To all of our FemHype crew members who happen to be celebrating right now, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! In the spirit of good turkey and giving thanks (not colonization), we asked our writing team what characters they were most thankful for. There’s a difference—a pretty big difference, as it turns out—between a beloved favorite character and a character who, upon meeting them, makes you pause. We’re deeply interested in exploring that very tangible moment, the one that leaves an impression days and even months after playing a game. It’s an experience defined by one character, and we’re so thankful that they exist.
As always, our super incredible staff were more than up to the task. We received a wide range of answers from seasoned fighters to young adolescents to omniscient narrators, and every interpretation featured here offers something new and exciting. If you love playing and watching games be played as much as we do, you’re in for a savory treat to pair with that side of cranberry sauce today.
What about you? What characters are you thankful for and why? Break off a few of these sweet cinnamon rolls and then meet us in the comments section to share your thoughts. If you jump in and feel comfortable being featured, we’ll totally add your comments to this post!
I’m thankful for a great character from a game that many people are definitely not thankful for: Fang from Final Fantasy XIII. Fang embodies a unique balance of ruthless strength and gentle compassion, ready to face waves of enemies and even take down gods to fight against their demands. When the world has constantly proved to be unjust, Fang’s solution was to take her fate into her hands, not only for her sake, but to protect her friend—and speculated lover—Vanille, who she dotes upon with surprising tenderness. Even when Fang faces oblivion, she moves forward, and I am grateful to experience a character who is unrelenting both in her courage and capacity to love.
Okay, maybe it’s not that recent (I mean, it’s only been a couple of years) but I’m eternally grateful for Ellie from The Last of Us. Firstly, she’s an absolute badass, no question. She’s been through so much—way more than any 14-year-old girl ever should, but she doesn’t let all of that control her. Maybe she didn’t have the upbringing we’d expect if she was raised in the present day, but she’s still just a normal kid, as evidenced by the jokes book that she carries around and loves to recite from. On top of all of that, she’s a canonically queer teenage girl—from an AAA game developer. She’s often cracking wise, but still gets (understandably) upset. She’s not just an unrealistic snark machine. Yes, I’m definitely thankful for Ellie!
The character I’m thankful for is one that I never really expected; the Narrator from The Stanley Parable. I often find myself thinking about that game and how blown away I was the first time I played it; from the exploration of what makes a story to making the player think about ‘choice’ and what you’re ‘meant’ to do. And I found that the Narrator was key to that. He encourages you to continue, makes fun of you if you don’t, and even restarts the game at points. Playing that game with the Narrator was the one of the first times I realized just how amazingly creative games can be.
Vivienne of Dragon Age: Inquisition is someone who really left an impact on me. A lot of players seem to dislike her for one reason or another, but whenever people make a fuss, I compare her behavior with Dragon Age favorite Morrigan. Maybe this is my inner D&D player talking, but Morrigan seemed chaotic evil as she doesn’t follow rules and prefers things to go her way. On the other hand, Vivienne de Fer is lawful neutral. Though some may disagree, hear me out.
[Spoilers!] She is pretty much a typical politician type and does things to push certain agendas, which is something interesting to encounter in a fantasy game. Usually those types are bit characters, not party members. Additionally, she appears to be polyamorous. She went from being mage to mistress for the Duke Bastien de Ghislain and was good friends with his wife. Despite this seemingly political relationship, her personal quest proves that she cares more for Bastien than just a political pawn. It’s also a great bonus that she’s a woman of color voiced by a woman of color in a video game!
I am so grateful for Commander Shepard. This past year hasn’t been very easy on me, but seeing her as such a strong and determined leader helped me get through everything I’ve faced this year. She served as both a method of escape where I could get away from my real life problems for a bit, as well as a role model whose strength and leadership I could bring into the real world. My own problems became easier to deal with because they no longer seemed so big and scary after seeing what Shepard had to face, and since in a way I was also Shepard, I became confident that I could handle anything that life throws at me with determination and courage just like her.
▹ Kyra S
I’m thankful for a lot of game characters I’ve met, particularly all the badass women. Chell from the Portal games is pretty high on my list. In retrospect, Portal was my first real introduction to gaming, so at the time I didn’t appreciate how unusual it was for a game to have a completely non-sexualized lady protagonist (and antagonist) whose gender is clearly defined, but never made into a big deal.
