About games and gaming thereof!

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:

  1. Have at least two female characters
  2. That talk to each other,
  3. 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?

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11 responses

  1. gamesinthisblog

    Now if anyone criticizes me for playing DOAX2, I’ll have a valid excuse.

    February 5, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    • JPH

      You know, I never thought of it that way…

      February 5, 2011 at 1:24 PM

  2. Solaris

    “Are you playing…?”
    “It’s for SCIENCE.”

    February 5, 2011 at 7:28 PM

  3. Kevin

    Draagon age origins has some scenes where the female characters talk about stuff other then men. there was even a nuetral gendered character too, who turned out to be a girl (somehow) and it/she/whatever constantly talked to everyone about crushing pidgeons

    February 5, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    • JPH

      Yeah, I figure most games by Bioware probably pass the test. I know Jade Empire does.

      February 6, 2011 at 6:00 PM

  4. Littaly

    It’s worth keeping in mind that the Bechdel Test is more of a rule of thumb than anything else. Passing it doesn’t necessarily mean that a movie or a game has gender diversity or features a female perspective. It’s a decent pointer, but not the rule to end the discussion ^^

    February 8, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    • JPH

      Oh yeah, definitely. That’s why I included DOAX2.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:14 PM

  5. D

    If you’re going by plot-related dialogue, then the original Mass Effect actually only barely passes the test when Lizbeth and Juliana Baynham are talking on Feros about Lizbeth’s work and the use of gas grenades. Also I think KOTOR only passes on the dark side ending when Bastila and Admiral Dodonna discuss the Star Forge. So Bioware isn’t a complete paragon of gender equality in gaming. Of course there’s dialogue between female party members when you take them on missions, but given that RPGs are all about choice it makes sense to only consider mandatory content.

    March 6, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    • Bret

      Or it easily passes if you clicked the correct option at bootup.

      Shepard talks to a lot of people about a lot of things.

      Then she punches them. Fair deal of those people are lady type folk.

      Oh, Shepard. You punch so many people.

      May 15, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    • Adam

      Actually, I can recall a point where Bastilla and Mission chat, with Mission asking about using the force for pranks. So there’s that.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:49 AM

  6. MKA19

    @Adam: True, they can have that conversation, but Bastila and Mission are never required to be in the character’s party at the same time, which means that the players who don’t do that will never see them speaking together.

    @Bret: Suggesting that playing as a female Shepard is the only “correct” way of doing things is laughable when Mass Effect is all about player choice, and it also still fails to pass the test on its own since the original post mentions that optionally female PCs don’t count. Considering mandatory content that all players will experience is the best way of going about things here, in my opinion.

    November 30, 2013 at 8:25 PM

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