Why Women Don’t Need Female Game Characters

Our newest contributor, Martyr, is here to talk about why she doesn't need all video game characters to be female for them to be a role model for her

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In the games me­dia at large, there has been an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion about in­clu­siv­i­ty, es­pe­cial­ly of women in video games and gam­ing cul­ture. While I can’t speak on be­half of any oth­er “gamer girls,” I can say, from my ex­pe­ri­ences, I’ve seen in­clu­siv­i­ty in gam­ing for years, lit­er­al­ly as long as I can re­mem­ber. Women have al­ways played an im­por­tant part in video games for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons. Despite tropes such as the “damsel in dis­tress” or “fight­ing f**k toy,” these women have agency; They al­ways have and they al­ways will. Although women have con­sis­tent­ly had a role in video games, ei­ther as a playable char­ac­ter a la Lara Croft in Tomb Raider or as a par­tial NPC like Nei in Phantasy Star II, we are be­ing told that the amount of women that were shown in games and on stage at E3 2015 is a gi­gan­tic tri­umph for women in gam­ing. Supposedly, this will make the in­dus­try seem more ap­proach­able, es­pe­cial­ly for younger girls who may be shy about get­ting into gam­ing. I’m here to tell you my con­tro­ver­sial opin­ion on this sub­ject: Young girls and women do not need fe­male game char­ac­ters. Young girls and women need well writ­ten game characters.

Let me tell you a sto­ry, I have a very spe­cif­ic rea­son I bring up Nei from Phantasy Star II. When I was very young, be­fore I could prop­er­ly hold a con­troller, I watched my broth­er play Phantasy Star II on the Sega Genesis. I would watch in amaze­ment, cheer when he won, and give him a hug and a “try again!” when he lost (I was so nice when I was like, four). When he start­ed to near the end of the game, it be­came very omi­nous. *SPOILER ALERT, ENDING OF PHANTASY STAR II* In the fi­nal boss bat­tle, be­fore the fight­ing starts, Nei is killed in a fi­nal mo­ment of true evil from the en­e­my. Little me lost her damn mind.


BRING NEI BACK!” I yelled at my broth­er, grab­bing his sleeve and yank­ing him from side to side while he scrolled through bat­tle options.

I can’t! Now get off of me!” He yelled while try­ing to com­bat both the fi­nal boss and a pissed off lit­tle sister.

I even­tu­al­ly went to my mom, sob­bing. I ex­plained that my fa­vorite char­ac­ter (the girl with the pur­ple hair) was killed and my broth­er had to have done it on pur­pose just to be mean to me. My broth­er came out and ex­plained that was how the game was writ­ten, which was then sup­port­ed by my mom. She ex­plained it’s just like a sto­ry in a book, it couldn’t be changed be­cause that’s how it was written.

Why go into this long wind­ed de­tail about how ridicu­lous I was at a young age? Because it proves a point; Games are able to cre­ate sto­ries and tales that draw us in, and in ways we would nev­er imag­ine. They take us to places we nev­er knew ex­ist­ed or could only vis­it in our dreams. They are en­gag­ing in a way that no oth­er me­dia is, and that en­gage­ment tran­scends many bound­aries. After watch­ing my broth­er play Phantasy Star II, I be­came ob­sessed with video games. How could some­thing like that make some­one feel so much emo­tion? How could we get so at­tached to characters?

2511451-banjo+(1)As time went on and I played more games with more var­ied pro­tag­o­nists, male and fe­male, hu­man and not, I start­ed to re­al­ly learn some­thing about video games. The gen­der, race, or any oth­er fea­ture of that type re­al­ly does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mat­ter to a char­ac­ter, what mat­ters is how well writ­ten the char­ac­ters are. This has even been found by Adrienne Shaw of DiGRA, in her study “He Could Be a Bunny Rabbit For All I Care.” In this study, it was found that play­ing as a char­ac­ter who was dif­fer­ent than the play­er, like in gen­der, did not change or de­tract from the en­joy­ment of the game. Young girls and women can find role mod­els in any type of per­son, re­gard­less of gen­der, in video games. All it takes is to not judge a game be­fore you play it, and you’ll see the vast amount of pos­i­tive char­ac­ters who have been cre­at­ed. These char­ac­ters are in­di­vid­u­als who are all the good things we look for in oth­ers; Brave, no­ble, hon­est, and fierce­ly pro­tec­tive of their friends and fam­i­ly. Even non-human char­ac­ters like Banjo Kazooie show these traits, which is why he has be­come such an icon­ic and beloved char­ac­ter. Lessons such as love, loss, for­give­ness, and even how to deal with death are dis­cussed in games, by char­ac­ters of all types and walks of life. Well writ­ten char­ac­ters can teach even the tough­est of lessons in the most ap­proach­able ways, such as why peo­ple sac­ri­fice their life for oth­ers, in Final Fantasy VII.

All in all, women don’t need fe­male game char­ac­ters to feel as though a sto­ry is in­clu­sive and “for them”. All these char­ac­ters need is to be well writ­ten, show­ing the full range of emo­tions, mo­ti­va­tion, and even their wants and needs. There are many sto­ries that are told that have valu­able lessons in which you play as a male pro­tag­o­nist. There is no rea­son why a young girl could not learn these lessons from pos­i­tive role mod­els of any gen­der in games. Gender does not play a role in how in­her­ent­ly good or evil some­one is. Women do not need to see women do­ing good things to un­der­stand they’re good things. Thinking women need to see a woman do­ing some­thing to grasp that it is a good thing is, quite frankly, an in­sult to women.

At the end of the day, great writ­ing will al­ways trump out to­kenism. Great role mod­els ex­ist in all forms, male or fe­male, and they should be em­braced for their char­ac­ter, not their gender.

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Lover of video games, met­al, and hard cider. Amateur video game mu­sic com­pos­er and YouTuber at Video Culture Replay. Armed with a de­gree in psy­chol­o­gy, she thinks she knows it all (and some­times ac­tu­al­ly gets it right). Also skilled with the oboe and wran­gling chil­dren. Catch her on Twitch over at https://www.twitch.tv/martyrscorner

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