Alright, I’m going balls-to-the-wall here. I am going to bitch-slap all of the BS that I am STILL hearing about the Tropes vs. Women videos (for real, people need to stop sending me this garbage), and everyone who knows me is eager to hear what I have to say of every single one. So, I have decided to take a different tactic. I am going to make a list of the top 10 female characters in gaming who are well-developed and rich characters who aren’t some foil to make the man in the game look better. I will be a little more detailed in my explanations of this, because for any fans of Feminist Frequency, I would love it if you send this post to Anita and I would love to hear her refutation. Alright, people, let’s do this!
10. Claire Farron/Lighting
Final Fantasy XIII
It makes sense that the only good character in this shitty game is a strong one. I’m sure that the Tumblr feminist crowd will say “she’s wearing very revealing shorts, so that’s misogyny!” But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Let’s not just look at what is on the surface. Let’s actually analyze this character. You cannot begin to argue that Lightning is a weak character. The game begins with her getting on a train headed for the equivalent of exile, for the express purpose of saving her sister. Her sister is cursed with the mark of the l’cie. If she doesn’t find a way to get the mark taken care of quickly, her sister is going to become a monster. She is doing this for family. When her little sister turns to crystal in front of her, and she is cursed with the mark as well, she chooses to go and destroy her entire world, to both find a way to save herself from the mark, but to also get her little sister back. I put it to you – if you are condemned to either turn into a monster or turn to crystal, with there never being a release, what would you do?
9. Elena Fisher
When you first meet this character, she is a young and ambitious reporter who gets in over her head. But she is in no way weak. She’s clever, is very good at tracking Nathan so that she doesn’t lose her story. She’s cute but it isn’t accentuated. They know they don’t have to. You meet her again in the second game and she is still an ambitious reporter. Quite a bit more now because she is chasing after a psychotic man who will do whatever it takes to get to a fabled city. Again, she’s in over her head, but she’s no damsel in distress. She is a skilled shot and can look after herself. But that doesn’t stop her from using Nate to get things done and making jokes at his expense. It comes from how they ended things in the previous game. The third game comes along, and you see the she has been made into a correspondent in the Middle East. She has a bright future which she has earned by her ruthless determination to be a good reporter. Good on you! She has moved on from Nate and even confronts him on his personal failings in a way that she hadn’t before. It makes for some great personal development for both of them in the final game.
8. Subject Zero/Jack
Mass Effect 2 and 3
I can already hear Sarkeesian’s crowd saying “look how she’s dressed! Obvious misogyny!” Yeah, because women being sexy is bad, right? What’s more, if you jump to that, then you CLEARLY didn’t play this game. You see that her look, and the vast amount of tattoos she has are part of a very complicated past that makes her a very rounded character. Jack (real name Jacqueline) was a test subject as a small child. Cerberus did inhumane experiments on her, with the express purpose of turning her into a strong biotic. One day, she sees her chance to escape to freedom and it turns into the first of many violent massacres that she is involved in. Her violent nature was something that was forced into her subconscious by the experiments she was involved in. Cerberus shocked her when she hesitated to kill. This violent nature eventually turned against her captors, leading to the utter slaughter of both the facility’s staff and the other children they were testing on. Jack puts on a tough face, but the truth is that because she wasn’t able to develop like a normal child, she has some serious emotional issues that you see resolved in the third game (if she survived the Suicide Mission), when she gets students, who she becomes an odd kind of family with. Her tattoos are a reflection of who she is. Some are from prisons she has been to, others are for kills and there are some for things that she has lost. She’s a powerful character who doesn’t back down from a fight, and isn’t above splatting guts all over the place to protect those who matter to her.
7. Tear Grants
Tales of the Abyss
Tear is not only a strong character, but she is also well-developed. Having grown up in a world beneath, she comes to the world above on a mission to kill her brother. A long and complicated narrative follows, but you see that she is the kind of woman who fights hard not to show her weakness. Even as a disease is killing her, she won’t let herself stop. She doesn’t accept pity and she hardly ever lets weakness get off easy in her friends. Part of her development as a character was when she gradually starts going easier on people and accepting their flaws. She is probably the best-developed female protagonist in the Tales series, and it is better for it. The last scene where she admits her love to Luke as he fades away is a tear-jerker, because we come to care about her and her struggle. Plus, the relationship that develops between the two of them is believable, going from two people who get on each other’s nerves to getting underneath each other’s emotional armor and coming to care about who they are. It’s beautiful.
