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The Female First Person: Mirror’s Edge

Few media products receive as much flak as video games for their treatment of women. Whether it’s excluding girls and women from the demographic entirely when marketing games, rarely having female protagonists, or showing women as scantily clad and heavily sexualized during gameplay, one can think of a million examples of questionable representation.

But in terms of positive representation, the first game that comes to mind is Mirror’s Edge: the blue-tinged, dystopian world occupied by a host of dynamic characters. And the face of it all is an agile, strong, East-Asian woman named Faith, who sets out on a mission to save her sister. It’s a welcome respite from the myriad of male dominated first-person shooters and running games.

The striking thing about Mirror’s Edge is just how refreshing it is. Faith (the protagonist) is, by all means, an entirely reasonable and realistic character. And you know that’s rare when it comes to female representation in media.

She doesn’t fall victim to various tropes relegated to women in games, as proposed by Anita Sarkeesian, the creator of “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games”. Faith successfully diverts classification as the damsel in distress, her race isn't exoticized, and she isn’t relegated as a sidekick. Plus, the best part of her character design (besides the eyeliner!) is that she isn’t dressed in lingerie armor.

Another way Mirror’s Edge subverts expectations is its focus on the act of running. Many games that are based on sprawling worlds (like Mirror’s Edge) are still very combat-focused. However, the game tutorials teach you to utilize your speed, agility, and physical strength to disarm rather than kill. Thus, Faith’s body is not presented as a sexualized domain, but as an asset she draws heavily upon to navigate the world. Being able to play first-person as a woman who deftly performs outstanding physical feats is a uniquely liberating experience as a girl from Pakistan, who was not even allowed to go for a walk without her little brother in tow.

Faith is one of the few female videos game characters I can think of who seems almost tangible. In a landscape where female characters feel like caricatures of the feminine experience, Rhianna Pratchett, a woman, has managed to give the world a chance to play as a fully conceptualized, resilient, and frankly, badass woman.

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