Author Topic: Representation of women in games  (Read 5146 times)

bgmnts

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Representation of women in games
« on: February 04, 2021, 10:39:57 PM »
I was replaying Bioshock Infinite today and I found Elizabeth quite an interesting character; she's introspective, principled, helpful and probably the actual hero of the game. Then, halfway through, she gets her cleavage out because of course she does. Maybe I'm being harsh on the game but it just made me roll my eyes and go fucksake.

So I was wondering how many games we can list that have a female character in it that:

a) aren't wank fodder/sex objects
b) aren't utterly useless
c) aren't a trophy to be won by the player
d) pass the Bechdel test

I can only think of one game off the top of my head and that's Beyond Good and Evil, but she is the playable protagonist, in fairness.
Also, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice I'm on the fence with.

So c'mon let's have a go and put games in a decent light.

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2021, 10:43:50 PM »
I think Horizon Zero Dawn did a good job here. Also your modern western multiplayers like Overwatch, Apex and that seem to have moved away from scantily clad bonus costumes and more towards stuff that just looks cool. Ellie and Abby from TLoU2 would probably count too.

Overall it's still largely shit, but the number of good options is always increasing. Definitely gets harder if we move to NPCs though, you're right. I like a bunch of the Hades cast.

Zetetic

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2021, 10:49:31 PM »
Thinking of pre-written non-generative narratives, and looking mostly over some recently played games:
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - abc (Possibly d in overheard conversations but given Meagan's focus on Daud and Whale Magic Man, most of her conversations are about men)
Dishonored 2: abc ?d (If you play Emily, which is clearly the appropriate choice.)
Hades - abc
Eliza - abcd
Prey - abc ?d (If we count the logs, definitely.)
VA-11 Hall-A - abcd
Spiritfarer - abcd
Life is Strange - abcd (I suppose you might query b if you were a git.)
Disco Elysium - abc ?d (Depending on how generous you are about reported conversations between Klaasje and Ruby, maybe?)

Procedural or similar:
Void Bastards -  abc ?d
Crusader Kings III - abcd
XCOM 2 - abc ?d (Think this probably depends on the gender of the commander. Probably can't seriously count d.)
RimWorld - abcd (For all the issues you might find with gender in RimWorld)
« Last Edit: February 05, 2021, 12:57:40 AM by Zetetic »

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2021, 10:55:26 PM »
Also your modern western multiplayers like Overwatch,

Have you seen Overwatch cosplay? (hurr, yep, we all have, geddit)

Mister Six

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2021, 12:37:52 AM »
Yeah, bit people do sexy Pikachu cosplay, FFS.

Horizon: Zero Dawn was the one that occurred to me too.

The Last of Us? I've only played the first one, mind.

earl_sleek

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2021, 12:38:04 AM »
Half Life 2? Alyx is attractive but not a sex object, is very competent, rescues the player character and IIRC has at least one (albeit short) conversation with Dr Mossman that would fulfil the Bechdel test.

EDIT - also:

Chloe and Nadine in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
I think Cortana briefly talks to a female scientist in Halo 4
There are a huge number of female NPCs in the Elder Scrolls that aren't sexualised and have conversations that aren't about men with each other, but they're all pretty much useless
Dwarf Fortress

This is hard!

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2021, 12:38:31 AM »
Tomb Raider 1 to all of them.
The whole Resident Evil series minus 7 and the none core.
Silent Hill 3
Metroid
Many FF characters, Lighting doesn't take shit.

The massive female melee only freak I make first in the Fallout games.

Lemming

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2021, 01:36:32 AM »
It's generally easy enough to meet a, b and c on your four conditions. Most games with female protagonists (who don't have shitty character designs) would apply - 1992's Alone in the Dark, for example, meets the first three criteria with Emily Hartwood, and only fails the Bechdel test condition since she doesn't talk to anyone at all.

I'm guessing you're looking for more narrative-heavy stuff, though, so here's a few off the top of my head, many already mentioned. The Bechdel test seems to be the toughest part, which might be down partly to the format a lot of games use (most conversations taking place between the player and an NPC, rather than between NPCs, or just not having much dialogue at all).

