Gaming's Most Poorly-Written Female Characters
Women and the games industry haven’t always seen eye to eye; to say the least. We’re not going to get into that here – that’s a whole different can of worms, and one I don’t particularly feel like opening today. Suffice it to say, the days when gaming was exclusively a boys club are far behind us: women play games just as much as men, if not more. Unfortunately, where game development is concerned, they’re still woefully underrepresented.
It shows. Developers have taken great strides towards better-written, more believable women, but the industry’s got a long ways to go before things can truly be considered equal. That there are so many developers out there who apparently haven’t yet gotten the memo doesn’t help matters, either. Today, I’ve compiled a little wall of shame, commemorating some of the most poorly written, stereotypical, and downright irritating female characters the hobby has ever seen. Feel free to suggest a few of your own, if there’s one you don’t see on here.
Samus Aran(Metroid: Other M):For all intents and purposes, I’d say Samus Aran in her original incarnation was a very well-written female character. Sure, the pixelated bikini scene (did we really used to find that sort of thing sexy) was a bit unnecessary, but at the same time; the core that defined her character couldn’t be ignored: she was a badass mercenary who killed eldritch abominations as part of her daily routine. That she happened to be a woman was incidental.
Then Metroid: Other M came along. Over the course of one game (hell, over the course of five sodding minutes), our terrifyingly competent badass space mercenary is relegated to the role of weak, submissive, crying, childish doormat who can’t actually accomplish anything unless a big strong man; gives her permission.
Maybe they wanted to demonstrate that even the most powerful of us can still be vulnerable, that even the best of us can still doubt themselves. Unfortunately, they did it in the clumsiest, most ham-handed way possible. Nintendo didn’t just lower the bar here – they dropped it off a cliff, disintegrated it with a hydrogen bomb; then used the Death Star to blow up the planet.
Sadly, this bastardization of one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters is just the tip of the iceberg. Things are going to get far, far worse: brace yourselves.
Yorda(ICO):I’m probably going to get some flak for this one. After all, ICO was a downright legendary game, and progenitor to one of the defining titles of the Playstation 2. Almost everything about the game was stunning; from the set design, to the music, to the gameplay itself. So….why has Yorda made the list?
To answer that question, I want to ask you folks something: can you remember anything that was distinct about her as a character? Physical appearance doesn’t count – I’m talking history. I’m talking personality. I’m talking attitude. What did she actually do? What did she actually accomplish?;
Aside from the fact that she was a princess, and you apparently had to save her, there was virtually nothing about her that distinguished her from a common tree stump.
Princess Peach(Mario) :Uh…yeah. In case you haven’t guessed yet, Nintendo seems to have a bit of a problem when it comes to writing female characters. I might get some flak for including Peach on this list, but at the end of the day, I don’t really give a damn what any of you think: Princess Peach is not a well-written female character. She’s absurdly and stereotypically ‘girly,’ in addition to being a perpetual damsel in distress, and the degree of cluelessness she displays on a regular basis makes me wonder if she’s permanently baked out of her mind.
To make matters worse, the one game where Nintendo had the opportunity to actually fan out and make her more than a walking stereotype (Super Princess Peach), they had her fight using her emotions. Yeah, that’s right – while Mario and Luigi get to go on roaring, mushroom-fueled rampages, Peach just gets angry and destroys things by throwing tantrums.
Oerba Dia Vanille(Final Fantasy XIII):Absurdly revealing, fan-servicey outfit? Check. “Kawaii” attitude? Check. Despite being half a century old, Vanille very obviously fits the “insane underaged girl” archetype that Square Enix developed an unhealthy obsession with after Final Fantasy VII. There’s very little else to say here – I’m sure I’ll get some flak for including her on this list, particularly at such a high level, but to be honest, she represents a trope in JRPGs I’d rather see dead in favor of better-developed characters.
Ashley Graham(Resident Evil 4):At the beginning of Dreamfall, Zoe is a shiftless, spoiled, lazy University drop-out. At the end of Dreamfall, Zoe is a….shiftless, spoiled, lazy University dropout with a boyfriend. She’s the most clueless character I’ve ever seen, and her whole reason for existence seems to be her ex-boyfriend, who she sets off in search of after he goes missing. Of course, she never gets back together with him: she falls for some putz named Damien after knowing him for a total of a day.
Shion (Xenosaga):Shion is, hands-down, the worst on the list, as she displays pretty much every negative quality that’s ever been associated with a poorly-written female character. There’s so much wrong with her as a character that I’m not even sure where to begin. Supposedly, she has a PHD, but her intelligence is very much an informed ability: there are several points at which she makes Princess Peach look like a member of MENSA. She’s structured as a capable leader, but most of the time, when she’s not acting like a petulant little brat, she’s spouting wangsty internal monologues that sound like they’d be more at home pasted to a thirteen year old’s locker.
Yeah, that sounds like exactly the sort of person I’d want responsible for my life.
That’s to say nothing of her terrible relationship with the men in her life which (surprise!) define her as a character more than anything else. She’s not just appalling and stereotypical; she’s offensive, as well, and manages to somehow avoid that lovely little thing called character growth over the course of three bloody games.
So, yeah: uncontested at number one, we’ve got Shion Uzuki.