The strongest people I know are all mothers. My mother raised me while finishing school and holding down a job. As a court designated worker, every day she faces the hard things of this world: broken families, children who are lost and directionless, parents who either don’t care or have no idea how to help their kids. She deals with that every day and comes home to two young children that want her to be part of their lives. And by golly, she does it. My mother-in-law is an immigrant and has endured incredible trials in the States. The level of self-sacrifice she has shown so that her children can be happy and healthy is truly humbling. My wife, the mother of my child, battles all the time with the struggles of being a young mom. The desire to be a great parent, to always be there for your child, while also wanting to go on adventures and do amazing things with your life is a difficult balance to strike. I have a tough and talented stepmother, hardworking and doting grandmothers, a loving great-grandmother – moms are everywhere in my life and golly am I crazy blessed for that. And while I know that there are plenty of people reading this who may struggle with the mother they have, or yearn for a mother who is no longer here, I am sure plenty of you can attest to the fact that moms are some of the toughest, most enduring people in your lives too.
So why the heck are moms in video games not like that?
In honor of mother’s day, I wanted to do a post on my top 5 video game moms. The coolest, toughest, most loving, most BA ladies in the industry. And you know what stinks? Most of the strong female characters in the gaming world are not mothers. Or maybe I should say what stinks is that the mothers who are in the gaming world don’t display the kind of strength that many real-life moms have.
When I even try to think of video game moms, I have trouble coming up with options. I mean, there’s Mother Brain from Metroid, if you count that. Then there’s Hope’s mother in Final Fantasy XIII, who says “moms are tough” a couple of times and that’s pretty much the extent of her character. The Assassin’s Creed games I have played have moms, but they certainly aren’t sterling examples of strong female role models. While I haven’t played every game on the market by a longshot, the trend I see is that mothers have insignificant roles in games. They dote on you just before you leave for your big adventure, or they’re the victim of a terrible villain that the hero (usually a boy) has to go and stop.
Now this isn’t true across every single game. I’d say the female protagonist in Fallout 4 is a pretty tough mom. Oliver’s mother in Ni No Kuni is a great character as well, with a role more involved than simply being a damsel in distress. But characters like these are outliers in a world populated by moms with no screen time and no outstanding characteristics.
So why aren’t moms more prominently featured in video games? Well, I’m no researcher of trends, but I do think issues of gender play a lot into this. Game developers primarily focused on males for a long time, and as such tended to cast the strong roles in their games as men. Now these days some companies are starting to catch on that games need strong women too, but it’s a relatively new phenomenon. We’re just now getting to the point where the female protagonists of games can have regular sized breasts and there’s not a freaking uproar about it (remember the comment sections of news articles when Ubisoft first wanted to have a female assassin?). And when developers design strong female protagonists, when they design ladies that are BA warriors or secret agents or sorceresses or whatever, they design ones that aren’t moms. Why is that? I think a part of it is that moms are kind of unfeminist.
I’m risking being politically incorrect here, so allow me to elaborate. I know plenty of moms who are feminists. I know plenty of feminists who want to be moms. But there’s this weird idea out there in “society” that being a wife and having kids isn’t a strong thing to do. It’s not as strong as being successful in business or being a widely regarded author or being a politician with tons of dopey men at your beck and call. It’s an idea I don’t agree with – I explained at the beginning of this post that the strongest people I know are all mothers – but it’s an idea that’s out there in the world nonetheless, and I think it shows in video games.
Why have a mom when you can have an archaeologist, or a soldier, or a bounty hunter? Now THOSE are strong women. The ones who didn’t settle down, who didn’t give up their dreams, who didn’t bind themselves to some man and a bunch of squalling kids.
It’s a pretty messed up view of things, right?
Samus Aran is a strong woman. Lara Croft is a strong woman too. But so is my wife. And so is her mom, and my mom. And their moms too. We’re finally getting to the point where video games featuring strong women are normal rather than anomalies, where ladies are more than just sex objects to reward a male gamer for a “job well done.” But though we’ve reached that point, we still have a ways to go. We need to get to the point where games acknowledge more than one interpretation of what it means to be strong. Where a woman who will do anything for her child is seen as being powerful too. I want to be able to play a game where my BA, super cool, powerful player character is also a mother. And my guess is that there are plenty of men and women who feel the same way.
I turn the conversation to you, adventurers. Do you think mothers should be featured more prominently in video games? Do you know of any games that prominently feature a mother as an excellent character in the game? Let me know in the comments, and if you’ve got a mother you’re proud of be sure to let her know how awesome she is this mother’s day. She certainly deserves it!