I love fanfiction. I know that has nothing really to do with video games, but I do. Even the badly written, completely out of character fanfiction peaks my interest. It has helped me unite with other like-minded people both in real life and on the internet. Fanfiction gets a lot of criticism (both deserved and underserved) and it is shunned by a lot of people as “low art.”
I love fanficiton. But I often don’t love the people behind it. I don’t even like them, really.
The rise of fanficiton has led to a phenomenon known as the Mary-Sue. Don’t know what that is? Basically, it is a self-insert original character in the universe that the author is writing about. Often it is a female who falls in love with a popular character, has magical powers or some mysterious back story that makes her endearing. She has no flaws, physically or emotionally. And she is perfect in every way.
She is supposed to me an extension of the author herself.
Personally, it doesn’t bother me when people do this. But this phenomenon has led to a sort of new snobbery within fanfiction circles. It kind of makes me laugh when people get so mad about Mary-Sues, because there is nothing that is keeping them from, you know, not reading the story.
But it appears the terminology for Mary-Sues has exploded outside of fanfiction and into popular media. Everywhere I look, some female character is being declared a Mary-Sue, and as such, she should be ignored.
But then I looked a little deeper at their reasoning and I came to a conclusion. All a female character has to do to be called Mary-Sue is exist, really. If she has flaws, people focus on them. If she is too nice, people scorn her. If she is too mean, too pretty, too ugly…the list goes on.
I relate this back to video games because there is a huge range of female characters that I both love and dislike who all have criticisms aimed against them. Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII is cold and unfeeling, despite wanting to rescue her sister. Trip from Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is manipulative, despite having no choice to return home. Miranda from Mass Effect, Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, Claire Redfield from Resident Evil, the list goes on. No matter how interesting or motivated a female character is, someone has something critical to say.
I thought that video games would be different. Yes, all the females are conventionally attracted with illogically huge breasts. But at least you can see their actions and motivations being played out before you. But nope, not even in this medium can I escape from this vitriol aimed at female characters. So, is there no correct way to write a female character? Even if her flaws are brought up, people will still assert that she is a Mary-Sue and therefore not a real character. It leads to endless arguing that just circles back and forth, and I am kind of sick of it.
Write what you want. Admire who you want. And even though it sucks, be prepared to defend it.