As I alluded to during my last post, I’m currently working my way through another Sony exclusive in my free time – the beautiful world of Horizon Zero Dawn by Guerilla Games. The first clip I saw of this had me hooked, another post apocalyptic feral world infested with what I could only register as mechanised dinosaurs (with fricking lasers!!) after what felt like a short life time of waiting, I’m finally sat in front of the telly with Aloy, spending hours upon hours critically experimenting and perfecting strikes with weaponry on outrageously well imagined beasts ranging from cute seekers to crocodile inspired savage snapmaws! Try saying that 5 times, but faster…

As part of the open World, I’m able to explore at will, and delve into the mystery of the wreckages left behind, looking for any and all information on the many civilisations past – from the exodus of the young Americans to a factory industrialised China. I can hone my skills diving into the hunters’ pits, or take a gamble somewhere more advanced and see how long my wits and arrows last. The pièce de résistance however is the paradoxical element between the open ‘top’ world and the underground linear Cauldrons where the machines are manufactured and spat out into the world. No joke, my first experience of a cauldron caused my wife to run in and find out what I was so jubilant about!

As a game it was conceptually awe inspiring and visually very appealing, albeit a touch repetitive at times and hindered marginally by its cheesy quest dialogue. However, it still stood out for me as a refreshing change to the stale stereotypes of women in video games.

Born in the early 90’s, I had the good fortune to be around during all the great game changers in terms of power to women; one being the release of Tomb Raider III towards the tail end of the decade, which in short blew my 8 year old mind! Puzzles and obstacles that could only be conquered with super human timing. Running into the jungle dual wielding pistols (with which we all shot Jeeves during the mansion level, admit it), and ultimately getting to play as this incredibly strong female role! The success of Lara Croft is the stuff of legends; two major Hollywood films, over 10 different title releases over almost all digital platforms. As a heroine we as video game connoisseurs couldn’t ask for more.

But maybe we should be?

During that period for a heroine to really captivate an audience they had to be strong, intelligent, quick witted and savvy, but above all else they had to be sexy. I won’t condemn the franchise. I’ve played the games and watched the films and enjoyed every second of the journey. But I’m pleasantly surprised in Horizon that a matriarchal styled narrative has now entered the fray and caused ripples in the games industry.

With gender choices in most RPG’s we have the ability the fully customise our avatars, but the character is still rail-roaded through a strict story regardless of gender. Our choice has been removed and yes the game has to be completed in a logical fashion. What I’m arguing is that there is no way imaginable that a male lead would have had the same impact. HZD immediately stole my attention with the matriarch vs patriarch overtones. Here we are, on an adventure with a convincingly strong female raised in a predominately matriarchal society set free to find out her own origins. During Aloy’s self imposed quest of discovery we can see the disparity between her original tribe and the patriarchal tribes she finds along the way. And that’s fascinating.

Progress by design has been made with HZD, a game exploring the role of women in patriarchal society, but still well worth investing in if just for the stunning vertigo inducing visuals and otherworldly mechanised imaginings of the native beasts.

The only question remains – What’s next for female representation?

Mike out