A few female lead characters, such as Lara Croft, get a lot of attention from the gaming press, but don't believe the hype. The video game leading role is still very much a boys’ club, with the vast majority of games starring men. Sadly, there are still plenty of publishers out there who won't even take on a game with a woman as the lead; most upcoming games that feature leading ladies are by independent or independent-minded studios.
Most of us gamers are better than that, and are happy to play good games with interesting lead characters, be they male or female. Having female leads injects more diversity into the gaming landscape, and I'd argue that the decision to make a main character female can inspire more thoughtful development simply because it breaks from the norm. Here are five notable female characters who will be taking the lead in games in the near future, and why they're worth paying attention to.
Release: June 4, 2013
Another amnesiac hero? This trope is so overused in gaming that nobody can be blamed for groaning at the idea, but you shouldn’t judge too quickly. Nilin lives in a dystopian cyberpunk future in which people can actually interface with each other’s memories. It's like Facebook on steroids, and naturally our not-so-benevolent corporate overlords don't hesitate to manipulate people's memories in their own favor. We'll give this action-adventure a pass on the amnesia front, and just hope that Nilin turns out to be a great character.
Why she's worth watching: We've seen a fair bit about Remember Me's gameplay, but not a lot about Nilin herself. Remember Me is a linear, story-driven game, and its premise has promise for interesting character development. For now, we'll have to cross our fingers that the story lives up to its interesting premise, and that Nilin will come into her own and take control of her destiny once she learns about the inevitable conspiracy behind her amnesia.
Tales of Xillia
Release: August 6, 2013
Players have a choice of protagonists in Tales of Xillia, with one possible lead character being Milla, a female spirit guardian who arrives to save the world from impending catastrophe. It is Milla who entangles the young medical student Jude, the male protagonist choice, in the game's story. She's not strictly human, but characters in Tales games always have something to say about the human condition, and Milla's passionate determination to protect the world should resonate with gamers.
Why she's worth watching: The Tales series has historically cast its lead female character as a kind, naive healer. It's nice to see the series doing something different with Milla, who’s “ends justify the means” attitude contrasts with Jude's compassionate outlook on humanity. It should be interesting to see the relationship between those two play out during the game. In addition, Milla's English dub sounds refreshingly mature, a welcome break from the high-pitched, childlike performances we often see in anime-style games.
Beyond: Two Souls
Release: October 8, 2013
By the developers behind Heavy Rain, this ambitious game sees us through fifteen years in the life of Jodie Holmes, a young woman who has a psychic connection with a mysterious, powerful entity. The game's developers are unapologetic about their goal to increase the cinematic qualities of games, so expect lots of full performance capture and plenty of limitations on player freedom.
Why she's worth watching: Ellen Page. Anybody who is a fan of the actress is pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this game. The truth is, we're unlikely to learn much about Beyond until it launches, since Quantic Dream wants to preserve the mystery behind the game's story, but at least we know that Page will inject life and at least a bit of sass into the character of Jodie Holmes.
Release: Early 2014
Supergiant Games has recently announced Transistor, the follow up to the small studio's acclaimed debut, Bastion. Transistor's main character is a woman called Red, a prominent citizen in the futuristic city of Cloudbank. She obtains a powerful sword from a failed attempt to assassinate her, and is now using it to fight for her life. The game features an interesting battle system that combines action gameplay with strategic planning, and adds a lovely art deco flavor to the company's signature art style.
Why she's worth watching: Like The Kid in Bastion, Red is a mysterious character with a compelling background that will, no doubt, be slowly doled out over the course of the game. As a singer, she'll be closely connected to the beautiful music that accompanies the action. If Supergiant can pull off the same kind of innovative and compelling storytelling that it did in Bastion, gamers are sure to be hooked on Red's story as well.
Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey
Release: November 2014
After many years in hiatus, The Longest Journey adventure game series is finally back thanks to Kickstarter. Dreamfall Chapters will be a full-length game (apparently “Chapters” is thematic rather than descriptive) that continues the story of Dreamfall, the second Longest Journey game that features the “Dreamer” Zoë Castillo. This story of the twin worlds, industrialized Stark and magical Arcadia, continues as the forces of freedom struggle against different kinds of tyranny in both worlds. Trapped in an induced coma and besieged by enemies, Zoë has plenty of troubles to overcome in order to fulfill her destiny.
Why she's worth watching: Having been on her journey of discovery in the previous game, Zoë is able to fully come into her own in Dreamfall Chapters. She'll be learning to use her power to manipulate dreams, a power which will likely give her the ability to stand up to the many enemies who are targeting her. Zoë's journey will probably have a personal element as well, since she has family secrets to learn and a love affair that is interrupted by crisis.
Date: May 8, 2013