No Right Answer: Strongest Female Video Game Lead Ever

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Firefilm:

Mikeyfell:
What this person said.

Hey Mikeyfell,

An arguement can be made that these two characters are "Co-Leads" in their respective games. Even though the player only controls Ellie for a portion of the game, and only interacts with Elizabeth instead of playing her, the two ladies seem to transcend the traditional "Support" role.

That's just our opinion though, and when we used the term "Lead" we were referring to the plot, not the gameplay. Yes, Elizabeth is an NPC, and Ellie isn't played very long, but plot-wise they are just as much if not more a driving force in the story than their male companions.

Perhaps a better title would be "Strongest Female Video Game Protagonist", though I'm sure that would still cause debate. It's all in good fun, though, and I hope you enjoyed the video.

Well considering their roles in their respective games "Strongest Female Video Game Deuteragonist" probably have been good for those two. But whatever.

I like them both. But my favourite female deuteragonist is probably Clementine from The Walking Dead.

Without even watching, my vote goes to Maya from Septerra Core. Well-written, well-voiced character with believable emotions and motivations and a strong personality overall.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septerra_Core:_Legacy_of_the_Creator

I would like to argue that female player characters in the Bethesda RPG's would be better than either of the listed characters. Not only do they break away from women needing to be rescued, they don't inherently swing the opposite direction like Fiona of Shrek or Dark Angel. These FemPCs shape the course of major world events, but aren't locked into any roles. They are free to be people. Want to play a lawful evil murderess? Go ahead. Want to side with the Nords? Up to you. They aren't forced to be good and pure, and can be very morally grey. They aren't weaklings that need rescuing every ten seconds, but they also aren't immortal deathbots.

Umm...where are April Ryan or ZoŽ Castillo from the Longest Journey franchise? You want increidble lead character arcs, fully realized characterizaction, and even put in a dash of feminity into the plot? You can't go wrong there. Come on guys, I know these games are in the headlines right now, but put a little effort into it, ok? Or at least remove the "ever" from your title, since it just doesn't work, and make just a one on one debate. As support characters they even pale to Grace Nakamura from the Gabriel Knight games, because she was so great she elevated to co-lead in the second game and arguably stole Gabriel's thunder by the third game.

Ever?
Where are people like Lara Croft? The girl from Beyond Good and Evil? Nico from Broken Sword? SHODAN (okay, AI, but identifies as female)? And probably so many others?
To be fair, I have not played either of the two games mentioned here but it seems really off to select two so recent ones and consider them for "strongest ever" rather than something like "strongest in the last years" or something.
Meh. "Ever" is so overused.

Realitycrash:
Snip.

My point is "generic villainess is generic". Kerrigan might not be a damsel in distress, but if all it takes to be a strong female character is to not be a damsel in distress then there's plenty of strong female characters out there. Chell from Portal - who doesn't have a single line of dialogue and thus no character development at all - could be a "strong female character" just because she happens to have a vagina. As I said in my previous response, to me a strong female character DOES revolve partially around being a female and - despite being a female - going on to do "strong" things. Again I point to the fact that Last Of Us would be an entirely different type of story if it was a little boy going along with Joel rather than a little girl. So too would Bioshock Infinite be an entirely different kind of story if Booker was going to save a young man in Columbia rather than a young woman. In those stories, you can't change the gender without changing the entire feel of the story. With Kerrigan, it really doesn't matter what's between her thighs...she can't be a strong female character if you can completely cut the fact that she's a female out of the character and have the story be absolutely unchanged. Go ahead and do a gender swap, would you say that a male Kerrigan is a "strong MALE character" or just another generic bad-guy on a vengeance trip?

"I'm not inviting you back."

I always wondered why they didn't just slam that water glass as fast as possible.

