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2015: The year when video games started treating women fairly

Female characters in video games are finally being recognised for their gender-neutral attributes and not by their appearance or sexuality.

year ender 2015 Updated: Dec 24, 2015 12:47 IST
Siladitya Ray
2015 was a year when women in video games were fleshed out characters with gender-neutral skills and strong personalities. From left: Assassin Creed: Syndicate’s Evie Fyre, Sony’s Horizon: Zero Dawn’s Aloy, and the Rise of the Tomb Raider’s reimagined Lara Croft.
2015 was a year when women in video games were fleshed out characters with gender-neutral skills and strong personalities. From left: Assassin Creed: Syndicate’s Evie Fyre, Sony’s Horizon: Zero Dawn’s Aloy, and the Rise of the Tomb Raider’s reimagined Lara Croft.

Last year, a group of gamers organised under the banner of ‘Gamergate.’Ostensibly, the highly visible hashtag movement was intended to expose nepotism in video game journalism, but the group’s actions that included issuing death threats to game developer Zoe Quinn led many to believe it was a thinly veiled excuse to harass women in gaming.

The debate over the way women are represented in video games and the community around them came to a boiling point, and the resulting clash made it seem women would never find acceptance in the male-dominated industry.

Yet it seems the wheels of change are already in motion. At this year’s biggest gaming event, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, we were treated to a refreshing change of pace, with more women on stage and in games than in previous years.

Evie Fyre in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, is a female assassin with sharp wit and efficacy as her trademarks.

For the second year in a row, Aisha Tyler of Archer fame hosted Ubisoft’s press conference. Her humor, improvisational background, and strong stage presence make her an excellent choice for the event.

This probably was Ubisoft’s effort at damage control after it found itself in trouble last year after issuing a statement saying that the company couldn’t have a female protagonist in Assassin’s Creed: Unity, one of its flagship titles, because of the time and resources it would take. This year’s Assassin’s Creed game, Syndicate had a playable female protagonist, Evie Fyre. Frye is portrayed as a female assassin with sharp wit and efficiency as her trademarks.

Sony’s Horizon: Zero Dawn features Aloy, a protagonist who is a huntress and provides for her tribe.

Sony’s big AAA title — a video game industry term for a high-quality game — for the Playstation 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, is being developed by former ‘dude-bro shooter’ connoisseurs Guerilla Games. Horizon features a physically imposing heroine named Aloy taking on hordes of gigantic robot dinosaurs is a post-apocalyptic world. Aloy is an experienced huntress, but also a defender of and provider for her people. She isn’t scantily clad either — she’s well armored, clever, and has a strong moral code.

Dishonored 2, an upcoming sequel to the first Dishonored game from Bethesda Softworks, has gained a new heroine who can be chosen,in addition to the male protagonist from the first game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider, the latest Tomb Raider game, reimagines protagonist Lara Croft as a fully clothed character unlike previous Tomb Raider games where she was scantily clad and heavily sexualised.

Microsoft’s Halo, the undisputed father of the Mountain Dew/Doritos-fueled ‘dude-bro’ shooter, has a woman-warrior to the cast of Halo 5. And almost every game in Microsoft’s lineup this year included a female character, with two games featuring female protagonists.

Lara Croft, perhaps the most well-known female character in video games, also saw a release this year in the Rise of the Tomb Raider. Older Tomb Raider games featured Lara as a heavily sexualised, scantily clad woman. In the latest Tomb Raider game, Lara has completely clothed and has a nuanced personality with her own fear and vulnerabilities. For the first time in the history of the series, we actually care about her as a person.

Electronic Arts’ wildly popular FIFA series saw the inclusion of women players for the first time. (EA Sports)

This was also the year when EA Sports added female players to its annual FIFA series. The company’s decision to include eight women’s teams was timely, given the success of the Women’s World Cup this year. FIFA 16 offered a way to play the women’s game that, like in real life, was different from the men’s game. The reams of new female specific animations, different physiques and a unique pace mean the female players aren’t simply dumbed down versions of Ronaldo or Neymar.

The status quo is changing, women are now leading blockbuster video game titles where they are defined not by their sexuality or appearance, but instead recognised for admirable, gender-neutral attributes. Game publishers are finally catching on to the notion that their products are not only consumed by young men. That’s a win for everyone.