First off, sorry for the Buzzfeed-esque numbered list. Hopefully this will have a little more thought than Mean Girls .gifs and “I LITERALLY JUST CAN’T RIGHT NOW” as an explanation.
Having grown up with two brothers, I always wanted to be in on the fun. When my older brother and I were little, my mom said I was “monkey see, monkey do,” because I was always mimicking his ridiculous and probably dangerous antics. Well, that translated to a hobby so simple as video games as well. Unfortunately, young Amanda didn’t see as many playable female characters. Pokemon games didn’t introduce a female option until Crystal in generation II–I’d played through Blue, Red, Yellow and Silver as a male character. Racing games in which you could “pick your racer” showed men in serious racing garb, while the women wore tight t-shirts and panties (or in kids’ games wore all pink, were depicted as completely annoying/bitchy and sported blonde pigtails). I previously wrote about the sexualization of men and women in video games, but women are still really underrepresented and treated differently than their male counterparts. And oftentimes when they are represented, they’re in “damsel in distress” roles. Looking at you, Princess Peach and Kairi.
However, recent studies are showing that women outnumber men in the world of online gaming. I’m going to take this with a grain of salt because Facebook minigames and iPhone games like Flappy Bird and Quizup are included in these statistics and the stat doesn’t represent the number of women playing more “serious,” or immersive online games like League of Legends, EVE Online or Battlefield–which are still dominated by men (and, speaking from experience, very intimidating to get into as a woman).
So, let’s get on with it. My favorite bad bitches (playable and non-playable) in video games. Not in any specific order. And no Cortana. Cortana is Master Chief’s Siri with boobs, and I’m sick of the “big men doing work, sexy girl kind of sort of showing him where to go.” Looking at you, first Gears of War.
FemShep from the Mass Effect trilogy
Mass Effect is one of my favorite series ever. While yes, you can choose at the start of the game whether you want to play as a man or a woman, the characters differ once you step into the vast universe of Mass Effect. Mass Effect is great because while it has a linear plot, you choose Shepard’s back story, who Shepard decides to align with and pretty much make every decision in the trilogy, which can change the game dramatically (we won’t talk about the last 15 minutes of ME3). She can do everything her male counterpart can, and while her higher-ups are pretty much all men (I have hesitation considering Aria a “higher-up”) she’s the one who gets to save the universe with futuristic guns and alien diplomacy. Plus she’s voiced by Jennifer Hale, who is a total badass. Honorable mention for the Mass Effect series is my girl Jack and the haunting Samara.
GLaDOS from Portal
The only non-playable gal on this list. Everyone, everyone loves GLaDOS. Finally, we have an awesome and hilarious female antagonist–even if she is a robot. Portal is my favorite puzzle game, and not just because both the protagonist and the antagonist are women. You play as Chell, a test subject for Aperture Science’s new invention, the portal gun. As a matter of fact, Chell is equally qualified to be on this list, despite the fact that you don’t hear her talk at all through the two games. The idea is pretty simple: The gun shoots two portals. Go in one portal, come out the other. Until the tests start getting more difficult and the player is challenged to start “thinking with portals” in order to complete each level. GLaDOS runs the seemingly-deserted Aperture Science facility, “guiding” you through the tests… sort of. She basically mocks and demoralizes the player throughout the game, telling you that “Science has now validated your birth mother’s decision to abandon you on a doorstep.” Hilarious and ruthless. Check out IGN’s Top 10 GLaDOS quotes, then pick up both Portal and its sequel. Seriously.
Faith Connors from Mirror’s Edge
I love Faith. I love Faith so much. Also, as a side note, Faith isn’t white, and if you think women are underrepresented, try finding non-white female video game characters. Yeah. It’s sad. Anyway, Mirror’s Edge is a fast-paced free running game set in the dystopian future. You play the tatted-up chick who intercepts government intel illegally, then runs through cities, dodges bullets and fights armed government agents, unarmed. If you’ve ever played games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and thought, “I want more parkour,” then this game is for you. Faith could kick Ezio’s ass anyway, and she wouldn’t need da Vinci’s help to do it. Get stoked, because only recently was a sequel announced.
Maya from Borderlands 2
She’s kind of socially awkward and her dialogue can be geeky (“I’m capable of phaselocking enemies into another dimension where they will die a prolonged, painful death. If this is not appealing to you, we have nothing to talk about.” …ok Maya calm ur shit ur kinda weird). But playing through this sequel as Maya is ridiculously fun. Borderlands 2, IGN’s reader’s choice winner for Game of the Year in 2012, is set on the planet Pandora. The tyrant Handsome Jack is attempting to unleash the Warrior and take over Pandora. The player can choose one of four default characters (“Vault Hunters”) or one of six if they buy the expansion packs. Two of those six are women–Gaige and Maya. While Maya falls under the stereotypical “healer-witch” class of female characters, she is easily the most fun character to play with, and the most desired character in online parties for her versatility. With the right perks and right guns, she is the most well-rounded character for both single and multiplayer. Not only did Gearbox completely knock it out of the park with this game, but they offer cheap expansion packs that add whole new game modes and regions for you to explore. One of the most entertaining games on this list, and the only one that offers local and wireless multiplayer. No shame in admitting my 367 hours logged. Okay maybe a little shame.
Oh god that’s more than two straight weeks of video games oh my god I have no friends.
Lara Croft from Tomb Raider
No self-respecting “top female of video games” list leaves out Lara effing Croft. I was first introduced to the Tomb Raider games when I saw my uncle playing one when I was really young. I don’t even remember how old I was, considering the first Tomb Raider was released in 1996, but I was still in my single digits. Lara Croft was the first female video game protagonist I’d ever seen, and I remember pretty much flipping my shit when I saw this armed, braided heroine until I was ushered away from the unladylike video game. As cheesy as it sounds, seeing a badass chick in a serious video game made me inspired as a little girl. I’d always been taught that video games are for boys, and I just happened to like something for boys. It changed my perception on video games after that, despite being told that Tomb Raider was still for boys. Nah, how about no.
So take a break from finals week and play some video game while furthering feminism. Because that’s what your professors want you to do. And you deserve it.