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Video Games Are Finally Growing Up

18/06/2015 08:48 BST | Updated 17/06/2016 10:59 BST

In the brief 26 years I've been on this planet I have spent almost all of my adult life defending and advocating a hobby that has to all intents and purposes, damaged society.

Video games, much like films or TV, have a vital role to play in society.They're immersive forms of art that imitate, critique or parody the world around us.

While TV and films came under heavy scrutiny - and quite rightly still do - about the way they portray gender stereotypes, video games have had something of a free ride. Flying under the radar the industry did little to portray video games as a new creative force.

Thankfully this period is coming to an end, and over the last five years video games have gone from their mostly violent roots to becoming a powerful artistic medium. Developers have accepted that adult women are by far the largest gaming demographic with adult men in close second.

doom

Doom has been criticised for promoting ultra-violence among young gamers.

If you want to find the typical gamer, a basement filled with energy drinks is not where they're going to be.

While games as a whole have massively improved in terms of quality of writing, production etc, there's still been one enormous elephant in the room, and that's gender equality.

Well, all that's about to change because this year gaming has taken an important step towards being equal.

While many publishers are still maintaining the old traditional franchises like Call of Duty, Halo etc, there's been a driving force this year to create new IP.

Creating an all-new gaming franchise is actually incredibly risky. They can cost a fortune to make and come with the uncertainty for success that just doesn't exist when you announce a new Call of Duty or Uncharted game.

Having a video game with a powerful, non-sexualised woman as a female protagonist shouldn't be a risk, and yet it's something that has mostly eluded video games.

Well, this year there weren't one, but eight major games with female protagonists.

horizon zero dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn is the new game from Killzone developer's Guerrilla Games.

FIFA 16, Horizon Zero Dawn, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, ReCore, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Dishonoured 2, Fallout 4 and finally Assassin's Creed: Syndicate all allow you to play as women, either in the main role, or in an equal role with a man.

The fact that this is even news is wrong enough, yet it has to be recognised for what it is: an important step that shows the industry finally opening its eyes.

Of course it hasn't been an easy transition, the excellent Tomb Raider reboot was almost sabotaged by its own executive producer who implied that male gamers wouldn't want to play as a female, so they had to create her as this vulnerable character for them to 'protect'.

rise of the tomb raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of Microsoft's biggest games franchises.

Thankfully, and despite his apparent stature within the company, he's talking absolute nonsense. I, and the majority of the gaming community did not see Lara in this way, and instead it was a savage coming-of-age story that took a young person through hell and asked you to help them through to the other side.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider then is that next chapter. Lara's older, wiser and has somehow turned being astronomically unlucky into a full-time career. No, Lara Croft is no longer wearing hot pants and yes, she probably knows more about ancient archaeology than you. Do you still want to play it? Of course you do, because you're not a moron.

There's always going to be a place for violent video games like Doom, Gears of War and Grand Theft Auto. That's just how it is, and honestly I wouldn't want to see them go. The good news is that they're no longer the norm, and with both Xbox and Sony putting their weight behind a powerful female-led line-up of new franchises in 2015, this is the year that video games are finally beginning to grow up.