[Editor’s Note: British spellings have been preserved upon request.]
Hey, all! I’m really excited to be starting a new series with FemHype that embodies the FemHype name itself—in other words, this series is going to be about getting excited about all the wonderful women and nonbinary characters in video games! It’s all too easy to get caught up in the critical aspect when writing about games, and while that’s important, it’s good to take a break for positivity, too, so that’s our aim here. These in-depth character celebrations will also serve as a demonstration of where developers and writers get it right—showing how possible it is for the industry to produce well-rounded, interesting, and complex ladies and nonbinary characters. I’d also love to hear which video game ladies are your favourites and why, so feel free to leave a comment!
Today, I’ll be taking a look at Mia Fey from the Ace Attorney series (specifically, the original trilogy). As soon as I had the idea for this series, I knew that it would have to start with this wonderful, wonderful woman. She was an absolute inspiration to me as a teenager and continues to be one of my very favourite examples of women in video games to this day. These are also great games in general, so I highly recommend them to those of you who haven’t played them. As such, I’ve split this into non-spoilery and spoilery discussions so you can avoid the second part if you so wish!
Onwards to the section without spoilers! Growing up in a mountain village made up entirely of women (and all such great characters in their own right), Mia left to go to law school and became a very accomplished defence attorney. As a lawyer, she was successful, hard-working, and driven. In particular, she was well-known for believing unconditionally in her clients in a society that is otherwise a particularly untrusting one. She took on main character Phoenix as her protégé, and this is the point at which we meet her in the first game. In this way, she also becomes the players’ tutor in the tutorial level, teaching the basics of Ace Attorney‘s legal gameplay.
Throughout the games, she’s shown to be close to several other women—most notably, her younger sister Maya, and we always need more positive friendships between women in games. This one’s also particularly great in my eyes, as I’ve always been equally close to my own younger sister, and we are alike to this fictional sibling duo in many ways.
Something that I find myself appreciating about Mia more than I did when I first played these games is how young she is. In certain flashbacks from the third game, Trials and Tribulations, where she’s a playable character, she’s just 24 years old. I’ve recently been particularly enjoying media with leading ladies in their 20s, because it’s a strange age to be for me and many others; a time of flux and various insecurities. Whilst perhaps not the most important form of representation, I still find reassurance and inspiration from characters with similar ages to mine. In this case, it’s lent me a new appreciation for an old favourite character.
[Note: Spoilers to follow!]
Mia is unfortunately murdered in the first game’s second ‘whodunit.’ However, it’s far from a fridging! The Fey family are actually all spirit mediums, and Mia’s younger sister Maya repeatedly channels Mia’s spirit. Through this mechanism, it’s Mia herself who finds the key piece of evidence in her own murder, and when this fails to clinch the victory thanks to the corruption within the legal system, she manages to persuade the man who killed her to confess anyway, and he’s finally convicted. For me, it’s one of the greatest moments in video game history. And, not content to stop there, Mia continues this streak by aiding in the conviction of several of the other murderers throughout the trilogy.
By the third game, she’s actually a playable character through two flashback cases that are pivotal to the overarching storyline. First (in game terms, though chronologically second), she successfully defends college-aged Phoenix against a murder charge, and she’s then the lead in what I consider the most heart-wrenching case out of all eight games (and there’s some serious competition). Following the ending of that case (which I won’t spoil), Mia took a break from the law for a full year. This is a demonstration of real emotion, which is something that video game heroines often lack. I’m a great fan of the Katherine Henson quote “having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness,” and these kinds of characters tend to be my favourites. Mia is a classic example of this, and her emotional complexity makes her as relatable as it does rare.
As I’ve detailed, Mia has a lot of wonderful qualities, but most of all she feels real. She forgets people’s names, she’s a bit of a workaholic, which impacts upon her relationship with her sister, and she has a favourite plant that she names Charley. I also do all of these things! (I’ve always loved houseplants, but now all of mine are named Charley in a very nerdy tribute to her.) Most of all, she’s kind and strong and I’m so grateful to have had her as a role model growing up and for her continual inspiration.