Last week’s revelation that the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot includes an attempted sexual assault has kicked up a shitstorm of controversy throughout the industry. Supposedly the scene is included solely to make the player want to protect Lara Croft. From where I’m sitting, this sounds like bunk. Good writers don’t have to rely on that kind of cheap, shocking trick to make someone care about one of their characters–they write deep, compelling characters the player can’t help but like.
Modern gaming is infested with vapid female archetypes with ridiculous figures that do little to help the industry’s image, but the following five heroines are exceptions to that rule–and they’re examples to which Crystal Dynamics would be wise to look.
5. Faith, Mirror’s Edge – Saving her sister and fighting government surveillance through the power of parkour, building Faith like one of the women from Dead or Alive or Soul Calibur would’ve made zero sense. She’s an athlete, plain and simple. What more do you need for a game about parkour?
4. Alyx Vance, Half-Life series – A no-nonsense girl with a friendly disposition and a real penchant for electronics, Alyx has made millions of gamers fall in love with her without once taking off her sweatshirt. She ranks in at number 4 simply because her character isn’t as well developed as the next 3 ladies on the list–but the fact that she is such a strong female character despite a relative lack of information about her is a real testament to Valve’s design.
3. Tripp, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Tripp can’t make it home across the post apocalyptic wasteland alone and she knows it. So what does she do? She plants a control crown atop the head of Monkey–the biggest, baddest dude around–and makes him take her home. Despite the fact that Tripp needs Monkey’s help, she never seems weak; just as she needs his braun, he needs her brains. She’s not proud of bending him to her will, but she did what she had to do–and as their relationship grows, it becomes obvious that she’s genuinely sorry for forcing him to come along. Strong female characters do what they have to do to survive, but they don’t enjoy the bad things they do.
2. Dr. Liara T’Soni, Mass Effect – Bioware’s science fiction epic often straddles the line when it comes to tasteful female characters (see ass, Miranda’s), but they got things right with Liara. Brilliant and hardworking, Liara grows from bashful archaeologist to confident, powerful head of a galaxy-spanning information network. Despite her species’s reputation for promiscuity, Liara’s no skank; she takes bonding with another very seriously, and if Shepard pursues her romantically she will reveal that she’s never done it before. Smart, resourceful, principled, and good with a gun? Sounds like everything a strong heroine should be.
1. Jade, Beyond Good & Evil – Look up the word “plucky” in the dictionary and you’ll find Jade’s picture right next to it. When she’s not taking care of a flock of children orphaned by an alien invasion, Jade makes her living as a reporter, diving into dangerous situations with nothing but her camera and staff. Tough, resourceful, and smart, Jade’s easy to relate to and easy to empathize with–she’s out to protect the people she loves, and saving the planet is just a means to that end. When bad things start happening to those around her, the player feels it. Jade is hands-down the ultimate positive female role model in gaming.