The 15 Greatest Women in Video Games

6.  Jade (Beyond Good & Evil)

jadeI don’t think Ubisoft aimed to sell more copies by naming a game after Nietzsche, nor is there any particular amount of moral ambiguity in the version with the alternate-number-seven symbol, but regardless, a game about a weird, Lethem-esque pseudo-dystopia complete with anthropomorphic pigs and canned propaganda over loudspeaker managed to produce Jade, an everywoman and investigative journalist who starts an orphanage after countless parents are abducted by a parasitic alien race. Jade suspects that this race, the DomZ (apparently named after the AOL screen-name of every teenager named Dominic in the ’90s) are working through the Alpha Sections, the very military that is supposed to be fighting them, so she uses her funds to create a shield around the orphanage to protect the children. However, as an everyperson’s funds must be low by default, Jade begins photographing local wildlife for money, and takes every measure (including gambling at an addictive air-hockey clone that the player will play way more than Jade would realistically have time for) to ensure the safety of the kids.

Jade is soon roped into the IRIS Network, an underground resistance movement dedicated to proving that the Alpha Sections are working with the DomZ, and her preordained involvement in the conflict is revealed. But the kernel of Jade’s character is this: she doesn’t know that the DomZ are targeting her until the very end, which means that she’s been heading up the resistance and risking her life completely based on what she feels she can do as an individual, not what she believes is her “destiny.” Game protagonists often seem too aware of the fact that they are the main character. Jade never feels entitled to her victory, so when she achieves it, it actually means something.

Luckily, BG&E isn’t all plot, so Jade has plenty of time to explore, talk to people, and expand as a character, rather than spend all of her time beating down aliens and thugs with her amazing martial arts. She’s compassionate, open-minded, able to learn and adapt, and is never naive enough to think that she herself has all the answers.

Compellingly enough, Jade’s ethnic background has been a point of discussion since the game released in 2003. While the game takes place on another planet, the deliberate ambiguity in her facial features has resulted in her being described as “definitely” just about every ethnicity you can think of, and even as the best black video game character ever. Maybe the developers were being abstract on purpose, but maybe it’s more that Jade is the kind of person we all want to see ourselves in.

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