5 Feminist Video-Game Characters Countdown: Number 3

By Ray L Martin
Editor at Large
9th August 2012, 17:43 GMT

Women play video-games too – The Women In Games International Conference was held in San Francisco on the 10th and 11th July this year. Though women lag behind in console game play (the woman featured is playing with a generic Playstation controller),  it’s been proven women play just as many computer games as men.

In continuation of the article countdown, we’re now onto our 3rd Feminist Video Game Character, bearing in mind:

There are very few female characters out there that are both empowered and feminist.  So I decided to do some searching in order to find a least five feminist game characters.

So, I’ve established this criteria:

  • Fights for a Noble Cause: The character would have to fight for a cause that is just and noble, which is a rather broad term and ultimately, if the character’s role is to destroy evil, then virtually every female character’s cause is noble.  But for a character’s motives to be considered feminist, certain “self-serving” interests would not apply.  This means that one who fights for money, fame or power over others could never be considered a feminist game character, as this is more in keeping with historically male philosophies.
  • Own Philosophy of Life: It is important for a woman to have her own mission and purpose in life; that men and in general patriarchy do not define these foundations for her. The same is true with a female character.  When the female lead plots her course for the game, it’s done by her will.

    The lead should have complete control over her actions and her actions should never be defined by the state, an agency or any other type of patriarchal institution.

    She should have sole discretion over her decisions as well as be able to manifest her own destiny.

  • Sexy yet Dignified: Once it is established that the lead is both fighting for a just cause and is in complete control over her decisions, the lead should appear strong and dignified; in other words, no form of sexual objectification is allowed for this character.  While this is not exactly a dominant requirement for all waves of feminists, in a video game world filled with huge breasted women with tight skirts and bikinis, it helps that a strong female lead is also the least exposed and visually exploited.

Now that we have established the criteria, the number 3 game is as follows:

Samus Aran

One of the most popular female characters of all time, Samus Aran is the star of the critically acclaimed Metroid series, a series of action-adventure games that has been running for over 20 years.  Throughout the series, Samus plays the role of a bounty hunter who is tasked by the Galactic Federation to hunt down the Space Pirates and their leader, Ripley.  While bounty hunting isn’t exactly the most noble of professions, one should take note of Samus’s role in Metroid Prime 2 where she is asked by U-Mos, a guardian of a planet she crashed into to save him and his people from the Ing, a large group of dangerous, shape-shifting creatures intent on destroying the Luminoth. (I know, follow me, we’re in fantasy right now).

Samus

Unselfishly, Samus agrees to help the U-Mos, risking her life and deviating from her assigned duty in order to save a planet from impending destruction.  After Samus successfully saves the planet, she doesn’t stick around for any monetary rewards, applause or accolades.  Rather, as the Luminoth cheer and give their thanks, she simply waves goodbye to the Luminoth as she enters her ship to return home. That is particularly appreciated as it relates to real life, as we live in a world where at times violence, even if noble, is celebrated for violence’s sake. Samus shows that her role was only to help where she can, and that she has no other stake or claim in that world she helped.

Cosmetically, Metroid Prime 2 does an excellent job at fleshing out Samus’s humanity and more importantly, her femininity.  Up until the Metroid Prime series, Samus, for the most part, appeared indistinguishable from a typical male in a space suit despite it being know that Samus was in fact a woman.  So while Samus was recognized as the first strong female lead in a video game, for a long time it didn’t feel as if the character you chose to play with was a woman at all – it kind of made it seem like they assigned a random clunky suit as a woman to reach a diversity quota.

Samus, courtesy of Gamespot

The Metroid Prime series remedies this through huge graphical improvements courtesy of the advanced visual capabilities of the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii.  As a result, audiences for the first time had the opportunity to see Samus as a soft, feminine, curvaceous figure; a type that was seldom seen in the Nintendo and Super Nintendo days.  The advanced technology also gives the audiences plenty of opportunities to see Samus through her visor, yet another clever technique to remind the audience that they are in fact playing as a woman,

and a kick-ass woman at that.

Stay tuned for the number 2 Feminist Video Game Character!

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