On two prior occasions, I’ve briefly discussed my thoughts about the representation of women in video games (whether we’re talking representation as characters, or the involvement of women in the industry). It’s definitely a rough, drawn out topic that has become unfortunately taboo to discuss irregardless of tone. Rather than take the time to highlight the good that does exist in the industry, we often focus on the negative. There’s a lot of work to be done, and that is something that I’m actively working towards with my own involvement, but it’s still vital to stop and appreciate the achievements that already exist and take them as they come. For goodness sake, we’re gamers, and we love our games!
Just because there is a lack of representation overall, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a great deal of viciously majestic babes to keep our lady-rage subdued. I’ve gone over some of my favorites to write about today, particularly ladies from mainstream gaming. Playable or not, presence is important.
This article may contain absolute, game ruining spoilers of The Witcher 3, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, Bravely Default, Final Fantasy X, Destiny, and Metal Gear Solid 5. You have been warned. Results may vary.
Ciri is actually one of the only playable characters on this list, and we only get that for small vignettes during Wild Hunt. She is wonderfully sarcastic, and she can back up that sharp tongue with a hard punch. Ciri has vulnerabilities because of her age, but she is so well developed. We get a mixture of knowledge through practice as she is playable, but also through communication and dialogue.
Playing as Geralt is complimentary to how she is perceived. The decision sequences towards the final bits of the game are vital towards which ending you will ultimately obtain. While it could be argued that Geralt is choosing her fate (which is literally true), let’s think about what implicitly happens with each of those decisions. When you coddle and direct her actions, Ciri will not have enough independence and confidence and may possibly die at the end for making rash, provoked decisions (or become a Witcher, which was my first ending and considered to be the most neutral). If you push Ciri to make her own decisions, however, she’ll be able to act alone and confidently, and thus you end up dubbing her Empress.
If CD Projekt Red wanted to make me a game totally centered on Ciri, I wouldn’t argue one bit.
Dr. Sofia Lamb
Lamb is life, Lamb is love. Anyone that knows me well understands that Lamb is one of my absolute favorite villains in gaming. She’s intelligent, perceptive, sultry, manipulative, maniacal, oh, the list could go on. I’ve written about her for GeekGirlCon, I’ve included her in academic papers, I’ve read and played every bit of game or novel that includes any information I can get (I am referring to Bioshock: Rapture, a novel by John Shirley and Ken Levine, which was a surprisingly good read). She’s great, and the writers did a stellar job building a believable female antagonist. Even though the nature of this piece has spoilers, I almost don’t want to ruin her character so that you’ll play the games if you haven’t already. Where she can’t practice brute force, Sofia Lamb uses pure intelligence to manipulate the better part of a small civilization.
The Lodge of Sorceresses
I don’t know if there’s any single woman in gaming that can combat the absolute essence of badassdom that the Lodge does in The Witcher franchise (particularly in 3, with some presence in 2). I almost need to fan myself just thinking about them. I’m not just talking Yennefer or Triss, but the entire group. There’s a certain aura to their effectiveness, a lot of which directly correlates with their verbal dialogue — they’re all distinct, strong women. I don’t think Geralt would have been able to accomplish much of anything without help from these lovely ladies. They’re powerful, so sexy (yes, I’ll admit it myself), and they don’t give a damn about what you think. I’m fairly certain that the battle at Kaer Morhen would have been a little less climatic without their involvement, and may have ended with Ciri being dragged off and everyone else left for dead.
Although, I did accidentally piss off and had to kill Keira Metz in my first playthrough…
Edea is more of a personal niche, and a little less mainstream than the other women on this list. However, my reasoning behind including her is simple: it’s just as important to recognize games, and the characters of games that are geared towards a younger audience. Yes, the Bravely series is a little more impromptu for a 3ds title, sporting a Teen rating and a little controversy over the Japanese to US localization, but it is still a damn good game. Edea is 15 years old in the Japanese version, aged up to 18 in our release, which makes her more approachable (especially to young women) than someone like Lara Croft. She’s one of the better fighters out of our four playable characters, she doesn’t put up with her male counterpart’s shit, and she is not afraid to address and embrace her sexuality.
