The fight for equality in gaming is still ongoing. Just because everyone feels the same way, we're still a long way off from those opinions be translated into actual results and a victory for equality. We've had several leading ladies in video games recently, especially this year, but there is one woman we haven't seen in a while, who pretty much started the movement for strong, lead female protagonists in games. Samus Aran, where are you?
It all started back in the NES days, with the release of a space platformer/puzzler/shooter game called Metroid. The thing is, back then, everyone assumed that Samus was a male character. With the suit on and any recognizable features hidden in the sprite character model, determining that Samus was female was impossible. Even in the guide book included with the game, Nintendo referred to Samus as "he," thus possibly being the first ones to troll gamers. It wasn't until gamers figured out to finish the game in under five hours did they discover the ending Nintendo intended the world to experience, where it is revealed for the first time that Samus was, in fact, a woman.
I don't remember this as a kid, but I can imagine how shocking it was for people to realize they had been playing a female character the entire time. While it shouldn't make a bit of difference whether you play as a male or female in a game, the unexpected shock of realizing that your preconceived ideas of what's supposed to be, isn't always what they seem. Misogyny doesn't always have to be a conscience, intentional thought or feeling, as society embedded roots of the belief in everyone long before they even realized it. This game, and that ending specifically, broke the notion that every game had to be about being the tough guy trying to save his princess from the clutches of evil. Sometimes that princess can fend for herself just fine.
Playing this game again, I unfortunately didn't get to the really cool ending that I'm talking about, but I did have a lot of fun running around, and experiencing the game that sprouted an entirely new genre of games unintentionally. Everyone has heard the term "Metroidvania," I'm sure, referring to the style of Metroid and later Castlevania games, of exploration of the map to find upgrades and new abilities that allow you access to previously unreachable paths in the map in order to advance the overall story and main mission of the game. Instead of taking Path A, you would have to travel to Path C in order to get to Path B, which would allow you to go back and continue on Path A.
Confused? Try figuring out while playing the game, when every game before it was pretty much a Point A to Point B, extremely linear type of game progression. In hindsight, it was pretty revolutionary, but back then, it was just something different.
Something different in more ways than one, thankfully.