I make no effort to hide my fondness for video games, and I think that while Kotaku does a good job of existing, there's an opportunity to discuss gaming on this site in a way that's somewhat critical, not about ZOMGBEWBS, and still really fun and inclusive of a variety of viewpoints that are mine... I mean everyone's.
I'd like to start with a series of "biopics" about female characters in a range of games. This will mostly be tongue-in-cheek, but also have some meaningful discussion about the characters and how they portray women.
There will be a formula, because I lack the ability to be original on a regular basis.
- History of the Character (and cool trivia if I can find any)
- Beyonce Rating (How much of a Feminist Icon is the character?) 5 point scale
- Macklemore Rating (How much of a ham-fisted statement is she, if at all?)
- Best games featuring this character
- Worst games featuring this character
Simple, right? And hoo boy is this a treasure trove of opportunities just starting with bios.
So, let's start with our first lucky lady: Princess Peach!
Princess Peach: First Fungal of the Mushroom Kingdom
Princess Peach is the monarch of the Mushroom Kingdom, and the presumed love interest of the Kingdom's official warrior plumber, Mario. She is also, arguably, the most prominent female character in video games in the world.
Princess Peach was first featured in the NES classic, Super Mario Brothers. She was little more than a damsel in distress to be rescued from another castle. She had literally no character other than being thankful at being rescued at the end of the game.
And that was it. Nothing else. I mean, she wasn't announcing "women should stay home and have babies!" at the end of the game, but she really didn't offer the average gamer much. Until...
(American) Super Mario Brothers 2. Oh man, what a weird game this one was. At the time, nobody knew that it was merely a reskin of an unrelated game called "Doki Doki Panic." Because the "real" sequel to the original was deemed too difficult for overseas players, Nintendo repackaged another game as the second game in the series in the US. Yes, it was weird. Yes, it added strange canon to the Mario universe. But it also gave us our first glimpse into Princess Peach as a playable character, and she was FUCKING AWESOME. Sure, Mario was a good all-arounder, and Luigi can jump high. But Peach could FLOAT. She was overpowered, and that was awesome.
And she does it in a big poofy pink princess dress. How badass is she?
Unfortunately, Peach wouldn't be a playable character again (as far as I know) until Mario RPG on the SNES. And, as is typical in games, she's the healer (because, y'know, women are nurturing or something...) She isn't a huge player in the game, and only comes in toward the end.
Peach features in a lot of the secondary Mario games like the Kart games, Party games, and other similar "non-primary" non-platformers as a playable character. For the most part, however, she's either on the sidelines or the damsel-in-distress. She and the princess of another kingdom (Hyrule or something?) are often the victims of the same hero-villain interactions that seem stuck on repeat. On the bright side, Peach recently was given a very much playable role in the new (and fantastic) Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. She remains the floaty princess we all know and love.
But all told, Peach is a bad example for women, right?
Not so fast...
Beyonce Rating (3/5 Rings on It)
OK, I know what you're thinking, "she's merely a pink dress damsel-in-distress!" And you're wrong.
Not only is she often the most fun character to play as in the games she's in, she's also often entertainingly self-aware in recent games. Especially in the Paper Mario and other RPG games, where she's said things like:
- "I can't believe I got kidnapped…again."
- "You X–Jerks kidnapped me like common Koopas!"
So she knows. She knows she's part of a bizarre loop, and in games where she isn't part of the Koopacracy's repression, she lets the audience know it.
Also, c'mon, there's something impressive about anyone who can run around even some of the time stompin' on koopas and goombas while wearing this:
Say what you want about her clothes being stereotypical, but Peach owns that shit, and never seems ashamed of who and what she is. So while she loses points for being kidnapped way too often, she gains points for self-awareness and an impressively sarcastic sense of humor when she's outside of the strict confines of the Mushroom Kingdom. You just have to get to know her.
Macklemore Rating (1/5 hamfists)
Peach is... not a statement. At all. Mario is possibly the least political gaming universe ever made. No hamfists here.
My favorites with Peach are:
Playable: Super Mario 3D World. Truly sublime platform gaming, and hearing Peach say "Peachy!" is oddly entertaining.
Non-Playable (except in brief parts): Super Paper Mario. A great game with tons of self-aware humor and a pretty good story to boot. One of the few games to genuinely impress me emotionally.
Hotel Mario. Just... ugh. UGH.
Peach is Peach. What else can you really say? Sure, it'd be nice if we could get more good games with her as a playable character, but when we do finally get to see who she is, she herself realizes how she's part of an absurd loop. I'd like to dislike her for being the weird caricature of a stereotype of a boilerplate princess needing rescued, but she's... Princess Peach. She's the greatest female icon of video games, and she knows it. She's not ashamed of who she is, and you shouldn't be ashamed of loving her for that.
So, in conclusion, I say Princess Peach is a-okay in my book.