Female Leads: Yea Edition

I find that I am particularly passionate about female leads in video games as the discussion reignited after Nintendo’s announcement of Linkle as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors (Legends). This is because The Legend of Zelda is the franchise that made me fall in love with gaming. I have played it for more than two decades across multiple platforms. When I was a teenager and was seriously weighing the idea of becoming a professional actor, I used to fantasize that the LoZ  saga was made into a movie. Before anyone mocks me too harshly, I have seen  the movie poster for Assassin’s Creed, so I’m not too far off base.

So many great SUPPORTING characters. Art by themaskedhomie

Aside from the sheer challenge of determining the narrative and mythology of what at the time was 10 years’ worth of gaming, I imagined what characters I might play in a LoZ movie. I had actually adopted Anju’s habit of bowing and giggling when I met people, (IRL!). I used to “train” to be athletic enough to play Nabooru. I imagined hair and makeup for Saria, Navi, and Princess Ruto. Ultimately, I realized that I wanted to star in the film that I was fantasizing about. However, this was always a conflicted desire. I knew who I was as a person and what I wasn’t comfortable doing. Modesty has always been an important value to me. I’ve never been comfortable exposing my midriff. How would Nabooru be costumed otherwise? Well, Anju, Navi, etc. provided backup options, but did I really want to play a supporting role in my own fantasy?
I realized that hypersexualized or subservient roles were not what I wanted to build my imaginary acting career on. I wanted my own adventures. I wanted to shoot with a bow and arrow, fire a slingshot, launch a hookshot, wield a Master Sword. Like so many teenagers in the days before cosplay, my imaginary life began to pour into my real one. My mother used to tease me about my heelless “Link” boots. The mocking provided the wake up call for me that I would not be the Link I’d imagined myself to be.
Jun Kazama: kicking but while keeping it classy.

Jun Kazama: kicking but while keeping it classy.

I considered other games and genres. I’m a pretty traditional fantasy-based RPG kind of girl, although whenever I do venture outside my comfort zone, I still choose female characters. I have been known to kick a butt two as Jun Kazama in Tekken, but given the option, I would take playing Yuna from FFX over Jun any day. The truth of the matter is that the problems I faced in my imaginary production of Zelda, aren’t unique to the Zeldaverse. The hypersexualization of women—and not men—in gaming is a very clear problem. And if it were not for the countless ways that women are placed on the back burner in gaming, we wouldn’t be having discussions such as weighing in on the importance of Linkle.  
That, I believe, is the importance of female leads. In acting, they say there are no small roles—only small actors. A full cast of characters is required to craft any great narrative. So what then will be the overarching narrative of the gaming world? While any gamer is free to reject taking on the role of female leads in gaming by simply avoiding the few in circulation, to deny or hinder the fulfillment of more such roles would risk eliminating them from the gaming conscious. If this mentality of divesting games of female protagonists were inverted, and we inflected this attitude upon male roles, there would be almost no humans or humanoids in gaming. The detrimental mentality of placing a limit on the potential of female leads confiscates the imaginative and very real power of exposure that games have on society.
It does not matter to me that Eiji Aonuma has confirmed that Linkle is not simply "female Link." The cat is out of the bag. She'll be armed with Hylian shields and Master Swords soon enough either in the games or in cosplay.

It does not matter to me that Eiji Aonuma has confirmed that Linkle is not simply “female Link.” The cat is out of the bag. She’ll be armed with Hylian shields and Master Swords soon enough either in the games or in cosplay.

Games teach us how to play with those who are not like us—to empathize with animals, heroes, fairies, aliens, and even villains. They are the easiest place to learn to love beyond measure and in spite of human fallibility. Games teach us to identify the important points in our lives. Who hasn’t wandered down the valley of the shadow of death  to creepy music, perished, and learned to save at those key points? Whether through clearly stated messages or inference, video games teach us things such as the consequence of our actions; every quest costs something. Our greatest lessons often come at the other end of a parable. This, my friends, is a key point in video games (cue the music and change in lighting). Will our message to girls everywhere and in the future be one of inclusion or exclusion? I don’t recall the instructions for women to stay quiet in the back pews of the church of gaming and just press the A button to awesome. Will we show our girls that they are capable of being leaders and having adventures or that they are damsels in distress in need of rescuing or background decoration? What will they infer from our decisions?
This is how to do supporting characters: they can also be heroes!

This is how to do supporting characters: they can also be heroes!

I, for one, commend Nintendo for the important step forward they took with Linkle in LoZ; with Samus in Metroid; with Impa and Zelda in Hyrule Warriors; Crystal Dynamics for Laura Croft; Square-Enix for Lightning in FFXIII. These companies are providing the parables from which we can all learn important lessons. And for those who aren’t interested in learning these lessons, they are still playing  amazing games with meaningful characters.  


Ashley Strong-Green


  1. Militis on October 24, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    “The hypersexualization of women—and not men—in gaming is a very clear problem.”

    Are you implying men aren’t hyper-sexualized or that it’s not a problem that men are?

