Characterization of female protagonists in video games: A focus on Lara Croft

Hye Won Han, Se Jin Song

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The purpose of this paper is primarily to examine the characteristics of female protagonists in video games and to study the process through which they attain the identities of heroes. Over the 17 years of perpetual and repeated incarnation in the Tomb Raider series, Lara Croft serves as both a leading model and a mythical signifier for female protagonists. Therefore, we seek to identify the gender consciousness that underlies female characterization in video games, with a particular focus on Lara Croft. As a popular narrative medium, video games feature female heroes to represent gender values of the time. The synchronic and diachronic analysis of Croft's features as a character and identity as a female hero leads us to the conclusion that female protagonists merely serve as the subject of desire, recreated to satisfy sadomasochistic male fantasies. They fulfill men's sadistic desires through their glamorous physique and masochist desires, as reflected by their behavior. Through a process of denial regarding femininity, common representations as the mother, and the re-codifying of patriarchal values solely in favor of the patriarch, female protagonists faced the confusion of dual identity, wherein they would equate themselves with male heroes, while simultaneously identifying themselves as damsels-in-distress. To summarize, video games exclusively allow the existence of heroes, while a true heroine has yet to emerge. Female characters are limited by their adherence to patriarchal conventions even in the virtual world, which is like a mirror world and an alternative world at the same time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-49
Number of pages23
JournalAsian Journal of Women's Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Asian Center for Women's Studies.


  • Female characterization
  • Female protagonist
  • Female representation
  • Lara Croft
  • Video game


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