It’s a little late to write an article that reflects back on the games of 2011, but for this Saucy Saturday article it’s what I plan to do. I’m sure some of you have heard of the Bechdel Test, the three criteria that determine the “feminine-friendliness” of (usually) a film. These three criteria are as follows:
1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
It’s as simple as that. A movie scores a 1 for meeting the first criterion, 2 if it meets the first two, and 3 if meets all three. While I say it judges the “feminine-friendliness” of a piece of media, it definitely doesn’t mean it has to be “feminist-friendly.” That is, it can still meet the criteria and still be offensively misogynistic. Either way, you’ll be surprised how few films meet even the first criterion.
But this isn’t a film site, so I’m adjusting the Bechdel Test to apply to that medium we love best: video games. For ease of application, the only thing I’m modifying is #1: It has to have at least two [named] women in it. Because many NPCs are named in video games, I’m chancing it to having at least two named women who are actually a part of the narrative. That is to say, they actually do something within the game, rather than just act as an NPC that gives you a side-quest.
My other stipulation with this exercise is which games I’m going to actually be applying it to. First, I’m only going to be looking at core games whose initial releases were in 2011. Therefore, re-releases will not count, and neither will new platform releases, as in the case of Mass Effect 2, which was released for Xbox 360 and PC in 2010, but on the PS3 in 2011. Another instance is Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, which was released for the Super Famicon in 1995, and re-released on the DS in 2011. The list I am using to see which games were released in 2011 is the Wikipedia list. Second, the Sims don’t count. Third, if you have the option to play a female character, your interaction with female NPCs does not count as two women who talk to each other. That interaction would have occurred in exactly the same way regardless of which gender you chose. If the gender of the main character is pre-determined to be female, then it counts.
Okay. Hopefully that’s all clear. My final note is this: I’m not making any claims to the finality of the list, or its infallibility. For example, I put Portal 2 as only meeting the first criterion, because I don’t think that GLaDOS and Chell ever actually speak to each other; GLaDOS speaks to or at Chell, but Chell never responds, so it’s not a conversation or a true dialogue. You may disagree and put Portal 2 in category #3. Feel free to post any disagreements or additions you might have in the comments. Of course I didn’t play every single game, or every single core game, released in 2011. I gathered opinions from the other PikiGeek writers for those games which I didn’t play, but we’re all human, so maybe we missed that one second where two women said something to each other in passing. If so, let us know.
Without further ado, here is the list of Bechdel Test “winners” for 2011:
Dead Space 2
DC Universe Online
Disgaea 4: A Promise Forgotten
Gears of War 3
Pokémon Black and White
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Dragon Age II
American McGee’s Alice: Madness Returns
Batman: Arkham City
Yeah. That’s all of them. All 19 of them, among the hundreds of games that got released last year, and some of the women aren’t even portrayed in the best light. It was, however, collectively decided that Batman: Arkham City was the best example, as there was an entire scene between Catwoman and Poison Ivy.
In Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, it is Ezio’s mother and sister who talk to each other; in Dragon Age II, your party members will chat with each other as you quest, so if you have Isabela, Leliana, Bethany, or Merrill in your party together, they will banter with each other; and in American McGee’s Alice: Madness Returns there’s the Duchess, the Queen of Hearts, Lizzie Liddell, Mrs. Liddell, Nan Sharpe and Nurse Cratchet, all or most of whom engage in conversation with Alice.