Games that Pass the Bechdel Test
The Bechdel Test is a little test that people use for movies to see if they have gender diversity. For a movie to pass the test, it must:
- Have at least two female characters
- That talk to each other,
- About something other than a man.
I figure that this test can also be applied to video games, and for purposes of gender diversity I added an extra rule: It doesn’t count if you create your own female character that converses with a female NPC. If that counted, then just about every RPG would pass.
So either two female NPCs must converse with one another, or if the player character is established by the developer as a female, then it counts if she interacts with a female NPC.
A lot of games fail to meet these requirements, because they either have no female characters or they only have one character who plays the role of “the girl.” Here’s some games I can think of that pass the test.
Obviously these aren’t all the games that pass the test, but these are just some that I’ve played and/or heard about.
Half Life 2
This one doesn’t surprise me at all. Valve really seems to have mastered NPC interaction better than any other video game developer I can think of. There are many female characters in the game, but I can think of only two major female NPCs: Alyx Vance and Dr. Mossman. They’re both very well established characters, complete with personalities, flaws, and motivations. And I know of at least one scene where they talk to each other about something other than a man.
Beyond Good & Evil
This game has a lot of female interaction by default because the main character is a girl, and there are plenty of female NPCs that she talks to throughout her adventure. This game is a shining example of the gender diversity that should be prominent in the gaming industry.
And I think it deserves special mention because Jade is probably my favorite female character ever in a game. She has flaws, goals, and ambitions; she’s determined, charming, friendly, and she acts like a real person. Hats off to you, Ubisoft.
Mass Effect 2
Right off the bat I can recall a dialogue scene between Miranda and Jack. I’m sure there are more scenes than that one that involve two female NPCs talking, especially since the Asari species is comprised entirely of females (don’t ask how that works). I’m well aware that probably every Bioware game out there passes the Bechdel Test, but I don’t feel like delving into that.
Left 4 Dead 2: The Passing
Left 4 Dead and its successor each had three male characters and one female. Some people criticized the games for that, claiming that each female was just the token girl character of the game. I disagree. Both Zoey and Rochelle are well established and relatable characters. However, neither of these games would have passed the Bechdel Test if it were not for the add-on campaign The Passing, which involves the two groups meeting one another. There’s a chance of seeing Zoey and Rochelle talk to one another at the beginning of the campaign.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2
Now, obviously this isn’t the kind of game you’d want to use as proof that games are artistic. In fact, this game probably isn’t something you’d want your wife or girlfriend to see at all. But despite the game looking like a Girls Gone Wild video without the nudity, it does technically pass the test, since virtually every character in the game is female.
Don’t get me wrong; I think this game is stupid and insipid. I’m just putting it on the list to show that passing the Bechdel Test does not automatically protect a game from accusations of sexism.
Well, that’s all the games I feel like listing at the moment. Incidentally, I’m noticing that almost all the games on this list end with 2. That’s a bit odd…
So now I ask you, what games can you think of that pass the Bechdel Test?