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Why Aloy is the Character Female Gamers Need

And Why We Need More Lead Characters Like Her

By Jen SullivanPublished about a year ago 6 min read
In game screenshot from "Horizon Forbidden West" (PS5)

Yes, I am an adult female gamer — a growing crowd over the last several years. I have been gaming since I was a little girl during the age of the ColecoVision and the Atari 2600. In a previous article titled “ The Evolution of a Female Gamer,” I shared my experiences as the gaming industry progressed, mainly playing online during the early days of Xbox Live. There is an area of gaming that has drawn the attention of the female gamer that I touched on a bit in that article: female lead characters.

I never really minded playing as a male character. It did not affect how I viewed myself and never made me feel that women could not be heroes. I have no doubt this was partly because I grew up watching re-runs of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter, who, although she was scantily dressed, showed that women can be strong and save the day. Years later, Xena: Warrior Princess would show us the same, but the world was already changing to accept more women in leadership roles when Xena came around.

In the gaming world, the increase in female gamers created a shift in characters until we finally had the option to play as a male or female lead. Some of the early characters left much to be desired in a female protagonist. However, these early characters made room for growth in the industry. Eventually, they would lead us to Aloy, a female protagonist who I consider to be one of the best female leading characters we have seen in a video game so far.

Female Leads in Games

One of the first female protagonists that always comes to my mind is Lara Croft. I honestly never cared for her or the Tomb Raider series in general. The games were not my style, and Lara was not a character to which I could relate. I didn’t care for exploring tombs or wandering through jungles, and it was clear that many gamers back then liked her simply for her breast size, which was unrealistic and ridiculous.

Over time, we got to see the evolution of female leads in games. Personally, I prefer when a game gives me the choice of male or female — I hate when I am forced to take on the role of some tiny-waisted girl who is there just as something to attract the attention of teenage boys. That was how I saw Lara Croft in the early days, and I preferred to stick with Duke Nukem, who would insult Lara at every opportunity. Sometimes I like to play as a male character, sometimes not — it depends on the game and, more recently, sometimes depends on which option my husband picks.

I remember being excited when Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic came out and I could choose to play as a woman. Not some British archaeologist, but a fighter out to save the universe. Later, Fable II let me live the dream of playing as a female hero, and it still remains among my favorite games for the Xbox 360. I loved the Fable series, and to get to play as a woman in the second and third just boosted the series in my opinion, allowing me to overlook some of the serious flaws of the third game.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn gave us a new type of heroine, focusing more on her attitude instead of what she was wearing. By the time Horizon Zero Dawn was released, we did have plenty of female leads who were not overly sexualized. Aloy added to this trend by dressing modestly, only showing her midriff in certain Carja armors, but more than that, she had attitude and intelligence. She spoke her mind and did not care what others thought. She was a female protagonist that was created with a female personality rather than the neutral type often provided in games with a male/female lead option.

To younger gamers, this type of female lead character is not that uncommon and does not feel out of place. For us older gamers, it is a good reminder of changes within the industry, especially for women of my age who have seen years of male-dominated games. We now expect more women in games who are not weak characters who need protection (looking at you, Natalya from GoldenEye 007) or who are just there as some sort of eye candy. We expect strong women, and thankfully the industry does give us an excellent female character every so often.

A Good Female Lead

Aloy is not played like a typical female character. You cannot dress her in sexy clothes, she does not have an unrealistic figure, and she does not focus on a love interest (though if she ever does, I hope it’s Erend). Aloy is there to save the world, and she’s exceptionally good at it. She makes mistakes like a normal person and has awkward moments with men who show interest in her, just like any headstrong young woman focused on a mission. Her personality is human, though in a sense that she is someone who feels the need to always be the hero and who refuses help. And let’s face it: women like this exist in our world, though most are not trying to save humanity from machines that kill on sight. At least, not yet.

Throughout Horizon Zero Dawn, we see Aloy’s struggles with being raised as an outcast, creating a few awkward social moments for her. Even though men pay attention to her, she does not notice, oblivious to advances simply because she is too focused on her mission to save the world. Horizon Forbidden West gives us a more headstrong Aloy, refusing to let anyone close to her and eventually learning that it is okay to ask for help, a lesson many people learn the hard way in real life. She shows us that she can joke around, but also be serious, and enforces the idea that not all young women are concerned about looks and boys.

Perhaps I favor Aloy because of something both my brother and my friend pointed out: Aloy is me, or rather, I am very much like Aloy. We are both headstrong and have dominating personalities; we are both natural leaders who take charge of a situation; we are both tough as nails, though my age has started to slow me down…and I never fought machines in my younger days. After my brother and my friend pointed out these similarities, I see Aloy as a younger, thinner version of me who saves the world, which makes me like her so much more.

A few weeks ago, my friend showed me a Reddit post where someone made artistic changes to Aloy’s face and body because he did not think she was feminine enough. It is disappointing that we are still at that point in our society where women are not “feminine” if they are not wearing makeup or have a curvy figure. Where being strong and independent is not considered attractive. I find Aloy to be a fantastic example of femininity. As I mentioned earlier, her figure is not disproportionate and is realistic for a young woman who spends much of her time fighting machines and climbing mountains. More than that, the emphasis on the character is her fighting abilities and personality rather than what she looks like, which is something we need in more games. Women — and all people in general — should not be judged by how they look but by their actions, and it is always nice when video games follow this line of thinking. Aloy fits perfectly with the stories of the Amazons and women warriors of the past and is a true example of a strong woman in a post-apocalyptic world.

Originally published on The Honest Gamer.


About the Creator

Jen Sullivan

I am a gamer, a geek, a writer, an entrepreneur, and a gardener, among many things. I have a lot of knowledge and opinions to share with the world, along with creations from my chaotic mind.

Follow me on Facebook: @jensully17

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