The world is—justifiedly so—placing a bigger emphasis on equality; gender, race, and class themes are now a big part of the current media mainstream. But, one thing that many don’t know is that many of these issues have been running through video games almost since the beginning. Yes, women in video games have always been a thing. And, if the future continues to look this good, their continued presence will contribute to an even better tomorrow.
Sure, when you think about video games, you probably think about macho posturing, big muscles, and huge explosions. And while there’s certainly no shortage of that, we’re only scratching the surface of these interactive worlds. In fact, women have always had a place of honor in the pantheon of awesome, capable video game protagonists. Of course, there was also no small supply of “damsel in distress” archetypes, and old-timey cliché excuses to spur the (mostly male) protagonists into motion.
But, as other mediums, like films and books, pushed women to the forefront, so did video games. And, mind you, they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. Today, we’re going to explore some of the history of women in video games. We’ll look at:
- The history of female protagonists in gaming
- Issues and controversies with representation
- The contributions of women to gaming and games
- Why you’d definitely want to do female characters “right”
- Where to find amazing vocal talents for your female characters
Ready? Let’s dive right in!
Women in Video Games — There From the Start?
Video games were historically a male-dominated field. But, modern means of data collection are shedding light on just how much that status quo is changing. According to the Entertainment Software Association:
Women players in the United States increased from 40% in 2010 to 48% in 2014. Today, despite the dominant perception that most gamers are men, the ratio of female to male gamers is rather balanced, mirroring the population at large.
Regardless of perception, though, even when gaming was stereotyped as the province of teen boys and male nerds, women were always there. Not just as gamers, coders, designers, writers, marketers, and creators, though, but also as protagonists.
Us lovers of classic games can tell you that for every testosterone-fueled Hollywood knock-off 80s video game hero, there was at least one memorable heroine in gaming. And yes, this was even so in the 80s, where many industries weren’t exactly forward-thinking. Even before the much-needed clarion call of modern feminist analysis, women in video games had a place of honor.
That’s not to say that the fact that women went on adventures—and kicked as much butt as their male counterparts— meant that everything was dandy, though; there were still plenty of tired tropes like damsels in distress and excessive sexualization, with muscular men and girls in skimpy clothing. But, even then, no one would’ve dared question the awesomeness of female-led video games.
And this, remember, was during a time when women’s rights were only coming into the spotlight. If you looked at some of the discussions during that time, it almost seemed like the general public’s mindset was still stuck in the 50s. Things like whether women could perform traditionally “male” roles. be out of the house, make as much as men, etc., were not even a twinkle in people’s eye.
Women in Video Games — Making History
So, what are some examples? After all, Princess Peach was in the first Super Mario, but she kept being rescued by Mario Himself. Well, actually, he was rescuing her from as far back as the first Donkey Kong game. What are some historic cases of women breaking down doors and taking names alongside their male counterparts, though?
Sega was always at the forefront of putting women in video games. This 1985 platforming gem is just one among many examples. Chalk one up for diversity and Sega! The beginning of this game already showed a deconstruction of the “rescue the princess” trope. At the very start, Kurumi is carried away by an evil usurper’s henchmen. Sounds like the start of every 80s video game, right? But, the twist comes when she easily breaks free and gets ready to deliver some butt whooping and reclaim her kingdom.
Princess Kurumi also had the honor of starting a wave of ninja-themed games with female protagonists in the 80s. Minus some points to Sega for switching Kurumi up with a dude in the Master System port of the game for American audiences, though. I guess they thought people couldn’t handle a strong female lead in the US.
Lode Runner’s Rescue
The original Lode Runner was a platforming game with a male protagonist. But, in a pretty original twist, in Lode Runner’s Rescue, it’s his daughter who has to rescue the original main character. This time, the game is a 2D isometric puzzle game with some action elements.
Hardcore Gaming 101 said it much better than I ever could:
How long do we have to wait before video games free themselves from the boundaries of the young, always sexually attractive yet never sexually active supermodel heroines? No need to wait at all! Thirty years ago, Commodore 64 owners got to play as a crazy old hag who hysterically runs around hitting pedestrians with her cane. That is… not a very favorable depiction. The idea is insane, the game utter garbage, but hey, at least the protagonist is really something else.
Of course, there are many, many more examples that step outside the scope of this article. I just wanted it known that, while it was not the standard, there were always women in video games.
Issues and Controversies With Representation
Of course, the fact that there were women in video games doesn’t mean they were done right. There was always an issue with representation, diversity, and also variety. For instance, while trans women appeared in many Japanese games, they rarely received a serious treatment that was respectful of their identity.
Then, there was the matter of over-sexualization and stereotyping. Thankfully, both of these issues—and other ones— are at the forefront of innovations in gaming scriptwriting. Today, things are much more diverse, inclusive, and wide-ranging than before, mirroring the notions of society at large.
But, we’ve definitely got a ways to go. The good thing is that the public is much more discerning about the roles offered to women in video games. You just can’t just pull a fast one on your audience anymore. Which is, again, not to say that every female needs to be strong, empowered, or perfect. Rather, it means that today we’ve got a keener eye that leans towards developed, three-dimensional human beings that are not just there to propel the plot forward, but have their own interests, agendas, and inner worlds.
How to Do Women in Video Games Right
That’s the question, isn’t it? How do you create characters that resonate with your audience and are still part of a good story? In “Video Game Strong Female Scripts” we float the following ideas:
- Provide a backstory. When, where, and how did the character come into being? The more you can ground them and provide them with past experiences, desires, and motivations of their own, the more fleshed out they will be.
- Flaws. While you may be tempted to make your character perfect, that’s not what makes a female lead—or any lead at all— compelling. Character flaws, foibles, and even failures are normal for every human being. Why would it be different for your character? Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 was so stressed out by her knowledge of the future that she came off as crazy, or too intense. Women in video games are not supposed to be perfect; they’re supposed to be people, not perfect creatures.
- Don’t fall for old clichés. Try to make the character relatable, but also unique.
- Let the character be strong in her own ways. While letting your female character do whatever men do is OK, there are also many other ways for them to shine. It’s not all about combat ability, but brains, cunning, inventiveness. Adventure games have always had a good track record of extremely capable and smart women.
Where Do I Find Female Voice Actresses?
At least that’s going to be the easy part. Bunny Studio is your go-to source for amazing vocal talents of all ages and genders. And, of course, we’re not going to drop the ball here, are we? We know how important women in video games are. In fact, the video game industry has quietly overtaken the film industry in size, scope, and even net profits.
And even more important is knowing that, which such a wide, diverse fanbase, it’s crucial to do female roles right. So, we offer you a selection of female vocal talents that numbers in the thousands and is rapidly moving into the tens of thousands. Trust me, you’ll be able to find just the right type of voice for any video game project here, be it a heroine, villainess, or bit part in your upcoming game.
And, to top it off, we’ll provide excellent talent while:
- Making sure the actresses deliver their work in a quick, efficient way that makes sense for you and your project.
- Providing amazing rates.
- Giving you an amazing money-back guarantee in case you’re not 100% satisfied (you will be, trust us).
- Follow the whole process with an unmatched team of QA specialists that make sure you’ve got what you need at every turn.
Ready to find the perfect voice for your female characters? Hit us up today, submit a project, and let’s get crackin’!