6. Samus Aran
Samus Aran is the definitive female badass. While she has had some moments outside of her armor where you can see she is hot, there are also a lot of moments inside of her armor where they give her a lot of credit. Samus is a child whose colony world was attacked and obliterated by the Space Pirates. An alien race called the Chozo find her and raise her, training her for a task that she has had foremost on her mind since that day – revenge. While the Chozo abandoned their technological mastery (which had lead to an unprecedented military strength) in favor of a peaceful society, they brought it back so that they could give this human child the skills and tools she needed to defeat the most powerful enemy in the galaxy. Samus is a silent, determined warrior who never, ever relents. She pursues the Space Pirates without mercy and she will do whatever it takes to get the job done. She works as a bounty hunter, so she can keep the money flowing in, but she is also pursuing her own goals. The silent protagonist (until Other M, which sucked, a lot) who will not give up, ever. That is something that I think we can all look up to.
5. Heather Mason
Silent Hill 3
Heather is one of those characters who you just don’t see coming. This was back in the days when most characters were very cardboard cutouts, with a few stand-out roles. She is one of them. The adopted daughter of Harry Mason, the protagonist from the original Silent Hill, Heather has a very deep and very dark attachment to the titular town. Not at all a pushover, she ends up being drawn very deep into a plot that pushes her to her limits. Not only do the members of the cult who were trying to resurrect their dark god in the first game want to keep using her, but there is a very ugly metaphor for abortion when she finds out that the dark god is growing inside of her. How she purges it from herself is pretty damn intense! Heather is not some sassy, preppy high school kid. She’s a normal girl who is now very much alone in a fight against forces unknown and persons who all want to use her to their own ends. It’s pretty cool how she comes to her own conclusions about things and doesn’t let herself get used. Her reactions to situations feels organic to what a real girl would think, given her situation. It’s a surprisingly realistic character in a time when writing good characters at all was few and far between.
4. The Boss
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
I know what you’re thinking – wait, what? Why is she on here? Wasn’t she trying to kill you? Well, as with most things in the Metal Gear Solid universe, it is never that simple. She isn’t, strictly-speaking, an antagonist or protagonist. She’s instead something a little more complex. And she was an awesome character. Her strength came in how she was so sure of her own skill. Her name, Boss, didn’t come just because she is in charge of anything. In fact, it has nothing to do with that. But the thing that really made this character interesting, to me, is the fact that she was Snake’s teacher. She trained him, mentored him and made him into the agent that he is. The battle with her is awesome because you only have a couple weapons that you can kill her with. All the rest she takes from you, takes apart in seconds and renders them useless. Like Snake, it isn’t that she can kill that makes her good. She is a skilled tracker and stealth agent and you can see where Snake got his skill (depending on how good the player is). The final battle with her is both intense and tragic, as you are seeing Snake fighting against someone that he genuinely respects. A female character who is a teacher and sympathetic is a nice change of pace from the usual way that they are portrayed, and it made for a great character who I was genuinely sorry to see go.
3. Brigid Tenenbaum
I’m only going to be looking at the use of this character in the first game, because she is only a cameo in the sequel. In the first game, you are introduced to the woman who made the Little Sisters and helped perfect the Big Daddy system. She comes off as cold and calculating, and at first she is. She grew up in a Jewish household, and thus ended up in the concentration camps in World War II. There, she was shown to have developed a love of science and genetics, as they understood them in that time period. She gets to the underwater city of Rapture and puts her talents to use. The discovery on the substance called ADAM, and the eventual use of Plasmids, changed her world entirely. A vast unexplored wealth of possibilities lay before her, and she was eager to find out what it could do. Tenenbaum was not above using people and killing people to get her way. She was hired by Frank Fontaine to work on Plasmid development. The problem she saw was that ADAM was getting harder to come by. They needed a way to generate it in large amounts. Dead bodies had some, but how to get to it? The solution came to her in the form of the slugs that originally carried the substance. She finds out that by putting this slug inside of little girls, it could bond to their digestive system and feed off ADAM, producing more. In vast amounts. The ADAM it gave the girls made them nigh-invincible, and took away their humanity. They became disturbed and saw the world in a different way, speaking in a sing-song voice. Seeing how much her experiments destroyed these children, and what it was causing in the city itself, something changes in her. Tenenbaum is a fascinating character whose change from ruthless scientist to paternal figure is both believable and touching. She was one of my favorite characters in that game.
