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Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

Now that the collective ire of the Internet has settled down after the, well, let's call it spirited debate regarding Anita Sarkeesian's Kickstarter "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games", I figured now would be a prudent time to add my two cents. For those unaware (or too lazy to click on the link!), the Kickstarter was an initiative of a FeministFrequency.com writer and critic with the goal of "exploring female character stereotypes" in our favourite medium. She was subject to a litany of misogynistic filth, but also challenged with several legitimate questions--both (primarily the former, these are YouTube comments, after all) can be found en masse here. She managed to rake in a whopping $158,922, far exceeding her requested $6,000 figure, and supporters and critics alike are waiting to hear what she has to say about everything from "The Fighting F#@k Toy" to "Women as Reward". Love her or hate her, she's been a major voice in the industry for the past few weeks.

What really intrigues me, however, is the scheduled topic of her 11th video: "Positive Female Characters!" What exactly does Ms. Sarkeesian mean by this? What makes a particular female character a "positive" or "good" one, as opposed to a "negative" or "bad" one? Essentially: what is our measure for assessing the positivity/negativity of female characters in games?

A good place to start is actually with her critics. Not the vitriol--"Back to the kitchen cunt" doesn't qualify as a legitimate contribution to the dialogue, or, well, as an actual thought--but rather something along the lines of "Men are stereotyped in games all the time. Look at Mass Effect's James Vega, God of War's Kratos, or Gears of War's Marcus Fenix: brawny and entirely unrealistic. What about the confidence and hypersexuality of characters like Dante, or the strong-and-silent types like Cloud? Men don't complain about being pigeonholed into the narrow categorizations, so why are women so upset?" That is a legitimate argument, but one that I think has a couple of problems.

First off, where's the sense in saying "Well, we're both subject to the same conditions, but most of us are cool with it--you should be too"? If both men and women are being stereotyped, but men are generally OK with it, how does that rob a female gamer's right to be upset? Secondly, and more importantly, let's take a look at typical male character tropes: strong and confident, usually leaders. Females? Well I think it would be a bit dramatic to call Super Mario Bros. a discriminatory title, but the motif of "damsels in distress" like Peach or Zelda is getting a bit tired. Perhaps men don't mind being stereotyped because it is usually as a male of extraordinary strength, whereas most women in games are one-note characters characterized by their helplessness or sexuality.

That, to me, is an example of a "bad" female character: one with a personality that is flat and static. They don't undergo any meaningful growth or character development, and continuously harp on one theme, over and over again. "Look at how sexy I am," or "Look at how much help I need," or even "Look at how strong I am,": they're all equally guilty. So, in truth, what makes a bad female character is the same thing that makes a bad male character: lack of dynamism and "roundness".

Marcus Fenix is a good male character, truth be told. He is originally portrayed a musclebound meathead with a bad streak, and not much else. And if you don't look much deeper, that might be all that you see. But keep playing and you see that he's capable of empathy, sadness, and vulnerability. He is a devoted friend and son, and goes out of his way to take care of his own. Hell, he's actually a fairly smart tactician. He has highs and lows, and his personal story is well-paced.

Bayonetta, I would argue, is an example of a good female character. Yes, she is undeniably hypersexualied, to the point of parody. But there's nothing wrong with that: she's confident, and proud of her aesthetics. She is not a weak woman in need of rescue; to the contrary, she dominates enemies and uses her sexuality as a key strength. But, more importantly, you can see her motherly instincts in her interactions with Cereza, evidencing that she runs the full gamut of human emotions. Like with Marcus, many might glance at her and peg her as another sexed-up floozy, but anyone willing to get to know her will realize that she is a dynamic character that develops along a very clear spectrum throughout the game.

Bayonetta shows way more skin than say, Princess Peach, but sexuality alone is a very narrow measure to assess the "positivity" of a female character. That so many people get so hung up on the external appearance of female characters is a huge issue. Again, positvity is dynamism: a positive female character is one that undergoes meaningful and honest character development. Another great example would be Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider, who we are told will evolve from a scared girl to a powerful woman, while dealing with some primarily feminine challenges (I don't care what Crystal Dynamics calls it, that gameplay footage portrayed blatant sexual assault) along the way. Even Chell, Portal's silent protagonist (who looks to be a subject for Ms. Sarkeesian's "Positive Female Characters!"), does not represent a "positive" female character to me--more of a neutral one. I loved Portal just as much as the next guy, but she doesn't really undergo any meaningful character development, does she?

More dynamic female protagonists in games will undoubtedly get more females into the community, which is the reason why all of this is so important. Female gamers can bring unique visions to the industry, and help spark further innovation. Can you imagine a world without Kim Swift? I sure as hell can't.

So when Ms. Sarkeesian makes her video about positive female characters, I hope that she uses this sort of scale to measure positive female characters. The good ones aren't just the ones that are strong and confident, but rather the dynamic ones: the ones who can be all that and so much more.

#1 Edited by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

Now that the collective ire of the Internet has settled down after the, well, let's call it spirited debate regarding Anita Sarkeesian's Kickstarter "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games", I figured now would be a prudent time to add my two cents. For those unaware (or too lazy to click on the link!), the Kickstarter was an initiative of a FeministFrequency.com writer and critic with the goal of "exploring female character stereotypes" in our favourite medium. She was subject to a litany of misogynistic filth, but also challenged with several legitimate questions--both (primarily the former, these are YouTube comments, after all) can be found en masse here. She managed to rake in a whopping $158,922, far exceeding her requested $6,000 figure, and supporters and critics alike are waiting to hear what she has to say about everything from "The Fighting F#@k Toy" to "Women as Reward". Love her or hate her, she's been a major voice in the industry for the past few weeks.

