Best female video game characters

Videogames used to be the home of the overly muscled, hyper-macho hero. Nowadays, girls have someone to look up to in games as well. Read below for six of our favourite female characters.

Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn

Although video games have come a long way to achieving true gender equality, Horizon Zero Dawn‘s Aloy is the very definition of fair treatment of a female character. She’s unsexualised, and free to be herself, as part of a tribe that worships a matriarchy. This allows Aloy’s character to develop without the ongoing cliche of her being a female in a man’s world. Aloy’s outfits are practical, she’s straight-talking, intelligent and a more than capable warrior. Even though she lives in a futuristic world with robot dinosaurs, Aloy feels utterly believable. I believe that Aloy’s creation for Horizon Zero Dawn is a landmark moment for gender equality in video games.

Ellie – The Last of US

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Ellie in The Last of Us Part II. (Credit: Naughty Dog)

Ellie in The Last of Us is the quintessential survivor. She’s tough, independent and complex. The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where the majority of people have succumbed to a zombie-like infection to which Ellie is immune. Ellie was born after the outbreak, which gives her a unique perspective on life. At only 15, she’s perhaps a bit naive to begin. Soon however, she has no other choice than to become a hardened survivor: doing whatever it takes to survive. Ellie was only a playable character for segments of the game, but will be the lead protagonist of The Last of Us: Part II, which is still in development.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

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Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (Credit: Square Enix)

Lara Croft is perhaps the most famous female video game character of all time. The treasure hunting heroine has  featured in several games spanning from her first appearance in 1996, and has had two movie adaptations, where she has been played by Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander. Her appearance is well known, with her sporting a ponytail, tank top and dual pistols. Her original appearance has since faced criticism for being sexualised, but in 2013, Square Enix Studios rebooted the franchise with a more grounded and realistic Lara Croft that has achieved much critical acclaim.

Chloe Frazer – Uncharted

Another treasure hunter, but the similarities to Lara Croft end at their shared profession. Chloe Frazer is a unique character in that she works from her own moral compass and always puts her own interests first, but is still ultimately good. She plays off the personality of the Uncharted series’ protagonist, Nathan Drake, in that she is almost his darker counterpart. The player is never sure of her intentions or loyalties, but in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, we see her more heroic side come through. She is incredibly enjoyable to watch interact with the series’ characters, as well as in her own spin-off title, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. 

Senua – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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Senua in Senua’s Sacrifice. (Credit: Ninja Theory)

Senua, the protagonist of the dark fantasy story, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice suffers from psychosis. The developers made a special point to include the characters mental illness in order to raise awareness of the condition. Hellblade follows the journey of Pict warrior, Senua, on a dangerous journey to claim her dead lover’s soul back from the goddess Hela.  It is strongly implied that the story is taking place inside Senua’s head, and the developers worked with neuroscientists and people suffering from psychosis to achieve an accurate representation of the condition. Senua is strong not just because she battles physical enemies, but also the demons in her own head.

Ciri – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, or Ciri, is one of the main characters in a series rife with powerful women. Ciri is the adopted daughter of the game’s protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, who has been missing for several years, but has now returned with the evil Wild Hunt in pursuit, who plan on using her for her magic blood. Once Geralt has collected all of the clues to where Ciri has been, the player gets to reenact past events as they happened by playing as Ciri. A trained monster hunter herself, Ciri is an expert with a sword as well as possessing magic abilities. Even though she has had a tragic upbringing, Ciri remains strong and strives for the greater good.

Freya – God of War

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Freya in God of War. (Credit: SIE Santa Monica Studio)

Freya in God of War is an especially interesting character. She is the God of War universe’s version of the Norse Goddess Freya, the wife of Odin. In God of War, she is now divorced from Odin and is living in the woods of Midgard, looking after the living beings of her woods. She comes to the aid of the protagonist, Kratos, several times over the course of the story. Freya’s son, Baldur (brother of Thor), acts as an antagonist to Kratos, and wants to kill Freya in revenge for her making him invulnerable – as it came at the cost of him being unable to feel anything. (Spoilers) Kratos kills Baldur to save Freya, but Freya hates Kratos for killing her son, giving an unforgettable warning:

“I will rain down every agony, every violation imaginable, upon you… I will parade your cold body from every realm, and feed your soul to the vilest filth in Hel, that is my promise!”