More recently, there’s the amazing Evie Frye from Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, especially notable considering the series’ relatively poor treatment or near-total lack of characters who are women. Suddenly, we’ve gone from AC: Unity’s overabundance of dudes to Evie, a fully equal co-protagonist who immediately commands respect for her fierce intelligence and assassin skills without ever having to fight for that respect. (Seriously, half the time she’s onscreen, I’m just sitting there making hearteyes and going “AHHHH SHE’S SO COOL.”)
I’m thankful for characters I haven’t even met yet, too—like Maya from the Borderlands series, written as asexual, which kind of makes me want to cry a little bit considering how little asexual representation exists in gaming. Most of all, though, I think I’m grateful for Bioware player characters and the freedom they give me to work inside an already compelling narrative to create women who display incredible strength in a wide variety of ways. I’m particularly attached to my Sith Inquisitor in Star Wars: The Old Republic (that’s her in my staff picture), a Twi’lek who clawed her way up through racism and slavery to gain enough power that she could protect herself and the people she learned to care about, who doesn’t bother to be nice and is willing to be disliked for making hard decisions, but still determinedly uses her power to help people, as much as she’s able.
Also, I’m thankful that Marvel Heroes 2015 lets me play movie Loki (more or less) as a good guy (more or less), because I’m Loki trash. Don’t judge me.
I got into Metal Gear Solid hardcore during the second half of this year, and I’d say that Hal “Otacon” Emmerich is the character I’m thankful for right now. Throughout the series, we as the player get to watch him struggle with the abuse he’s faced as he eventually becomes one of Metal Gear Solid 4’s crucial world shakers. Interestingly enough, I think we find out the most about what he had to deal with in Metal Gear Solid V, a game where he only appears in a picture, and it truly got me thinking about what I’ve experienced and how it relates to him. No spoilers for now, kids, but a future article on the subject? Maybe.
Rosalina from Super Mario Galaxy. She is basically the princess of outer space and she owns a space station. That’s awesome. She shows that things matter in this world even if the game is still a lighthearted platformer with the simplest of plots. There’s loss in her backstory, she is a mother figure to the Lumas, she refers to Princess Peach throughout the game as “Your special one,” and she knows how the universe works. If you find yourself having to traverse an often unwelcoming universe, what better friend could you ask for?
The character I am most thankful for is Adol Christin from the Ys series. Looking back at nearly 30 years of Ys games, Adol remains that silent, heroic figure whose outstanding feature is his sense of adventure (well, and red hair). Everything about this series from the characters, to the music, or the uniquely late ’80s fantasy world attracts me. But what really makes him and this series so special are the fans. Through years of friendships with Ys fan forum members, I have made contacts globally. Some of them helped me in my transition, others gave me Christmas presents when my family disowned me. A few even helped me reach my goal of living in Japan, while another now works for the U.S. company publishing Ys! (He also tells me how to get my MSX computer working.) So, for me, I’m thankful for the never-ending adventures that Adol has brought me, both in game and in the real world.
I am thankful for Professor Oak. He served as the gatekeeper and got me on my way to becoming a Pokémon trainer. It wasn’t safe for me to venture into the tall grass alone until he gave me my first Pokémon, Charmander. After that, we waded through that tall grass and beyond. While he served a simple purpose and our interaction was short, it was an necessary interaction that pushed the story forward. A story 7-year-old me could get behind, and now 20 years later, have to thank for my life full of RPGs and adventures. Thanks, Prof Oak.
I’m late on the bandwagon, although I did watch let’s plays of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. I was between Lee and Clementine, but Kenny has kinda haunted me the last couple days. I know, I know, Kenny the hotheaded, racist prick who no one trusts and you bust your ass vouching for him again and again. I was not too much of a fan in Season One, although I did protect his family whenever I was given the chance. In Season Two, I was on the verge of tears when I was reunited with Kenny—remembering Lee and all the crap we had gone through together. As Clementine, being in an unfamiliar group with no one I truly trusted, Kenny’s presence made the game worth playing.
We were able to witness the loss of Kenny’s two families—Katjaa, Duck, and Sarita—and yet he always remained loyal to Clementine. His goal of protecting innocence whenever possible is heartbreaking, like telling Clem she can’t drink a drop of alcohol in Season Two, protecting AJ until his possible player-initiated demise, etc. The decay of his mental health is handled beautifully, calling Clementine “Duck” by accident, struggling to remember that AJ is not his son, lashing out when his families pass, and even trying to protect Ben (presumably to prove he is a better father).
