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8th March 2019
International Women's Day
On Role Models and Remedy's First Heroine

With Control being released this Summer, this year for International Women's Day I wanted to talk about role models, representation, and the importance of those elements not just in growing up but just as something that is just always there.

When I was a kid, I absolutely adored Lara Croft. I would spend countless hours in the garden having paused the first movie part way through because I HAD to run around outside and imagine that I was her. For me, Lara encapsulated everything that I wanted to be; confident, daring, intelligent, practical, fearless. She could beat up a bunch of bad guys while translating hieroglyphics and she wouldn't be too far from a quip at all times. For me, Croft was extremely influential and was my first steps into the gaming industry. As I grew up, I created a website and got involved in the community. As an adult, I would be asked to research contacts and help proofread Prima Games' Twenty Years of Tomb Raider book, and travel to E3 as a Community Ambassador for Rise of the Tomb Raider. The series would also inspire me to change dream professions and work towards a job in community management.

At my first ever gaming press event for the Tomb Raider (2013) reboot.

I had played those early Tomb Raider games since I was three, first looking over my sister's shoulder, but soon after I started using a different save to journey out on my own. Prior to actually playing those games, there was Star Trek Voyager, which began its debut mission the same year I was born. My parents had initially met at a Star Trek convention, with my Mum (another female role model of mine) owning a Trek magazine at the time which was later taken over by her mother (along with convention running), when my parents got married. Sufficed to say that the whole Trek series had been a major influence. So being born in the same year that Tomb Raider was being developed AND that Star Trek had their first female captain was in-retrospective extremely exciting... and at the time felt completely ordinary.

The fact that both companies had put women front and centre then was a MAJOR deal. Initial concepts of Tomb Raider featured a male Indiana-Jones type character with a whip and a hat, believing that games with female protagonists weren't profitable. And with Trek, it was building upon a franchise which was mainly male-dominated. The Trek franchise had always focused on, especially in marketing, the big three figures and for the first time, Voyager had all three spots taken up by women; Janeway, B'Elanna and (later) Seven of Nine. But while it was a huge deal, having female-dominated shows and games wasn't something that I specifically thought about, it just felt like women were sharing the same spotlight that men usually had in the industries. Looking back at it, it's obvious that it was much more of a positive shift than I realised when I was a kid, and I'm excited it's something that both childhood passions have gone on to celebrate badass heroines in later years.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Cover Artwork

The weird thing is that while I expected role models to be more of an aspect of my childhood, as an adult, I'm finding myself reaching to books and media that celebrate the achievements and bravery of women more and more. It's in their stories that I'm motivated each day.

In Real Life

As I've grown, I've also looked for real-life inspiration. I'm in awe of the work that NASA's Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson achieved (spotlighted in the book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, which later became the movie, Hidden Figures). While so very different, another one of my favourite books is Geisha of Gion by Minako Iwasaki whose extraordinary life was curated from a childhood filled with restraint, careful dedication to tradition, and extreme focus. Malala Yousafzai is another individual that I think is absolutely amazing; she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out that girls should have the right to an education, but survived and continues to be an activist with her father for female education. Her strong focus has led her to become the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at 17. And earlier this year, I read Eva Schloss' After Auschwitz, a beautifully written and extremely informative book but one that is very difficult to read at times. All of the chapters are carefully phrased and considered but, even over sixty years on, her raw emotion comes through, and her bravery in the face of everything has stayed with me.

All of these lives are so different and while challenging to read about the adversity they faced, their strength to rise above it despite that is really admirable to me. They've gone on to motivate others and tell their stories, and inspire hope.

In Fiction


Sabrina Gabrielli's artwork for the release of Nancy Drew #1 (The Secret of the Old Clock)

As my hobbies are rooted deep in geek-culture, I feel that there's an importance of heroines in our fiction too. When it comes to the expansion of female leaders in popular culture, I'm genuinely excited about the effect that films such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel have had. The former I absolutely adore, but only got into as an adult. My bookcase now is dotted with Wonder Woman statues, Funko Pops, and comics with various incarnations alongside each other.  Whenever I've had a rough day, it's my go-to movie. And in all my watchings of it, I have never not had goosebumps when Diana storms across No Man's Land. On a different shelf of the same bookcase is some Nancy Drew books, a heroine again less so from my childhood but from my teenage years. I love Nancy Drew for a bunch of reasons, and I've always thought that being deterred away from an awesome female teenage heroine by my English teacher at the age of twelve was always weird, especially as those books were such a joy to read. Now I have a collection of tweed-bound 1930s Nancy Drew books and a shelf that smells like vanilla whenever I walk past it. While I love my Kindle, an aspect of the ND series that I really admire is its resilience and timelessness, and for me, those tweed-covered classics represent that. In a few weeks, there's a new movie coming out based on the second book but modernised for a new audience, not bad for an 89-year-old lady!

In Control

For International Women's Day this year, I wanted to talk about role models because, while there have been many badass women in Remedy's twenty-four-year history, this year marks the first Remedy game launched with a female protagonist, Jesse Faden. I especially liked this for two reasons. The first is that it's a break in the tradition of strong male protagonists for a strong female protagonist. The second is that, if done right, Jesse has the potential of being another role model for women alongside characters like Lara Croft, Clementine, Ellie, and more.

In the game, Faden becomes the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control and must battle an otherworldly force which has infected the FBC. She is driven and is searching for answers about a mysterious event in her childhood, unafraid of the curiosities that lurks within the shifting corridors. But while we don't know too much about the character yet, the backstory that we do know paves the way for her to be a memorable heroine.

Artwork for Control
Which is why, a couple of weeks ago, when Remedy and 505Games arranged a Q&A with Control's lead actor, Courtney Hope, as soon as the prompt was posted asking for questions my mind immediately went to role models and strong women who had inspired more strong women. While initially a character-centred Q&A there was a lot of interest and questions for the actor, which led to a second interview recorded in addition to the in-character interview. Here is what Hope had to say:

"For me, I definitely took the embodiment of what a strong, inspired, passionate woman was from myself and just from other women around me. Women in my family; aunts, grandmother, my mother, and then other women out in the world, other people I’ve worked with or other celebrities. Just what it meant to have that something inside of you, a fight, something that you’re passionate about and you’re fighting for, or searching for, or curious about. Whatever that meant and tried to encompass all of that into who Jesse was, was kind of my goal. So it was more of a broad spectrum of what the definition of that strength and hero meant and how can I find that in, y’know, physical attributes, and body language and emotion and all that stuff." Courtney Hope (Community Q&A)

Joining the community back in 2011, I loved Remedy's intriguing adventures and multifaceted characters, especially their protagonists. While I would love a sequel to Alan Wake or Quantum Break, I'm excited that when Remedy went for a new IP, they decided that their new lead to be their first heroine. And I'm looking forward to exploring the mysteries of the FBC building with Jesse.... even if it will make me think twice about checking the fridge for lunch.

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