Final Fantasy X was admittedly my first “big girl game,” so it has a very special place in my heart. When I was much younger, I was pretty shy and a little quiet, so I empathized with Yuna’s early character development (minus being a summoner and all). More so than any character on this list, you truly get a sense of growth from Yuna as the game progresses. She is destined to die, but hey, she’s totally fine with that if i means protecting her people. But, but, she actually questions the reliability of tradition, and after deeming The Final Summoning (the act in which one of her personal guardians would be sacrificed to help her beat up the big bad monster) total garbage, she is able to identify that blindly following faith is wrong. Yuna is selfless, but is selfless without being ignorant.
Sometimes I want to strangle Destiny for ambiguous plot decisions, sometimes I want to send them to bed with a warm glass of milk and a cookie for a job well done. Mara Sov makes me want to do the latter. Even though we only get bits and pieces of her character, Bungie has managed to muster a great deal of morale behind our dearest Queen. She’s seen, what, twice? Three times if you include the opening sequence from The Taken King. She’s bloodthirsty, but in a political, totally justified sort of way. After we capture Skolas (the new/former Kell), for pissing her off and starting a little rebellion, she locks him away in the Prison of Elders and repeatedly rewards us for beating the hell out of him. Think about it, the poor guy’s subjected to living out the remainder of his existence being shot at in a little metal box over and over again by endless groups of trigger-happy guardians who want loot. Why? ‘cuz Mara Sov said so, and that’s totally fine.
Not only is Bioshock Infinite one of my all time favorite games, but Elizabeth is one of my absolute favorite characters in a game (and Lamb is one of my favorite villains, so Ken Levine must be doing something right over at Irrational). I explicitly remember the first fight sequence after she joins Booker: I was in a mere panic, having desperate flashbacks to protecting Little Sisters from Splicers. But no, I found Elizabeth behind a pile of crates beating the hell of an attacker. For a girl that’s spent her life confined to a (pretty nice) tower in the sky, she’s pretty eager to express her aggression. Elizabeth is clumsy and brash when we first rescue her, but as Columbia erupts into chaos she reflects the opposite and slowly begins to cool down, reaching a chilling maturity with the realization of her true identity.
She later becomes playable in both DLC installments (Burial at Sea parts 1 & 2), which is a total treat. Not only do you get to see Rapture prior to the rebellion, but you get to know another reincarnation of Elizabeth. Mechanically, she plays a much different character than our male protagonists in the series, and forces to player to rely more heavily on stealth concepts. I appreciate the adaption that Irrational draws between Booker and Elizabeth’s play styles. She fights like I’d expect to fight wearing a pencil skirt and heels.
Zelda (as portrayed in Skyward Sword)
Skyward Sword is arguably one of the least popular of the series, but how our princess is portrayed in the most recent main console title is by far one of her best roles. Zelda is inherently a little doomed to be saved by the male protagonist, as we spend most of the game chasing her around, but let’s stop and think about what she’s doing. This version of Zelda has always known that she was the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia. With this knowledge, she has manipulated Link’s feelings about her so that he wouldn’t hesitate to follow Zelda to the surface world, ultimately tasking him with saving the world. That’s pretty gutsy, and admittedly a little selfish, but imagine the weight that it would carry. She proves to be remarkably brave and resourceful in this regard. A lot of people would also argue that Link and Zelda’s relationship becomes canon at this point, and I humbly disagree; this role truly separates her character from Link’s romantically, but rather allows them to live in close friendship. Which. Is. Fine.
Similarly to Bravely Default, The Legend of Zelda is intended for a younger audience. Portraying realistic, admirable role-models to girls is just as important as giving us older women ladies to empathize with. This non-princess version of Zelda does just that.
I can already hear booing in the background, but you need to give my girl a chance. Quiet needs to put on a sweater, yes, Kojima probably should have filtered his twitter rampage, maybe, but have you played Metal Gear Solid 5? Quiet is the definition of powerful, and she’s a resourceful survivor. She could kill anyone she wanted to at Mother Base, but she doesn’t because she chooses not to. “Oh, she doesn’t wear a lot of clothes because she has to breathe through her skin and clothes would suffocate her” is a piss-poor excuse, but at least there was an excuse, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve chosen to strut around my house wearing less than appropriate clothing because I didn’t have AC last summer. Skin happens, but have you seen her use a sniper rifle? Damn, girl.
Of course, this is a roundup of my personal favorites (are you starting to see any trends?) There are a ton of powerful, well done female characters out there. These ladies simply illuminate some of the dominant roles filled by women in more mainstream, AAA games.