Wing Commander has always had some good female characters, hilariously naff though the overall writing often is (a, b, c, d)

Fallout has had great female characters since the first game, especially if you choose to play as one (a, b, c, d)

Mirror's Edge has Faith, who's not hugely compelling or well-written or anything, but as videogame characters go, she's cool enough. Just talking about Mirror's Edge 1 - not sure what was going on with her in the sequel, you need to have read like 50000 pieces of supplementary material to understand the plot of that game (a, b, c, maybe d, can't remember)

Clock Tower has Jennifer. a, c and d are all met easily. b is debatable, I guess, but being constantly vulnerable and outmatched is more or less the point of the game, and she does eventually triumph, so fuck it (a, b, c, d)

Dishonored 2 - Emily and Billie. Emily's boring but at least she can go zipping around at light-speed knocking the shit out of people. Billie, on the other hand, is a really good character (a, b, c, maybe d)

Elder Scrolls sort of. There aren't many strong characters at all since the games tend to lean on more on the in-universe mythology and history than in character-based stuff. Nonetheless, Daggerfall has a great political intrigue plot with plenty of female characters where absolutely everyone is a bastard trying to fuck over everyone else (a, b, c, d)

The newer Assassin's Creed games have Kassandra and whatever that Viking one's called (a, b, c, d)

The forgotten and BRUTALLY UNDERRATED Urban Chaos (1999) has D'arci Stern, a cop who goes around telling people to surrender before they inevitably open fire at her. Great character, great game (a, b, c, maybe d)

Final Fantasy, though if you pressed me to name any female characters who were particularly good then I'm not sure how well I'd do. Rydia from FF4 is alright, as are Celes and Terra from FF6

Lara Croft is an obvious one, but she's worth a mention just for the way she's portrayed in Tomb Raider 2 and 3 (and 1 to a lesser extent). She's like Indiana Jones, except even more of a nasty psychopath, and with far less regard for archeology. Hilarious character to play as. Never cared for her characterisation at any point after Tomb Raider 3, I just find her annoying in all her various incarnations from TR4 onwards, but plenty of people seem to think differently.

It'd also be inexcusable not to mention Tanya from Red Alert. "I'M THERE!! CHA CHING!!! LET'S ROCK!!! GYAHAHAHA"

Then of course, there's games where you create your own character or have them generated for you, some already mentioned by Zetetic. Some more:

Gears Tactics - two great pre-written female characters in the story, and as many generic ones as you want in your squad. Probably goes for the main Gears games too, but fuck if I've played or remember them

Mount & Blade - be a medieval woman who starts out as a peasant and ends up taking over an entire country, becoming a knight, and founding her own empire. Lords from the established ruling class will come up to you and say belittling, sexist shit to you, and you can retaliate by destroying their army, capturing them in battle, stripping them of their feifs, dragging them around as a prisoner for days on end while refusing their family's ransom attempts, and then finally exiling them (or executing them in M&B2) for a laugh. Several cool female companions, too, including Matheld the Nord who goes around with a big axe to chop your enemies

Darkest Dungeon - plenty of female classes to play as, with cool designs. Check out the Plague Doctor, best design for a female character ever in a videogame. Not joking

St_Eddie

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2021, 02:03:09 AM »
So I was wondering how many games we can list that have a female character in it that:

a) aren't wank fodder/sex objects
b) aren't utterly useless
c) aren't a trophy to be won by the player
d) pass the Bechdel test

Being that I'm a massive fan of point & click adventure games (not to be confused with action-adventure games such as Tomb Raider), I've played tons of games which qualify (and pass all four qualifiers with flying colours).  For example...

* The Blackwell Series
* Gray Matter
* Kathy Rain
* The Longest Journey (and its sequel Dreamfall)
* Heaven's Vault
* Fran Bow

That's just a few quality titles which immediately spring to mind (and I can thoroughly recommend) off the top of my head, without referring to an online list (and note that I've only listed titles which feature a female character as the main protagonist - I haven't even delved into the hundreds of titles which feature well written women in general).  There's a veritable treasure trove of further titles within the genre.

