As I’m sat here staring into my half empty pint, I start to ponder why the clientèle of the Red Lion consists almost exclusively of blokes. I was in the Crown the other night and that was a sausage-fest as well. I put the question to my drinking buddy, who replies with the staggeringly profound “Quality not quantity mate”. Armed with this new enlightened mindset, I browse the room again. Understanding and realisation hits me like a train. The girl by the bar is a ten and as for that bird in the corner, well just looking at her is giving me a funny feeling in my pants. The pub is looking like a brighter place already, I’m nursing a semi and my pint has suddenly become half full.
When you look at the male dominated games industry with this same perspective, you may be surprised to notice that some of the most important characters in its history are actually female. Lets take a look at some of gaming best females:
Many people like to accredit girl power to the spice girls, but that’s bollocks, they are clearly forgetting Samus Aran. For anyone that has never played a metroid game, Samus is a badass power suit wearing solider of fortune who first appeared in 1986, waaaay before the spice girls. If you “wannabe” a spice girls lover, you gotta get with their friends -yeah, well Samus Aran isn’t looking for a lover. She’s looking for space pirates and her friends are an arm cannon and rocket pods. That’s real girl power! Metroid is widely reguarded as a ground breaking title. Combining elements of platforming with exploration, it paved the way for other classics such as Castlevania.
Since her 1985 “damsel in distress” introduction, its often hard to think as Princes Peach Toadstool as anything other than a liability. Constantly getting kidnapped by Bowser and always in need of saving by the super Mario bros. The often overlooked reality is that not many characters can boast the impressive resume of games under their belt, through such a diverse skill range, as the Princess. In 1988 Peach made her playable character debut in none other than Super Mario Bros 2, one of the best selling games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. She went on to be a successful kart racer, tennis player, golfer, footballer, baseball star and probably some others that I’ve forgotten. She’s even had cameo roles as playable characters in SSX and NBA street. 2006’s Super Princess Peach saw the reversal of the established norm as Peach was tasked with saving the kidnapped Super Mario Bros from Vibe Island, finally putting an end to the old cliche of her 1985 debut role.
As the credits rolled on Goldeneye 64, Rare informed gamers that “James Bond will return”. It think its fair to say that most of us were more than a little surprised when he returned as the sleek, smart and sexy Joanna Dark in Rare’s “Perfect Dark” for the N64. Set in the near future, you play the role of a female secret agent using a combination of guns n gadgets to infiltrate and investigate the “evil” Datadyne corporation. The game took the solid foundation build by Goldeneye and expanded upon it, creating a game every bit worthy of the critical acclaim that it received. With a metacritc score of 97% and some critics claiming it to be the best game on the N64 (bear in mind Ocarina of time was released on N64), its safe to say that Perfect Dark is one of the greatest games in gaming history.
Despite my own fairly negative feelings towards the Sega Saturn console, it was the platform that, in 1996, launched what went on to become a hugely successful media franchise; Tomb raider. The game is centred around the exploits of English archaeologist Lara Croft as she hunts down ancient artefacts from various Tombs around the world. The gameplay is a well balanced combination of exploration, shooting, puzzle solving and platforming. Tomb raider was a integral part of the 3D action adventure genre, serving as a template that other games would go on to follow. Many of today’s classic’s, like the uncharted series of games, can be accredited to the fundamentals that were created by Tomb raider. Lara Croft herself has gone on to become one of gaming most recognised and loved characters. The story of Lara Croft and Tomb raider has branched out not only to gaming sequels, but also comic books, novels, movies and even theme park rides! Over the course of its nine game history, Tomb raider has become soo established that its currently in the process of having a reboot with a much awaited 2013 release, simply entitled Tomb Raider.
You can’t mention “survival horror” without talking about the game that coined the phrase in the first place, Resident Evil. Although the game series could be said to be losing its way a little, you can’t begrudge its solid root’s with the original Resident evil game. One of the games two selectable characters was Jill Valentine, explosives expert and member of Raccoon cities Special Tactics and Rescue Service (STARS) alpha team. She finds herself taking refuge in a, thought to be, abandoned mansion after a mission to regain contact with the missing Bravo team goes to shit. Despite being unprepared and under resourced, Jill is able to use cunning, skill and in my case, lots of running away, to take on the undead inhabitants and escape the mansion. Since her inception, Jill has played a significant part in the resident evil series and story. She’s the main protagonist in Resident Evil 3, where she teams up with with a double crossed mercenary and escapes the overrun, zombie infested Raccoon city, despite under constant thread from a bio-organic weapon (monster) called “Nemesis”. Jill Valentines part in Resident Evil could be said to be more stable and important than the convoluted mess the series has become.