We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
Another amazing newcomer joins the collab, this time Melody from Ficcaholic! Melody loves fanfiction, and writes blog posts ruminating on the art of crafting good stories. You should bookmark the blog, and follow Melody’s Twitter account as well.
After Dixie Kong yesterday, we’re excited for another entry highlighting a female protagonist who tends to play second fiddle to her male counterpart.
Melody, thank you for joining us and composing this fantastic piece. Take it away!
I met Coco Bandicoot in that funny era of gaming when everything was transitioning to blocky 3D and platforming games were king. Not that seven year old Ficcaholic knew that! She was in a huff because she thought the PlayStation her dad bought was for her brother and not for her and it was all very unfair.
She was wrong. I had to be coaxed into picking up the controller but I got there once I saw my mum playing. I was trusted with a very important mission: Coco Bandicoot’s laptop was going to run out of batteries unless I guided Crash to the end of the level and picked up a new one. Laptops were shiny things where you could make pictures and write messages for people. Coco had a laptop, therefore she was epically cool to my seven year old self. She instantly became my favourite character in anything ever. I was always disappointed that we never got that new battery for her!
I played the games with a feverish desire to see when she would pop up next – it was never for long and she was never the focus of the story. But she was clever and unlike her dumber brother could talk in full sentences. In Crash Bandicoot 2, it’s her who discovers the villain’s true plan thanks to her Hollywood hacking skills. Girls in other stories were always princesses and fairies and never really did much apart from being pretty and good. I got attached to her because she was different. She was using her laptop to help her brother save the world from an evil genius!
When I was working out the differences between boys and girls, Coco came along and proved that girls could be good with computers. She is the reason I always saw computing as a gender neutral hobby. This gave me a confidence with technology that other girls in my class didn’t have, though I didn’t realise it at the time. I insisted I was bad at computers, much to the confusion of my teachers. But as far as I was concerned, I was not on Coco’s level.
Technology was my second passion behind writing, but it was likely to be a more profitable one. I studied the subject at university. There were only a handful of girls in the class. Maybe 1 in 5. My brother studied computer science and reported a smaller ratio. My partner works in STEM and is vastly outnumbered by men. The UK’s most recent Labour Force Survey show that women made up 14.4% of people working in STEM occupations in 2015.
Think about the beginning of my story – I assumed that the Playstation was for my brother. Maybe because before Coco, I hadn’t seen other examples of girls in video games? And I had certainly never seen or heard of girls being any good with computers. So I assumed, like cars, it was a man thing. I was lucky to find Coco to show me the light! But she was and still is a fairly obscure character. There was nothing mainstream to show the other girls in my class what they were missing out on. If I mentioned playing video games to other girls it was regarded as a rather strange and boyish behaviour. I think this lack of relatable characters impacted girls’ interest in games which may in turn have had a negative impact on their interest in STEM subjects.
However, Coco’s role grew with each game. It seemed I wasn’t alone in demanding more Coco. But it always remained a point of frustration that I could never play the entire game as her. It was so unfair that Crash got to have all the fun while she stood in the Warp Room, waiting for her chance. At that point she became a tragic figure for me – what would happen to her if Crash didn’t come back? Would she be trapped? Wasn’t she bored?
I decided to write my own stories – fanfiction, before I knew what it was called. I wrote the stories I wanted to read. I’ve never really stopped!
Then, a few years ago, Tumblr and Twitter exploded. There were all these women writing the same thing I’d always felt. Where are our heroines? They’re right; we could use more. But like Coco, I bet there are a thousand other unsung heroines in gaming.
That early iteration of Coco still holds up well years later. She’s not shamelessly stripperific. She’s not kicked about any more or less than Crash is. She has a role to play in the plot and she is damn good at what she does. She flies planes. She rides a baby tiger through ancient China. She steers a scooter through a tsunami. She’s a demon in a go kart. She hacks into the villains’ doomsday devices and provides the brains to Crash’s (questionable) brawn. I’m pleased to report Coco got a happy ending. She is fully playable in the recent remaster of the original trilogy of Crash Bandicoot games.
There are more female characters in games than ever before. Any of those could be someone else’s Coco. That stupid blocky Bandicoot helped make me a geek, a gamer and a writer and being those things makes me happy.
Thank you, Coco.
Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*