Doing it Right: WH40K Space Marine and Strong Female Characters (yes, really)

**Spoiler Alert** The following posts contains spoilers for the first two chapters of Warhammer 40K: Space Marine.

Patch says:

The Games industry so often makes a fail when it comes to depicting women, it’s a pleasure to stumble across someone Doing it Right, even in a small way. And this instance occurs in the most unlikely of places: a game set in the Warhammer 40K universe, centered on the story of three hyper-masculine Ultramarines.

The game is mainly about blood and gristle and the slaughter of hordes of Ork people. But there’s a point in the second chapter where we pause for a moment, to meet an Imperial Guard Lieutenant who appears to be responsible for the fact that a small contingent of Imperial Guard has survived, and is still holding ground and fighting.

And surprise: the Lieutenant is a woman. And she’s wearing practical, masculine armor. The texture artists gave her makeup, but it’s understated makeup — it’s more the sort of makeup an actor would wear to highlight their features on stage, than the sort of makeup someone would wear to go out on a date. One of the space marines is suprised that she’s a woman — “you’re in charge?”, he says. The main character ignores this statement, and proceeds to address her straightforwardly, keeping the conversation focused on the situation at hand. It was a nice acknowledgement that, yes, there is sexism in this game’s culture, but the story and the main character were going to deal with this person more in terms of her military competence than her gender.

And while she is a minor character, she has agency. The Space Marines are surprised to find survivors; it’s a plot twist that she is directly responsible for. The collectibles in the game are little audio story vignettes, and the collectibles for Chapter Two take some time to flesh out her story, as she deals with the death of her superior officer, and the sudden weight of command.

It’s a nice touch. It’s not perfect. She’s depicted as being conventionally attractive, which wasn’t necessary. And it’s not as cool as a fully fleshed out, interesting female main character would have been. But someone made the effort to make that character interesting, and I’d like to tip my hat to that person. Games industry: more of this, please.

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