If you haven’t guessed, I chose to stay with Kenny, separate from Wellington, because despite his hotheaded approaches to conflict and decision-making, Kenny is not a bad guy. He is just trying to protect those he loves even when they are constantly torn away from him.
I think that, of all the lady characters I’ve encountered in games this year—and, blessedly, there have been many—the one I’m most grateful for is Chloe Price.
There’s something in me that feels kind of … not right saying that. I think there are a multitude of characters who might deserve the distinction of “best” or “most progressive” character more. Chloe Price wasn’t necessarily a character everyone needed. But she was a character I needed. Chloe reminds me so much of myself in all the worst ways—equal parts devil-may-care and self-loathing, as savage towards those who would do her loved ones harm as she is towards herself. In times of hardship, Chloe turns inwards while simultaneously lashing out. She’s hypocritical and impulsive. She takes her pain out on other people, even though she usually regrets it. At any moment, she’s simultaneously ready to fight, and hide, and run.
But at the same time, Chloe’s hopeful. She’s a study in the glorious optimism intrinsic in random chance. She’s strong even though she’s struggling. She’s as wild and feral as a weed, and when she gives her heart away, she never takes it back. She’s passionate and mercurial, and she loves with every part of herself. And meeting her in Life Is Strange was like meeting my 17-year-old self.
I look back on my own high school experience with such judgment; I have so much hatred for my younger self, so little forgiveness for past mistakes and old embarrassments. But I was so charmed by Chloe Price—by her temper and her hypocrisy and her tender, aching heart—so much so that I feel like it’s given me a new, more merciful look at myself. And I am so intensely grateful for that.
Rise Kujikawa is a character I fell in love with in an instant once she was introduced. By that time, I had realized I was a woman, and seeing Rise—a cute, fun-loving, free-spirited pop idol—was something I loved as I was starting to embrace femininity and cuteness. But it didn’t stop there. Rise had dealt with struggles of who she really was due to incorporating so many styles and personalities in her career as an idol, unsure at times of who she was—like myself, someone who had relied on other people to try and be someone. And on top of that, she rarely, if ever, actually put up with any crap from anyone. Not to mention, in her first real fight, she held her own and gave a challenge to one of the strongest Persona wielders in canon. So not only is she a cute pop idol who doesn’t take shit from anyone, she fought one of the strongest beings and won.
I’ve already written in-depth about why I’m so grateful for Max Caulfield, so I want to talk about Victoria Chase a bit. She’s a character who is seen to grow up more and more throughout the week in Life Is Strange. She’s an ice queen who doesn’t like to show any kindness or be kind to anyone outside of her group. After Episode 2 and after seeing her actions, she softens up, starting to make amends with the people she tormented, and is even able to admit how cool she thinks Max is. She’s a character who, despite being all that and then some, is really just a bit insecure and afraid—something I can relate to. She works as hard as she can because she knows she needs to, because she wants to be someone. Even if she did some things that can’t be excused, deep down, she becomes better as a person. Learning about her motivations made me love her even more.
From the moment she appeared, tauntingly wielding a baseball bat, I knew I was destined to love Bloody Mary from The Wolf Among Us. I’ve never had such an immediate reaction to a character before: she instantly made me think both “oh no” and “hell yeah!” She barely even had to speak and I was lost. Her design alone is fabulous; everything about her appearance says “fight me,” from the red streak in her hair to the angle of her cheekbones. She’s also one of the more androgynous characters I’ve come across in a video game, and apparently the way to my heart is through dangerous gender non-specific sociopaths. Really.
So the minute I laid eyes on her I fell in love, but that wasn’t the end, because she just kept getting better. She’s one of the most memorable villains I’ve ever encountered in a video game (and her true form reveal is deliciously horrifying). It’s rare in any form of media to see a lady villain who’s neither sexualized nor scheming; even more so for her to be a sadistic thug who is unapologetically evil. And I adore that about her. She’s powerful and cruel and has no real loyalty to anyone: she’s in this purely because she enjoys being brutal and ruthless. In a game so concerned with motive and mystery, that’s utterly refreshing.
To top it all off, her boss battle is my favourite in any game I’ve ever played, without question. It’s both stunningly orchestrated and packed with adrenaline, and has some genuinely thrilling moments. I loved the whole of The Wolf Among Us, but when I think about the game—and when I think about replaying it—it’s always Bloody Mary that I come back to. She’s stuck with me like no other video game villain, like no other game character, and I’m in trouble because I love her way too much.