This episode's title should have ended with "... of 2013". You guys are too limiting to your selection. And what's more, neither of them are the PC's of their games. If we want a mulligan on this kind of debate (and we do) make it about better known PLAYABLE female characters, like Samus Aran vs. Lara Croft, as every other poster above me already said. IF we are sticking with helpful NPC's, I have a soft spot for Princess Farah of the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Pop: The Two Thrones.

RJ 17:

Realitycrash:
Snip.

My point is "generic villainess is generic". Kerrigan might not be a damsel in distress, but if all it takes to be a strong female character is to not be a damsel in distress then there's plenty of strong female characters out there. Chell from Portal - who doesn't have a single line of dialogue and thus no character development at all - could be a "strong female character" just because she happens to have a vagina. As I said in my previous response, to me a strong female character DOES revolve partially around being a female and - despite being a female - going on to do "strong" things. Again I point to the fact that Last Of Us would be an entirely different type of story if it was a little boy going along with Joel rather than a little girl. So too would Bioshock Infinite be an entirely different kind of story if Booker was going to save a young man in Columbia rather than a young woman. In those stories, you can't change the gender without changing the entire feel of the story. With Kerrigan, it really doesn't matter what's between her thighs...she can't be a strong female character if you can completely cut the fact that she's a female out of the character and have the story be absolutely unchanged. Go ahead and do a gender swap, would you say that a male Kerrigan is a "strong MALE character" or just another generic bad-guy on a vengeance trip?

I would say that Male Kerrigan is a strong male-character, because I think the focus of percieved 'typical male attributes' and 'typical female attributes' is counter-productive and sometimes even harmful to any form of reasonable development.
Strong attributes are strong attributes. The fact that a generic villain has them does not make the villain any less strong of a character.
It's that simple for me. And that's why it continues to amuse me so much that we are apparently SO SCARED about just gender-swapping a few generic heroes/generic victims in order to create/promote some strong women in videogames.

In short: Attributes make a character, not its gender. Gender is a biological thing, and assuming that there is a certain quota of gender-specific things that need to be filled in order for a character to be a 'strong man' or 'strong woman' is wrong.

This was disappointing, with some really great female leads out there, going for empathetic sidekicks, there to be protected (ish) was really disappointing.

Darth_Payn:
This episode's title should have ended with "... of 2013". You guys are too limiting to your selection. And what's more, neither of them are the PC's of their games. If we want a mulligan on this kind of debate (and we do) make it about better known PLAYABLE female characters, like Samus Aran vs. Lara Croft, as every other poster above me already said. IF we are sticking with helpful NPC's, I have a soft spot for Princess Farah of the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Pop: The Two Thrones.

I agree with your 2013, and I think a mulligan will be in order quite soon. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to correct this oversight.

Delerien:

Wait what? So because the reason for her being a strong character is not that she's a woman, she's not a strong woman character? I don't think I agree there.
In fact I don't even think I understand it.
...

Well it's not that shes not a strong woman.. Its more that her woman condition isn't very relevant to her character. She's not working for her ideals or demonstrating that -she- can be independent, or showing her strength as an individual. She is just a shell possessed by an alien -genderless- entity, with some drama pushed into it from the clashes with her previous identity.

In many ways Kerrigan is a Damsel in Distress too. Her human consiousness is held hostage by the alien entity.
I know that Heart of the swarm tries to put putting things on their head, the story makes so little sense that by the end, It seemed more akin to a mexican telenovella than the original plot of starcraft.

EDIT: And it might not be the only defining trait, but a good character DOES take into account it's gender. Whether you want it or not, men and women don't usually have the exact same ideals, psychologically speaking there -are- very particular differences (not that one is better than the other). So when a character's can be gender swapped without any real effect, it is shallow and troublesome.
Of course, Gender != Character, but a lot of games presenting "strong female leads" tend to think that they can just go with putting boobs on the model constitutes in having a female.

For functional purposes, the plot of Starcraft could very well have Kerrigan locked away forever in a dungeon, enslaved by the Zerg Overmind. It is only for aesthetics and dramatic tension that they put her face into the antagonist.
In contrast, even as plain as the banter between Chell and GlaDos is in Portal, both of their genders were clearly taken into account when writing both characters, even when chell never says a word.

