Wonder women in the virtual world: how female Shepard redefined the female hero archetype in video games

McHenry, Chelsea, author
Diffrient, David Scott, advisor
Marx, Nick, committee member
Martey, Rosa Mikeal, committee member
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AAA video game protagonists typically represent the white, heterosexual male. While standards are changing, there remains a considerable discrepancy between the number of male and female protagonists available. This study intends to examine how video game producers can move forward with creating resonant AAA protagonists by examining one of the first protagonists who presented unforeseen equality. This thesis explores the character of female Shepard from BioWare's video game series Mass Effect (2007-2012) and what elements made her a fan favorite and marketable. Using Jim Bizzochi's video game narrative framework and Shunsuke Nozawa's concept of ensoulment related to voice work, this thesis argues that FemShep redefined the video game landscape. She served to create her own space as a character and not merely a gender-flipped construct of her male counterpart. By examining how she is constructed and handled in-game, the conclusion suggests that when the developmental focus is on creating the character, there is a market for strong heroes who are also female.
2021 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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female protagonist
mass effect
voice acting
video games
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