Today is International Women’s Day (IWD).
It’s a chance to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of females all overt the world. It’s also a time which marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality as we strive for a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.
The theme of IWD 2023 is #EmbraceEquity and its aim is to get people talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. Everyone starts from a difference place and so true belonging and inclusion requires equitable action. We can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination and draw attention to bias, and collective activism is what drives change.
Female characters in video games have come a long way over the years. When I was a kid growing up, all we had to lookup to was either Chun-Li from Street Fighter or the triangular version of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. The industry may still have some way to do when it comes to representation but there are now far more protagonists nowadays who are worthy of our admiration.
To celebrate IWD 2023 in my own way, I’ve put together a list of ten wonderful women in video games. These females aren’t to be underestimated: forget damsels in distress, they’re more than capable of saving the world and teaching us an important lesson or two while they’re at it. These protagonists have layers of personality, internal struggles and their own set of morals formed from their experiences, which enables us to see some of our own traits within them.
There are minor spoilers below. If you haven’t yet experienced the games mentioned, you may wish to navigate away and come back later.
Video game: A Plague Tale: Requiem
There are probably many people who’ll feel Amicia should have made today’s list, but it was the Sea Scorpion who stood out for me while playing A Plague Tale: Requiem earlier this year. Although pirate smuggler Sophia comes across as flippant and arrogant initially, she’s clever and holds herself to a strict personal code which includes returning favours to those who help her. As she says herself: “That’s my life, sweetheart. Wake up early, observe, listen, and make the best of it.”
Video game: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller
She may be a kickass FBI Agent who’s searching for her brother’s murderer, with potent abilities which give her an advantage by enabling her to see into the past. But Erica is by no means a superhero and her weaknesses are exactly the reason why I love her. Instead of her powers being the automatic solution for every problem, they don’t always work as intended and can cause her a great deal of mental trauma. She comes across as real person who’s struggling with a stressful job, tragic past and powerful secret.
Video game: Five Dates
How on earth could anyone not want to end up being with Shaina at the end of Five Dates? A nurse who has to juggle the responsibilities of tough job conditions through COVID and a demanding family, she’s so down to earth and knows exactly what she wants from life – plus she loves video games. If you tell her you’re a hardcore gamer, she’ll tell you that she has recently been trying full-motion video (FMV) releases and thinks they’re making a comeback. Sign me up for a date with her already.
Video game: The Longest Journey series
While April Ryan will always be my favourite character from The Longest Journey, it’s Zoë I’d like to give a mention to today. She’s a likeable and strong-minded young woman, who regrets some of the actions she’s forced to take on her journey but still fights for the greater good. The thing I like about her the most is that she doesn’t just accept the unbelievable events going on around her. She’s curious, asks questions, and wants to learn more so she understands.
Video game: Fable series
It’s difficult to share much about seeress Theresa as her backstory is so detailed. But besides the prophetic powers she has possessed since a child, the most intriguing thing about her is the fact that you’re never quite sure whether she’s on the side of good or evil. Is she telling you all she knows or has she seen the future and is now trying to guide you down a particular path as a result? I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Fable IV and the opportunity to find out more about her then.
Video game: Gone Home
You might not encounter any other characters while playing as Kaitlin Greenbriar in Gone Home, but the amazing writing and voice-acting are so good that it feels as though you know Samantha. The teenager comes across as smart and snarky yet insecure and relatable, and you can’t help but feel for her. Unravelling her coming-of-age story and relationship with Lonnie, she reveals herself with a lot of honesty through her journal entries. By the time you’ve finished, she’ll have left a lasting mark on you.
Video game: Her Story
Hannah may not be the most likeable character on my list, but she’s highly intelligent and hides a huge secret. The omissions in her answers are highlighted through small slips of the tongue, repeated phrases and awkward body movements. Each revelation will leave you switching between sympathising for Hannah and hating her. When she finally reveals the truth about her husband, the speech is delivered with such an unnerving calm that it will cause the story to stay with you long afterwards.
Video game: Horizon series
Although many of us place Aloy on a pedestal as she’s excellent at kicking huge mechanical butt and saving the world, she’s just a normal person underneath. She has the same doubts and fears as the rest of us and that makes her so much more human. I love the way she shows no hesitation in telling men her ‘eyes are up here’ and can be sarcastic at times. But at the same time, years of being shunned by her tribe have given her a big heart full of compassion and sympathy for those in need.
Video game: Monkey Island series
Despite Guybrush constantly trying to rescue her in one way or another, Elaine Marley is no damsel in distress. She’s more than capable of taking care of herself and on the occasions where she’s kidnapped, she’s able to escape from LeChuck at her own volition. And that’s while throwing out comebacks such as: ‘You are an evil, foul-smelling, vile, co-dependent villain and that’s just not what I’m looking for in a relationship right now.” It’s no wonder she’s the dominant half in her marriage to Guybrush.
Video game: Night in the Woods
My favourite character from Night in the Woods was immediately Candy Borowski. I love the way the story hints at her being more than just a mum: she’s had a history (one I like to think was pretty wild) and is dealing with issues she’s trying to shield her daughter from. Although female protagonists Mae and Bea take up most of the screen-time, it’s Candy who brings both a sense of humour and the warmth of compassion to the title with her comments and eels and town gossip.
These females aren’t to be underestimated: forget damsels in distress, they’re more than capable of saving the world and teaching us an important lesson or two.
Here’s to all the wonderful women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through both blogging and playing video games. Keep on shining and showing the world how amazing you are.