By Royston Joseph
There are exceptions however like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Samus Aran from the Metroid series but even these women behave in a very masculine way, seemingly the only way they can be acknowledged within a male dominated environment. They may be strong, but are also extremely sexualised in order to appeal to the male demographic.
That being said, things have gotten better for female characters in videogames, but they can’t completely escape this stereotype.
Portal is a prime example of a game that tries to do things differently, deliberately going against the grain of male-centric videogame conventions. You play a very unglamorous looking woman in an orange jumpsuit named Chell that, beyond being female is barely acknowledged as the main character. The spotlight is truly stolen by the devious and sadistic female computer AI called GLaDOS who’s sole goal throughout the entire game is to kill Chell (in other words, you).
Beyond the premise of defeating GLaDOS and escaping the facility you are trapped in, everything else is open to interpretation. Some have said that the Portal Gun you use in the game is representative of a phallic symbol within a very feminine environment, but unlike guns in other shooters is a means of creation rather than destruction. Some have even said that, on closer inspection, GLaDOS looks like a woman hanging upside down and tied up in a kind of bondage gear. If GLaDOS is a woman trapped in the restraints her creators made for her, is defeating her in a sense setting her free?
GLaDOS constantly messes with your mind in an attempt to extract an emotional response from Chell, and therefore you. The use of a female voice is strangely comforting in contrast to if a male voice had been used instead. Despite everything, the player gains an attachment to GLaDOS where in other games you are instructed to hate your enemy.
I could go on about the various points depicted within this game, but with everything you can only truly make up your own mind by picking up a copy and playing it yourself. Not a problem, as you can get it on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or PC.
And with the advent of the release of Portal 2 at the end of April, you too can get the chance to see where the geniuses at Valve will take GLaDOS, you and Chell next!