Analysis, Feminism

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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Analysis, Feminism

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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Analysis, Feminism

Leading the Pack: Kate From ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

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

Hey there, FemHype crew, and welcome back to “Leading the Pack.” Today, I want to discuss the protagonist from one of my very favourite games: Dr. Katherine Collins, or Kate for short. This post will contain spoilers for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture!

Discussing Kate is interesting because we never see or interact with her in the game. In fact, we never see or interact with any characters in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. All that we learn about the residents of the fictional (but incredibly realistic) town of Yaughton we learn from lingering fragments of conversations that inhabit the valley, despite the people who once spoke those words now being nowhere to be found.

Nonetheless, Raptures clever storytelling means that we learn much about Kate. She is an American scientist who moved to Britain when her husband Stephen decided to return to his childhood village. Kate takes a job in the valley’s observatory, working on astronomy. Hooray for ladies in STEM fields!

Things are not all good for Kate, though. She and Stephen argue frequently, and he ends up cheating on her with his ex-fiancé, Lizzie. Kate also dislikes the sleepy small town life, and small town life dislikes her right back. Her mother-in-law, Wendy, insists that she doesn’t fit in. She also insists this isn’t because Kate is black, but it seems to have an awful lot to do with the fact that Kate is black. Other characters are also not as enthusiastic as I am about women in STEM, and seem to think Kate should have some children rather than work. Whilst this would be a valid thing to do, it’s clearly not what Kate wants, and the villagers disrespect her choice.

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Analysis, Feminism

Leading the Pack: Nora (Sole Survivor) From ‘Fallout 4’

Fallout 4

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

Hi, FemHype crew, and welcome back to “Leading the Pack.” This time around, I want to look at a character who’s a little different from those in previous installments: Nora, one of the possible “Sole Survivors” from Fallout 4. This post will contain spoilers!

I use “Nora” as a shorthand for the Sole Survivor since it’s her default name if the player chooses to play as a woman, but of course this is a Fallout game, and the Sole Survivor’s gender and name are player determinant. More than that, the Sole Survivor’s personality, looks, and skill set will never be exactly the same for any two players. Additionally, while “Leading the Pack usually praises developers for creating detailed and interesting characters, Bethesda totally fumbled on how they handled Nora. This is less a celebration and more a discussion about greatness that was stumbled upon by accident.

Much virtual ink has been spilled on this subject, and I don’t want to delve into it too closely here, but suffice it to say it is clear that Bethesda expected players to choose Nate (i.e. the Sole Survivor who is a man) as their playable character. For example, at various points throughout the game, poor scripting will mean the wrong pronouns are used if Nora is chosen. Additionally, the opening cinematic of the game shows Nate talking about his military background and his desire to protect his family; Nora gets no voice in this introduction.

We first properly meet both Nate and Nora in the pre-war segment that opens the game. At this point, both are barely fleshed out, no matter how much time you spend in that wonderful character creator. (Personally, my first Nora was a quick job, as I wanted to get into the main part of the game, but when survival mode comes out, I’m planning a replay. There will be some serious time put into making my new Nora look perfect.) They are a married couple with a new baby, Shaun. As I said, Nate was a soldier, but instead, Nora has a law degree and it is implied that she was not working both prior to and following Shaun’s birth.

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Analysis, Feminism, Health

Leading the Pack: Max & Chloe From ‘Life Is Strange’

Life Is Strange

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

Welcome back to “Leading the Pack,” FemHype crew! Today, I want to look at not one, but two fabulous video game ladies: Max Caulfield and Chloe Price from Life Is Strange. I want to examine these two together because they’re great counterparts of each other as well as fantastic characters in their own right. For example, while Max is shy and Chloe is outspoken, both help the other to come out of their shell, and they deal with some of their own insecurities through the continual care and support they show each other.

Chloe and Max grew up together in Arcadia Bay, a fictional city in Oregon, before Max left and the two lost contact. However, at the beginning of the game, Max has returned to attend Blackwell Academy’s prestigious photography course. Max loves photography—from artistic metaphorical shots to the simple selfie (although, as we learn, the selfie has a long history beginning with the Daguerreian process). Max herself decries the idea that these selfies are something to be made fun of. As she says, she’s in great company, and they seem to help her self-confidence, which she sometimes struggles with.

Chloe also struggles with self-image, and many fans celebrate her character as a realistic and positive portrayal of borderline personality disorder, along with other mental illnesses such as depression. Despite these struggles, she remains an extremely supportive and loyal person. One of the first things we learn about her is that she is the only one who made an effort to look for the missing Rachel Amber, and she continually supports Max in believing in herself and her dreams of becoming a professional, award-winning photographer.

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Analysis, Feminism

Leading the Pack: Josephine Montilyet From ‘Dragon Age’

Dragon Age

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

Hi, and welcome back to “Leading the Pack,” where we celebrate the very best women and nonbinary characters from games! Today we’ll be taking a look at the ambassador of my heart, Josephine Montilyet from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Where to begin with the joy that is Josephine? Ambassador for the Inquisition, Josephine can help out by gaining gold, resources, and favours all through her powers of persuasion and political scheming. Unlike her counterparts Commander Cullen and Spymaster Leliana, her solutions are usually bloodless, but nonetheless just as effective. Truly, Josephine proves the old adage that the pen can be mightier than the sword.

While she’s a strong and persuasive political ally, Josephine is also one of the nicest people in the world of Thedas. Amidst all the chaos that unravels during the game, she remains a true friend to the Inquisitor throughout. In her very first introduction to the player, she will greet a Dalish Inquisitor in their native language when most regard them with suspicion, demonstrating her open-mindedness and consideration for the Inquisitor’s feelings.

In her final scene of the epilogue DLC “Trespasser,” she will take the Inquisitor to an opera to help them unwind despite admitting that she has been bad at taking time off for herself lately. It’s clear throughout the game that Josephine is always supportive, considerate, and helpful in any way that she can be.

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