It appears Freya will be an antagonist in the next God of War game, and if she lives up to a portion of what she promised, she will make an excellent villain.

Podcast: Our favourite female characters

In this podcast, Liam Mackay, Bryce Arthur, Jade du Preez and Olivia Hill discuss their favourite favourite female characters in film.

You can also check out our movie and TV news round-up here!

From the big screen and the small screen, to your computer screen: Hollywood actors in video games

The Academy Award for best actor went to Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. You may also know him from the Amazon Prime original series Mr. Robot, or from the Night at the Museum films alongside Ben Stiller.

Gamers, however, will know him from his work on the 2015 horror video game Until Dawn.

Malek performed motion capture and voice acting to portray Josh, who invites his friends to spend the weekend at a ski lodge on the anniversary of his sisters’ disappearance, kick-starting a unique and interactive horror story.  He worked alongside fellow actor Hayden Panettiere who has starred in TV programmes Heroes and Nashville. 

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Rami Malek as Josh in Until Dawn. (Credit: Supermassive Games)

As video games become increasingly mainstream, more actors are taking on the challenge of acting in video games. Video game acting has evolved beyond voice acting, but is now a full performance. Here’s some of the most prolific actors who have acted in video games.

Sean Bean & Patrick Stewart

Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart both acted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This fantasy role playing game was the perfect setting for veteran English actors Bean and Stewart. Sean Bean played the illegitimate son of the emperor Uriel Septim (played by Stewart, who dies early on in the game), on a quest to claim the throne and defeat an evil cult. Having these actors involved is a testament to the calibre of acting skills that video games can attract.

Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland took on the established role of Solid Snake in the 5th instalment of the long-running Metal Gear Solid series. Sutherland has been in many films and television programmes, with arguably his most famous role portraying Jack Bauer in 24. His performance has special forces operative Snake was memorable. Even though almost every gamer has heard of Metal Gear Solid, Sutherland’s inclusion in the game widened the fan-base to people who had perhaps never heard of the franchise before.

Gary Oldman, Kit Harrington & Conor McGregor

The Call of Duty series has featured many famous actors over the course of the franchise. A fan favourite, Russian soldier Viktor Reznov, was played by Academy Award winner Gary Oldman (with the inclusion of Malek, that makes two Academy Award winners having appeared in video games). Oldman was excellent in his portrayal of the grizzled Russian sergeant in Call of Duty: World at War. Call of Duty’s characters can be quite two dimensional, but Oldman’s performance solidified the character in our memory. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare also features Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington and professional MMA fighter Conor McGregor as villains.

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Kit Harrington in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Credit: Activision)

Mark Hamill

Most children of the nineties and earlier will remember Mark Hamill‘s portrayal of The Joker alongside Kevin Conroy’s Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. This portrayal of The Joker has stuck in many fans’ minds and is now the iconic voice of The Joker. He reprised that role in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels to critical acclaim. The work of Hamill and Conroy elevated these games from superhero beat-em-ups to fan-favourite Batman stories.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson appeared in Fallout 3 as your (the protagonist’s) father. He said that he was attracted to the role for the quality of the script and the considerable amount of dialogue. The studio that makes the Fallout games also created the Elder Scrolls series that has starred Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean. James’ (Neeson’s character) personality and stance was intended to resemble Neeson from the beginning, and the character model even bares slight resemblance.

Charles Dance 

Charles Dance always plays a good villain, and his appearance in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher III was no exception. Dance played Emperor Emhyr Var Emreis, the most powerful man in The Witcher’s universe. The character was not dissimilar from Dance’s role as Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Emhyr is cold, authoritative, multi-layered and a fascinating figure in the Witcher universe – but it’s Dance’s voice talents which brought to life such an excellent character.

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Mark Hamill in Squadron 42. (Credit: Cloud Imperium Games)

The entire cast of Squadron 42

The upcoming game Squadron 42, however, beats all the previous titles at having an all-star cast. Actors include Gillian Anderson, Andy Serkis, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Liam Cunningham. Not a lot of information has been released about this game yet, other than it’s a science-fiction action game centred around space travel. However, the chance to see these actors working together is a very exciting prospect.

