Women-Friendly Gaming: Child of Light
Child of Light is a stunningly beautiful, endearingly sweet, and story-driven 2D RPG/adventure/side-scrolling game by Ubisoft Montreal with a turn-based combat system. The protagonist, Aurora, is a young, red-headed princess in an iconic yellow dress who wields a sword nearly as large as she is. As Aurora (and you, the player) fly through Lemuria, with overwhelmingly large sword in hand and crown on head, you fight and work your way through several puzzles while collecting companions drawn to Aurora’s innocence, perseverance, and kindness. While (mostly) avoiding spoilers, I’d like to lead you through why I think Child of Light can certainly be considered a woman-friendly game and why it is definitely worth your time.
Not Offensive to Women (out of 1 points)*
The game does not rely on common gendered video game tropes like ‘sexual violence as a backstory’, ‘female characters as love interests’, or ‘women as background decoration‘ (that one courtesy of Anita Sarkeesian). There are no sexualized-for-the-male-gaze costumes, and Aurora is not treated any differently because she’s a girl (other than being called Princess). Easy +1.
Features a Woman as the Main Protagonist and/or Supporting Character (out of 2 points) & Passes the Bechdel Test (out of 3 points)
As already mentioned, Child of Light features a young girl protagonist, Aurora, but the game also makes an effort to include several other female characters for Aurora to interact with. Of the 7 (8 with DLC) potential companions, 3 are women – these include Aurora’s sister Norah, the ineloquent jester Rubella missing her sadder half, and the young orphaned Gen with some rad pink hair. One minor flaw is that the game does fall into the trap of making your female companions support characters; this is a trend in many MMORPGs (and some other games) where female characters don’t necessarily ‘fight’ in the traditional sense, but rather heal or buff other characters. In Child of Light, while the female characters are primarily support, they all have the capacity to deal damage. Aurora’s main antagonist, Umbra, is also a woman, and her entourage of minor bosses features two more female villains. For these two categories combined, I’d say this is another easy +5.
Artistic and/or Entertaining (out of 4 points)
First off, Child of Light is artistically stunning. Ubisoft Montreal made use of a watercolor-inspired art style that brings the entire game and story to life. And because of the 2D side-scroller nature of the game, we’re provided with beautiful fixed landscapes that are complemented by vibrant up-close scenery and then topped with the bright, flowing, and easily identifiable Aurora. Art aside, this game is also just enjoyable to play, and the short length was well-suited to the story it was trying to tell. It took me roughly 12 hours, start to finish, and I’m a bit of a (self-admitted) completionist. The story is told well through the relatively easy puzzles, the bits of character dialogue (all in rhyme), and the game mechanics which are simple enough to not distract from the story, but still create a compelling experience. I would give Child of Light +4 in this category.
Above and Beyond General Media (out of 5 points)
I feel that there were two ways to assess media in this criterion: the first is whether the product is above and beyond general media in terms of its inclusivity of women, and the second is whether the product’s overall merits are above and beyond other products in its field (in this case, video games).
In the first sub-category, I think that Child of Light did very well. It’s a heart-warming story with a flawed, interesting female protagonist who interacts heavily with other female characters (both good and evil). While this may not seem revolutionary across all forms of media, for video games, it’s actually pretty darn good. Somewhat arbitrarily, I will say that’s worth +3.
As for the second sub-category; while the game is beautiful and fun to play, there wasn’t much it did that was really breaking new ground for video games. For instance, while the combat system was fun and kept me engaged and challenged through most of the game, it was very similar to Final Fantasy with its use of active time battles. Using your glowing, floating companion Igniculus to give you a boost during combat was interesting, but even he often reminded me of Navi (Legend of Zelda). The puzzles were enjoyable, but never posed much of an actual threat. These were not major issues with the game by any means, but certainly I would not say that it set new standards for the industry. Ultimately, I would give the game a final +1 in this second sub-category, making the category total +4.
My final score for Child of Light is a 14/15 on the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity (with some creative license taken within the categories). When all is said and done, this was a really lovely game that told a story and featured women prominently throughout.
PS. This is the first review in a series I’d like to write about women-friendly games, so keep on the lookout for more if this is something that interests you!
*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.