Throughout history, the general consensus among the gaming community is that women are not fairly represented in a vast majority of AAA titles. Either they are unrealistically proportioned, made subservient or serve no major purpose in the story’s canon. However, in my own experience, even though a large number of AAA titles may fit this trope (mostly due to having deeper market penetration), there have been a large number of relatively smaller games that do feature strong female protagonists.
One glaring example is Rynn from Drakan: The Ancients’ Gates, released for the Sony Playstation 2 in 2002. After the intro cutscene, Rynn finds herself outside of the ancient city of Surdana, where she encounters General Dehrimon. Not bothering with small talk, she quickly introduces herself and asks about Surdana’s well-being. At this time, Dehrimon warns her that bandits have been working the nearby road and that a lone woman might look like a “tempting target”. Her response? “If that’s the case, they’re in for a painful lesson”.
Later on, in Surdana, Rynn even rescues a man cowering outside of his house, which has become overrun with large spiders. Instead of berating him for being afraid, Rynn volunteers to help kill them, which she promptly does. This doesn’t reflect that she feels that she’s “above” anyone she has encountered so far, but rather wants to be treated with the same level of respect that townsfolk would treat a male warrior.
However, this desire is lost on some, especially after Rynn meets the town drunk. Leaning and swooning over the bar, the man states “why don’t you make yourself useful, and bring me some liquor.” Instead of engaging negatively with the heavily intoxicated man, Rynn says nothing and walks away. This reflects a tremendous amount of self-control on her part in that she doesn’t abuse her physical prowess, but rather uses it on the battlefield where it’s needed most.
The point in all this is that Rynn doesn’t desire to be better than anyone, but rather be treated the same way as a male warrior would. Rynn is the embodiment of social justice in that she only wants fair treatment, nothing more.
When comparing the fantasy world of Surdana with historical accounts of medieval society, it goes completely against the grain. Where some women were afforded a comfortable existence, many of them had to “know their place” in a society dominated by men. Historical accounts dictate that women had little to nothing to do with the running of a country (much less be warriors), whereas the world of Surdana has not only female warriors, but women leaders as well. In this vein, Surdana embraces the concept of social justice and equality much more so than medieval European societies.
For the most part, Rynn doesn’t experience much repression from the residents of Surdana, with the exception of the town drunk and an extremely conservative farmer on the outskirts of town, who calls her a “dragon-taming witch”. Even though Drakan is set in a somewhat medieval time period, it seems that Surdana has embraced the concept of social justice, even more so when its retainer is the wise and beautiful Lady Myschala.
If anything, Drakan: The Ancients’ Gates shows us that wisdom, adventure and physical strength are not strictly relegated to men. Despite the timeframe being depicted in any game, it illustrates that so-called “established tropes”, such as subservience and the damsel in distress, can be broken down to create a more positive experience for all. Rynn, we salute you!