I want to set the mood. Light some candles, grab a blanket, and hit the play button above…How's that? Nice…Very nice…
The Metroid series has avoided me my entire life. I dabbled in Super Metroid as a kid, but it never grabbed me. I could recognize the quality of the art direction, the terrific sound, and the responsive controls, however, in retrospect, I think it was the pacing that I just couldn't grasp. I was a Sonic the Hedgehog fan. I wanted to run and jump to the right as fast as I could without stopping, which may be the exact opposite of what Metroid was ever trying to do. Metroid was all about thinking, solitude, and not only going right, but going left as well! It just didn't click with the eight year old me.
I have, of course, grown since then. I now crave changes in pace and value solitude when I can get it. Left? Yes. Right? Sure. Hell, I'll go forward. I feel I can handle such a challenge. Enter: Metroid Prime Trilogy. All three Prime games on one disk, reworked with fantastic Wii controls. Nice…Very nice…
I was in Game Stop. Buying Heavy Rain when I spotted the metal tin on top of a pile of video games. Opportunity hit me with a right hook.
"Is that the Metroid Prime Trilogy?" I asked.
As a grown up, I'm a little better at knowing when to act.
I said, "I'll take it."
And it's everything I hoped it would be. A first-person shooter, done right, on the Wii. But, it's so much more than that. It's exploration, mobility, combat, and that sense of solitude. It's like a first-person, Legend of Zelda with a plasma rifle and a jump button…excuse me while I wipe these tears of joy…
If the song has not ended yet, go ahead and fade it out nice and slow as I get to my point. Samus, Metroid's lead character, is great. She's strong, independent, and…wait for it…a woman. Not a surprise, I know. Samus's coming out is Video Game History 101. Beating the original Metroid ends with Samus removing her helmet and, to the surprise of the largely male gamer populace of the time, was a woman.
What? How could this be? She can run, jump, AND shoot? Mind blown. And I love it. Toying with expectations is, in my opinion, the strongest way for any artist to make their point. Women can be cool. Point made.
So, what makes Samus a strong female character at the forefront of feminism in games?
Well, to start, she's the opposite of the stereotype. Her breast don't bounce around in her face, she isn't whining every 10 seconds, and I'm pretty sure she hasn't tripped for no reason.
Also, she blows things up.
I know, I know. All without breaking a nail. Basically, what makes her great is she's not a complete embarrassment and that would make any character, male or female, good. While that's a step in the right direction, I don't want to see “strong” women being stripped of what should be making them, by contrast, interesting.
Being a woman.
A strong female lead should not be a gender neutral killing machine. She's aloud to be smart AND sexy. She can fire a pistol and flirt a little on the side. She doesn't need a giant chest; how about some confidence and self-respect. Guess what? Women wear make up. That doesn't make them weak, it makes them human. I don't want to see that lost for the sake of misguided gender equality. Give her the one-liner, and you'll make history. Video Game History 201: Women Can Be Funny.
There are female characters doing it right and definetly more on the way. Check out 1up's Top 5 for some great female characters; Alyx Vance of the Half-Life series and Jade from Beyond Good & Evil make the top two.
I'm enjoying the Metroid Prime series and Samus is a great character, but when you're playing a role with so much feminist weight behind it, you start to think about your take on it. For me I'm looking for a more complex charaterization of a strong female lead that just isn't there with Samus.
What I want to know from you, the reader, is what do you think makes a great female character? Are you satisfied with the growing complexity of women in video games? Any examples? Please leave some comments below.
Thanks for reading,