Monday, March 25, 2013

Bechdel Gaming

I assume anyone reading this is familiar with the Bechdel Test, but if you're not, have a look here:

If you don't feel like clicking links, the gist of it is a movie passes the test if it meets the following criteria.
1. There are two named female characters.
2. They talk to each other.
3. About something other than a man.

The test is typically applied to movies, but I see no reason why it couldn't be applied just as well to any other story-telling medium. It's been on my mind lately, after a discussion on Reddit, and for the sake of staving off boredom and reviving my poor abandoned blog, I thought I'd test some of the games I've played lately (and games that spring to mind as I browse my Steam library). I'm not sure how far back I feel like dredging through my game-memories, so this probably won't be long, let's see how many I can think of:

Games with less than two female characters:

Jurassic Park Builder - The only female character is Malcom's daughter.

Darksiders - Only one female character, Uriel. At least, one human-like character. I guess if you include the assorted demonic monsters you get a few more.

Company of Heroes - Not surprisingly for a World War II game, there are no female characters.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine - I feel it is worth noting that Lieutenant Myra is one of the best female video game characters ever, stepping up after her commanding officers are killed, holding a weary band of troops together and basically holding the defense of an entire planet together until reinforcements arrive. She also isn't burdened with fanservicey sexualization or an unnecessary romantic side story. Alas, awesome as she is, she is the only named female character in the game so no Bechdel pass here.

Orcs Must Die (1 and 2) - The only female character is the Sorceress.

2+ female characters, but they don't talk to each other:

Metro 2033 - The only two named female characters (though I don't recall their actual names) are a prostitute in the second town and the mother of a boy you rescue later in the game. They do not interact with each other.

Carrier Command: Gaea Mission - I don't recall the game's two female characters, Essi and Aurora, ever talking to each other. Of course, the story wasn't exactly this game's strong suit so I may have just forgotten.

Darksiders 2 - Though the game has several interesting female characters (Uriel, Muria, Lilith and the Seer), none of them ever talk to anyone other than Death.

Bioshock - This one is a little harder to place. The Little Sisters do talk to each other in the orphanage, but mostly about the player, and they're not named characters. I don't believe any of the named female characters chat with each other.

Age of Empires III - Several named female characters, but they all live in different time periods and don't talk to each other.

EVE Online - There are many female characters, but NPCs in this game don't really interact with each other. If we count fluff, the novels do pass the test, but for the sake of this post I'm focusing exclusively on games.

Demigod - The game has two female characters, but the characters don't talk to each other. The back story for characters does allude to conversations between Sedna and her mother and the Queen of Thorns and other fairies, but these don't happen on screen so I'm placing it here.

Female characters talk to each other about a man:

Can't think of any off the top of my head.

Games that pass:

Retrovirus - Well, ok, they're all computer programs, but they have clearly gendered personas, and the female programs, Qat and the Oracle, talk several times about the virus infection and the internet.

Recettear - Recette and Tear talk to each other throughout the game about all sorts of things. They also have periodic chats with the female side characters about shop items, dungeons, booze, whatever.

Chantelise - As above. Since the main character's sister is her constant companion, the two frequently discuss a variety of things related to their adventure.

Everquest - Ignoring player characters because that's cheating, EQ still passes as Firiona Vie and Lanys T'Vyl periodically talk about beating the crap out of each other. There are surely others, but I can't begin to keep track of each conversation in a game so vast and one is enough to pass.

Borderlands 2 - A female director of the Dahl corporation tells her female security supervisor to go out and hunt monsters at one point. I don't recall what their names were, but they did have them, so we have a pass. The game very very nearly has a second qualifying conversation when Angel says that Lilith shouldn't come with to get the vault key, but she tells Roland to tell Lilith rather than telling Lilith herself (even though Lilith is in the same room).

Dawn of War - This one is tricky because its placement depends on whether or not you include the expansions, as the base game had only a single female character. In the Winter Assault and Dark Crusade expansions, Farseer Taldeer talks to other female eldar (Bonesingers, Fire Dragons and a Harlequin), but none of them have names. Soulstorm on the other hand, despite being the black sheep of the Dawn of War franchise, does clearly pass as if you play as either the Eldar or the Sisters of Battle you will hear the Farseer and the Canoness doing the typical leader vs leader smack talking.

Games I'm not sure about/forgot the details:

Strike Suit Zero - I want to say that Reynolds talks to Control/Isabella at some point but I don't recall. Reynolds does talk to a female station operator in the first mission, but she is nameless.

Sleeping Dogs - I know Sandra and whatshername (her best friend, the movie star) talk several times, but I honestly don't recall if they talk about anything other than whatshername's boyfriend or the main character.