What really intrigues me, however, is the scheduled topic of her 11th video: "Positive Female Characters!" What exactly does Ms. Sarkeesian mean by this? What makes a particular female character a "positive" or "good" one, as opposed to a "negative" or "bad" one? Essentially: what is our measure for assessing the positivity/negativity of female characters in games?

A good place to start is actually with her critics. Not the vitriol--"Back to the kitchen cunt" doesn't qualify as a legitimate contribution to the dialogue, or, well, as an actual thought--but rather something along the lines of "Men are stereotyped in games all the time. Look at Mass Effect's James Vega, God of War's Kratos, or Gears of War's Marcus Fenix: brawny and entirely unrealistic. What about the confidence and hypersexuality of characters like Dante, or the strong-and-silent types like Cloud? Men don't complain about being pigeonholed into the narrow categorizations, so why are women so upset?" That is a legitimate argument, but one that I think has a couple of problems.

First off, where's the sense in saying "Well, we're both subject to the same conditions, but most of us are cool with it--you should be too"? If both men and women are being stereotyped, but men are generally OK with it, how does that rob a female gamer's right to be upset? Secondly, and more importantly, let's take a look at typical male character tropes: strong and confident, usually leaders. Females? Well I think it would be a bit dramatic to call Super Mario Bros. a discriminatory title, but the motif of "damsels in distress" like Peach or Zelda is getting a bit tired. Perhaps men don't mind being stereotyped because it is usually as a male of extraordinary strength, whereas most women in games are one-note characters characterized by their helplessness or sexuality.

That, to me, is an example of a "bad" female character: one with a personality that is flat and static. They don't undergo any meaningful growth or character development, and continuously harp on one theme, over and over again. "Look at how sexy I am," or "Look at how much help I need," or even "Look at how strong I am,": they're all equally guilty. So, in truth, what makes a bad female character is the same thing that makes a bad male character: lack of dynamism and "roundness".

Marcus Fenix is a good male character, truth be told. He is originally portrayed a musclebound meathead with a bad streak, and not much else. And if you don't look much deeper, that might be all that you see. But keep playing and you see that he's capable of empathy, sadness, and vulnerability. He is a devoted friend and son, and goes out of his way to take care of his own. Hell, he's actually a fairly smart tactician. He has highs and lows, and his personal story is well-paced.

Bayonetta, I would argue, is an example of a good female character. Yes, she is undeniably hypersexualied, to the point of parody. But there's nothing wrong with that: she's confident, and proud of her aesthetics. She is not a weak woman in need of rescue; to the contrary, she dominates enemies and uses her sexuality as a key strength. But, more importantly, you can see her motherly instincts in her interactions with Cereza, evidencing that she runs the full gamut of human emotions. Like with Marcus, many might glance at her and peg her as another sexed-up floozy, but anyone willing to get to know her will realize that she is a dynamic character that develops along a very clear spectrum throughout the game.

Bayonetta shows way more skin than say, Princess Peach, but sexuality alone is a very narrow measure to assess the "positivity" of a female character. That so many people get so hung up on the external appearance of female characters is a huge issue. Again, positvity is dynamism: a positive female character is one that undergoes meaningful and honest character development. Another great example would be Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider, who we are told will evolve from a scared girl to a powerful woman, while dealing with some primarily feminine challenges (I don't care what Crystal Dynamics calls it, that gameplay footage portrayed blatant sexual assault) along the way. Even Chell, Portal's silent protagonist (who looks to be a subject for Ms. Sarkeesian's "Positive Female Characters!"), does not represent a "positive" female character to me--more of a neutral one. I loved Portal just as much as the next guy, but she doesn't really undergo any meaningful character development, does she?

More dynamic female protagonists in games will undoubtedly get more females into the community, which is the reason why all of this is so important. Female gamers can bring unique visions to the industry, and help spark further innovation. Can you imagine a world without Kim Swift? I sure as hell can't.

So when Ms. Sarkeesian makes her video about positive female characters, I hope that she uses this sort of scale to measure positive female characters. The good ones aren't just the ones that are strong and confident, but rather the dynamic ones: the ones who can be all that and so much more.

#2 Posted by TooWalrus (13139 posts) -

I actually came in here to say that girls LOVE Bayonetta

#3 Posted by Video_Game_King (36090 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

What exactly does Ms. Sarkeesian mean by this? What makes a particular female character a "positive" or "good" one, as opposed to a "negative" or "bad" one? Essentially: what is our measure for assessing the positivity/negativity of female characters in games?

I imagine whether their sex is relevant to their character in any way. Are they treated like a sexual fantasy, or are they just regular people in their setting? Can their achievements be linked to gender in some way, or is it because they're legitimately badass or something? Even if these aren't the right questions, they're at least a decent starting point.

#4 Posted by thornie (165 posts) -

Brienne of Tarth. Tough as nails, honorable, loyal, and can go toe to toe with any man... even a bear with a tourney sword!

#5 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

I love me some Brienne of Tarth.