Adventure games remain the most underappreciated genre in all of gaming.  Far more people need to get into them and give them their due.  The genre has been a source of well written stories with well drawn characters for decades now, back when most games genres were mostly dealing with puerile space marines and buxom babes.  It's annoying how many people say things like "finally games are starting to grow up and mature a little" in regards to titles from the last decade or so.  Adventure games have been there for an absolute age now and featuring strong, independent female characters (going right back to early Sierra titles such as 1989's Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest), most people just remain entirely ignorant to the genre's very existence.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2021, 04:26:22 AM by St_Eddie »

Mister Six

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2021, 02:54:54 AM »
Helps that two of Sierra's top writers were Roberta Williams (who did the Laura Bow games) and Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight, among others).

Was LucasArts all blokes? Seems that way.

St_Eddie

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2021, 03:43:14 AM »
Helps that two of Sierra's top writers were Roberta Williams (who did the Laura Bow games) and Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight, among others).

Indeed.

Was LucasArts all blokes? Seems that way.

Correct.  At least in terms of the main creatives.  Having said that, women didn't get too bad of a representation within the LucasArts adventure games, especially considering what was the standard within other gaming genres during the mid-90's.  They were often strong and independently willed.  For example...

* Elaine Marley in Monkey Island 1 & 2 (click the link to see a lovely subversation of the damsel in distress trope)

* Sophia Hapgood in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

* Maureen in Full Throttle

* Maggie Robbins in The Dig)

They admittedly did tend to act as love interests for the male protagonists as well though - with the notable exceptions of Maureen (lead designer for Full Throttle, Tim Schafer has always been a reliable writer for strong, independent female characters) and Maggie above.

The turn of the Century only saw other developers (male and/or female led) start to introduce a lot more strong female player controlled protagonists within the adventure genre.  In fact, I'd argue that the vast majority of modern adventure titles tend to feature women in the lead roles these days (the genre has always attracted a strong female fanbase - approximately 50% of adventure game players are female, so it makes sense to represent that gender well).
« Last Edit: February 05, 2021, 05:33:40 AM by St_Eddie »

Mister Six

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2021, 04:57:17 AM »
Funnily enough, I was thinking about Day of the Tentacle (just got it for about 3 bucks on PS4 sale - Grim Fandango also on sale, both in US and UK, I believe!) and Laverne in that is a great character - odd rather than sexy, and mostly interested in dissecting hamsters rather than chasing men.

St_Eddie

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2021, 05:25:39 AM »
Funnily enough, I was thinking about Day of the Tentacle (just got it for about 3 bucks on PS4 sale - Grim Fandango also on sale, both in US and UK, I believe!) and Laverne in that is a great character - odd rather than sexy, and mostly interested in dissecting hamsters rather than chasing men.

Indeed, a great character (and another of Tim Schafer's creations to boot).

Day of the Tentacle is actually my FAVOURITE GAME OF ALL TIME.  Pure perfection.  I often find myself thinking of Laverne's line "Yoo-hoo, Mr. Tentacle Guy! Oooh, I don't feel so good" on a regular basis.  It's been rattling around in my head ever since first playing the game as a kid.  It's not a particularly funny line, but it just makes me chuckle for some strange reason.

Blue Jam

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2021, 10:53:14 AM »
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider -
Dishonored 2:

Prey of course! Not just female Morgan Yu, but characters like Abby and Danielle Sho and their little subplot. The Mooncrash DLC continues with three female player characters who fit this thread's remit.

Looks like Arkane do this sort of thing well.

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2021, 11:43:18 AM »
Adventure games remain the most underappreciated genre in all of gaming.  Far more people need to get into them and give them their due.  The genre has been a source of well written stories with well drawn characters for decades now, back when most games genres were mostly dealing with puerile space marines and buxom babes.  It's annoying how many people say things like "finally games are starting to grow up and mature a little" in regards to titles from the last decade or so.  Adventure games have been there for an absolute age now and featuring strong, independent female characters (going right back to early Sierra titles such as 1989's Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest), most people just remain entirely ignorant to the genre's very existence.

