I bought Return, a video game from developer Housemarque, without knowing anything about it. Well, that’s not quite true. I knew of the teaser that it had something to do with escaping a time loop and that there was some futuristic technology and monsters or something. None of that mattered, because I wasn’t buying it for the gameplay, I was buying it because of its protagonist, Selene. Selene is a fairly ordinary video game character in many ways: agile, capable, intelligent, face a seemingly insurmountable challenge. It’s unusual for the playable character to be a female, but that’s not what makes Selene special. It is because she is middle aged. I can finally see myself in a video game.
I’m 50 this year, and that’s not what I expected at all. I know I’m not young anymore, but I certainly don’t feel old. It turns out that middle age looks exactly like it is: that time in life when you’re smarter than before, and more importantly, smart enough to know you don’t know everything. I can’t move as fast as I did in college and I have wrinkles on my face, but overall I am physically fine. If I can be this daring, I think this is the best version of me that has existed so far. Too bad no one seems to notice it.
People tend not to pay too much attention to me because I’m missing the one thing that would make me relevant to them: the kids. Whether they like it or not, the second someone finds out that I don’t have children, they back off slightly. Not out of disgust, but out of confusion. What do we talk to a 50-year-old woman if not her children? What are women of this age doing …
It’s an attitude that is replicated through the characters in video games. The women in the games are usually either young and sexy or old and wise, unless they’re villains, of course, in which case they’re sexy and evil. They are companions or band members or just not there at all, but they are not so much the star. It’s not as bad as it used to be; the video industry has come a long way since the big reveal of Metroid was, gasp, the hero was a woman from the start! Yeah, we love Samus now, but never forget it was meant to be a huge twist for you to play as a woman. There are many, many more opportunities to play as a woman than ever before, especially when you factor in the games where you can create your own character, but they are almost always young.
Which, let’s be honest, does make some sense. A younger body is generally more capable than an older body, and if you play a game with a lot of physical activity, leaning in favor of someone in their 20s or 30s is a logical choice. I have nothing against the younger characters. In fact, I think the 2013 reboot of tomb Raider is awesome in part because Lara Croft is so young. She’s just graduated from college and hasn’t had to face any real challenges yet, so when she’s shipwrecked, hurt, and lonely, she has to tap into emotional resources that she can use. had no idea. It’s a really powerful experience, which we almost all have in our own lives.
Imagine what Lara would look like as a person 30 years after this first adventure. What would decades of adventure have taught him? What friends has she made and what enemies? How many times has she cheated on death and how did this impact her approach to danger? Well, we’ll probably never know, as game publishers seem to believe that Lara is only interesting when she can. Forbeslist of the 30 Under 30s.