BrotherRool:
This was disappointing, with some really great female leads out there, going for empathetic sidekicks, there to be protected (ish) was really disappointing.

We will be revisiting this topic with better options.

Firefilm:

BrotherRool:
This was disappointing, with some really great female leads out there, going for empathetic sidekicks, there to be protected (ish) was really disappointing.

We will be revisiting this topic with better options.

Cheers, sorry I didn't mean to be so harsh on you all. I absolutely love this show and I know it's not meant to be about having the 'right' answer to a question. The fun's in the discussion

Realitycrash:

RJ 17:

Realitycrash:
Snip.

My point is "generic villainess is generic". Kerrigan might not be a damsel in distress, but if all it takes to be a strong female character is to not be a damsel in distress then there's plenty of strong female characters out there. Chell from Portal - who doesn't have a single line of dialogue and thus no character development at all - could be a "strong female character" just because she happens to have a vagina. As I said in my previous response, to me a strong female character DOES revolve partially around being a female and - despite being a female - going on to do "strong" things. Again I point to the fact that Last Of Us would be an entirely different type of story if it was a little boy going along with Joel rather than a little girl. So too would Bioshock Infinite be an entirely different kind of story if Booker was going to save a young man in Columbia rather than a young woman. In those stories, you can't change the gender without changing the entire feel of the story. With Kerrigan, it really doesn't matter what's between her thighs...she can't be a strong female character if you can completely cut the fact that she's a female out of the character and have the story be absolutely unchanged. Go ahead and do a gender swap, would you say that a male Kerrigan is a "strong MALE character" or just another generic bad-guy on a vengeance trip?

I would say that Male Kerrigan is a strong male-character, because I think the focus of percieved 'typical male attributes' and 'typical female attributes' is counter-productive and sometimes even harmful to any form of reasonable development.
Strong attributes are strong attributes. The fact that a generic villain has them does not make the villain any less strong of a character.
It's that simple for me. And that's why it continues to amuse me so much that we are apparently SO SCARED about just gender-swapping a few generic heroes/generic victims in order to create/promote some strong women in videogames.

In short: Attributes make a character, not its gender. Gender is a biological thing, and assuming that there is a certain quota of gender-specific things that need to be filled in order for a character to be a 'strong man' or 'strong woman' is wrong.

You're right but only to a certain extent. What you're describing are all the things necessary for a strong character in general. This discussion isn't about generalities though, it's about specifics. The question at hand isn't "What makes Ellie, Elizabeth, or even Kerrigan strong characters", the question is "What makes those ladies strong female characters". By the very nature of the discussion at hand, gender is part of the focus. I'll give you that Kerrigan is a strong character in that she has a good story arc and character development that is interesting to follow, but a strong female character is something entirely different than a strong character who happens to be female.

Again, the only real way I can describe the difference is that a strong character could be gender-swapped and not change the mood/theme of the story at all - their gender is indeed completely irrelevant - while a strong female character can't be gender swapped without changing the mood/theme of the story. The fact that they're a female actually IS part of the story.

RJ 17:

Realitycrash:

RJ 17:
My point is "generic villainess is generic". Kerrigan might not be a damsel in distress, but if all it takes to be a strong female character is to not be a damsel in distress then there's plenty of strong female characters out there. Chell from Portal - who doesn't have a single line of dialogue and thus no character development at all - could be a "strong female character" just because she happens to have a vagina. As I said in my previous response, to me a strong female character DOES revolve partially around being a female and - despite being a female - going on to do "strong" things. Again I point to the fact that Last Of Us would be an entirely different type of story if it was a little boy going along with Joel rather than a little girl. So too would Bioshock Infinite be an entirely different kind of story if Booker was going to save a young man in Columbia rather than a young woman. In those stories, you can't change the gender without changing the entire feel of the story. With Kerrigan, it really doesn't matter what's between her thighs...she can't be a strong female character if you can completely cut the fact that she's a female out of the character and have the story be absolutely unchanged. Go ahead and do a gender swap, would you say that a male Kerrigan is a "strong MALE character" or just another generic bad-guy on a vengeance trip?

