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Daily Reaction: How Female Protagonists Should be Portrayed

December 21, 2012 Written by Dan Oravasaari

As the audience for the games industry broadens to include people from all backgrounds, the number of female gamers is rising and the need to represent them is crucial. As females have not always been addressed in an appropriate way in the games industry, the Daily Reaction crew of Sebastian and Dan use today’s ‘12 days of Christmas’ carol – Nine ladies dancing – to talk about their favorite female protagonists.

Dan: One female protagonist that seems to have had a profound effect on the industry has been the female Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. While the character is not intrinsically feminine (Shepard can be either a male or a female), the voice actor really brought to light the power of having a female protagonist. This quality of production actually had a number of gamers use a female protagonist over a male one, which is a good sign to the fact more and more gamers are becoming more used to playing as a woman.

As such, the inclusion of a female character that does not focus on any negative aspects, but instead shows the power of having a female lead has to be represented best in one of my favorite games this generation – Mirror’s Edge. Faith, a freerunner who is out to clear her sister’s name, has to avoid the police and those who are hunting her by traversing her terrain in unique ways. While Faith did not have the most developed character background or personality, the usage of her as a female protagonist seemed to be a fitting role that was well done.

Seb: Absolutely, Mirror’s Edge is a game where the developer focused more on the gameplay than her chest size… good thing it sold so well. Hopefully, that’s something Crystal Dynamics is planning with their reboot of Tomb Raider. Everyone knows that the original Lara Croft was ludicrously proportioned – her pointy polygons would have made it impossible for her to climb ledges. Now they claim to want to flesh out her story and turn her into an actual believable human being, rather than just portray the adventures of Captain WonderBra.

There’s a big debate over whether there are enough lead female characters, although that’s something that is also an issue with lead actors in action films (games are primarily action), so more needs to be researched into how big the market is for female-led content for a mostly male audience.

What’s clearly most important is that when women are used in games – be it as protagonists or as supporting characters – they are done right. Some may say the industry hasn’t done enough, but there are clear signs that we are moving in the right direction. Even the rather small Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation managed to pull off Aveline really well, and then there’s the obvious characters like Chell from Portal and Jade from Beyond Good & Evil.

With the next generation right around the corner, here’s hoping we’ll see a further evolution and maturation of the industry.

Do you think we moved forward in our ability to represent females in gaming? Or are we still generalizing women? Do you think that female developers will give the industry a much needed woman’s perspective on characters? Let us know in the comments, or by having your girlfriends or sisters tweet us at Seb and Dan.

Be sure to email DR ideas, podcast comments and pics of your sister to DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net.