Child of Light is a rare beast in the gaming pantheon. It’s a game with a girl as its central character. “But Lara Croft is a girl,” I hear you cry. Well, she is, but the original Lara was boobalicious and evidently created for the male gaze. Modern day Lara is still a hottie, but less reliant on her assets. But Aurora, of Child of Light, is a girl, a princess (of sorts) and she’s in a dress, with long hair and doesn’t ever become ‘kick-ass’ in order to win the day. She’s a new kind of female gaming hero – one who makes girls’ stuff cool.
When a girl is into guy stuff, it gives her some added cool points. ‘You like comics?’ the guys say and a light goes on in their eyes. Of course there are the guys who don’t believe you and proceed to test your knowledge, instead believing you to be the evil, mythical ‘gamer gurl,’ but we’ll sigh and move on. But generally guys like you being into their stuff, so you can talk together, go to the same movies and play games together.
However, when guys are into girl stuff, the kudos thing doesn’t happen. Girls’ toys, films and all stuff girly doesn’t sit in the cool camp. It’s just not, okay. And sometimes that’s true – girls get pink stuff with no substance quite a lot of the time (LEGO I’m looking at you), but sometimes, even cool girl stuff is overlooked as just girly and lame.
There is a tendency for critics and the public to sneer at anything aimed at women or girls. Twilight received a male backlash, but not because it was sending out a warped moral message about female sexuality and a twisted romanticising of the male lover as an overprotective, controlling, stalker. Many of the guys hating Twilight had never read it or watched it, but just hated it because girls loved it, ergo it must be rubbish.
I admit, I was a bit sniffy about Sex and the City, but decided to watch one of the films and discovered it’s about friendship and women supporting each other through thick and thin, and who doesn’t aspire to friendships like those? It also has nice dresses and shoes, so what’s not to love? It’s not my cup of tea, but I understand why people like it.
Sometimes, just sometimes, girls’ stuff sneaks through and becomes cool, despite being for girls. I recently, watched a documentary on the ‘brony’ culture. Bronies are generally male (not exclusively), ranging from teens to adults who are committed fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (FiM) – an animation show, based on the 80s toy, originally targeted at pre-teen girls.
Yes, there are men who like My Little Pony. Often, bronies feel like they have to hide their love of FiM because people might think they’re gay or perverts because girl stuff isn’t cool, so you must be a weirdo – right!? But actually, FiM is well-written and focuses on friendship and justice and all those things a good super hero comic might provide. And it also makes it okay to be a hero without having to be an Übermensch or superman, a male stereotype that puts pressure on boys to act a certain way and suppress their emotions.
Things like FiM and the brony culture, the Disney film Frozen and Child of Light, all make it okay for boys or girls or anyone to like girls’s stuff. It makes us question if there is any such thing as ‘girls’ stuff’ and ‘boys’ stuff.’ Just because Frozen has two female leads, doesn’t make it a girls’ film and the box office success suggests as much. Just because FiM is aimed at young girls, doesn’t mean guys can’t like it too without being labelled deviants.
Child of Light places Aurora front and centre, an unashamed girl. She wields a sword, even though it’s a bit heavy for her. She’s a princess, but her crown is stamped ‘faux,’ so she’s not your usual sort of princess, not the ones who need rescuing. And she’s no pushover either. She’s smart and sometimes has to use her brain and her people skills, as well as her sword to get ahead. Plus she’s got all different kinds of friends – dapper mice, a demon creature, brother and sister jesters and a dwarf, who all help each other.
Maybe we’re all getting tired of the muscly, powerful guy with the stubble always saving the day. Maybe you don’t have to sweat testosterone to be the hero any more. Aurora is a new kind of hero – the little girl whose beauty isn’t central to her power and who doesn’t need to dress up like a boy to be able to use a sword. Nobody questions her power as a girl or tries to keep her from danger. She gets to break the mold of passive fairy tale princesses and save the day using friendship, intelligence and strength, while being pretty, in a pretty world.
Child of Light is a game with universal appeal, but I really hope a lot of little girls and boys get to play it and grow up realising that they can both be heroes. I hope they realise that heroes aren’t measured by their muscles, designer stubble, the size of their gun and their lack of emotional expression. Heroes are measured by their actions, not by the way they look or their size – surely, the hobbits taught us that.
And Child of Light teaches us that girls are cool too.