Book Review: Limmy’s ‘Surprisingly Down To Earth, and Very Funny’

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Limmy: Surprisingly Down To Earth and Very Funny. (Credit: Chortle)

You might know comedian Brian Limond, aka Limmy, for his surreal sense of humour and sometimes inflammatory tweets.

Every time a celebrity dies, Limmy will tweet, without fail, ‘Had the pleasure of meeting … at a charity do once. He was surprisingly down to earth, and VERY funny.’ I can’t think of a more fitting title for his autobiography, which made it a book that made me laugh before even getting past the front cover.

I had never read an autobiography before so I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew what Limmy’s humour was like: weird, confusing, but utterly hilarious. I know Limmy to be a natural storyteller from his improvised stories that he live-streams on Twitch, and reckoned I’d enjoy his writing too. But it’s not always just what Limmy says that’s amusing, but the way he says it. I knew an audiobook was the way to go to get the full experience out of Limmy telling his life story. I never would have expected that I’d ever laugh out loud at the way a man is describing his suicidal thoughts, but it happened.

Mental health is the ongoing theme of the book, a topic Limmy has discussed often on Twitter and in interviews. He was asked to write a book on mental health, but it ended up taking the form of an autobiography. He’s brutally honest in his descriptions of his mental state, talking about his alcoholism, experiences using antidepressants and the few times that he has contemplated suicide, starting with him trying to drunkenly slash his wrists when he was fifteen. That was tough to listen to.

But in the darkness is a lot of humour. Not so much in the topic of discussion, but the way it’s written. Even when talking about some of the darkest moments of his life, he adds comedy. It doesn’t feel like comedy in its traditional sense: it’s morbid, but it’s natural, and his strange outlook on life is as compelling as it is hilarious.

The book begins at his first memory, and goes all the way to where he’s at in his life now. He goes on about how he was arrested for car theft when he was a teenager, and how he gained the nickname ‘Limmy the Tripper’ because he took so much acid. It was surreal getting such a deep look into the past of someone who I’m a big fan of. I wasn’t particularly surprised about what he got up to, but it was strange nonetheless. Most fascinating is his journey from a layabout, often in trouble with the police, to the person he is today: a successful comedian and father.

I’d absolutely recommend getting the audiobook version of Surprisingly Down To Earth, and Very Funny. His own narration compliments his humour wonderfully, and even adds more humour to some bits that aren’t meant to be funny (such as his questionable impression of an English accent, and the subsequent apology). Although it might not be what was intended, the telling of Limmy’s life is an excellent underdog story, one that I found difficult to stop listening to.

 

 

Edinburgh Napier alumni cast in new Netflix series

Blair Kincaid, who studied acting for stage and screen at Edinburgh Napier University, has been cast in new Netflix fantasy series The Witcher alongside Hollywood superstar Henry Cavill. 

Blair’s page on Spotlight.com states that the actor is “currently filming in the new Netflix epic The WITCHER,” and lists Napier/Queen Margaret, BA(Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen from the years 2013-2015 as his education.

The Witcher, based on the books by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, follows professional monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) on a quest to spare his adopted daughter Ciri (Freya Allan) from a cruel fate.

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Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in new Netflix series The Witcher. (Credit: Netflix)

Blair will be playing Crach an Craite, a battle-hardened commander of the military forces of the Skellige Isles, who comes to the heroes aid several times over the course of the story. The Skellige Isles are home to seafaring warriors which appear to be inspired by a mixture of Celtic and Viking culture, who don tartan and belong to clans. They most resemble a group of real historical people known as the Norse-Gaels who were a hybrid culture of the Gaels and Norsemen. We can expect that Blair will keep his Scottish accent to play Crach.

Crach an Craite has been represented before in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, a video game series also based on the books by Sapkowski, though the games act as a sequel to the books while Netflix’s series will be a direct adaptation of the novels.

Ian Dunn, lecturer in the Acting Department at Edinburgh Napier University, says that it’s not a surprise that Blair Kincaid will act in the Netflix series.

“He was a talented student and since he moved to London he’s been up for different jobs. It feels great that he got his chance and joined other successful acting students,” Ian Dunn says.

