Top 5 intersectional women in video games

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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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

The rise of episodic video games

In a world full of endless DLC content, additional game packages, and bonus in-game keepsakes maps, it seems video game companies are having a hard time packaging full games for consumer consumption.

Or, more likely they’re just not giving us full games and are instead keeping us permanently strung out and always looking for that next hit of content.

Nuka World” is a perfect example.

The Bethesda twitter account, which I follow religiously, has been giving us sneak peeks of the new DLC for weeks before finally releasing it on August 30 to a flurry of user downloads.

While I haven’t actually gotten the time to sit down and play the new DLC myself, I can’t help but wonder why extra downloadable content has become such a popular marketing model for AAA consoles and beyond.

Along the same lines, why are there so many episodic games of late?

Episodic games are basically teaser DLC content on steroids and they have become increasingly popular in recent years.

“Life is Strange,” Telltale’s “Batman” and, well, Telltale’s everything, basically.

Telltale Games first rose to prominence in the gaming world with the 2011 release of their “Walking Dead” series. For those who haven’t played, the game’s first season follows the down-on-his-luck convict Lee and how he deals with the fallout of the zombie apocalypse.

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Everything goes about as well as you might expect, but somewhere in between the gruesome face-gnawing and head-exploding that comes with the zombiefied territory, Telltale managed to hook audiences with their story-rich gameplay.

While the game lacked the point-and-shoot action of comparable AAA games, it had everything else gamers could want: great graphics, developed characters, high-key suspense and dialogue that kept us coming back.

“The Walking Dead” was wildly successful for an episodic game, belaying a rise in popularity for similar games.

The trend was easy to ignore when it was just Telltale.

But now it seems episodic games are popping up everywhere you look. “Life is Strange” from Square Enix, “Heavy Rain” from Sony and others.

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Not that I don’t enjoy these games. In fact, the greater the story, the move involvement I can have in the players actions, the more I love a game.

The thing I’m having a hard time coming to terms with is the format of the game themselves.

While the concept is pretty unique (or at least, it was a couple years ago) and the idea of a slow, timed release an admittedly brilliant feat of marketing genius, it is still hard for me to commit myself to this new form of packaged game content.

I’m reluctant to love up on these games too much because I’ve only played the ones that have already been completely released. “Tales from the Borderlands” was absolutely amazing, especially in the way it handled Handsome Jack’s death and his subsequent resurrection. I also really liked being able to play both Rhys, handsome company man, and Fiona, the quick-witted Pandoran con-artist.

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But that game was already completely released by the time I played it. And while they had an opening segment narrated by the game’s gun master Marcus Kincaid that constantly evolved with my in-game choices, I still feel that had I actually waited the designated time between releases I would have either gone crazy or lost interest entirely.

Case in point, episode one “Zero Sum” was released a full four months before the second, “Atlas Mugged,” which was released another three months before the third.

I like to think I’m pretty good at time management and about rewarding myself with video games after a long week, but even I couldn’t bear waiting that long between episodes.

It’s like watching a TV show on Netflix. While I like the periodic breaks between episodes, it’s always better to gasp at the show’s cliffhanger, speculate wildly about what will happen, and then hit next episode.

I don’t know if episodic gaming is here to stay, or if it will still be popular in five years when I stumble upon this blog and cringe at my poor life choices, but I can say it will be interesting to watch.

In the mean time, my wallet will cry with each new installment and I will await the day a video game is finally packaged whole, with no DLC or additional downloads to suffer through.

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

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