I would say that Male Kerrigan is a strong male-character, because I think the focus of percieved 'typical male attributes' and 'typical female attributes' is counter-productive and sometimes even harmful to any form of reasonable development.
Strong attributes are strong attributes. The fact that a generic villain has them does not make the villain any less strong of a character.
It's that simple for me. And that's why it continues to amuse me so much that we are apparently SO SCARED about just gender-swapping a few generic heroes/generic victims in order to create/promote some strong women in videogames.

In short: Attributes make a character, not its gender. Gender is a biological thing, and assuming that there is a certain quota of gender-specific things that need to be filled in order for a character to be a 'strong man' or 'strong woman' is wrong.

You're right but only to a certain extent. What you're describing are all the things necessary for a strong character in general. This discussion isn't about generalities though, it's about specifics. The question at hand isn't "What makes Ellie, Elizabeth, or even Kerrigan strong characters", the question is "What makes those ladies strong female characters". By the very nature of the discussion at hand, gender is part of the focus. I'll give you that Kerrigan is a strong character in that she has a good story arc and character development that is interesting to follow, but a strong female character is something entirely different than a strong character who happens to be female.

Again, the only real way I can describe the difference is that a strong character could be gender-swapped and not change the mood/theme of the story at all - their gender is indeed completely irrelevant - while a strong female character can't be gender swapped without changing the mood/theme of the story. The fact that they're a female actually IS part of the story.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree then. For me, in fiction, a strong female character is simply a strong character which happens to be female. Because that would mean starting to define 'what makes a woman and what makes a man' in the form of character-attributes, and that is, as I have said, either counter-productive or downright sexist.

However, if set in a historical setting, we can speak of 'strong female characters' much easier, simply by comparing them to the norms of the historical setting, and having them overcome specific gender-generated problems inherited from the current setting (like, say, women not being able to vote, or not being allowed to own property, or whatever).
But since Starcraft has none of these problems - or chose not to delve into them, a wise decision I might add - then 'struggle to overcome gender-generated difficulties' is not a possible scenario, and thus we can't use that to help us measure.
In fact, because Starcraft avoids almost all sexism-tropes, and since they do not mention the current gender-structure at all, the society overall becomes rather genderless..Except on the biological level. Thus, Kerrigan is a strong female character. If she had been set in the 1920's she would have, incidentally, been one as well.

Ellie wins, hell yeah! *says the guy with the Joel avatar*

Seriously though, I loved Elizabeth in Infinite, both are pretty damn strong leads. Still, Ellie went a few steps ahead in this race. And The Last of Us was the best thing I have played in decades so... yeah xD

I saw tittle who versus who and I was all like OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH SNAP!!

Ok going to continue the episode now

I'm confused as to why you guys considered having some character flaws a weakness. Elizabeth growing from that damsel in distress into a fully capable woman who ends up helping Booker more than he helped her is the best part of the story.

Anyway, my vote would actually have to be fore Fem Shep.

Best female character? Clementine from The Walking Dead.

Best female in this debate? Alright then I would have to go with Ellie. Mainly because Ellie, despite unable to help at times has actually did a lot for the protagonist game wise, emotional wise, and experience wise. Now while I think Elizabeth is a great character too who's got a lot going... one of her actions knocked her off from having any chance of being better-

At least god dang Clementine didn't have a choice.

Realitycrash:
However, if set in a historical setting, we can speak of 'strong female characters' much easier, simply by comparing them to the norms of the historical setting, and having them overcome specific gender-generated problems inherited from the current setting (like, say, women not being able to vote, or not being allowed to own property, or whatever).

And right there you acknowledge my point that there is indeed a difference between a strong character that happens to be female and a strong female character.