The Witcher is set to be released on Netflix in 2019, but we can assume it’ll be towards the end of the year as filming is still taking place in Budapest and the Canary Isles.

If Blair fairs well in this coming series, we can hope to see him join the ranks of famous Scottish actors such as Ewen McGregor, James McAvoy and Gerard Butler!

 

TV and movie news round-up

In this video, Liam Mackay rounds up the latest television and movie news over the last week. 

Topics include the Oscar nominations and the National Television Awards. 

If you’d like to see more Arts and Culture videos, check out Liam’s top 10 movies filmed in Scotland!

Netflix Vs YouTube: The battle for online views

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Netflix Original Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first month. Image: Netflix

Netflix released their earnings report last night, and the most interesting part of it is where they say that they have lost most of their viewership to people watching Fortnite on YouTube, rather than HBO or Hulu. 

Netflix’s quarterly earnings report revealed a bright future for the streaming giant, with Netflix having more than 139 million paying subscribers, adding another 8.8 million over the past three months.

Netflix claims it owes its success to Netflix Originals. Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock,  was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release and Elite, a Spanish drama, was watched in 20 million households within its first four weeks as well. Analysts have estimated that Netflix spent $13 billion on original productions over the past year, and Netflix says that their spending is likely to increase.

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix addressed its competition, saying that it isn’t concerned about rival streaming services such as Disney+ or Amazon Prime, but are trying to win against all entertainment options. They said: “we compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO.”

Netflix added that “when YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time.”

It is no surprise that Netflix feels threatened by YouTube — the Google-owned website rakes in amazingly high watch times, with over 1 billion hours of YouTube being watched every day. This is more than Netflix and Facebook Video combined.

We know that Netflix creates award-winning original content, so why does YouTube give Netflix so much competition?

YouTube is available in 80 languages, which is 95% of the online population and is free to use. Although there are advertisements on YouTube, it does have a premium service that removes ads. YouTube Premium costs £11.99 a month and the price of Netflix in the UK ranges from £5.99-£9.99 a month. YouTube premium is more costly, and in my opinion, the benefits of a subscription do not come close to what Netflix offers. This, however, does not change the fact that standard YouTube comes free.

Although the premise of YouTube is that anyone can upload essentially any video they want, the quality of these videos has increased dramatically. Expertly made documentaries, groundbreaking journalism and hilarious comedy sketches are becoming more and more frequent on the site. The average length for a YouTube video is only around 10 minutes long so a user can ‘dip in and dip out’ with little to no commitment, while most shows on Netflix have 30-60 minute long episodes.

The video creator, the ‘YouTuber,’ has become a phenomenon in itself. These YouTubers have become celebrities in their own right, some earning way above the average salary. People can identify with them because almost all YouTube channels began from humble beginnings, and they have achieved success from little more than hard work and commitment.

PewDiePie

YouTuber PewDiePie currently has over 81 million subscribers, currently the most-followed creator on the website.

A testament to YouTube’s popularity is the Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie, who has more than 81 million subscribers. Although subscribing to a channel on YouTube is free, it is still worth considering that one man has over half the number of subscribers as Netflix.

Netflix also mentioned Fortnite as a competitor, a video game that has achieved stunning and rapid success in the last year. Fortnite has streamers (people who stream themselves playing games to a live audience) and is increasing in popularity incredibly fast. Tyler Blevins, or ‘Ninja,’ became the first person to achieve five million followers on Twitch, and he also has over 250,000 paid subscribers on his channel. It is no wonder that Fortnite caused Netflix concern, it was a totally unexpected phenomenon.

Although YouTube may be causing Netflix’s numbers to drop, I don’t think there is any cause for concern. They both cater to different entertainment needs, and I can’t see one putting the other out of business. There will always be a place in the market for television shows and films, and nobody can predict how YouTube will continue to grow in popularity – but I am certain that the two can co-exist in a world where online content is essentially endless.

 

 

Top 10 movies filmed in Scotland

Today marks the release of Mary Queen of Scots, starring Soairse Ronan, Margot Robbie and David Tennant. 

In honour of its release, in this video Liam Mackay counts down his top 10 movies that were filmed in Scotland.

