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10/07/2005

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Tablesaw

I don't know if you're specifically asking for games, but the archetypal woman-rescuing-prince story is usually Tam Lin.

matt

I was specifically asking about games, but a thousand thanks for the link as I've never heard of "Tam Lin" before. I've gotta look deeper into that.

Willoughby Jackson

There's the new DS game, Super Princess Peach (http://ds.ign.com/objects/711/711851.html).

ClockworkGrue

How about Jade from Beyond Good & Evil? Jade's motivation is more along the lines of Save the Children, Save My Friends, Save the World, not Save the Prince. Jade's motivations strike me as very maternal.

I think it's hard to do the girl-saves-the-prince plot without it feeling like your basic reverse roles fairytale. The non-reverse action heroine storylines seem to be the Bad Girl (Barb Wire, Lady Death, Blood Rayne), and the Wrathful Mother (Kill Bill, Beyond Good & Evil). Seeing it written down, though, this starts to look suspiciously like the old Virgin/Whore dichotomy as applied to a woman with a gun.

I need to think about this some more.

matt

Holy Shitoly! I can't believe I forgot about Jade! BG&E is one of my most very favoritist games for the very reason that I admire the heroine so much, though I think your "Wrathful Mother" assessment is very astute . . . so I don't think she's quite what I'm getting at--though probably the closest so far. In fact, I'm not really even sure what I'm getting at--which may be indicative of the larger problem.

I always liked Oni's heroine as well (even though the game wasn't the best) as she was actually believable. For one, she wore clothes instead of battling baddies in boob-only armor and a mini-skirt with high heels.

Super Princess Peach is more, I think, what Clockwork mentioned about it just feeling like a "reverse-roles fairytale" -- though I admittedly don't know the plot of the game, so I could be wrong.

In a sense, I guess I'm wondering if I can feel a connection to secondary characters through a gaming heroine the way I can through a hero. Jade, in some sense, is like this as I definitely felt that I wanted to save Peyj, but it feels to me like there is a wide void in game plots where there heroine is driven by love for a mate as opposed to just being the "Bad Girl" or the "Wrathful Mother."

Chris Bateman

Although I have no problem with a straight gender reversal in the "rescue the princess/prince" scenario, I felt there was a shortage of games in which the heroine wasn't interested in romance at all and was struggling with more basic social problems.

'Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition' is the only game script I've written without any overtly romantic elements at all (although the romantic sub-plot in Ghost Master was eventually cut). Alita, the heroine of this broadly post-modern pulp fantasy story, is extremely maladjusted thanks to her childhood circumstances; romance just isn't part of her world view at all and she has difficulty relating to other people. If this is of interest to anyone, there's a review of the character here http://www.womengamers.com/dw/alita-hk.php which I feel is completely fair. Although a small and fairly insignificant project for a very niche market, it was a lot of fun to work on.

What I'd really like to see is a game heroine in the vein of Shaharazad - not a masculine heroine, like Ripley in Alien, but someone who uses her mind and charm to overcome adversity. It would need some inventive game mechanics to make it work, though.

CorvusE

I just played a demo for an indie RPG where you play a princess who gets to save the kingdom. The game is Morning's Wrath and is worth a look.

http://www.etherealdarkness.com

Malkyne

I'm glad you guys brought up Beyond Good and Evil, because Jade is just about everything I want in a video game heroine. Alot of modern female game lead characters are just these cold two-dimensional killer Barbie dolls, but Jade was a character you could really believe in.

PhilM

Treading on iffy ground with the "maternal" diagnosis for Jade... she's arguably just defending the weak. The reason you don't see male heroes living with orphans is the same you don't get many male primary teachers. Men plus kiddies other than their own is a dodgy association in the public imagination.

That doesn't detract from the fact that she's not saving her lover though. King's Quest 7? I haven't played it, but it is called "The Princeless Bride".

(And tangentially: hear hear to the Shahrazad idea - for male or female, the idea of a game played by storytelling would rock.)

Natalie

What about Jen from Primal? Maybe not the best game, but she was trying to save her boyfriend-- plus she was "the chosen" in the way that she also had to save the world and recieved nifty powers.

matt

I didn't play Kings Quest 7, but I did play 4-"The Perils of Rosella" or somesuch, and I think it was my first experience with a female lead other than playing as a female avatar in Ultima IV.

I haven't played Primal, either. What was Jen's character like?

