Achievement Unlocked: Video Games
Kick-Ass Women in Video Games: Left 4 Dead's Zoey and Rochelle
In this series, I’ll take an in-depth look at some notable female characters in video games. The only rules are that they must kick-ass, and they must be playable. Femme fatales these ladies are not, so strap on your armor and grab your long sword and get ready for battle!
One of the things that makes a strong female character in a video game, in my opinion, is that her gender doesn’t make a difference to the story. Much like Lara Croft’s role in Tomb Raider II, or in games where the protagonist is fully customizeable, such as the Fallout series, the character’s gender should be interchangeable. Games in which the character is in a situation because of their gender, such as the new Lara Croft in the infamous sexual assault scene, or games in which revealing the protagonist’s gender is a surprise, such as Metroid, can still have strong female characters, but also make it hard for the player to connect.
Valve is one of the companies that seems to continue to do things right when it comes to female characters. From Alyx Vance in Half Life 2 to Chell in Portal 1 and 2, they seem to know what it takes to make a great character. In their Left 4 Dead series, players take on the role of a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, choosing from four characters in each game. What’s really great about the characters is that their gender does not have a significant effect on the game or story, making it easy for players to pick the character they relate to the most. Although there are only two females in the series, they both have distinct personalities, and are an essential member in their respective groups.
The game itself is pretty violent, and quite gory, but I’ve had plenty of fun playing with friends, mainly because the game focuses on group gameplay. When your friends are hurt or incapacitated, you can stop to help them, but of course you risk your own character’s life when doing so. The more people you have in your group the better, and the easier it is to survive. While zombies are often scary enough on their own, the game will throw special zombies at the players, such as a Boomer that pukes on you and draws hundreds of zombies to you, a smoker, who lassos you with his long tongue, and a Tank, which is basically a supercharged zombie with a lot of health and a lot of muscle (think the Incredible Hulk as a zombie). What really makes the game, in my opinion, is the characters, especially Zoey and Rochelle.
Zoey is the only female playable character in the original Left 4 Dead, and is voiced by Jen Taylor (Halo’s Cortana). She has a small frame and wearsa red jacket, jeans, and sneakers: clothing perfect for fighting zombies. She was a student before the apocalypse, although not a very good one: she was told that she needed to get her grades up or she would be expelled. She was a theater/film major, wanting to pursue a career making horror films, as they were her favorite genre. As the zombies took over, she suffered a traumatic experience when her mother was bitten. While waiting for the paramedics, her father was attacked by her mother and bitten, causing him to kill her before she could get to Zoey. Zoey had to then make the choice: put her father out of his misery, or let him become a zombie.
Despite her past, Zoey is optimistic, often heard giggling and joking that she was studying for the apocalypse while watching horror movies. She is the youngest of her group, and as such is protected by the others (although she doesn’t need protecting). Her closest relationship in her group is with Bill, an old veteran, whom she looks up to as a father figure. She is spunky and quotes horror movies as well, even claiming that it “isn’t fair” that the zombies are so fast, calling “zombie bullshit.”
Rochelle is voiced by Rochelle Aytes, and is the only female character in Left 4 Dead 2. Like Zoey, she also has a small frame, and sports a bright pink Depeche Mode shirt and jeans, also appropriate attire for fighting and running away from zombies. Before the apocalypse, she was an associate producer for a local TV news station, and got her big break when the others were too sick to cover the infection. She started out on her own when her crew became zombies, and eventually met up with the others in her group.
In contrast to Zoey, Rochelle is feminine. She is caring and compassionate, especially towards the others in her group, who see her as a sister. Rochelle uses her strengths to help her group survive as well. For example, she uses her wits to get her group out of sticky situations, and her people skills to help them when they encounter other survivors. She is portrayed as being sensible and level-headed, and, like Zoey, has a sense of humor.
What I really love about these characters is that they feel real, and by that I mean they seem like people you’d actually find in a zombie apocalypse. They experience emotions when other characters die, and the dynamics between group members is what really makes it difficult to leave someone behind. Most of all, I love that Zoey and Rochelle are almost polar opposites personality-wise. While Zoey is a tomboy, Rochelle is more feminine, for instance, and both represent the range of personalities of women who would be playing the game. Having a fem ale character that is smart, funny, and can hold her own against hordes of zombies is something refreshing in video games. These ladies remind the players that you can be free to be who you are, even in a zombie apocalypse.
Don’t miss the other posts in this series!
Who are some of your favorite playable female characters?