The Past Returns

All the way back in the year 2003 I took a sociology class. In this class we were assigned a paper where we had to write about how a class of people is viewed in society. I, being the person I am, wanted video games to be my research material. The paper was written, submitted and graded (got an A on it by the way), and then lost, or so I thought. I was rather sad about this as I also met my wife in the class I wrote this paper in. Well recently, when doing some clean up of old hard drives, I found the original paper. So here I give you, the readers of The Gameslave, my sociology paper titled "Woman's Role in Entertainment: Does Time Matter".



Woman, what is their role in entertainment, or more importantly, their role in video games.  Usually games are placed in medieval or current times with a male character.  You don’t always here from the female character in these games with two exceptions.  They reflect how current society shows the female role.  But do people who make video games see a change in the roles of woman in the future.  In this paper I plan to show how woman are represented in video games between the past and the future. 

            In order to show this I played three video games over a span of a few weeks.  These first of these games were “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker” which takes place in medieval times.  The second was “Unreal II: The Awakening” this games takes place several hundred years in the future where people have colonized other planets.  The final game that I played was “Metroid Prime”.  This game takes place a few millennia into the future.  Now with each of these games the female role is a little different.  They are important no matter which game I played, but the level of how important it was changed in the time period.

            So what did woman do in these games that shows them changing?  Well in the “The Legend of Zelda” a male was the main character.  The main female gets kidnapped and needs to be rescued by the male main character.  Other women in this game represent mythical characters such as fairies for healing and magic.  They also are the three goddesses that created that games world.  They also give you information at times and quests to complete for a reward.  This role changes several hundred years later in “Unreal II”.  Although the main character in is still a male, the games main female plays the first in command and an ex-military general and hero.  Other females in this game play mercenaries.  The last game “Metroid Prime” has a female as the main character.  She is a famous bounty hunter who is the only one capable of saving the Federation from space pirates bent on taking over known space.  Here a simple table that shows all of this:

  Zelda: The Wind Waker Unreal 2: The Awakening Metroid Prime
Main Hero Male Male Female
Plot Save World Save Galaxy Save Federation
Sub-plot Save Female None Destroy Parasitic Life Forms (Metroids)
Female Roles Info, Give Quests Second in Command Main Character
Female Status Sister, Princess, Townsfolk, Three Goddesses, Faries Ex: Military General/Hero Mercenaries Bounty Hunter


            So what does this mean?  Well let us analyze it by time period.  The first game is set in medieval times.  In this time period the stereotype is that woman are weak and frail creatures.  In this game the most important mortal woman is a Princess.  She starts out leading pirates but is still protected by her crew.  When her true identity is shown she is sent into hiding where she cannot be kidnapped.  The other mortal females are just there to give information and to ask you for stuff.  Then there are the immortal women that are goddesses and fairies.  These things are very common in human mythology in this time period.

            The next game I studied was “Unreal II”.  This game still has a male hero, but the female role is not to be rescued.  In this game females play a much tougher role.  One group is a bunch mercenaries hired by companies to secure their space.  The main female character is the savior of the human race.  In a great war she lured the entire enemy force to a planet that was then nuked to death.  She also plays a key role in the current game as your first in command and as a source of information on planets, alien races and other key elements of the game.  Now this game takes place in the future, a time that we cannot see.  But video game developers seem to have used current trends of woman becoming active in what were previously only male roles. 

The game “Metroid Prime” follows this role as well.  This game is set even further in the future and has a female as the main character.  Your character is Samus Aran and is potentially the most powerful single person in the Federation.  She has a power suit that is capable of absorbing damage, morphing into a small ball and is also equipped with a missile launcher and an energy cannon that is capable of four different modes of fire.  She also has a career that is not ordinary of a woman has far as we are concerned.  She is bounty hunter.  Since this game takes place further in the future then “Unreal II” developers view woman as taking even more of a dominant role the further time progresses. 

            So what does this all say?  It says those women are slowly starting to assert themselves.  Now how slow this goes has yet to be shown.  There are games today that show a female as the main character.  In this game she is a rich girl who spends her time in the depths of tombs finding treasures and such.  Now this is just one example of a woman asserting herself as a dominant character in current times.  So it shows that woman do not have to wait for the future to take on male roles.  Unfortunately this is very rare today.  Hopefully it will change soon.