Mass Effect is a videogame that passes the Bechdel test, really easily. Even if you don’t play as female (which I and my brothers did.) I wasn’t aware such a thing was even possible! And yet, of the six characters that can be added to your squad, three are male, three are female (one human and two aliens of each). All the females have the exact same sexy body, but you know what, I take what I can get.
Actually, it’s pretty easy to overlook the lack of variety in body types (even though the male characters, especially the male aliens, have way more variety and are therefore way more awesome) because the characters have distinct faces, voices, and personalities. One of the female aliens suffers a little bit from the “sexy like a human girl, but blue” trope, but the other is completely covered and doesn’t even have a visible face, and the human girl is average-looking and, get this!, the only character who is 100% combat-oriented!
(All characters specialize in combat, technology, or biotics, or a combination of the three…all the others are a combination, but one is all-biotic (the sexy blue girl) and one is all-combat (the human girl).)
Since my brothers and I decided to make a character who is all-technology, the “natural” squad of three for us is made of three women. I love that! Our default assumption is that this group of women is best, and we only rotate in some of the males if we know we need to focus on a certain skill for a specific mission.
We went out with a group of all-females at the beginning just because we could— we took the all-combat human girl and the faceless tech/biotic girl– and I was glad just to have this option. When we met the all-biotic girl and I realized how perfect a team we made, I was overjoyed!
Now, maybe this would be a less awesome dynamic if one was playing a male character– surrounded by ladies, who were eager but not particularly useful (well, okay, handy, but nowhere near as good as the person playing the game because, well, they don’t have real brains.) But even then the game really pressures you to get to know them as people. They all have origins and goals and dreams and lives outside our story, which they clearly intend to return to; this is just a diversion. They’re not totally in love with Awesome Protagonist, they just want to help save the world. And sure, we meet them by rescuing them– but that’s pretty much how we meet everybody. That’s basically all we do.
And my favourite part? If you’re in an elevator, or just standing around in one place too long, the characters will start talking to each other. About themselves, about each other, about the news, about our mission– about whatever matters to them. And it’s such a fascinating insight into who they are that it makes me want to try all the different combinations and do nothing but ride elevators and listen to them talk all day.
And it’s such a perfect example of imbuing female characters with a sense of personhood, that I just want to kiss everyone who created this game.
This is why passing the Bechdel Test matters.