#6 Posted by LiquidPrince (15855 posts) -

In Tomb Raider, time and time again it has been said that Lara will start out as a weak girl and then grow into the well known strong willed Lara. However people barely gave it a chance and have been freaking out,"oh why is she moaning?" Let her go through her story arc and maybe what you end up with is an amazing character. People just tend to freak out over women characters.

#7 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

I would definitely agree with people tending to jump the gun on Lara, despite what the developers have been telling us about her development. Weakness and vulnerability, when done right, are important and honest components of a good character. It doesn't make characters weak--it just makes them human.

#8 Posted by Brodehouse (9640 posts) -

I prefer characters who feel 'real' than characters who embody positive traits of a gender, race, ethnicity, etc. I also don't like when people judge characters as representatives of a gender, race, rather than judge them as individual characters. I look at Persona4, every one of those ladies have negative traits that are stereotypically feminine or couched in gender politics; Co-dependent, passive, weak-willed, slutty, competes with women for a man's affection, snobbish, prudish, bitchy, unsure of her direction until a man guides her... But that ignores the truth of those characters. Chie struggles to act more traditionally feminine than she really is, Naoto has significant sexual identity issues, Rise knows she's used as a sexual object but doesn't appear to care. But it makes those characters real. Same on the other side, Yosuke is a horny, judgmental, homophobic douche but he's also lonely and doesn't know how to express his emotions outside of his fists (consider that S-Rank 10 scene). Kanji's completely bent around how to act 'manly' according to society, but he's also violent, kind of dumb, and his only acceptable emotion is anger. That's why those characters stick with you. They aren't perfect Mary Sues that have all the positive tropes and none of the negatives.

To add to thst, James Vega isn't unrealistic. He's a huge dude in the military, one of the ideal career scenarios for huge dudes. And he isn't just accidentally huge, you literally watch him exercising to maintain his physique, he works at it. Compare to fellow huge dudes who just appear to be naturally ripped, even if they've been malnourished sitting in a cell for months. Vega actually seems like a real person, just not one most of the audience would want to hang out with. Yeah, he's a little bit ignorant and hot-headed, he makes some bad jokes, but that's the truth of that character. That game is not improved if everyone is as cool as Garrus. If anything, Vega is the first positive depiction of a 'dudebro'. If you hate him just because he's large and dumb, it's not different than hating someone for being scrawny and intelligent.

#9 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

I was also going to mention Bayonetta and then just leave. I'm sick and tired of debating this topic.

#10 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (2588 posts) -

@thornie said:

Brienne of Tarth. Tough as nails, honorable, loyal, and can go toe to toe with any man... even a bear with a tourney sword!

Well actually...she pretty much admits Jamie Laninster got her out of that thing with the bear.

#11 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (2588 posts) -

For me the most postive one I can think of is Elena Fisher. She is loyal, she does her best, she is smart when it is time to be smart, yet selflessly courageous when it is time to be courageous. She never puts herself into the role of hero, but she does what needs to be done by being herself. As a character she has her own voice and her role in the game is as "the voice of reason "Uh, WHY are we doing this foolishly dangerous thing?" and also the voice of solve the problem as simply as possible, "Go see the rug merchant...he doesn't really sell rugs!"

#12 Posted by Dagbiker (6939 posts) -

I half agree with you.

#13 Edited by Hunter5024 (5555 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

Even Chell, Portal's silent protagonist (who looks to be a subject for Ms. Sarkeesian's "Positive Female Characters!"), does not represent a "positive" female character to me--more of a neutral one. I loved Portal just as much as the next guy, but she doesn't really undergo any meaningful character development, does she?

I kind of hope that she goes with Glados instead of Chell. Everytime I hear praise for Chell or Gordon Freeman as a character I just sigh.

@thornie said:

Brienne of Tarth. Tough as nails, honorable, loyal, and can go toe to toe with any man... even a bear with a tourney sword!

I think a feminist would probably disagree about that. Brienne doesn't exactly embrace her feminine side, she kind of blatantly disregards it. It's interesting but she's pretty damaged, not exactly a positive role model.

@MonkeyKing1969 said:

For me the most postive one I can think of is Elena Fisher. She is loyal, she does her best, she is smart when it is time to be smart, yet selflessly courageous when it is time to be courageous. She never puts herself into the role of hero, but she does what needs to be done by being herself. As a character she has her own voice and her role in the game is as "the voice of reason "Uh, WHY are we doing this foolishly dangerous thing?" and also the voice of solve the problem as simply as possible, "Go see the rug merchant...he doesn't really sell rugs!"

Elena's the best! I always play as her in multiplayer.

#14 Posted by Kierkegaard (582 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

Bayonetta shows way more skin than say, Princess Peach, but sexuality alone is a very narrow measure to assess the "positivity" of a female character. That so many people get so hung up on the external appearance of female characters is a huge issue. Again, positvity is dynamism: a positive female character is one that undergoes meaningful and honest character development. Another great example would be Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider, who we are told will evolve from a scared girl to a powerful woman, while dealing with uniquely feminine challenges (I don't care what Crystal Dynamics calls it, that was at the very least blatant sexual assault) along the way. Even Chell, Portal's silent protagonist (who looks to be a subject for Ms. Sarkeesian's "Positive Female Characters!"), does not represent a "positive" female character to me--more of a neutral one. I loved Portal just as much as the next guy, but she doesn't really undergo any meaningful character development, does she?

More dynamic female protagonists in games will undoubtedly get more females into the community, which is the reason why all of this is so important. Female gamers can bring unique visions to the industry, and help spark further innovation. Can you imagine a world without Kim Swift? I sure as hell can't.

