Top 5 intersectional women in video games

Or why a “color-blind” approach to women in gaming isn’t going to cut it.

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It’s no secret that the gaming industry loves the heterosexual white male protagonist. While some steps have been made recently to break the mold (both in the gaming industry and in a larger pop culture context), of the most popular games of 2016, white men were often the featured protagonists.

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Female players make up nearly half of the gaming population, but a paper published in New Media & Society reveals that nearly 90 percent of primary game characters are white males.
Source: Valkymie.tumblr.com

Don Reisinger of Fortune reported on the most popular games according to data from the research firm NDP and the results might not surprise you. Of the top three games – “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” “Battlefield I” and “Tom Clancy’s: The Division” – all of them featured a white male in a main role.

To be completely fair, some had multiplayer or differing story options where players could choose from a variety of characters, but giving players the option to choose from a diversified range of characters is different from actually giving them one intersectional character to play. It’s the same idea behind letting players choose between a male and female character, like many RPGs have done for ages, versus forcing the player’s hand in choosing a female protagonist.

But that’s an issue for another blog.

Setting the issue of diversified men aside, if you’ve kept up with this blog, you probably know I’m in favor of more female protagonists in video games. So I’ve compiled a list of gaming’s top five intersectional women to increase awareness and to advocate for a future where not just more women are featured but more intersectional women are featured as gaming protagonists.

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Aveline de Grandpré ~ “Assassin’s Creed: Liberation”
A mixed race Assassin born of a wealthy French merchant and an African slave, Aveline is a badass lady whose biracial and multinational identity is an integral part of her quest to liberate New Orleans from Templar influence. She recognizes many of the contrasts in 18th century American society and works to correct them, as much as she is able as one lone Assassin against the innumerable and immeasurable forces of injustice and oppression.
Source: Walldevil.com

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Chell ~ “Portal” series
While little is actually known about the “Portal” and “Portal 2” protagonist, the video game canon has generally concluded that Chell is of white European and East or Southeast Asian descent. She is also most likely the daughter of an Aperture Science employee with strong ties to the company as their number one test subject and as one of the only living employees/characters encountered in the game’s universe.
Source: Secondtruth.com

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Clementine ~ “The Walking Dead” series
Simultaneously the cutest and most badass zombie apocalypse heroine I’ve every had the pleasure of playing, Clem is the most notable character out of the entire “Walking Dead” series, one who keeps coming back even when other characters drop like flies around her – or like distressed humans being eaten by their undead brethren. Although the Walking Dead wiki lists her race as African American, I’ve, personally, always believed her to be at least partially Asian. From the first episode of Season One, it’s apparent that she is of a middle class suburban background, but everything about her life pre-apocalypse is either assumed or dropped in hints throughout her interaction with Lee and other characters. Regardless, she’s an emotionally deep and incredibly real girl who players watch grow throughout the Telltale series.
Source: Thatvideogameblog.com

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Faith ~ “Mirror’s Edge” and “Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst”
Another badass gaming gal of mixed Asian and Caucasian descent, Faith Connors is the protagonist of the dystopian “Mirror’s Edge” series. In both games, she makes a living by running from an overzealous police force all while jumping, kicking and flipping her way in style through the City of Glass. Her story changes pretty dramatically from “Mirror’s Edge” to “Catalyst,” but Faith’s appearance and kickass attitude stay consistent. If anything, Faith becomes even cooler in the reboot as her hand-to-hand combat and parkour skills are revamped for the Frostbite 3 engine.
Source: Wallpapersite.com

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Nilin ~ “Remember Me”
I did a lot of scouring to try to uncover the actual racial makeup of Nilin, but as far as I could tell, she was only ever listed as “of a mixed ethnic origin.” While a lot of people on the internet were curious as to her official racial identity, a lot more seemed to think it didn’t matter. However, I say it does matter. While her ethnicity may not have played a large role in the game – as Connor’s Native American heritage did in “Assassin’s Creed III” – I still think it’s important to note racial distinctions because a deliberate diverse choice is better than the vocal equivalent of a shrugging emoji which is passed on as an attempt to minimize the effect of a potentially impactful choice.
Source: Wall.alphacoders.com

Even as I wrote this list, it became apparent to me that nearly all the characters that I chose – based on previous playing experience and critical commentary – were of a mixed racial or ethnic background. While I’m not saying that a mixed racial or ethnic identity is not important, I just think it’s something to note that game developers and designers felt they needed to throw a bit of white in with their diverse characters in order to get players to connect with them.

