Horizon Zero Dawn has been out for a week now. So logically, it would be extremely early to say that the game’s main character, Aloy, deserves to be a new face representing Sony. However! I’m the reckless person to do it. Aloy should definitely be Playstation’s next icon.
This isn’t a girl gamer beating her chest and saying: Finally! A female character I can look up to! I’ve played enough video games in my lifetime with good leading ladies, as well as girl characters that make you cringe when you see them or hear mention of their name. No, the reason I want Aloy to be a new champion for Playstation goes far beyond the gender she happens to be. But since I am talking about her, let’s get down to it.
Aloy, like most characters, is not perfect. She has a past she feels she doesn’t deserve, an enormous burden placed on her that most would crumble under. She has something to prove and seeks answers and acceptance. But it is her imperfections that would make her an interesting icon that generations of gamers could come to love. Unlike Nathan Drake, Sackboy, and even my favorite duo Joel and Ellie, Aloy is more flexible. Because of the in-game mechanics and the decision making, Aloy can be aggressive, lashing out at the people who doubt or wrong her. She can approach situations more rationally, taking the most intelligent action. She can also speak from her heart, connect with someone or rise above others expectations of her.
Isn’t it only natural that we want an icon who can be multiple things, just like us? Who isn’t written just one way or is just one thing. But can change and grow and be a figure that anyone can look up to, whatever we want to see or feel we need to draw inspiration from. With someone like Aloy showing boys and girls that life is full of choices, we may go out into the world better equipped and knowing that there are many choices to make and that you can adapt to a situation. In our lives, we all feel vulnerable at one time or another. We all want to find and be the best versions of ourselves. So seeing a character who struggles with those same feelings and her own identity is powerful and can show gamers that no one is perfect and that there is no need to pretend to be.
However, despite what a good role model Aloy is, this is not just about Aloy. Of course, it will be her face featured in commercials, slapped on Playstation bundles to be shipped during the holidays. But it’s the world and the characters that inhabit it that will follow her forward.
As far back as I am trying to recall, I have never experienced a game that handles diversity, adversity, and does it so eloquently so that the moments sink in and last. Admittedly, I have not beaten the game. But what I have seen so far has made me realize that there are only good things left to come. From women and people of color in positions of power, subtle lessons about learning from the past and not fearing the unknown, and even a side quest devoted to discussing mental illness and how those afflicted are treated by society. This video game has touched on issues that many forms of media will still shy away from and laugh at uncomfortably. If Aloy becomes our standard for what it means to be a good, dynamic character, it won’t take long for multiple industries to recognize that we want a good and strong supporting cast and believable world that reflect our desires.
And better still, when anyone finds themselves curious about who was part of this incredible team that built the game to exceed all expectation, they’ll inevitably find who voiced Aloy, a voice actress that embodies many of the same beliefs that are important and central to this game.
Putting Aloy aside, Ashly Burch is an exemplary role model of her own. At 26 years old, she’s already created a pretty impressive career through her acting, writing, and comedic wit. In fact, in an interview with glixel, Ashly discusses how important it was to her and to Guerrilla Games, the studio behind Horizon Zero Dawn, that Aloy embody many emotions and to be played the way a gamer feels she should be:
It was important to us to create a character who was relatable and also aspirational. Whenever anyone is making an aspirational female character, I always hope that that character can make little girls feel seen, and inspired, and empowered, and offers the opportunity for men to look up to a woman.
Again, it’s incredibly early to tell, but, I mean this is an opinion piece after all. And this is my opinion. Aloy is going to be a face of change in the gaming world. She can not be described with only one word. Saying she is strong does not do justice to her curiosity and her empathy for others. Saying she’s beautiful would not give proper credit to the skills she learns and her wit. Even saying she is perfect is incorrect because of all the flaws and imperfections that make her feel human. And that’s what gives her the ability to become not only an icon for Playstation, but for gaming as a whole.