So when Ms. Sarkeesian makes her video about positive female characters, I hope that she uses this sort of scale to measure positive female characters. The good ones aren't just the ones that are strong and confident, but rather the dynamic ones: the ones who can be all that and so much more.

Defining what is "good" is one of those things that humans have been striving for forever. Poking holes in others' definitions has just as lengthy a history. Hence what I'm about to do.

"Positivity is dynamism" is too simple a criteria, but it's a good start. Change isn't necessarily good. Characters can change through manipulation or unrealistic shifts. Change can be the infamous destruction of the free will of female characters--like Barbara Gordon being shot in the spine or countless injuries or deaths of female characters for the sake of male development.

So the consideration isn't "Does she change? Then she's a positive character," but more, "Does the change the character undergoes feel right? Does it use abuse or a magical mentor or a small event blown out of proportion simply to shove the narrative forward? Does the change matter? Why?" More questions, more gray areas, more confusion. Just like real life.

One cannot answer those questions without not only playing a game, but paying a lot of attention to what the storytelling is doing. I haven't played Bayonetta and, obviously, haven't played the new Tomb Raider. But I can speak to Portal 2.

Chell never speaks. One of the writers said that that is by choice--she doesn't have any respect for these ridiculous, power-hungry robots, she just wants to get through. Though she never has a huge speech about becoming a stronger person, about changing, I still consider her a strong character. It seems like development in a vacuum. Chell watches and participates in morality plays. She learns about the rise and fall of a selfish, harmful company. She learns how a female AI rose to power, fell from it, and learned something in taking it back. She learns how a fumbling idiot may be a worse leader than a calculating genius. She learned how science without ethics can breed destruction. We know she learned these things because we learned them and we assume the best of her. And, in many ways, Chell never stopping, never setting down the gun to doubt her next move, demonstrates a tenacity and diligence that is powerful. In this case, change in character's actions may be a weakness rather than a strength. However, change in a character's mind, as I think we watch take place in the two Portal games, is a fascinating, strong depiction of development.

#15 Posted by Hunter5024 (5555 posts) -

@Kierkegaard said:

Change can be the infamous destruction of the free will of female characters--like Barbara Gordon being shot in the spine or countless injuries or deaths of female characters for the sake of male development.

This was arguably the best thing that ever happened to Barbara Gordon actually. She used to be a poor imitation of Batman, relegated to side kick status, and not even the main sidekick at that. Being shot in the spine forced her to really look at her own strengths and see how she could use them to further her goals. As Oracle she did far more than she ever did as Batgirl, hell she was regularly contacted by the Justice League for info, not just Batman.

@Kierkegaard said:

Chell never speaks. One of the writers said that that is by choice--she doesn't have any respect for these ridiculous, power-hungry robots, she just wants to get through. Though she never has a huge speech about becoming a stronger person, about changing, I still consider her a strong character. It seems like development in a vacuum. Chell watches and participates in morality plays. She learns about the rise and fall of a selfish, harmful company. She learns how a female AI rose to power, fell from it, and learned something in taking it back. She learns how a fumbling idiot may be a worse leader than a calculating genius. She learned how science without ethics can breed destruction. We know she learned these things because we learned them and we assume the best of her. And, in many ways, Chell never stopping, never setting down the gun to doubt her next move, demonstrates a tenacity and diligence that is powerful. In this case, change in character's actions may be a weakness rather than a strength. However, change in a character's mind, as I think we watch take place in the two Portal games, is a fascinating, strong depiction of development.

I don't really see how the assumptions players make about someone who never speaks or emotes in any way can be considered strong character development. Even if the writers come up with cool reasons for the character not to talk, if they don't find a way to express that in the game, instead of in some interview or something, than it doesn't really matter.

#16 Posted by guiseppe (2838 posts) -

This topic has gotten so ridiculous that I don't even want to talk about it. Boobs.

#17 Posted by Matiaz_Tapia (261 posts) -

I went and looked at Sarkeesian's youtube videos and reached a completely different conclusion to what I believed to be the problem. I do not think it's a matter of weak or strong, but that if there's a character, female or not, it's made in service of satisfying a generally male audience. Displaying only a male perspective ( even when there is no ill intent)

You can argue about Bayonneta being strong, but the reality of the matter is that she was was designed to appeal to you as a dude. Even to your own sensibilities and insecurities about how strong a woman should be and how. She is a femdom fantasy adopting male characteristics of what it is to be "badass" . It attempts to adopt motherly qualities, but does so from a male perspective. You can find that it doesn't bother women from the point where it's almost a parody of itself,but that makes her innocuous at best.

It's the part where women are "in service" to a male plot, male audience or male character development that creates this discomfort and it comes from deeper social issue centuries on the making.

Just listen to yourself, as a guy, have an opinion about a girl character. Then ask yourself, "which one was made for girls? " There's probably some out there, but it's very likely that you don't enjoy them as much.

BUT, if theres a solution to this is to simply allow yourself, as a guy, to let things that girls like happen.That and women taking creative roles in the industry making things that you probably won't like . "Raiden" was meant to be a pretty boy suggested by a female fan, do you like Raiden? Probably you go as far as being ok with him...or liking him a lot now that he's a half robot badass.

