Although a bit of time has passed since International Woman's Day, it got me thinking about some of the women that truly inspired me as a kid. And while some may find it weird for me to admit this, many of the women I looked up to as a kid were fictional, especially in books and, of course, video games.
I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't have a game controller in my hand. So, it goes without saying that I've played a fair share of video games in the last 2 decades. It is amazing to look back at some of my favorite older games and realize how, in some ways, many of them were ahead of our time in their representation of women. It's also incredible to find modern games that stick to stereotypical, misogynistic, and downright sickening representations of women. This dichotomy makes me want to name, as my title so nicely reveals, some of my favorite female characters in games and what makes them, in my opinion, bad-ass.
1st note- There were quite a few games that had at least one bad-ass female character of color. That being said, disappointingly, most of my favorites of these characters did not play significant enough roles in their respective games. Additionally, if they did play a decent role in the game, they ended up being "misguided" or "well-intentioned but still evil" (Marlene in The Last of Us) or just the plain antagonist in the game, as is one of the characters I list below in the mainstream games of the series she is a part of.
2nd note- The two women of color I list below happen to come from the same game, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. I commend this game for its daring portrayal of these female characters, to the point that the game even includes a random conversation mid-game that fails the Bechdel test just to make fun of the prevalent stereotype that two women can't hold a discussion without bringing up a dude.
3rd note- I'm going to avoid listing specific characters that have become canonically "bad-ass", like Lightning from FFXIII. Also, I tend to play games late, so these games did not necessarily come out last year...
THIS POST WILL HAVE SPOILERS!!
Resident Evil Revelations 2
I'll admit that when I met Moira at the beginning of Revelations 2, I couldn't stand her. Her father, Barry Burton, was one of my favorite original RE characters, specifically because his love for his family left him vulnerable to blackmail many Resident Evils ago. The fact that Moira seemed to not like her father (I'm a daddy's girl myself) just rubbed me the wrong way. But this initial, admittedly super biased, impression quickly left when I witnessed not only her resourcefulness (flashlight/crowbar combo for fighting), but her endearingly crass did you really just say that!?!? personality. She certainly has the most unique expletives I've ever heard. What in a moist barrel of F*cks! By the end of the game, when left to her own devices and given a decent story-arc of her own, despite her "insignificance" to many people in comparison to her father and best friend, we see Moira conquer her fears and evolve into a strong, dependable woman surprisingly more bad-ass than she was from the get-go.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
When I heard that Naughty Dog was taking 2 of their iconic female characters from their Uncharted series and making a game mostly about them, I was so hyped and knew I needed to get this game ASAP.
First, its nice to see some diversity in the characters themselves. Chloe is of Indian descent, with Australian citizenship. She's knowledgeable in history, religion, and especially legends and cultures pertaining to India. She's practical and resourceful and generally bad-ass, although a terrible driver. XD
A recurring misconception about Chloe is that she's shifty and insincere. As a treasure hunter, we see her allegiances change faster than she can load a new clip into her pistol. Despite this, her loyalty has shine through her flightiness. The Lost Legacy spends the entire game giving us background on Chloe that previous games did not and humanizing her struggles. Yeah, she's witty and reckless, her morals are sometimes skewed, has a bit of an ego, and she gives me heart-attacks with some of her brilliant plans. But she's values her friends greatly, is loyal to those friends, and has a sense of justice under her self-preserving exterior. So I'm down for this girl who is out for what she wants.
The Last of Us
This 14 year old has been through more in the year that spans the game than I have in my entire life. Let's go down the line: Ellie gets infected with her best friend/love-interest only to find out she's immune while Riley dies. She is dragged across the U.S. in a desperate attempt to use her immunity to find a cure. Ellie suffers from survivor's guilt as a result of people dying either trying to keep her alive or caught in the crossfire. She is nearly raped/killed by a psycho cannibal. Lastly, of course, Ellie has to run and shoot for her life as all kinds of nasty fungus infested monsters try to kill her.
What's amazing about Ellie is that, despite all she endures, she CARES. Whether that is for Joel, Tess, Marlene, Henry, or Sam, Ellie has a compassion that is in stark contrast with characters like Tess and Marlene, who hold more of sense of duty/hope to find a cure to revert the world back to the way it was. Marlene is willing to sacrifice Ellie at the end for the greater good and she tells Joel, "its what she wants" in reference to Ellie's desire to use her immunity to find a cure (although Ellie doesn't know it would kill her). And I have no doubt that Marlene is right that Ellie would choose to vaccine over her life. But its not because she wants things to go back to "normal". Ellie was born after the world went to hell and it is her only reality. Rather, after experiencing starvation, fear, loss and so much more, Ellie cares about creating a future where her loved ones don't have to live in such a terrible world.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Nadine is the second of The Lost Legacy pair, working alongside Chloe to thwart Asav. Nadine is a little more of a conflicting character than Chloe. Chloe has generally been on Uncharted series protagonist Nathan Drake's (your) side. Nadine has typically been an antagonist, working with many of Drake's foes, such as Rafe. I initially thought it was weird to pair Chloe (pro-Drake) with Nadine (anti-Drake) for an entire game, but their differences surprisingly compliment each other.
The first thing to know about Nadine is that she whoops some serious a**! Before becoming a treasure hunter, she was a very respected South African mercenary and the leader of Shoreline, a "paramilitary organization." So she's strong, both physically and in terms of political/military affiliation. Besides that, Nadine is a capable leader in a male-dominated environment. She's sensible, quick on her feet, and determined. Women like Nadine are often called "too masculine", identified as "one of the boys", or their leadership is called into question by other men (the last has happened in the game). But Nadine is called "ma'am", respected by her crew, intuitive, charming, and does not bend to another man's will when her leadership is called into question.
*Click on the image below to see Nadine interact with Rafe in Uncharted 4.
Lunafreya Nox Fleuret
Final Fantasy XV
My God, what do I say about Lunafreya!? No doubt in my mind that she is the MOST IMPORTANT character of Final Fantasy XV. Some people would agree with me to an extent on this assertion based on her support of Noctis, which ultimately allows him to fulfill his destiny in the game. But, more than that, Luna is tied to almost every aspect of the game. (I won't go in-depth with this, let you readers do some HW ;) ).
Luna has both a bright and tragic story. She puts all of her feelings (fear, sadness, stress, fatigue, etc.) aside to aid others and is a figure of hope for EVERYONE in the game. She puts duty and love first, and I respect her character for that. She also, sadly, represents to me an abused figure. She's essentially a prisoner of war/bargaining chip for one empire against the other and her well-being is disregarded often. However, Luna never laments her position, but takes charge of her circumstances and saves everyone (sorry Noct, you'd be nowhere without her!).
Here have been my top 5! Trust me, there are so many more I could have added. What are some of your favorite female video game characters?
P.S. - Bonus video clip found on YouTube of that The Lost Legacy scene I mentioned above
Some pictures of me and some of the places I've seen! I'm not a professional photographer so don't expect anything grandiose!