care), but I personally cannot associate with a bunch of bulging steroid monstrosities any more than I can with absurd walking boob-jobs. For that matter, I do not think it is the sole job of the marginalized to do something about their predicament–whatever happened to people just giving a shit? There are at least a dozen excellent examples of compelling female heroines and games that pop immediately to mind that succeeded because of the heroines, not inspite of them. Not necessarily just the stereotypically ‘tough-chick’ soldiers but compelling characters of all types. My response is the crux of this post, albeit further extrapolated.

*Note, many of the games listed  were placed here at the advice of the most hardcore gamer I know, a real-life combat war vet and modern-day hospice worker. Many thanks to her for the invaluable impute. More credit to her at the end.

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THE WRONG WAY
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Not pictured: Games people should have any respect for

The image immediately above are of Mortal Kombat’s Sonya Blade (a ‘special forces’ officer) and Soul Caliber’s Ivy Valentine (an immortal ‘warrior’). I won’t go into detail on my immense disappointment of the oversexualization and deplorable degradation of the character over the decades (even by Mortal Kombat and fighting games standards) of dear old Sonya because this person has kindly laid it all out for us in detail. I will however remark that though I don’t usually play fem characters myself, Ivy’s fighting style is one of the more interesting in the Soul Calibur series (a sword-whip) that requires quite a bit of getting used to execute brilliant combos (as opposed to just the hack-and-slash that usually works for other larger (male) characters). It is therefore a great shame that both of the female characters in these games are degenerating the further the two series continue. Ivy, as I said, is a warrior and so for comparison to the realm of realism (not a pervasive element in today’s modern entertainment industry), I direct you to this fantastic archive.

Unfortunately this type of shit isn’t relegated solely to the sad sad realm of fighting games (which I used to enjoy when the pixels were shabby but now want to break a window every time a ‘female’ character bounces unto the screen). In fact no genera is safe. Lets neatly avoid further delving into the male-to-female fantasy armor debacle thanks to this outstanding article so commonly found in adventure and rpg games (as a dude your armor is massive and impressive, as a fem character your armor is a metal thong). I will just note that according to female combat soldiers in countries enjoying the benefit of such gender-equality, there is no difference in their flak-jackets–in reality, everybody wears the same gear. Realism indeed.

Samus_at_the_end_of_Metroid
There are, of course, more subtle forms of sexism in games. As a single example among countless, lets take Metroid’s Samus Aran. The first game baffled gamers by having them run through the whole game as a super-powered armored mercenary and then at the end revealing the hero was a woman (of course if you beat the game SUPER fast you are ‘rewarded‘ by having the producers shit all over everything they just spent the whole game building by parading the heroine around in a mini fucking bikini in all her pixelated glory).
After that the silent heroine ran a successful franchise until the male producers tried to pump some ‘personality’ into her by completely rewriting her character arc, putting her into a skin-tight blue suit and making her a whiney, crying, baby-obsessed nutball via the ‘Other M‘ series. Talk about backpeddling progress.

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FEMALE GAMERS
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kat-gunn-wcg-ultimate-gamer
Kat Gunn – World Cyber Games Ultimate Gamer Champion

In the 2010 WCG Ultimate Gamer competition, Ms. Gunn who goes by the tag //Mystik//, faced against 11 gaming elites (male and female) and won. I wish that was all I needed to say, but since most people are still living in the non-existant delusion that girl gamers are mostly nude models or are Fat, Ugly or Slutty, I feel compelled to continue with this woman that I have chosen as example of a real ‘gamer girl’.  Throughout the course of their trials, the competitors faced 8 weeks worth of ‘Challenges’ that ranged from cooperative gaming, to retro, to virtually every genera (games that had not been released yet as well as well-worn classics), including, but not limited to — playing a competitive racing game while having their arms restrained in a straight jackets forcing them to use their teeth, feet, etc. That is just one such example of the televised events. Through it all, Kat triumphed. Her competitors, elites just like her, were regional and national gaming champions in their own right. During the WCG Grand Finals when Mystik faced off against the remaining competitor on a stage in front of thousands of people. Kat lost the first round (Rock Band) but dominated in the second, a fighting game (BlazBlue) as well as going on an all out killing spree in the last (Halo: Reach). Along with receiving several games months before their release, Kat Gunn also took home a Grand Finalist cash prize of $100,000 as well as the immense prestige of her victory.

Not enough? How about 2013 King of the Nerds tv show winner and pro-gamer Celeste Anderson who was crowned the King of All Nerds after facing off against fellow gamers and NASA scientists alike and winning a $100,000 grand prize like Kat Gunn before her? The nerds and geeks of the world have spoken and more and more of our leaders rising up are free of the burdensome Y chromosome.

While on the subject of outstanding fem. gamers, I also recommend Felicia Day’s “The Guild“.

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THE RIGHT WAY
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1862143-wallpaper_009_femshep6_1920x1200
Welcome to Urf

For our purposes I will separate the various games that have ‘done it right’ into four categories:

1. Where the fem is the Main protagonist.

2. Stories where you can choose to be female if you want and discover entirely unique character sub-plots and voice-acting (as seen in Bioware games). These clearly take a great deal of extra effort to add the female options and yet their popularity alone would suggest it is worth the work.

3. Games where you can choose to be fem if you want but there is virtually no character development (such as Bethesda’s non-speaking heroes). I see no reason at all for these games to not include a female option.

4. And ones with squad play where fem characters are an option (usually 1 of four). There is no excuse to not be gender-blind here, especially since that is often all it takes to draw in a female audience.

Let us begin!

1. Excellent Lead Fem. Characters:
Faith

While Parkour is certainly badass, it cannot (unfortunately) help you outrun bullets

Mirror’s Edge – You play as Faith, an Asian-American traceuse who races across the rooftops trying to save her sister by non-lethally confronting the Big Brother-like government in a very enthralling and unique game-style.