I think you could argue really that it was more the late 90's playstation era that created the use of women in games mentioned in the OP as the target market shifted in a more laddish direction.

Zetetic

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2021, 11:54:19 AM »
Looks like Arkane do this sort of thing well.
Yes! It's interesting, because they seem to have a bunch of weird strengths and weaknesses in their approach to writing.

Emily and Jessamine (and Corvo) are almost completely uninteresting in the Dishonored series (and I don't think that's deliberate?), but Delilah has stayed with me more than the actual plot of 2 justifies and as Lemming notes Billie/Meagan is very good.

Quote
but characters like Abby and Danielle Sho and their little subplot.
Mmm. That's what I thought might count towards the Bechdel test, if we're ticking boxes. (Really should finish Prey and try Mooncrash - it's your enthusiasm for the former that got me to pick up again…)

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2021, 12:07:59 PM »
It would be nice to see more variety, although this goes for men in games too. It's almost always some Indiana Jones looking dude.

Liv in Lone Echo is a really good one, not just very well written but brilliantly voiced by Alice Coulthard


Magnum Valentino

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2021, 12:39:47 PM »
The whole Resident Evil series minus 7 and the none core.

Ye wha?

Remake of 1 has jiggly boob physics. Jill spends 3 in a skimpy outfit. 4 has that joke about the president equipping his daughter with ballistics. Jill spends 5 with her baps hanging out. Have you fuckin SEEN the trailer for 8?!

Unless I missed the point and that's what you were saying, in which case I apologise for pointing out the notoriously misogynist Resident Evil series as presenting women to ogle over.

bgmnts

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2021, 12:49:17 PM »
Ye wha?

Remake of 1 has jiggly boob physics. Jill spends 3 in a skimpy outfit. 4 has that joke about the president equipping his daughter with ballistics. Jill spends 5 with her baps hanging out. Have you fuckin SEEN the trailer for 8?!

Unless I missed the point and that's what you were saying, in which case I apologise for pointing out the notoriously misogynist Resident Evil series as presenting women to ogle over.

Not to mention Lara Croft and FF are odd choices.

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2021, 12:57:42 PM »
Astrid in Skyrim is probably considered too sultry to pass this test, so I'm going to say Delphine. Or Aela the Huntress. Although if you marry them maybe that makes them a prize. But my character is also a woman. Created and controlled by a man. A lot to unpack.

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2021, 01:07:39 PM »
The Yakuza series is pretty problematic on the whole, but I believe while 5 breaks other rules, it does manage to pass the Bechdel test in Haruka's section. Does some other surprisingly progressive things, though does still have the issue that Japan are very comfortable openly wanking over teenage idols.

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2021, 02:13:56 PM »
Of stuff I've played recently ish:

Re2 remake has Claire, Ada (bit wanky maybe) and Annette. Arguably even Sherry, who does well for a child.
Deus Ex HR has Malik and Megan (although you'd probably need to count emails for d)
Persona 5 despite generally being questionable has Sae. In a broader sense. it's very horny in the Japanese fashion, but it's female characters are usually at leasr as competent and motivated as the male ones, and it does acknowledge things like workplace discrimination. A mixed bag.
Not much dialogue, but Virtua Fighter's female characters are mostly designed in a decent way. Not so much Tekken, Street Fighter (except Maokoto), DoA or Soul Calibur.


St_Eddie

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2021, 02:27:35 PM »
The above is quite frankly why more people need to play point & click adventure games.  Those are some of the worst examples of representation of women within games that I've ever seen.  It's the polar opposite of positive representation.  I love the Resident Evil games but I would never use them as a go-to for how women ought to be represented in games.  Play The Longest Journey and get back to me.

I do love your avatar though!

bgmnts

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2021, 02:33:37 PM »
I remember playing Dreamfall (which I think is the same series?) and yeah Zoe (?) seemed quite decent as a character.

Eternal Darkness as well! She kicked arse in that game.

GoblinAhFuckScary

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2021, 02:43:37 PM »
Heather in Silent Hill 3 is literally one of the best videogame characters, period.

