It’s an exciting time for games, as demand for diverse stories become more vocal and commonplace. We’re no longer willing to settle for the same types of characters, the same banal plot lines that the large majority of video games have been saddled with during their history. We’re beginning to see more and more characters that no longer fill the traditional mold of white male protagonist, and video games are beginning to tell more interesting, thoughtful stories to accompany them.
Whether this presents itself in a reboot of a familiar classic, like 2013’s Tomb Raider, or in new efforts as in The Last of Us, games are growing up at last.
One happy side effect of this is the recent rise of strong female relationships in games, both platonic and romantic. While female relationships are often either absent or poorly represented in media, there have been an increasing number of realistically imagined female friendships present in gaming. Here are just a few recent examples.
Ellie and Riley - The Last of Us: Left Behind
The Last of Us: Left Behind is an excellent example of what happens when we diversify the types of stories we tell in games. Left Behind is set in extraordinary circumstances-children growing up in a dangerous post apocalyptic world. Yet Ellie and Riley’s tale is also achingly familiar, especially for those with past experience as teenage girls. Friendships forged in the naivete of childhood suddenly begin to change, their certainty wavering.
Ellie and Riley, separated into two opposing camps, have had their fair share of growing apart, and they are forced to confront this when Riley suddenly makes a reappearance in Ellie’s life. This is complicated further by the romantic turn their relationship takes. But all of the tension is often offset with humor and childish pranks and games-the game features a super-soaker fight, after all.
Left Behind tells the story of the relationship of two teenage girls while reminding the player to make the most of every moment you have with the ones you love-something for all of us to consider, zombies or no.
Chloe and Max - Life is Strange
Not so dissimilar from Left Behind, Life is Strange focuses on female teenage relationships amidst highly unusual circumstances. Max returns to her hometown to find that her former best friend is much changed. Having drifted apart as the girls made their way through adolescence, Chloe and Max are suddenly reunited and forced to face the blows that life has dealt them before reforging their former friendship. Chloe and Max struggle with jealousy and past quarrels while trying to readjust to their lives together.
Life is Strange manages to treat adolescent friendship with a poignant and empathetic hand.
Lara and Sam - Tomb Raider
Being trapped on a cursed island teeming with a legion of angry, stir-crazy soldiers isn’t ideal, but when you’re trapped with your best friend, things suddenly become a little easier. Sam is an unwavering source of support for Lara, even when her more experienced crew members doubt her decisions.
When Sam is kidnapped (twice), Lara stops at nothing to rescue her, even when her other teammates are convinced that saving themselves is the wiser option. Braving murderous, hulking zombie-esque Samurai, Lara risks her life without second thought if it means there’s a chance Sam might live.
Throughout all of this trauma, Sam is supportive of Lara regardless.
Cassandra and the Inquisitor - Dragon Age Inquisition
Playing as a female Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition, I grew quite attached to Cassandra’s character in particular. At first glance, Cassandra can seem a bit cold, determined to keep things strictly professional. She takes her job very seriously and keeps her personal life well guarded. Viewed through the lens of a female protagonist, the relationship between Cassandra and the Inquisitor is a special one. Cassandra relies on you for counsel, and offers you the same in return. We even gleefully discover her secret love for trashy romance novels.
We learn about all of Cassandra’s weaknesses and embrace her despite them, while still celebrating the incredible woman she is.
Chie and Yukiko - Persona 4
Long-time best friends, Chie Satonaka and Yukiko Amagi are quite the pair, as long as you keep them out of the kitchen-they’re infamous for churning up culinary disasters when they team up in the kitchen. Chie and Yukiko are distinct opposites-Chie is hyperactive, fierce, and at times, stubborn with a penchant for kung-fu while Yukiko is distinctly elegant, intelligent and more reserved.
These differences can create some tension between them. Chie secretly feels threatened by Yukiko’s beauty, especially when the boys at school fawn over her. Conversely, Yukiko struggles with her self-confidence, something that, on the outside at least, it seems that Chie commands in spades. Yet as the game progresses, the girls accept and grow from their individual weaknesses in order to build an even sturdier bond.