This post is more of an impromptu ramble than a comprehensive list, but I had to express myself. I recently finished what I consider to be the most sexually demeaning video game I have ever played–Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Video games are not known for empowering women, so to be a standout example of sexism in an already sexist medium is a resounding trespass. Thinking about women in video games led me to ponder what female characters DO embody role models fit for civilized society. The list is a work in progress, and I haven’t real gotten the order down yet. Let me know if I missed anyone in the comments.
1. Alyx Vance from the Half-Life series.
Alyx Vance is a wonderful role model. Yes, she’s attractive, but she is dressed appropriately and the game never frames her as a sexual object. The qualities that the Half-Life story emphasizes are her ingenuity, intelligence, love for her father, kickassitude, playfulness, and inner strength. Since the main character of Half Life 2 is the strong, silent type, Alyx Vance basically serves as the main protagonist. Hers is the story that drives the plot. She is essential to Gordon Freeman’s journey through the game, providing information, technical assistance, supporting firepower, and emotional support. She shows an admirable inner strength despite the horrifying reality of the Half Life world. To this day, no video game performance has evoked more emotion than Alyx and Eli Vance at the end of Half Life 2: Episode 2. She is truly a shining example of what a female lead can do in a video game story. As an aside, she is also a rare Black woman holding a major role in a video game.
2. The new Lara Croft (from Crystal Dynamics’ 2013 re-imagined Tomb Raider)
The new Lara Croft is a fragile young woman coming to terms with a dire situation. Unlike her predecessors in the Tomb Raider series, this Lara is not a sexual icon. It is hard to express how delicately the story balances Lara’s vulnerability with her grit and determination. She is fragile, but not a damsel in distress. She is scared, hungry, dirty, and scrapping to survive. The scene of her first kill shows what a strong young woman must do to survive. In experiencing that scene, the player sees life and death in a serious way that is seldom explored in the otherwise gratuitous video game industry. Young Lara’s story is a refreshing contrast to her objectified predecessors.
3. Aeris Gainsborough from Final fantasy 7
Despite being a female character in a Japanese game, Aeris is modestly dressed and plays a critical role in the game’s plot that is not romantic in nature. Yes, there is some romantic interest between Aeris and the main protagonist Cloud, but*****Spoiler**********Spoiler**********Spoiler*****
*****Spoiler*****Aeris is killed before any romantic storyline can resolve*****Spoiler*****.
She is a political activist, and a powerful woman who turns out to be the ultimate hero of the story.
4. Tali Zorah vas Normandy
Tali does have a nice bod, true, but it is not her most emphasized feature. Tali is first and foremost a technical expert, constantly saving the Normandy crew with her omnitool prowess. Of all Shepard’s love interests, Tali’s story is the most romantic. You really need to gain her trust and develop a bond in order to take the relationship to the next level (I mean, she is risking death by infection due to her weak immune system after all). Most of the other women are sexual objects that you wham, bam, and thank.
5. Elena Fisher from the Uncharted Series
Elena is a competent journalist. She has a strong relationship with Nathan Drake, but she is often working on her own stories as a savvy reporter in a foreign country by herself. She doesn’t need Drake to validate her, and although he often tries to protect her, it is often she who protects him.
6. The Boss from Metal Gear Solid
Although I didn’t play MGS 3, I understand from the events of MGS 4 that The Boss is a monumental influence on the MGS world. She had vision, and she set an impact on history greater than any other character in the game.
7. Samus Aran from Metroid
You can play every metroid game and never even know that Samus is a woman. This is a win in my book. Metroid is a series with a kick-ass protagonist that happens to be female. Anonymity is a form of equality, I think. Some Metroid games, however, gratuitously show Samus in bikinis, etc. Booo to that.
1. The BB corps from MGS 4
’nuff said. And what’s with Akiba trying to grab Mei Ling’s ass? that was just weird, creepy, and out-of-place.
2. Lara Croft from most Tomb Raider games
Lara is always a strong female character, but she is famous for her skinny short shorts, unrealistic waistline, and disproportionate boobage.