The under-represented have always cried out for more characters that look like them in games. It is an understandable thing. Titles used to predominantly feature Caucasian males as their avatars, and everyone who wasn’t one had to deal with it. I remember being thrilled about Phantasy Star as a child, simply because I could play as a heroine saving planets. But something wonderful has happened in 2017. This is a year worth celebrating. While part of this is due to a number of amazing releases in general, it is also because many of this year’s biggest games all feature strong, complex, and occasionally multiracial heroines.
It all began with Horizon: Zero Dawn. This is one of Sony’s biggest games of 2017. It was a major title from Guerrilla, a developer that has given us the Killzone series. Most importantly, it gave us Aloy. This is a a woman who was raised as an outcast due to odd circumstances of her appearance. But she is a strong warrior with a Focus that increases her perception. She proves herself, earning the right to become a Nora tribe Brave, then goes on a journey that sees her defeating multiple gigantic robots single-handedly. She is a well developed, strong, and interesting character who is a joy to control.
Shortly after we met Aloy, we were introduced to 2B. Or, to be more specific, YoRHa No. 2 Model B, an android who is working alongside YoRHa No. 9 Model S (9S) to fight robots on Earth for the sake of humans. She is part of a line of characters that are designed to be emotionless tools who accomplish humanity’s goals. Yet throughout NieR: Automata, we see that she is far more than that. Though she seems like a focused and driven agent, there is a depth and humanity to this creation that is equal to any human. We see the same characteristics in the other protagonists, 9S and A2, It is quite an extraordinary and touching thing, as we see this woman grow throughout the game and show sides and depths we did not expect.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy ended up surprising us with not just one, but two incredibly women we could follow. What’s more, they were each women of color. Chloe Frazer is an Indian-Australian thief/treasure hunter (depending on who you ask) and Nadine Ross is a mercenary/treasure hunter. Chloe is an impulsive, intelligent survivor who is willing to take measured risks if the reward is great enough. She goes from someone who is rather frivolous to a more measured individual who will go to great lengths for people important to her. Nadine is confident, determined, and sensible. She knows her own strength and limits, as well as those working with her. She is loyal to people working for her or alongside her and will go out of her way to preserve their lives. Each one has these amazing qualities that shine through and develop in both the previous Uncharted games and their own installment.
And now, we have Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. Here, we follow Billie Lurk. She’s a former assassin who is working alongside her former mentor to defeat the Outsider. We’ve seen her in Dishonored’s The Knife of Dunwall and Dishonored 2. We have seen Billie rise and fall in the series. We know she is a capable assassin and thief, based on her actions in multiple games. Arkane has set her up as a woman who has underwent horrifying things and lived to tell the tale. Now, she’s in a position where she might just get some sort of revenge and put an end to the Outsider’s machinations. Oh, and by the way, she’s an African American lesbian. The game presents this in a way where it just is who she is. No special attention is really called to it. What matters are her skills with the blade and abilities that allow her to slip around undetected and take out the people who have it coming to them.
2017 incredible year for games with female leads. We’re seeing more representation done right, and that is an incredible thing. Aloy, 2B, Chloe Frazer, Nadine Ross, and Billie Lurk are only a few of the women who have made this year better. We also have Metroid’s Samus, Life is Strange: Before the Storm’s Chloe Price, and Hellblade’s Senua too. This is an amazing year and it is good to see so many developers stepping up to give us games with great heroines.