Creating an interesting female character isn't complicated. All you need to do: write one the same way you would a male character, or anyone else for that matter, with believable dialogue, traits, and a personality you want to know more about. They shouldn't be perfect, of course, but real human beings. Then adjust from there as necessary. No bloated diatribes on how empowered they are, or how terrible men are to them, are necessary. They just need to be interesting. The rest will come in time.
It's simple, but not everyone has figured this out yet. That's OK. Rockstar Games has.
Note: This article contains MASSIVE spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2. If you haven't played it yet, proceed with caution!
There's a whole host of fantastic women (as well as amazing men) in Red Dead Redemption 2, but there's one in particular that resonated with me: Sadie Adler. Her rough-around-the-edges and authentic behavior was a joy to witness, and she fit so perfectly in with the rest of the Van der Linde gang that I wished she would have become an optional playable character. Perhaps that could be a reality in the future, depending on what Rockstar's plans entail, but one thing's for sure now: She's one of the best women the developer has ever fully realized, the best outlaw in Red Dead Redemption 2, and I'm ready to hear more from her in the future.
We first meet Sadie in Red Dead Redemption 2 after her home was robbed and her husband Jake murdered by the surly O'Driscoll gang. Protagonist Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang, the O'Driscoll's mortal enemies, happen upon Sadie and rescue her from the house, which has since gone up in flames. Sadie survived by hiding in the basement and is initially shaken and disturbed by the events that took place, understandably so.
Though initially, it seems very much that Sadie might be a one-off character with some pithy dialogue and a "funny" mission, that notion is quickly turned on its head as she rapidly becomes a go-to member of the Van der Linde gang when shootouts occur or when things go down in general. She doesn't need help, doesn't paint herself as a victim, and lives her life on her terms. She's also handy to have around in a fight because she'll mess you up big time. Hell, she wants to fight, most of the time.
In one particular mission, early on in her time with the gang, Sadie practically begs Arthur to take her to town, and he does so, reluctantly, because it's clear she's more about raising hell than being the prim and proper lady that's expected of her. She buys new clothes while in town and on the way back she and Arthur are accosted by some surly gang members.
"Be cool, Sadie," Arthur warns, but Sadie's having none of it, and raises her gun, firing away at the gang members, much to Arthur's dismay. She wanted action, so she created her own. She's not content to sit by and watch things transpire; she makes things happen. And as annoying as that initially may be, as much as it might seem that Sadie is just being irritating for the sake of being a troublemaker, it's our first window into how fantastic of a character she really is. She's spontaneous. She can back up her actions (and her occasional poor decisions). And she's funny.
But one of her biggest draws is her independence and her unwillingness to sit idly by and be some simpering waif who consistently needs rescuing after leaving the Van der Linde gang. During the game's epilogue, after some important events have transpired and we're back controlling Red Dead Redemption's John Marston, we meet up with Sadie again. She's become a full-fledged bounty hunter and gunslinger of her own accord who's raring to go. She recruits Marston to go steal back some loot from a miscreant who robbed her, and without another thought, in the middle of broad daylight, the two ride to make amends for her stolen cash and goods. She's no joke, and she doesn't care if you're with or against her. But if she's with you, she's a powerful ally to have.
I don't see enough of this. Sadie didn't stop to consider the repercussions of robbing and/or killing the man who stole from her in broad daylight, nor did she have to think twice about asking John to go with her. She knew she could handle it on her own, and typically would have done so. She's the one who reached out to John in the first place, too, and he really dragged his heels when it came to meeting up with her once more. The idea that women are normal folk and not more important than or less than isn't revolutionary at all, but many games struggle with this idea. I'm happy to say in Sadie's case it was never an issue. And by the end, she didn't have to fall in love with anyone or become anyone's girlfriend or wife. She remained boisterous Sadie, as whip-smart and amazing as ever.
Through it all, I still preferred spending time with the entirety of the Van der Linde gang and Arthur's gruff personality over Sadie overall, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed hearing from her. The matronly Susan Grimshaw was a fun addition to the camp, and John Marston's wife Abigail was interesting enough, but Sadie stole the show every time she was given the chance to. It's just another example of why Rockstar has writing for male and female characters down pat, and why the studio is continuing to create some of the best, most believable narratives in the industry. And I'll be here waiting to see more of Sadie going forward.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is available now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.