The Year That Video Games Made a Change


I’m Shane Murphy.  It’s good to finally meet you.  Feel free to call me Murph, everyone else does.

And I’m about to lay some knowledge all over you.

Video games are the greatest.

I know, I know, that may not be the universal consensus out there, but that’s only because some people are wrong.  But that’s okay.  We’re going to change that today.  I want to talk to you about what I’ve seen this year so far from the video games industry and how much it has changed in just the last six months.

Let’s talk about women in games.

Think back to your experiences with video games, and tell me how many strong female heroines are on display.  Can you think of any that don’t immediately also come with images of their sexualization, of images of skimpy outfits, breast sizes that defy the imagination (and gravity), skimpy outfits that just will not protect you in a real medieval sword fight, and more thongs than a Victoria’s Secret display case?  It’s okay if you’re struggling.

Jade from Beyond Good and Evil? 10 points. Aerith from FFVII? Pretty good, until, well… you know.  Faith from Mirror’s Edge?  Better.  Lara Croft?  Ehh, I beg to differ.

Hello, nurse!

Ohh, you meant the reboot, the 2013 version!

She’s a badass, and you know it.

I’m on board.

Now let’s take a look at the release dates of those games:

  • Tomb Raider (original) – 1996
  • Final Fantasy VII – 1997
  • Beyond Good and Evil – 2003
  • Mirror’s Edge – 2008

Basically, it’s been slim pickings for female leads for about 20 years.

And Aerith isn’t even a lead!

At this point, you’re asking yourself, “Where are we going with this, Murph?”

And here it is: It wasn’t until E3 2015 that I finally realized how much females aren’t represented in video games, and how cool they can be to have them here.  I watched every E3 conference from Bethesda, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Square Enix, and the PC Gaming Show, and I loved all of them.  But I was actually pretty blown away by the video games that featured women as the lead, and they didn’t have to sexualize them.  They were just women in the lead roles.  And they rocked.

Rise of the Tomb Raider.  Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst.  Fallout 4. Recore.  Horizon: Zero Dawn. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.  Dishonored 2.  All with either a set or selectable female lead character.

A minimum seven games with current and new female heroines were announced at E3 2015, and each of their videos were some of the most impressive ones I watched. Lara Croft has ditched the huge unrealistic cup sizes and turned into a woman fascinated with history and finds grit and strength in even the darkest of times.  Evie fights Templars in Industrial-Era London.  Emily Attano continues her father, Corvo Attano’s, fight against an oppressive regime.  Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn works to hunt and harvest giant mechanical beasts, and was inspired by strong female leads like Ellen Ripley from Aliens and Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies.

This is a jumpstart that the games industry needs, and it isn’t slapping us in the face.

After Gamergate last year, I’ve been worried about the state of games.  The hate and vitriol that has permeated the industry is palpable, and it ruined last year for me.  I’m ready for it to be behind us, and for people to remember what it is that brings us all together, and that’s our love of games.

I expected to see some games with female leads, but honestly expected it to be OMG LOOK WE HAZ WOMAN AND THEY DOING STUFF BUY OUR GAMES GUYYYYS, and well holy crap, it was the exact opposite.  The games shown are built around these women, they planned ahead to know that if you want to play as a female character, it needs more than a female voice reading the lines and a change in who you can have love stories with.  There’s a fundamental reboot in what games and stories can be about.  We’re finding a healthy mix between men and women representation in video games, and I’m all for it.

There’s still a ways to go, but I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far.

I play games for more than just blowing stuff up.  I play for the experience.  I play for the story.  I play to immerse myself in a world that I wouldn’t have before.  Playing as Ellie in The Last of Us and taking down a deer with a bow and arrow, and taking part in the “giraffe scene”.  Playing as Lara Croft and watching her become something stronger than she realized.  Playing as Faith and working to bring down an oppressive government.  The story is what’s important, and that’s what I care about.

So let’s bring on the story.

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4 thoughts on “The Year That Video Games Made a Change”

  1. Shane – videogames are the greatest! Although, I’m disappointed you mentioned nothing about Ellie from LoU. Can’t wait for the massive erection that will be the result of LoU2…


    1. “I play to immerse myself in a world that I wouldn’t have before. Playing as Ellie in The Last of Us and taking down a deer with a bow and arrow, and taking part in the “giraffe scene…” Bro, do you even?

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