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What Boys Think of Girls

Creating Strong Female Video Game Characters [Video]

Escapist Magazine takes a look at how video game creators should be incorporating biological characteristics associated with women — such as dexterity and fertility — in order to develop characters who are strong, realistic, and distinctly female (in other words, less likely to be totally interchangeable with male characters). And if you hate Metroid: Other M, you will probably find even more common ground. (Note: This video is a fast 7 minutes.)

(Escapist Magazine via Sociological Images)

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  • Rhael

    I liked what someone once said about Metroid: Other M about that Samus being one of the worst videogame characters ever: “The Real Samus, would stick a finger at that guy and say: ‘I’ll fight the aliens alone then’”.

  • Miss Belle

    This is cool, I like that he addresses the fact that rejecting ALL societal pressures in gender roles is just as potentially-one-demensional as accepting them–that believable, relatable characters tend to have a mix of traditional feminine and masculine roles. And general badassery.

  • Anonymous

    This was great, and very worth watching.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Am not fertile (chemically induced). Am not woman?

    Am also watching a movie so can’t watch the vid right now. Will do so in the ad break XD Hoping it’s the same guy who does the without punctuation (or whatever) videos… those are hilarious.

  • Kate Falanga

    For the most part a well done video. I’m concerned that the people it is trying to reach may not understand many of the concepts presented as even with funny pictures it’s a little high brow.

    I will expand on Shard Aerliss’s concern that being able to bear children may not be the most defining female characteristic but as someone who can’t have children (due to who the fuck knows why medical reasons or perhaps just some sort of vengeful god) but wants them I may be just be voicing that concern since it hit a nerve. I don’t need to have children or even be able to in order to be considered a women.

    Honestly, that’s all nitpicking as the video really was well done and it is certainly a problem in gaming that should be addressed. I can’t say I’ve ever played a character that I truly related to other than I also enjoy shooting guns and playing with swords. Unfortunately my alien and wizard interaction has been somewhat minimal so that may be part of the problem as well. I’ll have to work on expanding my social circle accordingly.

  • Shard Aerliss

    I think it’s a concern that should be addressed. Child bearing is held up as the greatest of female traits. Ooh look, this is something the men can’t do! It is ours and ours alone, we are mighty for we can make the babies!

    Firstly, there’s a distinct waft of inferiority complex about such feelings, that women must find something they are better at than men and then lord it over the men in order to feel good about themselves.

    Second, it puts rather a damper on the spirits of those women who cannot, through no fault of their own, bear children. If a woman fails to bear children, does that somehow make her a failure as a woman? If she chooses to not bear children does that mean she is a traitor to her gender?

    Thirdly, while men cannot bear children, nowhere (of any real consequence anyway) does it say that they cannot be excellent, caring and devoted parents who would go to great lengths to protect their progeny.

    As for relating to characters; there’s only ever been one character I could really relate to, in any medium, and that’s Cid Highwind… which doesn’t shine a very good light on my own character XD

  • Anonymous

    Not being able to bear children doesn’t rule anybody out. The vid was just pointing out that there are some physiological differences, and having a uterus is pretty big, but not the only thing. It’s a jumping off point for countless character ideas, including characters who may not be able to bear children.

    Having a character dealing with such issues is compelling. Not just those with physical issues, but those who feel strongly against having any offspring. Just these conversations are springboards for interesting characters. And they are conversations that are NOT being had by game developers who just want a pair of boobs and a chick in tight (or no) pants.

    I think that one of the big problems is that many game developers don’t want to have to create more than one storyline, and want to have cross gender appeal. Except, by cross gender, they really mean dudes can have a hot chick avatar so they can watch her walk around. Most characters tend to be cookie cutters. At least in the games I play (Fallout 3, Oblivion, etc.) basically just insert random hero here.

    I don’t see why it’s taken so long. I mean, movies have been creating compelling female characters for years. Granted, it’s taken some time for action movies.

  • Donna D.

    Just to reiterate what ForEngland said, they were merely using an example. There are already plenty of strong male leads, many that protect children, but we haven’t gotten our Ripley yet. While she wasn’t the biological parent of the girl in Aliens, I can’t think of a more empathy/motherly rage fueling line then, “Get away from her, you bitch.”

    Also, it’s not just women that suffer from not being able to “do what they’re supposed to do” if they can’t have children. My brother-in-law is currently suffering extreme guilt at being the one that is making conception so difficult due to his nigh non-existent sperm count.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Well, it’s rare for an action movie to have a compelling character at all (fun, attractive, witty yes… ‘compelling’? Not so much). And I speak as a huge fan of all things high octane.

    Fallout 3, Oblivion… these are western RPGs so they are literally cookie cutter characters. YOU are supposed to be the character… or something (yeah, I prefer JRPGs…)

    It may be a jumping off point in this particular video, but the fact that ‘motherhood’ has and still is held as the be all and end all of womanhood by societies dead and extant is a sore point for many. Every time it is brought up it’s like a slap in the face for those women who have, all their lives, been told that child bearing is what we do, what we are best at and what is the ultimate womanly thing but then discover they are not able to do it.

    Woman refuse to be defined by mere biology, except when it comes to child bearing.

    To go from “boobs, arse, tiny clothes” to baby making is sort of jumping over all the other bits of ‘woman’.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Advances in fertility technology, bringing equality to societal shame since 1978.

    It used to be that only the woman would be held accountable for the produce, or not, of her womb. Now the man can be shamed too! This is equality! Yey!


  • Anon
  • Tasha

    There are a few characters who tackle the biological/societal aspects of this video. Samara (from Mass Effect), deals with the issue of motherhood in relation to her daughter’s and their genetic defects. In fact her character quests hinge on this aspect and how it relates to her duty to her job. Seth from Lost Odyssey spends the latter part of the game in a mother role, as does Sarah, which were not mentioned despite showing a screenshot of Lirum when referencing female characters as mothers. Wynne from Dragon Age also played the maternal role, as a sort of mentor and grandmother in the game as well as rejecting the idea that as an old woman, she should be tucked up doing her knitting rather than participating in battle. Ashley, another ME character, was both a tough soldier and had an interest in more ‘feminine’ things, like poetry, which Shepard can note and she responds to with ‘Just because I can drill you through the eyes at a hundred paces doesn’t mean I can’t like the sensitive stuff… just don’t spread it around’. And most recently, there’s Aveline from Dragon Age 2, who is a strong guardswoman/soldier, the primary tank in the game, who is widowed early on in the game, and has good character development revolving around balancing her motherly attitude towards the protganonist, her floundering romantic interest in another character, and her duty as a guardswoman.
    Although I understand where you’re coming from with the idea of including motherhood as a way to explore the female aspect of female characters, I disagree with it. Equating women with motherhood is one of the oldest female-related stereotypes going, and there is no need to drag that into video games as well. There is also the flipside that if you are exploring motherhood, why not fatherhood as well? After all, the creating, raising and loving of children is not solely for females.