In the end it always comes down to feeling yourself as a better dude, a fair specimen that girls will like, a white knight of sorts...Is the reason this discussions are heated among dudes. And the "digital white knight" solution to the problem is that women are fine as long as they act just like men. I don't feel that's right.

#18 Posted by SmilingPig (1337 posts) -

I asked the question to my girlfriend and she shouted: "Nancy Drew"

#19 Posted by huntad (1930 posts) -

euuuggggghhhhhhh...

#20 Posted by JasonR86 (9611 posts) -

This sounds like a weak answer but I imagine it depends. All women are different and enjoy different things. A positive female character for one woman is different then a positive female character for another woman. That's why it would be so hard to create a female character in a medium because a female character that is offensive to one woman, like Bayonetta, is empowering to another. This is why if I were a writer for video games or movies I would shy away from female leads because, honestly, it feels like the best you could do is appease half the female audience. And even if you do this you may be called a sexist because the other half detest the character you've created.

...and people wonder why there aren't more female leads in video games.

#21 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

All good points. Maybe I should have been a bit more specific by what I meant by "good", and I realize I may have even used it misleadingly.

You're spot on about the context of change. If a character transforms into a giant three-headed monster without any reason, does that change really add to their character in a meaningful way? By dynamism = good, I meant that dynamic characters tend to be more human, and easier to relate to. Dynamic female characters have a good chance of resonating with female gamers, and help bring more women into the industry. I certainly agree that these sorts of developments need to appear to occur organically.

Interesting thoughts about Chell, too. I don't know if I'm wholly convinced, but interesting nonetheless.

Fuck yeah Nancy Drew

#22 Posted by mosespippy (4050 posts) -

Princess Cordelia from Valkyria Chronicles is the most positive female character I can think of. As a 16 year old princess in charge of an occupied country her actions have a lot of repercussions. Her decisions therefore need to be what is best for her nation's citizens. Not only that but her families ethnicity, which has been kept secret for centuries, is also the subject of genocide so her public revelations in that regard requires a lot of bravery. It results in a civil war but in the long run it contributes to the acceptance of her race in society. To quote Pure Pwnage "It's the decisions we make when we have no time to make them that define who we are." Cordelia's ancestors have kept the status quo for a long time and it would have been easy for her to do the same. Her choice to do what none of her ancestors did was not easy but ultimately it mitigated the scope of the arms race and contributed to peace. She was subject to the influence of the prince of the Empire, her nations political counsel and the ambassador to the Federation, three very powerful male figures, yet she chose her own path. That's why I think she is a very positive female figure.

#23 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

I can see where you're coming from. One of the most well-loved female protagonists in gaming is FemShep, who (aside from the vastly superior voice acting) is appealing because you can mold her in whatever way you like.

And I can understand if someone were to be trepidatious about implementing female protagonists in a game. It's a sensitive topic, and people are going to get pissed off no matter what you do; you can't please everyone. But maybe that's the beauty of art: it's expected to offend some people.

#24 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

A strong female lead has to be a tomboy that can beat up anyone and everyone and doesnt afraid of anything.

Anything less is sexist.

#25 Posted by JasonR86 (9611 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

I can see where you're coming from. One of the most well-loved female protagonists in gaming is FemShep, who (aside from the vastly superior voice acting) is appealing because you can mold her in whatever way you like.

And I can understand if someone were to be trepidatious about implementing female protagonists in a game. It's a sensitive topic, and people are going to get pissed off no matter what you do; you can't please everyone. But maybe that's the beauty of art: it's expected to offend some people.

I suppose there is some expectation to offend. But when the stakes are so high why would a publisher take that chance? From a business sense it doesn't make sense.

#26 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

@TheHumanDove: That seems to be a fairly prominent opinion, right? I definitely agree with you that it's a little crazy.

I think it's just as bankrupt of a character model as the unrealistically weak one. There's no balance, realism, or believability. If my female character is a total tomboy, then OK, why is she like that? How'd she get there? Is she really infallible? I really doubt it. Again, I'm happy that the new Tomb Raider will be showing us how a tomboy like Lara comes to be.

#27 Posted by Shaka999 (456 posts) -

@mosespippy: You quoted Pure Pwnage. You are my new best friend.

But to answer the topic at hand, my answer would be Alyx Vance. While she doesn't go through any dynamic changes, she's strong-willed, intelligent, and capable of fighting on her own throughout the city. On top of that, she's not overtly sexualized and she's never really a "goal" for the game.

#28 Posted by Red (5994 posts) -

Alyx Vance is a good female character. Elena and Chloe from Uncharted are good female characters. BioWare usually has alright female characters. Aside from some of the stuff happening in Golden, Persona 4 actually has pretty great female characters. I think a female character is a good one if she has an actual personality outside of just being a woman.

#29 Posted by Kierkegaard (582 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

All good points. Maybe I should have been a bit more specific by what I meant by "good", and I realize I may have even used it misleadingly.

You're spot on about the context of change. If a character transforms into a giant three-headed monster without any reason, does that change really add to their character in a meaningful way? By dynamism = good, I meant that dynamic characters tend to be more human, and easier to relate to. Dynamic female characters have a good chance of resonating with female gamers, and help bring more women into the industry. I certainly agree that these sorts of developments need to appear to occur organically.

Interesting thoughts about Chell, too. I don't know if I'm wholly convinced, but interesting nonetheless.

Fuck yeah Nancy Drew

Yeah, not sure if I'm completely convinced myself. I guess I just like seeing her silence as a strength rather than a detriment, the first time a silent protagonist has made some sense.

