Women in video games

[Estimated reading time: 2 minutes]

This isn't going to be a story or anything, just some ramblings about video games.

Lately I've been playing two sequel games, both the most recent entries in their respective series. The first is "Borderlands 3". The second is "Just Cause 4". Borderlands came out in 2019, Just Cause came out in 2018.

I'm a fan of both franchises. I've played all Borderlands games, from the very first. I started late with Just Cause, only seriously playing the 3rd game and now the 4th.

Both series are dumb bullet-fests: the main character (in Borderlands you get to choose one character out of 4, in Just Cause you're playing as the same protagonist as before, Rico Rodriguez) goes around completing random quests and in the process mowing down wave after wave of enemies with a variety of weapons in an open-world environment. Pretty standard fare.

The novel thing about these latest games is the front-and-center presence of female characters. Whereas the previous titles were mostly male-dominated (much more so with Just Cause), these modern titles have women playing major roles.

In "Borderlands 3" I chose to play as a female character, and it happened very frequently that the plot-advancing cutscenes contained an all-female cast: my character (a woman with a mechanical Iron Bear), the female captain of the ship, a young woman hoping to become a Vault Hunter, and a woman scientist, all working together to stop some villain. And the main villains were a brother and sister team, in contrast to the mostly-male villains of previous games.

Similar thing with Just Cause: female rebels replace the mostly guy's club of assistants and sidekicks from the previous installments.

It makes sense. The world is changing and female representation in media is spiking. And it's a wonderful thing, in my opinion: more diverse characters add variety and flavor to the stories, female actors are in higher demand, etc. That's great.

But there's a strange side-effect to this that isn't as obvious. See, there are more women in high-profile roles in these games. But there are also more women in the smaller but just as important roles of cannon fodder: in Just Cause the baddies are an evil mercenary group, and in Borderlands it's insane cult members. And about half of these characters are women.

What's the issue?

I don't like hearing women yell out in pain as I mow down wave after wave of enemies.

It's a weird thing, but if we're to feature more female characters in media, then it makes sense that women would make up about half of all henchmen roles. Henchwomen!

And while I apparently had no problem killing thousands of imaginary male henchmen in previous Borderlands and Just Cause games - and hearing their curses and last breaths - I for some reason really dislike hearing equally fictional women groan and wail in pain.

Perhaps this says more about our culture, that we're desensitized to the all-too-common trope of evil male henchmen dying by the truckload in just about every movie, from the family-oriented fun of Indiana Jones (look at those Nazis melt!) to the high body-counts of the John Wick franchise. Or maybe I should just find a new genre of games to play.

Leave a Reply