Nintendo Rosters & Female Characters

Hyrule warriors Zelda

As a person who loves video games in general and Nintendo in particular, I’ve been following all the recent game information with interest. While I’m most excited about the new Zelda Wii U title, I was also enthusiastic to see all the female characters being included in Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Brothers. While here’s been some criticism of Nintendo for having too many female characters, many people, myself included, are excited.

When I was a kid, I never really though about the fact that most of the games I played starred only men, other than being glad to make use of Peach’s floating powers in Super Mario All Stars. When I started to game again in high school, having female characters in the games I played quickly became a feature I enjoyed in Nintendo games in general and the Zelda series in particular. Even if they were sidekicks or NPCs, there seemed to be plenty of girls around, living life in Hyrule.

Since the Wind Waker was the first game I played, Tetra was my introduction to Princess Zelda and maybe that’s shaped my impression of her in the other games I’ve played. In my second game, Twilight Princess, Midna embodied the same spirit and sarcasm as Tetra – she was commanding and sarcastic but also compassionate at heart. Other characters like Marin, Ruto, Zelda in Skyward Sword, Medli, and Impa all are similarly spirited and interesting female figures who aren’t perfect but are determined to get what they want or help Link on his quest.

Our wedding cake toppers - Link & Tetra. (by Anna Yong Photography)
Our wedding cake toppers – Link & Tetra. (by Anna Yong Photography)

While not all Nintendo games have many female characters and while that’s far from the one requirement I have to like a game, I’m pleased with recent Wii U Games like Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, and Smash Brothers that despite a lack of female characters in some games, they’re pulling more from the good ones they already have. Whether its Palutena from Kid Icarus, Lucina from Fire Emblem or Wendy the Koopaling, it’s a good way of bringing in character variety, increasing ties to other internal franchises, and giving a boost to diversity.

Whenever I hear arguments against better representation in video games, it usually seems to hinge on the fact that what women want in games is always fundamentally different than what men want, and that being the case, that it would involve totally changing the games. With a statistic of 45% of gamers being women, however, many video games clearly already have something that women want – whether it’s adventure, puzzles, challenging enemies, good storytelling or just a chance to enjoy an escapist fantasy. (I’ll never be as adventurous or intimidating as my Skyrim character, but I can dream!) Given the reaction I’ve seen to things like more women in upcoming game rosters, however, representation in games without changing the elements fans already enjoy has created a buzz.

No matter how much you like something, if there’s no one that reminds you of yourself in it, it can be hard to connect to it. Since I’m only one part of one demographic, I would hardly expect all games to cater to me at all times. But games with a more equal balance of female and male characters  or the ability to play as either reaffirms for us that we’re valued players and a welcomed participants in the fandom.

Ultimately, I’m not most excited about this for my sake but for the kids for whom whom the Wii U or 3DS might be their first console. I can think of girls who have the option to play as their favorite princesses, queens, goddesses, or creatures. Or boys who play Hyrule Warriors and think it’s just as cool to be Queen Zelda (with her awesome-looking armor) as her trainee, Link. If more and more female characters are added to games, the kids of today may eventually end up with a different perspective on video games as gender-dependent entertainment, one where it’s not considered odd for girls to enjoy to enjoy a medium of entertainment that has a lot to offer and that many already enjoy.

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