by Cecelie Keys
My fondest memories as a young girl usually involve video games. I have been an avid gamer since I was about eight years old. However, as much as I love gaming, as a woman, I have always had an issue with the lack of strong female characters in video games. While there certainly are a few truly strong female characters in video games, considering the vast number of video games out there, having only a few to choose from is a big problem. When I talk about strong female video game characters, I am referring to characters where the fact that they are a woman does not take the forefront of discussion. They are women, and that is obvious, but their character, soul, and spirit shine through. Strong characterization is important for any character, male or female. But women in particular, are usually just seen as an excuse to excite males into playing a game as part of their fantasies. In this article, I want to showcase shining examples of women in video games who show that they are fully fleshed out human beings, and not just women for male gamers to ogle at.
Silent Hill 3
Silent Hill is a gaming series known for putting horror and great storytelling at the top of it's priority list. Silent Hill 3 is no exception to this rule. The lead character of this game is Heather Mason. Heather is written to be a character that you can easily identify with. You see her go through challenge after challenge, and her reactions to everything are realistic and moving. Nothing she does is overly girly, or stereotyped. She is simply a well-written character. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game with her as the main character. If you are a fan of the horror genre, you should definitely give the Silent Hill series a try.
Parasite Eve is a horror RPG by Squarenix, the company that created popular gaming series such as, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The game stars Aya Brea, an NYPD officer who discovers a power inside her that is being used to destroy humanity. Aya is a very strong character, who is never treated as a woman who needs others to protect her. In fact, she is seen as highly competent by the other members of the force, and they look up to her abilities as an officer. It is very refreshing to play a female character that is competent, powerful, and self-sufficient. I highly recommend the first game in the series to everyone. Parasite Eve 2 is also a great game, but it is more for hardcore gamers, as it has rather steep difficulty throughout.
Xenosaga is a sci-fi RPG trilogy by Namco Bandai that has been praised countless times for its excellent use of storytelling, characterization, and philosophical/religious subject matter. Not only does this series contain very strong female characters, but all of the characters are fleshed out, and very well developed. The lead character of this game is Shion Uzuki, an employee at Vector, a company that specializes in technological innovation. Shion is a shining example of how women exhibit many different types of emotions, and have many different traits. She acts feminine and has emotions, but she can also be very masculine, and is quick to order people around in order to get things done. She is strong and has a powerful spirit, and those who work with her treat her as an equal. Any misogynistic attitudes that appear in Xenosaga, are clearly portrayed in a negative light, and showcase the inner workings of how a character thinks and perceives the world, rather than being treated as a normal thing. Xenosaga is an exploration of life, what it means, and how figuring out what it means to be human effects people across different walks of life. I highly recommend that people play this game. Also, if you can't play it, you can look up all of the cut scenes on Youtube to learn the story.
King of Fighters
Fighting game series speak to me in a special way due to my lifelong love of martial arts and action. The good thing about fighting games is that it is hard to find any series without female characters. The bad part is the difficulty one usually has in finding female fighting game characters that are not overly sexualized. King of Fighters is a great series in this regard. Sure, some of the women on the roster are definitely part, if not wholly eye candy. (*cough* Mai Shiranui *cough*) However, King of Fighters also offers up not only the largest number of fighting women of any series, but also the widest variety. All of the women have many different outfits and display a wide range of fighting styles. If you are partial to the idea of not showing a ton of skin, there's a character for you and vice versa. There are options!
Women come from many different backgrounds and walks of life. It is beyond time that our media starts to reflect this! Not all women are the same! All characters, regardless of gender, deserve to be fully developed human beings, not just a walking pile of stereotypes. Let's all embrace diversity, and encourage those around us and those we look up to do the same!