Typically in gaming, female characters are either total write-offs or just re-writes of male characters but with ridiculous armor that barely covers anything except their privates. I’d all but given up on seeing believable female characters in video games, but this year actually marks the first where I was more impressed by the fairer sex in a game then I was by their masculine counterparts (no homo).
The year started off with Dead Space 2 and its introduction of Ellie Langford, a pilot for the Concordance Extraction Corporation and a survivor of the Necromorph outbreak on Titan Station. While Isaac Clarke was fighting to regain his sanity, Ellie battled the zombified remains of her co-workers (and implied boyfriend) and helped Isaac destroy the Marker and escape the station, all while losing an eye. Ellie didn’t need your help, didn’t need to be saved (again, the eye thing was a minor set-back) and she contributed way more to the story than just jump prancing around in a skimpy outfit. The same goes for Second Lieutenant Mira in this year’s destined to be over-looked Space Marine: she held the Imperial Guard together after the deaths of her superiors and kept them fighting even after the Ultramarines came in to steal the thunder.
Finally, Gears of War 3 rounded out this year by introducing us to a battle-hardened Anya Stroud and Sam Byrne, both of whom face the Locust and the Lambent with Marcus and Delta Squad in Gears’ campaign. Anya was in the previous Gears games, but she was relegated to the typical desk-bound operator role of so many female support characters. This time she’s front and center in the action, chainsawing Locusts with the best of them.
Given that Gears of War 3 was written by Karen Traviss, I’d expect that game to have a good understanding of what makes a strong female character, but I’ve seen some dissent on the Internet. This tweet, which I only saw because Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica re-tweeted it, says that Sam and Anya are still damsels in distress because they need to be escorted back to base. I just played this section of the game, and it’s totally believable that any character stuck out there would need help. It just happened to be Sam and Anya because Marcus took Delta Squad off on an alternate route to Anvil Gate. Just because they’re women in a tough position (outnumbered by Locust with no transport) I guess that makes them prime for some sexist rescuing? I’d say that they’re Gears fist and their gender second, but that’s just me.
Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but it felt like such a small nitpick for an other wise great game that treats its female characters like human beings as opposed to objects. What do you guys think? has 2011 been a banner year for female characters? Got any others you want to nominate?