Child of Light is an interesting little game. There’s been a lot of discussion about gender roles in video games lately, and this game appears to be tailored to address a specific conundrum that’s been highlighted by that discussion.
In a nutshell, the solution to equal representation in video games isn’t as simple as taking a girl and putting a sword in her hand. Beyond mere lack of protagonism, there’s a tendency in video game narratives to regard traditionally feminine virtues with active disdain - to treat them as sources of problems, never as sources of solutions. We don’t simply need female protagonists: we need magical princesses saving the world with their magical princess powers, and we need that not to be played for laughs.
Concurrently, however, there’s also a tendency to treat female protagonists in video game narratives as something that requires justification. A character needs a reason to be female, so the thinking goes; if she’s not conspicuously feminine in her characterisation, and if her story arc isn’t specifically About Women’s Issues (whatever those are), then her being female is unjustified, and she ought to be male instead. There’s little room, it seems, for a video game protagonist who just happens to be female.
Certainly, we can have it both ways. We can have magical princesses saving the world with their magical princess powers, and we can have girls who save the world by picking up a sword and stabbing evil in the face. We can, and we should - but the tension between disdain for femininity and the need to justify femininity remains: the former archetype risks running afoul of the latter problem, and the latter archetype, the former.
And then there’s Child of Light.
Here’s the protagonist flying on ethereal fairy wings.
Here’s the protagonist frolicking with her magical sprite companion.
Here’s the protagonist cleverly solving puzzles with sparkly pastel-coloured magic.
Here’s the protagonist striking earth-shattering blows with a sword the size of a fucking ironing board.
… wait a second.