But since Starcraft has none of these problems - or chose not to delve into them, a wise decision I might add - then 'struggle to overcome gender-generated difficulties' is not a possible scenario, and thus we can't use that to help us measure.
In fact, because Starcraft avoids almost all sexism-tropes, and since they do not mention the current gender-structure at all, the society overall becomes rather genderless..Except on the biological level. Thus, Kerrigan is a strong female character. If she had been set in the 1920's she would have, incidentally, been one as well.

In fact it's the very lack of obstacles to overcome in the SC universe that prevent Kerrigan from being a strong female character (again, in the terms of this topic's discussion). Just because gender stereotypes and expected roles don't exist in one universe's fiction (SC, for example) doesn't mean that they don't exist in any form of fiction. That's why I said that you're right to an extent in my previous post. I agreed that Kerrigan is a strong character who happens to be female, but since the SC universe doesn't give her any stereotypes or gender-based hurdles to overcome, it automatically precludes her from being a strong female character.

Look at Ellie, she's a young girl in a post apocalyptic setting. She has to overcome the stereotype of being a helpless little tag-along constantly cowering in the corner and desperately crying for Joel to save her. She overcomes that stereotype to be an independent personality willing to do what it takes to survive in a post apocalyptic world that would be very hostile towards a girl her age. That's what makes her a strong female character. Elizabeth's arc is a bit more drawn out, she starts as literally the princess in the tower, but through the course of the story her personality is forced to harden and come to terms with things that she wasn't used to. She doesn't stay as the delicate flower princess you'd expect her to be and evolves into the strong willed woman we see at the end of the game.

Kerrigan, on the other hand, is as I described her: a competent, capable soldier who is betrayed and seeks vengeance. There's no stereotype that she has to overcome to prove her worth. That's why I say the terms of the topic are important to keep in mind here as they draw out the difference between a strong character and a strong female character. As laid out in the opening to the video: a strong female character "furthers the cause" so to speak, Kerrigan does not do this. She's not breaking out of any mold as to what's expected of her. So again, given that the SC universe doesn't have any gender-based stereotypes or molds for her to break, that automatically disqualifies her for the running of being a "strong female character", and leaves her as "a strong character who happens to be female".

AtheistConservative:
I would like to argue that female player characters in the Bethesda RPG's would be better than either of the listed characters. Not only do they break away from women needing to be rescued, they don't inherently swing the opposite direction like Fiona of Shrek or Dark Angel. These FemPCs shape the course of major world events, but aren't locked into any roles. They are free to be people. Want to play a lawful evil murderess? Go ahead. Want to side with the Nords? Up to you. They aren't forced to be good and pure, and can be very morally grey. They aren't weaklings that need rescuing every ten seconds, but they also aren't immortal deathbots.

Bathesda's PC's have no personalities, and your customization options are effectively meaningless. It's great for letting your imagination run wild, but it's impossible to have a memorable character that way. Dragon Age as the same problem. Even Knights of the Old Republic suffers a little from it, saved only by Revan.

I'm so happy I'm not the only that thought the two female characters picked were bad choices. Just because they groped male ego by looking up at you as you played, with big, sweet, innocent little girl eyes, needing a strong man to teach them how to be a strong women, doesn't make them good. It's just a new trope, to me these two fall under the category of the new Lara Croft. Needing male figures to push forward and rejecting female figures, ironically brought up as a positive thing for Elizabeth in this video.

These female characters are strong, but only because of the existence of men in their lives.

Damn right, the lack of FemShep in this video is a terrible tragedy.

Kreia.
/every thread about "strong" or "well written" female or non-female character on teh intarnet.
To be an absolute Mary Sue and yet pull it off with such awe-inspiring confidence... that is your greatest triumph. (or something something paraphrase)

BrotherRool:

Firefilm:

BrotherRool:
This was disappointing, with some really great female leads out there, going for empathetic sidekicks, there to be protected (ish) was really disappointing.

