June 8, 2012

Gender Analysis: Half Life 2

Hello everyone.  I apologize for the delay and I will tomorrow be posting about the abysmal showing at E3 (the structure of the critique will be a bit different this time) but I need to keep to a promise I made.  I am introducing my Gender Analysis on Video Games.  I decided to start with a game that has gotten some acclaim for representation of women--Half Life 2.  Specifically, the representation of Alyx has been hailed for being one of the best lead female characters ever in the field of video games.  But how revolutionary is the game itself in regards to gender equality?

We've tackled physics and crab zombies, let's tackle social constructs next.

My standards I discussed in April post introducing the idea can be found here.  For this test I played the first five hours of the game and with the help of Mystic took the necessary notes for the review.

Gender Ratio of Main Characters (female to male)

The side characters did seem evenly dispersed, but when it came to main characters that affected the plot overall, it was heavily male.  For every 3 main characters that are male, there's only one woman.

Sexualization of Characters (female to male)

There were no characters whatsoever that were sexualized in this game in the first five hours.  Not even close.  Considering the setting, it makes sense that no one is worried about that.

Gender Assumptive Dialogue
0 counts

Although there was an old doctor hitting on Alyx that kind of gave me the creeps, there was never anything spoken that had to be qualified with gender.  Getting hit on isn't a gender thing, even if it's creepy.  Also would like to note that the two female main characters I met were possibly breaking a couple stereotypes by being scientist and engineers, meaning they're well educated and savvy with math.  Not something that gets recognized a lot in the real world, let alone in fiction.

The Bechdel Test
Did Not Pass

Alyx speaks with Judith Morrison for 20 seconds about something other than a man.  May I also add that they're bickering about something.  Not only are there only women you see in the first 5 hours, they're not allowed to like each other.


The main character line up unfortunately falls short.  You also don't have women have a decent conversation amongst each other.  The trope of women being against each other because women can "never get along" is overdone.  But women are obviously equals, not sex objects or people to be rescued.  They are equals when they are given a chance to shine, and they can look out for themselves and be intelligent allies.  I can see where Alyx has received the praise she did, and I honestly wish there were more female characters like her--strong-willed, smart, and not an object to be won. 

I would rate this game above average for a video game.  It's a step in the right direction to making women equal and not other.  If more video games took this step we'd be on the right track to better representation.  But there is still work to be done.

I said I wouldn't do a number rating because you can't necessarily put a quantitative conclusion with all the numbers we will be looking at.  They just help show why the quality of a games gender quality is better or worse than average.  For this spectrum of quality we'll be looking at, I would definitely put Half-Life 2 closer to true equality than not even though it could take wider strides to have women better represented.

I'm going to go through what I have in my gaming library first and then branching out to other games, we'll look at past and present games to see how things have changed and how they've stayed the same.  Feel free to recommend a game or two.  Remember, the analysis isn't to seek out what games are most women friendly per se, it's to see how the industry as a whole is in it's mindset toward women.


  1. Doesn't that count as a Bechdel Test pass? It doesn't sound like the pinnacle of well rounded character interaction, but it seems to meet the criteria for the test.

  2. I added in my requirements that it had to be 30 seconds of dialogue, so it does not pass. Its vital to keep that consistent, the length indicates whether or not the dialogue could possibly be considered significant to the plot of the story in the game.

  3. Ah, I neglected to read your parameters in the other post. I completely agree with the 30 second guideline.

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