Didn't mean to assume you were being broader than you were. I totally agree that, generally, dynamic versus static characterization creates stronger role models and characters for players of all genders.

Balancing the industry gets into a whole host of issues of hiring practices and how much we emphasize math and science as "male" pursuits.

#30 Edited by ArtelinaRose (1845 posts) -

I think a "positive female character" is just a good character. Lieutenant Mira, Naomi Hunter, Chie Satonaka, Zoey, Femshep. In my mind, there is no differentiation between female characters and male unless it's shoved down my throat like HEY GUYS SHE IS A LADY CHECK OUT THIS SEXY DIALOGUE

Perhaps it's just a product of growing up on movies like Terminator and Alien, but every time I see an over sexualized female character or a helpless "please protect me because i not have testicles" woman I feel a little disgusted. There's so much potential lost when you write with a female in mind instead of a female character.

#31 Edited by Draxyle (1797 posts) -

@Red said:

Alyx Vance is a good female character. Elena and Chloe from Uncharted are good female characters. BioWare usually has alright female characters. Aside from some of the stuff happening in Golden, Persona 4 actually has pretty great female characters. I think a female character is a good one if she has an actual personality outside of just being a woman.

That about sums it up for me as well. A bad female character is a character written only as a female, and not an actual person.

On the topic of Persona 4, it's kind of like Kanji. He may be a homosexual character (debatable?), but that's only a small piece of him. Anyone who goes through the game knows that Kanji is so much more than that.

Any character that is written to focus only on one small part of their personality is a bad character. Unless the story actually calls for it, there's no reason to focus on the femininity of a female.

#32 Posted by pornstorestiffi (4909 posts) -

@Red said:

Alyx Vance is a good female character. Elena and Chloe from Uncharted are good female characters.

Those are the 3 that comes to mind when i think about it. In my opinion the best female characters crated in video games so far.

#33 Posted by Nottle (1912 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

I prefer characters who feel 'real' than characters who embody positive traits of a gender, race, ethnicity, etc. I also don't like when people judge characters as representatives of a gender, race, rather than judge them as individual characters. I look at Persona4, every one of those ladies have negative traits that are stereotypically feminine or couched in gender politics; Co-dependent, passive, weak-willed, slutty, competes with women for a man's affection, snobbish, prudish, bitchy, unsure of her direction until a man guides her... But that ignores the truth of those characters. Chie struggles to act more traditionally feminine than she really is, Naoto has significant sexual identity issues, Rise knows she's used as a sexual object but doesn't appear to care. But it makes those characters real. Same on the other side, Yosuke is a horny, judgmental, homophobic douche but he's also lonely and doesn't know how to express his emotions outside of his fists (consider that S-Rank 10 scene). Kanji's completely bent around how to act 'manly' according to society, but he's also violent, kind of dumb, and his only acceptable emotion is anger. That's why those characters stick with you. They aren't perfect Mary Sues that have all the positive tropes and none of the negatives. To add to thst, James Vega isn't unrealistic. He's a huge dude in the military, one of the ideal career scenarios for huge dudes. And he isn't just accidentally huge, you literally watch him exercising to maintain his physique, he works at it. Compare to fellow huge dudes who just appear to be naturally ripped, even if they've been malnourished sitting in a cell for months. Vega actually seems like a real person, just not one most of the audience would want to hang out with. Yeah, he's a little bit ignorant and hot-headed, he makes some bad jokes, but that's the truth of that character. That game is not improved if everyone is as cool as Garrus. If anything, Vega is the first positive depiction of a 'dudebro'. If you hate him just because he's large and dumb, it's not different than hating someone for being scrawny and intelligent.

I just want to thank you for reminding me how good these characters are. Also for giving me a new found respect for Vega.

#34 Posted by The_Nubster (2053 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

To add to thst, James Vega isn't unrealistic. He's a huge dude in the military, one of the ideal career scenarios for huge dudes. And he isn't just accidentally huge, you literally watch him exercising to maintain his physique, he works at it. Compare to fellow huge dudes who just appear to be naturally ripped, even if they've been malnourished sitting in a cell for months. Vega actually seems like a real person, just not one most of the audience would want to hang out with. Yeah, he's a little bit ignorant and hot-headed, he makes some bad jokes, but that's the truth of that character. That game is not improved if everyone is as cool as Garrus. If anything, Vega is the first positive depiction of a 'dudebro'. If you hate him just because he's large and dumb, it's not different than hating someone for being scrawny and intelligent.

I would say that Vega is not only a positive depiction of a 'dudebro,' it's a realistic depiction of one. Even though he appears strong and confident (to the point that he isn't afraid to confront you, both physically and in your choices as a leader), he's not entirely sure of who he wants to be, or who he can be. Through his arc, his acceptance to N7, he doubts his ability as a soldier and his worthiness as a potential leader. He isn't only a muscle-ridden stereotype, though that is a very crucial aspect of his personality. If he wasn't so easy to pin at a glance, his arc wouldn't be as interesting as it is. Vega is my favourite character in that game, simply because he goes from being a bothersome stereotype to a real, actual person.

#35 Posted by Alkaiser (358 posts) -

Well, for all that my opinion matters which is probably zilch, when I look at how a character is being portrayed whether they be male or female, gay or straight, of any race in general, I look at how they're presented. It's the difference between "This gay guy is a cop." versus "This cop is in his mid-thirties, has a vested interest in the current murder case, is ex-military, and oh yeah he happens to like dudes."