Final Fantasy X
I know what some of you might be thinking – why Rikku?! I mean, wasn’t it Yuna who was going to be making the ultimate sacrifice to save her people? Bear with me, I mean to explain. Rikku is a member of the Al Bhed. A tribe-like people who embrace technology, even when the entire world denounces it. Her people are met with scoff and sometimes open hostility. The Al Bhed are like the gypsies of our world. It is kind of a pity that you don’t get to know their people better, because their culture is fascinating. You have a centralized leadership in the place they call Home. But they do have wandering factions who go to places to find relics that they can sell and tech they can bring home. They are almost all skilled technicians, because they all have to rely on the machinery they use. They are very personal, a lot like the Quarians in the Mass Effect series. All the problems are close, and they tend to get into each other’s business. With that said, I liked Rikku more than Yuna because she was facing a two-sided problem. The first side is that she is part of a culture that their society in general looks down upon. When Auron goes up to her and asks to see her face, she closes her eyes, because she knows that seeing her eyes will be a dead give-away of who she is. The other side of her problem is that her cousin is sacrificing her life for the cause of defeating Sin. What’s more, the defeat isn’t permanent. They can only temporarily kill Sin. So in the end, what is this family member that she loves dying for? As far as she sees it, nothing. Her conflict, and the subtle ways they show her internal struggle, while she maintains a positive exterior is one of the reasons that I love this game so much. Plus, my favorite part is that her people are atheists. They don’t believe in Yevon and the religion surrounding it. When you have a chance to go into the Farplane, she declines, stating that it isn’t really the dead that you will be seeing. Just your memories of them, given form by pyreflies. That’s a pretty insightful thought and one of the few times she is serious in a subdued way. Oh, and I do hate how she was represented in X-2. That game was shit, and her look was annoyingly-bad fan service.
And the best female protagonist that represents women in an awesome way is –
The Last of Us
This is one of my favorite characters in gaming. Ellie is an very complex and fun character. She is not only a well-written female character, but a well-written kid character as well. Part of that is from the excellent voice-work. She is naive, imaginative, wants to have a childhood, bound to the ugliness of the world and also believes that everyone she cares about will die. It’s a very intense dichotomy that plays out beautifully in the game. Probably my favorite scene with Ellie is in the restaurant, after she is captured by the bandits. She escapes, after biting the leader (and it is hinted that her bites can cause infection, but it isn’t said for certain) and then killing his accomplice. After sneaking through the bandit camp that is now in disarray, she makes her way into a restaurant. There, the bandit leader, who is losing his mind with the belief that he is going to become infected with the fungus that has destroyed humanity, he decides to kill you, to set things right. The battle that follows is one of hiding and catching him off-guard, slowly doing damage until the final showdown. It is beautifully done, acknowledging the fact that Ellie is a kid and this grown-man who is stronger and faster than her. She has to use her sneaking talents to the utmost, and it is a boss-fight with nail-biting tension. Especially since one wrong move can spell instantaneous death. But when you finally do get the best of him, he has beaten Ellie, psychologically tortured her and the desperation of the fact that the only friend she has in the planet is probably dead catches up to her. She hacks the man up with a machete, over and over and over again, screaming cries of sadness and rage as his blood splashes everywhere. It is a beautiful scene and when Joel pulls her off him and into his arms, you can feel how much both of them are hurting. Every character in The Last of Us was well-written, but Joel and Ellie are the absolute best. I hope you can see why.
The fact is that people like Anita Sarkeesian and her “misogyny!” screaming feminist friends don’t know shit about the genre they are insulting. It is telling that in her “Damsels in Distress” videos, she rangs on 80’s games and arcade-style games. She doesn’t touch ANY of the series I listed here. The reason is simple – the good writing of these characters fucks up any argument that she could make. I hope the rest of you can see that as well as I can.
Until next time, a quote,
“Everyone I have cared about has either died or left me. Everyone — fucking except for you! So don’t tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared.” -Ellie, The Last of Us