Natalie

Jen was kind of punk (well, at least punk looking). She pushed into her situation, but she dealt with it. I felt she was realistic, that her character wasn't straddling any gender roles. Not femme, not butch, but somewhere in between.

I enjoyed the game--just not the fighting system.

Bringing up King's Quest 4, that gives me really good memories. That was also the first game that I ever played that had a main female character.

matt

Kings Quest was also the first series that had a female lead designer, unless I've missed my facts on that one. Whatever happened to Roberta Williams? I'm a little too lazy to find out on my own :p

Girl_from_Mars

I havent played it yet, but what about 'The Longest Journey'?

Ogami

I may have missed something but it seems like you guys missed one of the first female game leads ever that is still going strong: a little miss by the name of Samus Aran. Even though she is often overlooked as a female character because of her gender-neutral armor, I personally feel like she's done more for women in games than people think. As a kid, I must admit that I always wanted to play male characters in video games because a big attraction of the game was to pretend that I WAS that character running around and kicking ass and that was just a bit harder to do if the lead was a female. But when I beat the original Metroid on the NES and found out that Samus was a female, it actually made me think about gender roles seeing as how I had assumed that it was a guy under all that armor. Seeing Samus appear in her 8-Bit one-piece was an eye-opener and made me respect the game and the character more because they pulled that switch on you in the end. Not to mention the fact that Samus isn't saving any princes or boyfriends or anybody in particular. She's a badass, self-sufficient bounty hunter doing her own thing.

Zild

"She's a badass, self-sufficient bounty hunter doing her own thing."

I think that's perhaps why she's not been included ;) (although why Matt made that distinction I don't know...)


As for the original point, I think it depends on your definition of 'main character'...

In the Final Fantasies, I tend to think of all of the long-term playable characters as main characters, and I'd say that some of them they qualify to certain extents:

VII's Aeris lives and dies for the good of the planet (actually, maybe she doesn't - but it FEELS as if she does, and that's the important thing).
Tifa, on the other hand, becomes the woman determined to save her friend, Cloud, at the same time as she temporarily becomes the main character.
VIII's Rinoa is the leader of the resistance, then becomes the sorceress and key to defeating Ultimecia - a role which she undertakes quite bravely (I've always felt Rinoa was far stronger than others have made her out to be).
IX's Garnet/Dagger is the princess who displays greater dedication than her own knight-and-bodyguard, and who I'm sure goes on to be crucial in saving the world, etc (okay, so I've been too busy to make much progress in FFIX!)
And X's Yuna is not only the willing key to defeating Sin, but also the one who keeps the group going when morale hits rock bottom.

My concern here is that these people are rarely normal, run-of-the-mill people. Aeris is the last of the Cetra, Rinoa a sorceress, Garnet an adopted princess and carrier of magical summony-creatures (can't remember the name they gave them in IX), whilst Yuna is descendant of a famous summmoner, and herself a summoner and religious figure - though in Yuna's defence, that's kind of pre-requisite for saving the world anyway. Only Tifa is not special (okay, arguably Yuna as well), but then she does only really save her friend, not the whole world. My question would be: where are all the ordinary-people heroines?

Joanna

Since you mentioned Resident Evil I am compelled to point out Claire Redfield as a great female video game character. She goes to college (no one knows what she does there though) and searches for her brother who is missing, amidst the outbreak. The men around her are mostly ineffectual and or immature such as Leon which adds to the contrast with her strong character. She doesn't whimper and whine like Cindy from Outbreak and she doesn't need to take on the bitch persona like Alyssa from REO. Game play wise, Claire is put to the test in Resident Evil Code Veronica by having to navigate through several zombie infested areas before having the opportunity to aquire guns. Of course there is often problematic elements with any hero or heroine representation and what they might convey ideologically, regarding gender for example. But yeah, Claire Redfield is great. Jill Valentine too.

Angel Bob

I was pretty sure that the main character was not only a guy but his name was Wander.

H

Since someone asked, The Longest Journey was okay. Certainly worth buying from the discount rack at Target.

I found the main character, while not stereotypical, didn't have much depth. I stuck with the game when losing patience with the gameplay (the police station was unfun), but that was out of desire to see the plot, and had little to do with being engaged with the characters.

As a point of reference on my opinions, I keep up with the TV show Lost for the same reasons -- I want to know where the plot goes and if all those metaphors have a point, and I'm not really that into the people.

From games mentioned that I've played, Jade is the more engaging character here. I have no desire to play TLJ once more now that I know how it ends, but I probably will fire up BG&E again at some point.

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