**This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us: Part II**
Over the years, I’ve found so many role models in video games. From a young age, I absolutely idolised Lara Croft. It was my dream to travel around the world, exploring tombs and finding priceless artefacts and as I grew older, the gaming scene has produced so many fantastic female protagonists with a range of different qualities.
In recent years, there has been a definite uptick in the amount of female-led games, with titles such as Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Horizon Zero Dawn, Hellblade, Alien: Isolation and Celeste, and it’s worth mentioning Assassins Creed: Odyssey, and how Kassandra is by far the stand-out choice of the two protagonist choices, becoming one of the most beloved Assassins Creed protagonists to date.
Owing to the popularity of narrative games, these days, characters in games are a lot less one-dimensional, displaying a wider range of personalities. It’s not a reach to state that back in the day, most female characters in games were created with a heavy male gaze, with unachievable body types and gorgeous facial features designed to please the ‘demographic’ at the time. And whilst there has been some progress, there is also huge room for improvement in terms of diversity in the gaming world, with an overwhelming majority of white protagonists.
There has been a lot of scrutiny on developers for how they design their female characters, both positive and negative. Abby one of two protagonists from Naughty Dog’s latest game, The Last of Us: Part II came under a ridiculous amount of speculation when images of her were shown, with an excess of body shaming saying a woman could never look like her and an influx of people asking if she was transgender due to leaks that there was a transgender character featured in the game. Just take a look at the Google search results when I typed in ‘Abby The Last of Us II’:
It’s still astonishing that this is still a common occurrence in the gaming world, or really anything where a woman’s body is portrayed in a more realistic, or merely different way to what we are used to seeing in popular media. There will always be people shouting from the darkest depths of the internet about how the ‘agenda’ is ruining gaming. The agenda of merely wanting to see ourselves represented accurately on-screen rather than constantly seeing unrealistic versions of some dudes concept of ideal ‘womanhood’…terrifying.
With this in the mix, it was unsurprising that after this woman who could definitely break some of these peoples arms, was revealed to be Joel’s murderer, that The Last of Us: Part II got absolutely review bombed by these people that just couldn’t handle it. I detail my thoughts more on this topic in a previous piece on TLOU2, but I think it’s worth bringing up again. These people are so threatened by a woman like this entering into their realm and it’s so sad.
Now that I have played The Last of Us: Part II once, and watched two other people play it, I find myself drawn more and more towards Abby. As much as I still love Ellie, in my eyes, the segments of the game where you play as Abby are far superior, I found myself being so eager for my friends to just get to her parts.
The process of getting to know her is fascinating and truly messed with me so much on a first playthrough. I remember for the first hour being so restless because I wanted to get back to Ellie, but very slowly as time went by, these feelings disappeared and it got to the point when I was back with Ellie, that I wanted to be back with Abby. I find her so engaging and relatable as a person. She has been through so much and whilst, obviously, revenge is terrible and although Joel’s death still breaks my heart, I understand her actions.
The constant reference to her being afraid of heights, her connection with Owen in her flashbacks (especially that damn seal scene), the entire storyline with Lev and how eventually they form a relationship similar to Joel and Ellie’s. All of these things are designed to soften her to the player, and in my case, I found myself relating to her a lot. She is extremely awkward at times, but incredibly loyal and despite being quite closed off, deeply cares about those around her.
All of these things helped me connect to her on such a personal level and out of all of the female characters I have seen or played as I have never looked at a character more and thought to myself ‘I want to be strong like her’. Obviously, Abby’s looks have been discussed a lot, with her arms and chest size being at the forefront, mostly in a negative light.
I look at Abby and see a realistic shape, I am also of smaller boob size and to see this represented in a AAA game is awesome. Considering as in my later teenage years I mourned the fact that I wouldn’t be adorned with boobs like my idol Lara Croft and felt so negatively about my body shape for years. But just seeing someone with similarly shaped body parts to my own is so great and led me to think, well I could definitely get arms like Abby’s, right?
So, I am now on a quest to get ‘arms like Abby’, and as silly as it seems, this is genuinely my mantra whenever I talk about working out. I feel so strongly connected to her as a character so this in my head doesn’t seem that unrealistic. It’s worth noting that it isn’t just the physical side either, I want to be strong like Abby, I want to be able to do things for myself I want to be able to take care of myself, at the moment I am worryingly weak. Whilst I may not look exactly like her in the end, I am so inspired by her character and it’s a huge feat for anything to motivate me to work out as much as Abby has.
This response to Abby was completely unexpected and I have to give such huge credit to Naughty Dog for crafting these characters so well, that I went from hating this character to wanting to be more like her and be inspired to work out for the first time in my life and get those arms like Abby.