Editor’s note: With the announcement of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s DLC at the recent E3 conference last week, we’re hopeful that Aloy will continue to overthrow gender norms in Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds. In this post, we are excited to feature Theresa Tyree’s examination of the strong female character in the original revolutionary release.
Horizon: Zero Dawn has everyone talking. Breaking ground as the first open-world game to exclusively feature a female main character, the game has thrown out the hugely expired trope of gender roles. If you’ve played through the game, you might be asking, “What the heck are you talking about? The Osram tribe is hugely patriarchal. The Carja had a civil war over different opinions about the treatment of women and outlanders. And Aloy’s tribe, the Nora, are matriarchal. Seems to me like there are definitely some gender roles happening!”
“I think Kitty’s summer is kicking everyone else’s summers butt!” this statement on my Facebook page accompanied a picture of my nine year old daughter proudly standing by the door to a conference room at PopCap Games’ corporate offices. Kitty was getting ready to start her second week of Girls Make Games, a game design camp. Our friends and family followed along enthusiastically on social media as I posted daily updates of her camp adventures.
Girls Make Games is a three week camp that was held in July at 24 locations around the world. During the camp the participants learned about different career options in the gaming industry, met people working in the field, and toured game studios. In the three weeks they attended camp they also wrote, designed and developed a playable game.
One of the biggest turnouts at GeekGirlCon ’15 was for a panel that was announced at the last minute. “In Conversation, Anita and Zoe” featured special guests Anita Sarkeesian (creator of Feminist Frequency) and Zoe Quinn (game designer and co-founder of Crash Override Network) as they discussed what it was like to be high-profile women in tech, online harassment, and what action we can all take to prevent online abuse.
Elizabeth Sampat, who moderated the panel, started by posing some questions to Sarkeesian and Quinn. “You are both successful women in the public eye,” she said. “What kinds of things do you have to do or put up with that men in similar positions don’t have to do?”
Quinn answered first: “I’m worried that people will see me in public and I look like crap.” With the amount of focus that goes into evaluating women’s appearances, she voices her concerns about how if she doesn’t look “acceptable,” she will find threads on Reddit the next day criticizing how she looks. “There are all the things that go into appearance. I got into game dev and writing so I didn’t have to see people but now with this public thing I have to use makeup. It’s easier now when I think of it as painting a Warhammer mini.”
Although Maddie says that she loves these games, she discovered that there were oftentimes male characters, but not female ones. Or, where there were female characters, they had to be unlocked, while the default character was male. This was problematic. However, there are few statistics about the representation of gender in this genre, so, she set out to prove it.