Creating an interesting female character isn't difficult, but for some reason, video games can't always seem to get it right. There's no shortage of women in our favorite games, but so many of them are cut from the same cloth when it comes to modern titles that it's beginning to become more than a little frustrating.
There's a newer trope that's emerged over the last couple of decades, however, and it's tearing apart any sort of foundation out there for engaging and believable characters. First, female characters were typically relegated to the "damsel in distress" role, like we see Princess Peach and characters of her ilk in. There are hundreds of examples that buck this trend, of course, but it's been a prominent trope for women since the days of old. But the one that's really grating is the sarcastic "quip machine" of a heroine.
Full disclosure: I'm a sarcastic monster myself. I'm known to bite back with some scathing responses to what I feel are stupid questions, and a good comeback is often irresistible to me. I love spunky women in my media just as much as I love their male counterparts. But I don't need them in every single game I play.
I'll come right out and say it: Not every video game heroine needs to come packaged as a wisecracking, gun-toting, sarcastic analog to their male companions. Sure, we need some Jacks, some Kait Diazes, and a wide variety of courageous, outspoken women in games. In fact, I invite them openly. But consider that it's simply unrealistic (and incredibly boring) to see the same archetype trotted out over and over again. Typically, this is a problem localized to Western games, with a wider variety of character personalities on showcase in non-Western titles like Bayonetta, the Persona series, JRPGs, and a smattering of other titles.
Life Is Strange's Chloe Price is a prime example of a character who, while her sarcasm is explained and even condoned in-game, could benefit from speaking to others like a normal, rational human being in certain situations. More recently, Marvel's Spider-Man's Mary Jane was even given some artificially, cringeworthy "spunky" dialogue, and it pained me to listen to her speak to others the way she did. It's simply unrealistic to think that every reply or interaction with another human being needs to be a biting one-liner, and women in games don't need to behave like it's normal – especially when so many male characters have the ability to behave in any manner possible. Some call them "boring," but they have the luxury of normalcy. Many female characters don't. I don't understand why – the fact that they're women shouldn't change how they're written. It shouldn't be this difficult to pen dialogue that a real woman might say in a situation, even if they're just trying to be "badass."
While I'd like to think I'd always have a sarcastic comeback for every situation, since it sounds lots cooler than fumbling over your own words, I don't. Most people wouldn't, either. And honestly, sometimes it's inappropriate. I don't play games to play as myself, though it's fun to customize characters, and I love to see the personalities illustrated by the designers and writers themselves. But there are more personality types out there in the world beyond the snarktastic sass queens that seem to be the norm more often than not.
There's certainly plenty of room in the wide world of gaming for these outrageous, theatrical personalities, the girls toting guns and their bombshell personalities. I'd love to see a wider variety of quirks, though. Different speech patterns, thoughts, aspirations, goals. Sometimes it's not fun being a smartass. It's fun to be genuine. It's time more writers acknowledged this.