And if that doesn’t say anything about the state of female diversity in video games right now, I don’t know what does.

This isn’t so much a critique of the women in video games right now as it is a reminder that while we all work towards increasing female representation, we can’t just throw more white women at the problem and assume that fixes it.

If we truly want to increase female representation, then we need to take a long look at the intersectional makeup of our society and try to design and develop characters that reflect our multiethnic, multiracial, multinational, complex and beautiful female identity.

So game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

more intersectional women

Why we need gaming tutorials

However boring and asinine some game tutorials may be, it’s in crazy times like the ones we live in that make me wish life had a tutorial section (if only so I could know what exactly I’m supposed to be doing and how in the hell I should go about getting there).

The early minutes of gameplay are sometimes the most excruciating for veteran gamers, especially in those gems that have been played and replayed a hundred times or more.

For me, that’s the 2013 “Tomb Raider” and it’s 2015 sequel. Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag” is also high on my replay list along with Bethesda’s open-world RPGs “Skyrim,” “Fallout: New Vegas” and the most recent installment, “Fallout 4.”

Each time I start up one of the aforementioned games, I have to resign myself to the fact that there are certain areas I can’t explore, certain collectibles I can’t yet obtain and certain combat moves or actions I can’t perform because of my current level. And that can be irritating, especially when you know what lies behind that level 50 locked door and are just itching to grab that loot, even when you’re only a level 20.

But tutorials are some of the most important part of video games and must be included in order for games to reach larger potential audiences and to give you a clue as to just what in the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

This isn’t a matter that’s up for debate or one that’s particularly controversial, I just think it’s something important to be aware of at a time when the video game market is being flooded with remastered and remixed versions of past games.

But regardless of whether the game you’re playing is brand-new or a remastered classic, it will include some type of tutorial feature to either introduce you to the world of the new game or welcome you back.

Not all tutorials are created equal, however.

One of my “replayable” favorites, “Fallout: New Vegas” has a long concentrated tutorial that begins from the moment you leave Doc Mitchell’s house until you decide you’ve had enough of Sunny Smiles and her teachings of helpful wasteland survival skills.

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While irritating at times, Smiles was relatively helpful in introducing me to the features of “New Vegas” that were different from it’s predecessor, “Fallout 3.” ~ Source: PortForward.com. 

Other games like “Tomb Raider” and various “Assassin’s Creed” titles have a brief tutorial period but with various weapons and skills that are unlocked after enough gameplay. In a way, this extends the tutorial throughout the game, although many gamers would say that it is no longer a gaming “tutorial.”

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Both the hook blade and the rope arrow are examples of unlockable weapons that, while they aren’t included in the game tutorial, can count as tutorial content. ~ Source: TombRaiders.net and Bestandroidsolutions.com

Even with tutorials a lot of game mechanics can be difficult to understand like in the case of the 2013 Capcom release, “Remember Me.” Their Pressen and Combo Lab DLC feature was hard for me to grasp no matter how many times I played through and read over the tutorial section.

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In the end, I had to resign myself to playing through the game wildly smashing buttons rather than creating and executing the various combos the game wanted me to. ~ Source: Nerdist.com. 

So do I wish there was a way to skip through a game tutorial? Sometimes, yeah. But tutorials are part of what makes gaming so appealing to me. Because while some games allow differing dialogue options, quest goals and available paths, video games provide us with a clear start and stopping point, quest markers and even some bonus content along the way to make the journey to the goal arguably more enjoyable than the destination itself.

Now if only our regular lives could reflect the careful organization and coordination of our video games and their tutorials.

Until then, game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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