How Female Protagonists in the Gaming Industry Have Been Instrumental in Breaking Barriers

“Shadow of the Tomb Raider” (CC BY 2.0) by Alice Envenomed

Over the last few years, and as a result of social changes, the role of women within many different sectors has grown increasingly influential. While female participation in sport, for example, is only now reaching new heights within contemporary society, the role of women within video games has long battled to bring a sense of equality and female empowerment to the entertainment market.

Due to that fact, we’re going to look at some of the most well-known female leads in video games and assess how their popularity has helped to break barriers throughout a wide array of new and emerging industries.  

The importance of the Tomb Raider franchise and Mirror’s Edge

In recent times, two of the most successful video games have been represented by a female protagonist. Ever since the release of the very first Tomb Raider titles back in 1996, the series has only continued to grow in popularity. Aside from just influencing the gaming industry, the franchise, which is focused around the character of Lara Croft, has expanded into comic books, novels, films and much, much more. Within the gaming industry and beyond, there can be no doubts that the character of Lara Croft has influenced mass culture. Research from 1998 shows that, during the era, only 44 percent of video games had female characters in them, let alone as the protagonist.

Lara Croft represents how far society has come in regard to the development of the feminist movement and, in particular, the demand among audiences for greater numbers of female leads. While the breakthrough of women in entertainment did not start with Lara Croft and Tomb Raider, the character’s impact and mass appeal certainly played a part in many future developments. Mirror’s Edge, which was released 12 years after the first Tomb Raider, in 2008, is centered around Faith Connors who, to some extent, seeks to develop the character of Lara Croft even further. What separates Faith from not only other female protagonists but also male first-person heroes, is that she opts to outsmart those who are after her, as opposed to relying on violence.

Female leads are becoming more commonAside from traditional video games, titles within the online casino sector are now basing a number of their releases around powerful female leads. Platforms such as Mr Green, which offer a casino online, feature a variety of games that center around women including, Lady Helsing, Mercy of Gods and Sakura Fortune. The ever-apparent inclusion of female protagonists illustrates how online casinos are expanding to keep up with the developing demands of consumers.

Outside of the gaming market, and as touched upon already when discussing Lara Croft, female leads are also starting to dominate the film industry, although their male co-stars still dominate in terms of screen time and dialogue. Along with Tomb Raider, popular releases including Kill Bill, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman have all enjoyed real success after staring highly successful and powerful female protagonists.

Society is evolving

What’s clear from the early days of Tomb Raider in which very few titles included women in any capacity, is that society, and everything that comes with it, is constantly evolving. Although there is still a long way to go, as women continue to break the boundaries and enter typically male-dominated industries, it’s highly likely that we will see more iconic female and femme characters in the future.

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