This is rather depressing.
I was hoping that last month’s Bitmob Writing Challenge, The Real Girls of Gaming, would inspire more of a turnout than the last couple of writing prompts have had. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as only one other person besides me did the challenge, even after I extended the deadline to April 3.
A few people have commented that they didn’t have the time to contribute to the challenge, but does the meager showing also demonstrate how few women in games we're willing to take seriously? Even girls who aren't damsels in distress or one-note stereotypes are dicey picks because they’re often dressed or posed in ways that are obviously meant to appeal to male audiences.
But at least I have two submissions to share with you, and since I have the space, I'll also go over a few other characters I considered for my example prompt.
Nakoruru: The Real Captain Planet
By Jonathan Oyama
This priestess based off of the Ainu culture of northern Japan is one of the most recognizable warriors in the Samurai Shodown franchise. Nakoruru is a small but fast fighter who uses a short blade in unison with her hawk and wolf companions, which is still a very unique combat style even by today's standards. She is also one of the best designs to come from SNK, a company known for memorable characters. Jonathan writes about Nakoruru’s charming ways and muddled backstory in a piece that was featured in our Spotlight roundup a few weeks ago.
The Real Girls of Gaming example prompt: Akira Kazama
By Chris Hoadley
While the other high-school combatants in Capcom’s obscure Rival Schools series battle with fireballs and baseball bats, Akira only needs traditional martial arts to beat opponents down. OK, one of her super attacks is a close-range fireball, but it’s only to show that she can do that stuff as well, if she felt like it.
Besides showing up to fights in motorcycle gear instead of glorified lingerie, Akira also has a secret identity and a story line that makes your yearbook adventures seem pathetic in comparison.
So what other women did I consider for this prompt? One was Rose, the mysterious fortune teller from the Street Fighter series. Rose's Soul Power stands in contrast to M. Bison's Psycho Power, and she is on a quest to defeat the would-be dictator even at the cost of her life. She’s portrayed as a guide for characters like Ryu and Cammy and as a tenuous love interest to the stoic ninja Guy, but she's also powerful in her own right.
In actual matches, her fighting style revolves around taking her opponents out of their comfort zone and capitalizing on mistakes. There's no flowchart to win consistently with her, and for me that's a welcome challenge.
A more obscure choice I considered was Maria Traydor from Star Ocean: Til the End of Time, who doesn’t appear in the role-playing game until 30 hours in and was rarely shown in promotional material.
It’s a shame — the first half of the game is about a bland, ordinary student stranded on a medieval planet. Meanwhile, Maria is the leader of an intergalactic resistance movement searching for the man who genetically altered her body. The game's story is dull and goes nowhere until she shows up to explain everything. That only makes me wonder why she wasn’t the main character in the first place.
Another pick was Lightning from Final Fantasy 13. She’s your standard badass action heroine who hides her sensitive side from others, but I loved just how far Square Enix ran with it. Lightning is unmatched in athletic prowess, rides a six-eyed electric robo-horse, and delivers one-liners with impunity. Best of all, she does it all without any pandering camera angles to ruin her credibility. I didn’t want to take away an obvious choice for the challenge, however, and the blog Go Make Me a Sandwich has a great profile on her already.
In my reminder article, I mentioned that not every choice for this challenge would be free from criticism. A borderline example I’ve been thinking about lately is Morrigan from Darkstalkers. This succubus is inherently about sex and seduction, but the focus of her in-game animations is her morphing bat wings and teasing attitude, not showing off her body.
Unlike many female fighters, she's also aware of her own power and control over others. She's not fixated on revenge, a tool manipulated by a male master, or brainless fan service. Morrigan isn’t the pinnacle of feminism, but she’s an example of how to create a sexy character without going overboard.
I don’t regret posting this challenge, as many of these prompts are based on articles I wanted to write anyway. Thanks to Jonathan for participating, and be sure to check out Jeremy Signor’s Humor Me challenge for this month. If there are any submissions I missed or if you have suggestions about what you would like to see in these challenges, let me know in the comments.