Recent Articles on Women in Games: Female Characters, Feminism in FF, and the Lara Croft Reboot

It’s funny, when I first started this blog I really thought I’d have a hard time coming up with things to write about, but now I’m finding the exact opposite to be true! I have so much I want to write about that it’s actually quite hard for me to decide what I want to cover from post to post. I guess that’s a good thing!

Before I get started on the “meat” of this post, I’d like to mention that my most recent article is up at Total Retro Gaming (formerly Norwich Retro Gaming) and is on the PS1 2D shooter, Einhander. Take a look and let me know what you think! (Note: Unfortunately the site isn’t working correctly for me at the moment, so for the time being I’ll have to direct you to the main page and ask that you click on “news” in order to see my Einhander piece)

So, as many of you who already know me are well aware, I often contemplate the role of women in the gaming community and representations of female characters in the games we play. I’ll also be the first to tell you that I consider myself a feminist, even though that term seems to have so many negative connotations these days (no, I am not a femi-nazi, I do not hate men, and yes I changed my last name when I got married). I consider myself to be a reasonable human being who doesn’t advocate for the advancement of women over men, but equality for men and women in all facets of life. On that note, I believe overly sexist or stereotyped portrayals of both men and women in any type of media, be it video games, film, or literature, to be worth considering. Ok, no more ranting, I just wanted you all to have your facts straight before I dive in.

Yes, I would buy this

To get things started, Jen over at Video Game Writers has just published a very interesting piece titled “Where have all the strong female character gone?” that I strongly suggest giving a read. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“As of late, there has been an emergence of what I call ‘Brittany Spears Feminism.’ This is the idea that states ‘I dress like a stripper because I’m empowered!’ Because of this, there is now a turn to justify latex costumes and triple-D bust lines by claiming they are empowering. I draw your attention to Bayonetta. Large tits? Check. Skin tight outfit? Check. Sexy attitude on par with a soft core porn star? Double check. But wait! She has intellectual glasses! She’s empowering to female gamers! No, she is a vamped up tart who you are trying to market to me as a strong female figure, when in reality she is little more than eye candy for boys. I’m just not buying it — that is not how it works.” [emphasis by the author]

“Now is the time to make a very important point: wielding a giant sword, and reminding all the chauvinistic males in the game that the character is a woman, and will totally kick some dude’s ass, does not a strong female make. It makes for an angry girl stereotype.”

I find myself agreeing with many of the points Jen makes, but at times her article suggests that rather than having physically strong female characters, she would prefer to see weaker women who are physically agile. I think that the idea that women can’t be as strong as men is also a stereotype, and I personally have no problems with a strong female character who can wield a giant sword and kick ass, as long as she has emotional depth. Let me think of an example… Hm, well, I don’t think I can, but if you do, leave it in the comments!

Rydia from Final Fantasy IV

I don’t want to spend too much time on any one thing, since I have a couple of other pieces I’d like to cover, so I’ll move on to the next article for now. I recently was informed by the awesome blog What can I do with a BA in Japanese Studies? (which covers all sorts of things related to scholarship on Japan and is definitely worth a look if you’re interested in studying the language or literature) of another blog by a current graduate student in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department at the University of Pennsylvania who focuses on contemporary Japanese literature and culture. She has done a lovely 5 part piece on Feminism in Final Fantasy and I highly suggest giving it a read, as it is really well written. I’d love to say more on the topic, but I’ll let the article speak for itself and move on to the last piece I would like to draw your attention to today.

Brad over at Drinking CoffeeCola mentioned an  article in his most recent post that discusses the Lara Croft reboot and the possible implications of focusing on a young, more anatomically correct Lara who has so far only been shown as a beat-up, bloody mess. I definitely agree with him that this portrayal of her is sightly disturbing, and though it may be too early to tell how this will play out in the game as a whole. For now I think it’s safe to say that I am not very happy how, in an attempt to make Lara more “real,” the advertising team feel it is necessary to focus so heavily on her weakened state in the promotional images.

From this…

To this?

Really, that second image is just disturbing. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how the game plays out, though I’m not much of a Tomb Raider fan as it is, so I probably won’t be picking it up regardless.

So, to wrap things up, feel free to let me know what you think of these various articles (if you decide to check them out) in the comments! For those of you who have had enough just reading through my post, how about sharing your favorite female video game characters? My husband and I are quite fond of Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX, and I’m partial to Freya from FFIX, as well.

My next post will be something a little different: A book review!

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.