Leading the Pack: Elena Fisher From ‘Uncharted’

uncharted

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

There is a moment near the end of the first Uncharted game in which Elena Fisher falls through the crumbling boards of an old bridge. Protagonist Nathan Drake scrambles to catch her hand as she hangs from her fingertips. In order to save herself, she has to drop the camera that she’s had with her for the entire story into the river far below. Contained within is a record of all their adventures that she wants to report on — as is her job and passion — upon her return.

And she’s forced to lose it.

I joked that, for me, this was what the game was about: mourning the loss of Elena’s camera. But as the games went on, it became less of a joke. Elena became the centre of my investment by creating moments of emotion and humanity that kept the story interesting. That’s why she’s featured in this installment of “Leading the Pack,” a series examining some of the best women and nonbinary folk in games.

Overall, I enjoyed the Uncharted games, but there were definitely things about them I didn’t like. Often, the pacing felt off (especially in Uncharted 2), like I was just waiting for the next bit of story by slogging through endless firefights. I felt that Nate was let off or even glorified for some of his worst traits — impulsivity bordering on obsession; cultural insensitivity bordering on outright racism; dismissal of people’s lives and property if they are in the way of his already ethically dubious aims. Elena often mitigated these narrative issues.

Elena is an adventurer, too — a thrill-seeker or adrenaline junkie, even — but she’s also pragmatic and reasonable. Would Nate have dropped something of equal importance to him had he been in the position of Elena and her camera, or would he have been too stubborn or hot-headed? This is not necessarily a judgement of Nate — I might have failed to let go, too — but rather a commendation of Elena and the wider perspective that she brings to the game. Her presence makes us consider the narrative more deeply than the surface level excitement of it all.

“Greatness comes from small beginnings,” the game tells us. What is greatness? Elena seems to respond. And what might it cost us and others to achieve it?

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The Room Where It Happens: Novac in ‘Fallout: New Vegas’

Fallout New Vegas

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

Hey there, FemHype crew! Welcome back to “The Room Where it Happens,” where we take a look at some of the best areas in games — ones that serve as a microcosm for what’s great about the worlds that they belong to. This time around, we are travelling to the Mojave desert of Fallout: New Vegas and, specifically, to Novac.

Early in the game, you — as player character the Courier — will learn that the Mojave is a place that can slalom between deadly and welcoming. You begin the game by being shot in the head, but recover in the small town of Goodsprings thanks to the help of the local doctor. The people there are friendly and will give you money, weapons, medicine, and training until you are ready to head out into the wider wasteland. The first stop on this journey is Primm, which has been overrun by lawlessness after its sheriff was murdered. Not long after that, you are likely to stumble across Nipton, the site of a massacre perpetrated by the horrific Caesar’s Legion.

You would be forgiven, then, for fearing the worst of the wider Mojave. But just beyond Nipton you will see a massive statue of a dinosaur on the horizon. (Permit me an aside here, dear reader: that dinosaur is inspired by a real giant dinosaur in the Mojave, which is a creationist museum claiming humans lived alongside T. Rexes. The more you know!)

At the foot of the dinosaur, you will find Novac. It’s small and run-down, its walls formed by the shells of prewar buses and old tyres with many houses boarded up, but it’s also a home to a community. It has a shop, a doctor, clean water, and security. There’s an old gas station where you can fix or craft items and a ranch with friendly two-headed Brahmin. You might even make a home there yourself in one of the motel rooms.

Novac is emblematic of the communities that have managed to carve a place out in the wasteland, characterising New Vegas as less desperate and more homely than other Fallout games — for better or for worse. Personally, I think it’s for the better. The theme of coming together and making the best of it for everyone is central to New Vegas, and Novac is a symptom of that.

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Leading the Pack: Lara Croft From ‘Tomb Raider’

Tomb Raider

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

Hey there, FemHype crew! Welcome back to “Leading the Pack,” where we examine some of the very best women and nonbinary folk in games. This week, we’re going to take a look at one of the characters who was—and still is—a true leader in the industry: Lara Croft.

Simply chronologically, Lara is one of the earliest representations of women in games. She first appeared way back in 1996, meaning that she been around for 20 years and is still going strong! Thanks to this longevity, Lara has gone through many iterations. At least 23 games feature her as a protagonist. Accordingly, she has changed much throughout her digital lifetime, reflecting equivalent changes in the industry. It is these changes that we will focus on in order to examine the ways in which Lara has been both a leader and a product of her time.

Thematically, Lara was specifically designed to be a leader in representation. Deciding that the originally designed protagonist for Tomb Raider was too similar to Indiana Jones, designer Jeremy Smith eventually settled on a South American woman named Lara Cruz. While she was unfortunately changed to an English woman, this was—and to some extent, still is—a significant deviation from the standard player character of the time, if not as significant as it could have been.

This was a specific choice by the developers at Core Design who wanted to generate interest for their game by specifically countering the stereotypes and expectations of game protagonists. Clearly, the simplest way to do this was by having her be a woman, but they were also careful to go against the issues that plagued the few women in games at the time. Therefore, they stuck to the personality and skills of other video game protagonists even as they changed her gender, making her an athletic, determined, and intelligent adventurer.

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The Room Where It Happens: The Temple of Time From ‘The Legend of Zelda’

The Legend of Zelda

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

There’s no denying that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the most enduring games ever created. Even if you haven’t played it, you probably recognise its characters, locations, and music. But, as in many games, there is one area that encapsulates the whole experience for me—a place where everything came together, a place that I think of immediately when the game comes to mind, and a place that serves as a microcosm of what makes the game great. Examining those areas or levels is the intention of this series: “The Room Where It Happens.”

Even though I played Ocarina of Time long after it originally came out, I didn’t know anything about it. When my sister and I played together, I would use the controller and she would tell me where to go and what to do, and we slowly giggled our way through this Hyrule adventure during the course of one summer.

Following the opening, player character Link is tasked with collecting three spiritual stones. This is a hefty quest, requiring one to beat three dungeons complete with puzzles and boss fights. Since we also spent plenty of time just exploring the world and were generally playing in short bursts with lots of time away from the game, this felt like a long undertaking.

When we finally had three glittering gems to show for it, I was pleased, but also disappointed. We had succeeded; the stones would open the Temple of Time, allowing the power of the mystical Triforce kept within to defeat the evil in the world of Hyrule. Great! But my sister and I wouldn’t have anything to play together anymore.

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Now Play This: The Weird & the Wonderful at London Games Festival

Now Play This

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

Did you know it was London Games Festival last week? It was! If you strained your eyes across the pond, or over the Alps, or, in my case, “three hours south on the train,” you would have seen London alive with that very best of things: gaming.

London Games Festival is a 10-day event (I think that must be some kind of experimental new metric week) that is the result of a partnership between Film London; Ukie, the national trade association for games; and the Mayor of London’s London Enterprise Panel. Did I mention it was in London? In case you didn’t get that yet, you can check out its website, which is at the extremely strange URL: games.london.

The festival is a nice idea and comes alongside investments in the UK games industry, which has currently suffered some losses with the closure of Lionhead (and possibly others) by Microsoft, as well as Evolution Studios by Sony. The festival included many summits, including ones on virtual reality, audio, finance, and eSports, and some games showcases, including Now Play This. Oh, and Mario, the Musical, of course.

Sadly, I was not able to attend Mario, the Musical, but I was able to attend Now Play This, which was a delightful three-day exploration of “the wider possibilities of games.” This meant that I got to try out many weird and wonderful games, as well as sit in on interviews and other talks. Here are some of the highlights.

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