Velvet Assassin – Based off of the real life soldier-hero Violette Szabo who killed many a-Nazi without any ‘sleazy spy’ tactics.

Alice: Madness Returns / American McGee’s Alice  – horror/fantasy games that explore the darker side of the human psyche.

Beyond Good and Evil – in this gaming cult classic you play as Jade as she tries to uncover a government conspiracy and save her planet from an alien threat.

Perfect Dark – play as Joanna Dark and team up with Elivs the badass little alien in this outstanding 64bit fps (I did not care for the sequel).

WET – join Ruby in this fun and funky 3rd person action adventure bloodfest.

Portal games – play this cult classic as the silent protagonist Chell, solving logic puzzles in first-person in an effort to outwit the devious sentient machine GLaDOS.

Metroid – play as Samus Aran, the kick-ass bountyhunter who puts Boba Fett to shame and on the weekends tutors Ripley on alien-killing (obviously this is a good example only before Other M and with the exception of the fucking bikini dance at the end of the first one).

Tomb Raider 2013 – Lara Croft is rebooted in the 2013 game free of the ridiculous male gaze that has plagued her in the past to embark on an Indiana Jones-styled adventure to rescue her friends and (male) mentor set to breathtaking and intense gameplay that pulls no punches.

2. Great Character Development for Any Gender:
bastila vs revan
An intense prelude to the best glow-stick party this side of the galaxy

Knights of the Old Republic games – Play as an amnesiac turned Jedi in the first or as a Jedi Exile in the second, both games gaving a glimpse of Bioware’s fantastic future character development projects.

Mass Effect Trilogy – I have written about Bioware’s Mass Effect before so I will keep it brief: you play as Commander Shepard, a hero(ine) who’s customized choices, sexual orientation, friendships, and enemies carry over from the first game to the second to the last.

Dragon Age games – Play yet another character-driven Bioware story as the Warden in the first and then the Champion in the sequel as you work to rid the world of a terrible plague through strength, guile, or magic.

Halo Reach – if I need to describe Halo, you have either been killing braincells with copy/paste, gender-biased shooters like COD or are just not an FPS fan, either way Noble Six is the first in-game lead Halo character that allows for gender customization and is worth a play along with multiplayer on Halo 3 and Halo 4.

Fable 2 and 3 – Fable games are fun, customizable adventure titles with you as the Hero.

3. Story-driven, Non-Speaking Customizable Characters:
falloutgirl
100% chance she’ll cripple your ego

Fallout games – play as the Lone Wonderer or the Courier in these massive, open-world, post-apocalyptic, action-rpg games by Bethesda.

Elder Scrolls games – made extremely famous with the latest “Skyrim” (Elder Scrolls 5), these massive exploration action-rpgs are the sword/magic equivalents to Bethesda’s own Fallout series and worth a solid year’s play each (my favorite was Morrowind).

Pokemon games – become the Pokemon Champion in these highly addictive and amazingly popular grind-for-experience games (and if you don’t like them we will HM01 you)!

4. Squad-Play
E3-2011-Resident-Evil-Operation-Raccoon-City-Details-Screenshots-Videos-Available-4

Anti-heroes are too cool to look at explosions

Left 4 Dead games – Zoey and Rochelle are the respective female options for these four-man squad zombie killing games.

Resident Evil: ORC – This game is also impossible to play without at least one fem. character – Lupo, Four-Eyes, and Bertha (or at least one male character). For my full review of this game, click here.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown –  an intensive turn-based strategy game that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time through flowing cinematics and allows for randomized squadmates of various genders and nationalities.

JSRF – Jet Set Radio Future is a fun, futuristic, racing-adventure game in which you take on a corrupt government with players like Gum, Cube, Rhyth, Boogie, Jazz, Cube (and others) while listening to some outstanding Japanese hip hop.

Borderlands 1 and 2: play this repetitive, offensive, idiot-crowd pleasing crap as either Lilith or Maya while ‘enjoying’ the barest of rpg elements and a none-existent story while mowing down endless respawning streams of identical and moronic enemies. Read my full review of this and Dead Island here and know that this is only included for contrast.

Dead Island – the outstanding trailer failed to live up to its hype and ended up (in my opinion) being as depressingly repetitive as Borderlands, however you do get to play as either Xian Mei or Puma and that kind of ethnic diversity is worth at least a nod.

And thats it folks!
Except maybe Jurassic Park the Game, a quick action story where you play alternatively as Nima and Jessie (a great child protagonist, much like Clementine) as well as various male protagonists intermittently (this part alone merited a mention).
Or hell even some Resident Evil and Silent Hill games where the fem protagonist are a well-written character could merit being added (although this equally well-written article disagrees). Overall, these are the sort of games I look for and can quantify as ‘good games’.
From a moral, and entertainment principle standpoint, I choose to reward the folks that give a shit and are proactive in gender rights, specifically akin to Bioware’s stance where they straight up tell gay-bashers to STFU, or even the great anti-sexism efforts by the executive producer Kiki Wolfkill and 343 Industries CEO Bonnie Ross over at Halo 4.

(many thanks to Deathbydd for introducing me to many of the most badass (and satisfying) games I’ve ever played. Not because I can play as a fem hero, but because the option was there and it wasn’t a farce or some cheap attempt at titillation which was for me as a male, quite a REFRESHING change)). I want female gamers to be proactively made a part of the gaming community, not punished because of their gender by companies who cater to knuckledragging misogynists. I want video games to be taken seriously as a medium and the only way that can really happen is if I put my money where my heart is.

I now leave you with this short vid highlighting the absurd amount of phallic symbols found in games today. Enjoy!

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