Its kinda like how facepalming it is whenever Marvel or DC does their whole "We're gonna have a gay superhero! And you won't believe who it is!" instead of just having it be subtle and maybe have a hero slip in some inner monologue about how "I can't let my boyfriend know I'm really the pilot of this giant robot, I can't expose him to the danger!" and then going on with the plot. If that makes any sense.

#36 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

It's good to see so many people referring to Chloe as a positive female character, because I've got to agree. I was worried that a lot of people might think of her as some sexy, conniving seductress that pulls Drake away from Elena; only there to act as a foil to Elena's more cautious personality. In truth, Chloe's really great, because she evolves so much between the second and third games. Naughty Dog is hands down among the best in the industry at creating convincing characters.

Speaking of Uncharted, Amy Hennig is pretty awesome.

#37 Posted by LikeaSsur (1495 posts) -

Marcus is a positive male character? Why? Because he's macho, unemotional for most of the trilogy (except for anger (and I guess sad for 2 scenes)), always ready to kill and move forward, deserting his post in the military, never needing a break, and being generally cold toward everyone except Dom on one occasion? How is this positive? Yes, he's showing what a man could be, but how many men are like that? How many men can realistically aspire to be that? He's a bad point for your case, honestly. Positive characters are those that are realistic, someone we can be like. Marcus is not one of those characters.

#38 Posted by Hunkulese (2656 posts) -
@LikeaSsur

Marcus is a positive male character? Why? Because he's macho, unemotional for most of the trilogy (except for anger (and I guess sad for 2 scenes)), always ready to kill and move forward, deserting his post in the military, never needing a break, and being generally cold toward everyone except Dom on one occasion? How is this positive? Yes, he's showing what a man could be, but how many men are like that? How many men can realistically aspire to be that? He's a bad point for your case, honestly. Positive characters are those that are realistic, someone we can be like. Marcus is not one of those characters.

Don't forget that he's Bender
#39 Posted by crusader8463 (14415 posts) -

A plus sign with boobies.

#40 Edited by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

Oh ho ho, you did not trash my boy Marcus. Let me break it down for you. Spoilers for the Gears of War series below.

Marcus is a man with a series of complicated, and often contradictory, commitments. The reason he abandoned his post was to rescue his father, despite having a complicated relationship with him. Adam was never really around for him as a child (we would later find out the reasons for this), and withheld a lot of information from him when his mother mysteriously disappeared in his younger years. So in a time where the world was on the brink of destruction, and order was paramount, he betrayed his commitment to the chain of command because of a perceived emotional obligation to his somewhat-estranged father. That takes balls.

The reason Marcus does it is because he has an unrelenting sense of obligation to those he cares about, and will stop at nothing to keep them safe. This is only made more clear at Aspho Fields, where he won a medal for bravery, but lost one of his best friends, Carlos (who was also Dom's brother). He vowed to keep Dom safe since he failed his older brother, and buried his medal with Carlos to show that he didn't give a damn about the chain of command--he only cared about his friends.

Anyhow, he gets tried for dereliction of duty, and essentially locked up for good, left to die. He's understandably pissed. When Dom breaks him out, he has no love for Hoffman or the Gears. He's cold towards everyone because of his seething hatred for an institution that locked him up, threw away the key, and then begged him to come back when they needed him. They forgot what a remarkable soldier he had been. What does Marcus do? He swallows his pride and works with Hoffman to help defeat the Locust. He gets a quick re-promotion out of it, but he resents it--and for good reason.

In Gears 2, he exhibits extraordinary empathy for Dom when he finally finds his wife, and is a major part of one of the most tragic scenes in gaming history when Dom sacrifices himself for Marcus and the others in Gears 3. If not held back, he would have leapt into the fire to save Dom, killing himself in the process. He instead commits all of his energy to rescuing his father, and goes to extraordinary lengths to save him.

In the very end of the trilogy, Marcus is despondent. The war is won, but he's lost those most important to him. He vowed to keep Dom safe, but he failed. He vowed to keep his father safe, and he failed. When he removes his doo-rag on the beach, Marcus is no longer the expert soldier and brutal leader; he is broken, defeated, and vulnerable. And in the bigger picture, we are looking at a man who is very different than the one that Dom broke out in the first Gears game.

I don't ask anyone to believe that Marcus is believable when he mows down waves of Locust. But that's just gameplay to thread together some genuinely well-done narrative work. Marcus' human side is entirely honest, and shows a lot of depth. If you look close enough.

EDIT: Who thought I would write a short essay on Marcus Fenix, the manliest of manly men, in a thread on positive female characters? Good times.

#41 Posted by Cubical (637 posts) -

Birdo

#42 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

@Cubical: Definitely among my top 5 transgender dinosaurs.

#43 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

The fighting fuck toy? Man, I hate this lady a little now. Jesus, calm down. It's not that bad, and that just makes you come off as a non-shaving, unhealthy vegan uber-liberal feminist cartoon.

Really well thought out and refreshingly conservative, and reasonable, and sensible post duder (or dudette), thanks for posting something that isn't just a fucking shit storm of "LEAVE MY VAGINA ALONE" or "STOP WHINING I'M BUSY JERKING OFF TO POLYGONS." The Back the the kitchen stuff I will leave alone, because it's not even a part of the argument and I'm tired of feminists acting like they are anything but stupid trolls that would troll the tits off of a witch even if that witch was both their mother and their soulmate.