 

Mac Finds His Pride: An unexpectedly emotional and progressive season finale

Mac Finds His Pride

Rob McElhenney and professional dancer Kylie Shea in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Image: FXX

The latest season of the hit US show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (IASIP) was added to Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Now that everyone has had time to watch the season, I think it’s time we talk about that episode.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for season 13 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. 

Now, that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it follows ‘The Gang,’ the narcissistic, self-centred, politically incorrect owners of a Philadelphia dive bar. I can imagine that for some, IASIP is a show that is quite hard to get into. The humour is extremely dark, often offensive, and the main characters are the worst people imaginable. There is a reason the show was originally meant to be titled ‘Jerks.’

The final episode of series 13, titled ‘Mac Finds His Pride’ starts off as a typical IASIP episode: the gang are trying to use Mac (series creator Rob McElhenney) as their token ‘gay’ to dance on the top of their gay pride float. This episode is the culmination of Mac’s thirteen series-long journey to ‘coming out.’ Unlike what you may imagine, the joke isn’t that Mac is in the closet (as bad as the gang are, they’re totally fine with Mac being gay and have been trying to get him to ‘come out’ since the beginning), it’s Mac’s homophobia.

Mac was raised Catholic by his criminal dad, Luther, who takes pleasure in belittling him (he called Mac Ronald McDonald as a joke), and his mother who never seems to care about him. All Mac wants to do is get his dad to love and respect him, and this is one of the themes in this episode. Due to Mac being raised so religious, he doesn’t want to accept that he’s gay and uses homophobia to mask it. The long-running joke of Mac’s homosexuality isn’t that he is gay, it’s a critique of bigotry and what sexual repression can do to a person.

Mac does come to accept the fact that he is gay, but as he states in this episode, he doesn’t feel very proud. Frank (Danny DeVito) has been tasked with convincing Mac to take part in the gay pride parade, and as an out of touch old man, Frank doesn’t “get it.” Frank tries to help Mac find his place as a gay man by bringing him to a BDSM club, and then a drag bar. Mac doesn’t judge the people he visits but shuns them because that’s not the gay man that he is. I’ll admit that these scenes just rehashed the joke that Frank is an out of touch old man — it wasn’t anything revolutionary.

Mac tries to explain how he feels through an analogy that he is dancing in a storm with god who is a “hot chick,” and Frank retorts that “the Catholics really f****d you up.”

Mac decides that to truly reflect who he is, he must come out to his father (who is in prison). When Mac tries to tell his dad, Luther assumes that Mac is announcing that he got a woman pregnant and is delighted at the idea of being a grandfather, while also belittling Mac at the same time. Mac cowers into his former repressed self, going along with his father’s assumption and then tries to really get a woman pregnant.

Up to this point, the episode has been fine, nothing special.  From this point on, however, the Sunny format was flipped on its head.

After some encouragement from Frank, because Mac can’t find the words to describe how he feels, he decides he needs to show how he feels. He goes to the prison to ‘come out’ to his dad through dance. I really didn’t know what to expect at this point, and when the dance started, I was confused.

McEhlhenney performs an extremely well-choreographed dance with professional dancer Kylie Shea, which depicts Mac keep trying to love the woman but can’t and has to keep pushing her away. The dance, and episode, culminates with Mac crying in her lap and her telling him it’s okay. Frank, the homophobic old man, is in tears and says ‘I get it.’

The best part of this scene for me is that while Mac is dancing, his father walks away, but Mac keeps on dancing. This is a huge moment for Mac’s character – he finally doesn’t care what his father thinks. It was such a beautiful moment to see Mac finally accept who he is after 15 years of denial and shame. There was no joke, no punchline, just raw emotion and pride. IASIP normally handles these themes through dark humour and satire, but here it just showed it as it is, and it couldn’t have worked any better. It was emotional, progressive, and tugged my heartstrings in a way I never would have expected IASIP to do.

This episode also really rooted out the fans of the show that didn’t understand that you’re meant to laugh at the gang’s ignorance, not agree with them. I have seen many comments on Twitter that said that IASIP pandered to the ‘gay agenda,’ or bowed down to ‘social justice warriors.’ If you believe that, then you really haven’t understood It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at all.

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Afternoon roundup

 

In this segment Emer Harrison, Liam Mackay, and David Paul discuss Article 50, Paris Riots and the Mars Insight probe.

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