We will be revisiting this topic with better options.

Cheers, sorry I didn't mean to be so harsh on you all. I absolutely love this show and I know it's not meant to be about having the 'right' answer to a question. The fun's in the discussion

Oh, we're not offended. It's good that there is this much discussion, and we want to address some of the other suggestions people have made. It's all good, we be friends!

Well, that was awkward.

This is the only one of these videos that I've watched. Are they all like this?

Also, does anyone else find it funny that neither of the subject "Strongest Female Lead Characters" are leads, but rather sidekicks? Plot-critical sidekicks, yes, but sidekicks nonetheless.

Now here is a video that deserves to be edited. See current ZP debacle.

This series just lost all credibility for Ever. At least edit Ever and Lead out of the title. Say Last Year, and Support (and the choices still probably wouldn't hold up, but at least it wouldn't be trolling.)

Easton Dark:
It was Samus until Other M happened.

Given that Other M never happened, it still is.

Never happened you hear me.

Never. Happened.

While we're throwing out names, I'd add Cate Archer from No One Lives Forever.

Elizabeth and Ellie are more on the level of Trip (Enslaved) or Alyx Vance (HL2): tag-along characters that can offer some support (or at least stay out of the way) in combat. There are plenty of RPG squad-mates that are stronger (physically and as characters), but they're usually optional.

I'm hoping there will be a do-over in the near future...

Realitycrash:

I guess we will have to agree to disagree then. For me, in fiction, a strong female character is simply a strong character which happens to be female. Because that would mean starting to define 'what makes a woman and what makes a man' in the form of character-attributes, and that is, as I have said, either counter-productive or downright sexist.

Well I agree with you. And here are two more characters - in addition to those that others have listed (especially Broken Sword's Nico!) - that happen to be female but are strong (or rather: well-written) characters that are either the or one of the actual protagonists are Carla Valenti from Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy and, for what was ostensibly a comedy parody, Cate Archer in the first No One Lives Forever (less so the second). Something slightly more recent would be Faith Connors of Mirror's Edge.

EDIT: Just noticed your post Webb. You have good taste (re: Cate Archer). :)

Elizabeth has a nice plot, if you know what I mean...

I'm a big fan of strong female characters. Being raised on Studio Ghibli movies, I actually prefer it.

Really? REALLY? It's between 2 NPCs? NPCS are NOT -leads-!*Vehement swearing*
Not in my book! You play as the lead. You hold their power as the player! Strongest female Videogame Lead Ever should be about women you play as from start to end.
Yeah, I know you play as Ellie a bit, but that's not enough for me.
The strongest female videogame leader should trump the majority of guys that only want to play as guys with her character. People have to want to play as the woman, male, female, what have you.
If you don't want to play as them, if you can't play as them, they're not that strong. Even if it doesn't make sense that you'd play as them, they have to have that certain something that makes you want to experience the world through them.

To hell with NPCs, bluntly!
Lara Croft, Samus (short of Other M), Aya Brea, any woman you play as in Resident Evil, Bayonetta. Heck, I'd consider Femshep as iconic as she is.

Female NPCs are nice, and all, but I don't think they do as much as women you play as in excellent games. They might further things, but to -really- further things, they need to be playable, and welcomed enough to be successful. Being an NPC for most of the game really limits the whole strength bit in my book.

If this were about female NPCs? I'd feel a lot better about it. I'd add Clem from Walking Dead.
But -lead-? Ugh.

These ain't leads. They're just NPC's
This is a female lead

Webb Myers:
While we're throwing out names, I'd add Cate Archer from No One Lives Forever.

Elizabeth and Ellie are more on the level of Trip (Enslaved) or Alyx Vance (HL2): tag-along characters that can offer some support (or at least stay out of the way) in combat. There are plenty of RPG squad-mates that are stronger (physically and as characters), but they're usually optional.

I'm hoping there will be a do-over in the near future...

There will be a do over, we assure you.

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