It's simple. Make complex, interesting, believable, realistic characters, or at least complex and interesting if you go for crazy or a particular heavy theme.

And fuck anyone who says women can't be strong, bad ass, masculine characters. I know female service members and had the pleasure of training beside some female poolees. Those women are hardcore. Some of them were very feminine as well, but some of them were very masculine. They were all real humans. I don't see the issue people take with macho women. Especially considering most of the people on that side of the argument are also the ones saying women need to be stronger.

Just give me more Alyx-esque characters, on both sides of the gender fence. Characters I genuinely care about, that feel real, potent, and connectable. Or at least aren't offensively illogical and dumb (from a construction perspective, not that the character lacks an intelligence).

My issue with the female character silliness is almost entirely focused on Eastern games. When a CIA lady has huge tits and wears a fuckin PVC one piece, it's not just sexist, it's dumb and unenjoyable.

Game writers/designers just need to grow up and make interesting characters. Not strong female leads, although that would be great too. They just need to make higher quality characters, and the problem should solve itself.

#44 Posted by M_Shini (550 posts) -

Female Shepard is a great example of a female character done really well. The whole debate on whats good or bad as a female character is kind of up the the individual, i get along fine with playing over sexualised characters and i don't get that spark to rage or feel weirded out or whatever.

I wouldn't say i have a preference to sexulised female characters to other more well rounded females but it doesn't itch me like others.

#45 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

@MordeaniisChaos: Thanks for the input. Just for everyone's information, I'm a duder.

#46 Posted by kilanash (7 posts) -

Here's a pretty well reasoned and about a good a general overview on the subject.

Cited examples:

  • Jade of Beyond Good and Evil - unsexualized, main character, confident, central to the story. Can't talk too much about her though as I've not yet played more than an hour of BG&E. I know, for shame... :(
  • Nariko of Heavenly Sword - despite the skimpy attire, the story reveals a real character. She is reviled by her father and clan for not being the son of prophecy, yet willingly takes up the sword that will ultimately mean her death. She fights for her clan despite this, and in turn discovers her own inner strength during her adventure. Also doesn't fawn over a love interest. Passes the Bechdel test.
  • Lara Croft - I find this one a little grey, as depending on your view she's either an example of a Fighting Fuck Toy or a strong female role model. She at least has a little bit of depth to her, especially in her later incarnations which counts for something.
  • Samus Aran - If you pretend Other M doesn't exist, her gender is basically incidental and a non-issue throughout the series. Definitely capable and main protagonist.
  • As mentioned earlier by others, Commander Shepard in her female incarnation is definitely close to a gold standard of how to represent a woman in games - as a REAL person.

Others I could think of: Trishka from Bulletstorm, while not overly developed, is at least depicted as strong, but fairly flat as a character. Naija from Aquaria is a main character and is at least written from the first person with feelings and motivations, although rather paper-thin. Terra of FF6.

#47 Posted by Humanity (8865 posts) -

Considering how Anita Sarkeesian completely trashed Bayonetta as a character and game - missing the point entirely and coming up with the only positive attribute of the game being that Bayonetta is a single mother (apparently thats a positive) I have a hard time taking anything she says seriously anymore.

Bayonetta especially is a great example of an atypical strong female lead. Whats great about her is that she doesn't sacrifice any of the traits that make a woman basically a woman in a video game. Plenty of times the perceived notion is that if you throw your female character into baggy overalls and give her a big rifle she will exemplify strong character attributes like male leads do. Bayonetta retains 150% of her sexuality while still remaining a head strong, non-compromising equal to anyone on the battlefield - excelling in all encounters and dominating her male and female opposition. Whats even better is that her outfit is just tight and not overtly sexual. There are no jiggling breasts on display here like Jill from Resident Evil 4 or something like that. Even when she does her most powerful attacks by conjuring "hair beasts" she is still wearing a tasteful one piece swimsuit-type outfit although the whole idea of her hair/outfit coming off during summons is the weakest link in her persona. I can't think of a single other character out there that is so profoundly feminine and yet completely in control of everything happening around her.

A more traditional strong female character thats not a lead is Anya Stroud from Gears of War who fights alongside the doods and theres never a scene where she can't handle something and one of "the guys" jumps to her rescue. It's actually Anya that is comforting Marcus instead of the other way around, and being that anchor when he becomes lost in the heat of escalating casualties. You'd expect a scene where she would get overpowered, hurt or maybe break down and cry - running into a strong guys hands to comfort her and gently stroke her hair - thankfully that doesn't happen.

#48 Posted by Feanor (1387 posts) -

A positive female character is no different than any positive male character. Just look at Mass Effect, it doesn't matter what gender you play as, you're still the same Shepard. A persons mettle has nothing to do with what swings between their legs.

#49 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

There is no "Positive Female Character". You'll always find someone bitching.

Holy shit, I can't believe you shown her fully clothed ass and breasts in the game, that is SO sexist!
#50 Edited by Harkat (1100 posts) -

Can't good female characters just be good characters who are female? And what is this focus on "Owning her sexuality"? Not to say that NOT owning one's sexuality is good, but Nathan Drake's or Max Payne's sexualities aren't important character traits.

People seem to place a huge importance on confident and self-controlled sexuality (whatever the fuck that means, honestly) when it comes to female characters. Does anyone understand this?