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How did the dev of Infamous: First Light create a strong lady lead? By talking to a woman

Infamous: First Light's leading lady is fast, fluid and powerful.

The standalone downloadable content, set to launch for PlayStation 4 Aug. 26, serves as a prequel to Infamous: Second Son and a chance to expand on the game's neon-powered side-character. Players will explore the backstory of Abigail "Fetch" Walker, a character so enticing Sucker Punch felt compelled to return to her story.

When it came to creating a believable, human character, director Nate Fox told Polygon he wanted to make sure he wasn't creating a female lead that would be "seeing the world through the eyes of a dude." Sucker Punch sought help from the voice of Fetch herself — actress Laura Bailey — to craft her character.

"When it came time to put in dialogue or talk about motivations, we called Laura Bailey or texted her," Fox said. "She would tell me what would be Fetch's view so it was accurate to the character, but also accurate to a woman's experience."

Until now, Infamous has never given a female character a leading role. This was largely because of the assumption that "we thought that the demographic of game players were dudes and they identified with dudes," Fox said. He pointed to BioWare's Mass Effect series; in 2011, the developer said only 18 percent of players chose to play as a woman. That number was reiterated during a PAX East panel last year.

"There's a dearth of [women] in video games, and that's silly."

"We didn't make this game thinking, 'Oh we're gonna make a female hero because there aren't any in video games,'" Fox said. "We made a game about Fetch because we liked Fetch.

"But since we made the game, I'm really glad that that's the case. There's a dearth of [women] in video games, and that's silly. We just stumbled into it, but I couldn't be happier that we did. It's a positive thing."

Fox said he and Bailey worked together to improve the character during voice-over recording sessions. If phrases sucked, he said, Bailey would make her own changes.

"I'll say look, here's the script but you can change it," Fox said. "As long as the intended line is there, I don't care how it's said."

"All that matters is that Fetch has the upper hand at the end."

In one example, Fox explained that he consulted Bailey about in-game characters who make crude sexual jokes — one option the studio explored in creating negative male characters. Although real people do say such things, Fox said, he worried that it would be inadvertently sexist to include in the game. With Bailey's advice, Sucker Punch aims to put Fetch in control of these situations.

"All that matters is that Fetch has the upper hand at the end," Fox said of Bailey's advice. "That her response is stronger. It shows these guys exist in the world, and she's owning the situation."

During a hands-on demo of the game, I tested out Fetch's abilities in the game's Battle Arena. In the Battle Arena — which Fox simply describes as "gamey, man" — players fight off waves of oncoming enemies.

Here, I had easy access to Fetch's neon-powered abilities. By tapping the DualShock 4's touch pad, I could suck neon power from nearby lights, only to hurl it back at enemies in short bursts. Fetch hits hard and fast up close, but also has the ability to jet between locations in a quick beam of neon. I was able to use this power to great effect to reach new areas or zoom past enemies.

In a separate demo, I was given access to the city of Seattle. I spent my time completing side-missions, from beating up foes to using her powers to create neon spray paint. Although the demo was story-free, Fetch would occasionally reference things from her troubled past. Players had a strong reaction to Fetch and her struggle in Second Son, which Fox credits to her flaws. She's a conflicted person, and people connected with that.

"That fear of rejection moves her forward," Fox said. "It's attractive to us because she's human."

"That makes her, in my opinion, much stronger as a hero. When she wins, you're excited because she's relatable."

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