How many proper big games out there theme their stories around young womens' fears and anxieties huh. She's wonderfully authentic

bgmnts

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2021, 02:45:55 PM »
Heather in Silent Hill 3 is literally one of the best videogame characters, period.

How many proper big games out there theme their stories around young womens' fears and anxieties huh. She's wonderfully authentic

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.

Everyone, play this game. Play it. Now.

Mister Six

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2021, 02:49:12 PM »
I think you could argue really that it was more the late 90's playstation era that created the use of women in games mentioned in the OP as the target market shifted in a more laddish direction.

Relatedly, the original Metroid was quite progressive in a way, although the reveal that robot-suit-wearing, alien-blasting Samus was actually a woman was probably just there to be a shock twist rather than a feminist statement.

Of course, since then plenty of games, even happy-cutesy Smash Bros - have taken pains to feature her in her skintight Zero Suit. When did the transition occur?

Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #27 on: February 05, 2021, 02:56:04 PM »
The question was characters that meet the 4 conditions, not which are well written and fleshed out. Persona 5 struck me particularly for technically meeting the conditions despite being broadly quite gross, similar to Yakuza as someone else mentioned.

Lemming

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2021, 03:02:31 PM »
Not to mention Lara Croft and FF are odd choices.

To offer a lukewarm defence of both franchises:

Final Fantasy has some decent characters. Going through all the non-boring/weak ones I can think of.

FF2 has Layla, a heroic pirate captain who, at one point, singlehandedly bails the dumbfuck male protagonist out of a certain-death-deathtrap.

FF4 has Rydia, a weird summoner who lives in a world outside of time or something. Again, singlehandedly bails the male protagonist out of certain death at one point.

Don't remember a great deal of FF5, but Faris is a cross-dressing pirate captain, so she's pretty cool, at least.

FF6 has Terra, Celes and Relm. Terra is a total wimp, even after she unlocks all her cool powers, but she is the main character and you are meant to relate to her. Celes is much more interesting, she's a defector military general who's also an emo, and becomes the main character for the second half. Relm is a creepy little kid who kills people with paintings.

Not a fan of anyone in FF7. Tifa is an idiot who withholds CRITICAL information at times where it could avert disaster, and Aeris is so dull that her defining moment as a character is getting turned into a kebab by Sephiroth. Yuffie is funny, at least.

FF9 has Freya, who fucking rocks. Anthropomorphic rat who leaps into the air and rains death down upon people.

As for Lara Croft, her design in the first three games is objectionable but her characterisation isn't. As mentioned, she's a psychopathic disaffected rich person who lives in a mansion in the country, and her main concern is gathering ancient artifacts so she can hang them up in her house, rather than do something worthwhile like give them to museums. She seems to have virtually no moral compass (much moreso in TR2 and TR3 than TR1) and is ultra-talented in athletics, combat, and history, even apparently being able to read Atlantean. She's willing to destroy countless one-of-a-kind archaeological sites and kill innumerable people purely in pursuit of glory/having a new ornament for Croft Manor, and only repeatedly saves the world completely by accident. She's great, I can't think of many other games where, for most of the plot, the hero is only marginally less despicable than the villains.

They changed her character for TR4 - TR6 to something far less interesting, and every incarnation since then has gotten progressively more boring IMO (though her design/costuming is no longer offensive these days). But while the character's design was pitiful back in the day, the character herself was always very unique.

samadriel

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Re: Representation of women in games
« Reply #29 on: February 05, 2021, 03:28:31 PM »
I think it's a bit unfair to expect a game with a male protagonist to pass the Bechdel test. While movies, TV and books can follow any character and their interactions with any other character, so it's fair to ask why a woman can't talk to another woman about something other than a man, a videogame always follows the player character -- it can only pass the Bechdel test if the protagonist is a woman, unless two women have a chat in a cutscene, and the point of videogames isn't cutscenes (fuck off, Kojima). Just seems like the Bechdel test makes additional unnecessary demands on a videogame -- a videogame can have healthy sexual politics without the protagonist necessarily being a woman.

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