Back in the early days of Video Games, females in games were put there to be rescued by the brave & dashing hero in the game.
They were normally taken by an evil dude who took them to a castle / hideout in order to draw the hero to the bad guy's lair.
Pretty primitive and basic plot, but that sufficed as the sole reason for a female characters for a long time.
This primitive inclusion of females has evolved over the years as video games have matured and especially as video games now look to try and tell a story.
For me this has become apparent much more so than ever before whilst playing through TheWalkingDead and The Last Of Us, where in both games the female character is not just a helpless sap waiting to be rescued, they are the ones doing the rescuing.
This has inspired me to try and dig into the history of females in video games to try and illustrate the way the industry is very slowly maturing on this front.
(Damsel In Distress) - 1981
Let's start with an all time classic Damsel In Distress from Donkey Kong. Yes, it's good old Pauline!!
Pauline needs to be rescued by JumpMan a.ka. Mario and this kind of involvement in video games would unfortunately set the tone for female video game involvement for a long while to come…..
It is recognised that Lady Bug was possibly the first Female protagonist in a video game. Lady Bug starred in her own Pac Man style game and therefore made a significant leap forward for female bugs in video games.
(Damsel In Distress) - 1985
Super Mario Bros introduced us to Princess Peach and her knack for getting taken away by Bowser! This game started a damsel trend for Princess Peach that would go on for decades! Silly Ol Princess Peach eh!
Samus Aran was the surprise heroine in Metroid on the NES. Surely the first truly powerful female character in video games history?
Princess Zelda deserves a mention as she was cast as the Damsel In Distress during the early Zelda games. Definitely not a character who has progressed females in videogames, but a memorable character none the less!
Alis Landale was a star of the awesome Phantasy Star RPG. Another big step forward for female video games characters.
Chun Li from Street Fighter 2 fame was to be the first female fighter in a video game. She was cast as a strong willed ChineseFighter who had a strong sense of justice. Her chracteristics were to be positive for females in video games.
SHODAN from System Shock was very similar to Glados from Portal in the way that they were both female voices from a crazy computer!
Lara Croft of course stars in the Tomb Raider series of games and it all started way back in '96.
Over the years she has seen many reiterations with a more gritty look in more recent times replacing theSexualised look of the 90's. Indeed Lara is seen by the media as an empowering figure in the female army of video games protagonists. Although some would disagree due to the over emphasis on her looks.
Claire Redfield from the Resident Evil series first starred in a Resident Evil game in 1998 in Resident Evil 2. Another powerful and strong willed character who had a positive effect for females in video games.
Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII was voted as one of the best female antagonists of all time at PAX 2013 and is therefore well worth a mention in our list.
Beyond Good & Evil was a great game with a lead female character in the form of Jade who was not overtly sexualised which meant that the character was taken for who they are and not what they looked like.
Alyx Vance, Half Life 2 - While Alyx wasn't a lead character she was a pivotal character in one the greatest FPS games of all time. Alyx made advances in the role of female characters by building a relationship with Gordon Freeman which meant that you truly cared about her character in all that you did as a player.
Glados from Portal became one of the most recognisable female voices in video games history as an insane computer and will be remembered for many years to come.
Clementine is one of the finest examples of a female video game character that has ever been portrayed.
In season 1 you play as Lee Everett who is charged with protecting "Clem" from the big bad world of the Walking Dead.
You will end up caring for that character in so many ways that you never thought possible from a video game.
Telltale games then cast you as Clementine in the second game leading you to experience how Clem grows from a child to almost a young woman before her time.
Never was a story about a female character told so well in a video game. Surely one of the all time highlights of not just female stories in Video Games but also in stories in video games FULL STOP.
Telltale Games we salute YOU!
In a similar vein to Telltale's Walking Dead you initially play as Joel and are charged with looking after Ellie in The Last Of Us.
Then somewhere along the line you take control of Ellie within The Last Of Us game world.
Again,like Walking Dead, you get to see Ellie grow and get to know about her and her ways through gameplay and conversation meaning that you really will feel a bond with that character after investing the time into the game.
Much like a great TV show gets you emotionally invested into the characters and plot…...(LOST, Breaking Bad etc)
Just looking at that potted history of female characters you can see that there is somewhat of an evolution of female video games characters over the course of the last 30 years.
One of the reasons that females were never cast in a lead role in video games previously is beacause the video games industry felt that it was too much of a risk and that the games may not sell so well…..
That theory has been blown apart by two of the biggest video games of all time
in the form of TheWalkingDead & The Last Of Us…..
Surely from here we can expect to see more female lead characters in video games going forward and in effect creating a level playing field for the depiction of females in video games….
Who knows, maybe Half Life 3 will let us play as Alyx?..........
Who Is Your Favourite Female Video Game Character Of All Time?