  2. Derek on October 11, 2016 at 5:11 am

    As I type this comment, there are “Soma” bra ads
    in abundance on this website! Anyway, it’s cool to see a female talk about some
    of this stuff. Personally, I think it’s probably been said, that “art
    reflects culture”, or maybe it’s the other way around. At any rate, I
    would argue that the tide is certainly shifting in our culture. Between Linkle,
    or the new Star Wars (Rei), Zootopia (girl rabbit), etc..I think the tide is
    changing to include women in prominent, and strong, roles. Personally, I think
    women and men are ‘equal’, but I also hold some of the complementarian views I
    feel like are in the Bible. Like men being leaders and women being more of a
    second-in-command. Moreorless. Just like mankind is placed above the rest of
    the animal kingdom, male humanity has another level of leadership within the
    family unit. You know, a lieutenant is not a worse or less person than his
    General or whatever. Just that it’s the proper setup. That being said, I think
    there are certainly more important things to make sure you get right FIRST…
    like you are BOTH “submitting to each other in love”, and really
    caring for each other. And at times, the roles can reverse, and change, or
    whatever. But I think there is supposed to be that basic hierarchy, at least in
    the background!

    But I think this article just highlights the simple,
    universal beauties (pun intended) of gaming, the morals we can learn, etc. And
    that really is true — there is some good stuff here you’ve said. Women DO need
    to be represented as the full people that they are, not just token trophies.
    You know, I think one of the big parts of the issue actually is that we are all
    impressed upon that if we aren’t married or dating, that we are somehow
    incomplete. And I think that’s a part of the problem. Each person needs to be
    whole and content with God. And I think Jesus modeled strong singlehood for us,
    assuming the Discovery channel doesn’t come out with another news release about
    him having married Mary or something! Lol. But yeah, sure, probably you will
    still want a spouse and seek that. I mean, after being bombarded with bra ads,
    I admit to “wanting a spouse” too. But joking aside, we should just
    recognize dating or marriage doesn’t make you MORE human. You already should be
    a full and complete human! After we get that down, then we can talk about
    marriage and relationships and stuff.

    The other fun topic: I think people will always find
    themselves with differences on “how much midriff” can I show, and
    frankly, I really don’t know. Probably like between 2 or 3 millimeters. JK,
    probably zero. REALLY LOOSE TURTLENECKS 4EVA IM SORRYYY!!!!! But you know, I
    bet if we all sincerely ask ourselves “What would Jesus think” or
    “would I be comfortable doing this if Jesus were here” (he is! Hey
    Jesus!!), then that will help each of us come to terms with our conscience
    before God. Sometimes, I like to think “What kind of world do you want to
    live in?” A big orgie-fest? You think that…. until your SOUL is raped,
    and your serotonin depleted. And even if you can beat the system… and you
    stay on your high.. you are still missing God’s purpose, if we never seek His
    will and His life. I think God has made an organized system, He created desire,
    brings fulfillment, etc. Let’s follow that path. That’s what I’m trying to do.
    And that’s the only wise choice. //soap box. Thanks for reading my life story
    lol. Sorry I just felt like sharing today…Whoever is reading this, I love you,
    and I hope I don’t sound mean, but let’s all just be honest and seek the Lord
    and be blessed,

    Be blessed, and stay
    cool (and hot!!) . I’ll be pumped for the NX when it comes out… in the
    meantime…. ROCKET LEAGUE

    • Zero Tolerance on October 12, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      Being content as a whole person is something I don’t think I ever learned. Now that I’m married, I don’t know how I ever could be.

      • Derek on October 13, 2016 at 11:51 pm

        wow thanks for reading my dissertation of a post 🙂 . I almost went back and deleted it since it’s so crazy and long and everything..! Well, if I understand you correctly, I think you mean that, since you are married now, it is hard to really know if you are “content as a full individual”, is that correct? Well, fret not! It is ok. Really it is. Remember how the Bible talks about serving the Lord “how you were called” ? Like, if you are free, serve as a free man. You are the Lord’s free man. Or if you were a slave, now you are a slave to the Lord! Something like that?? Well basically, it’s ok….. at whatever point you come to God, he will take you as you are, and you will have a new Holy label from the Lord. Because the trick with this is that we are never complete without the Lord anyway! Coming to the Lord is all that is needed, wherever you are. You may never have the chance (I hope!) to be single again and really see if you feel complete then, as a single person. But you just serve the Lord however you are right now. And that’s just fine

        • Zero Tolerance on October 14, 2016 at 1:23 am

          Thanks for the advice!

          • Derek on October 14, 2016 at 8:57 pm

            It’s been a pleasure, and you’re definitely welcome.

  3. Samuru on October 4, 2016 at 3:20 am

    Great points! Good article and yes, there is a need for more non-sexual female roles in gaming for sure. There are plenty, but not nearly enough especially with so many female gamers. If they want to see more girls pick up games, have games that appeal to them. It’s a win-win. They make money, girls play games, amen to that.

  4. YuDe Davis-Hester on September 27, 2016 at 11:30 am


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