Video games have come a long way, and so have the characters that have helped define them. Video games have gone from spaceships to Pac-Man, to a plumber, and nowadays, to being able to create your very own special character. Most games follow the formula of one character (usually a male) and the trials and tribulations said hero endures. Woman in video games, as well as anywhere else in the media, have been exploited. As much as I'm a sucker for a "Tomb Raider" game, and I LOVED "Fear Effect" (the elevator scene in FE2, par example), I feel that there has not been a strong, stable female character.
The first video game I ever played that changed my preception on characters in video games was "Urban Chaos", on the original PSX. Most people hated that game, due to it's clunky controls and muddled graphics, but I suffered through, literally, years of playing this game over and over (even have it uploaded to my PSP), and I am thankful for D'arci Stern. D'arci was the main character, and not only was she so not the Bayonetta-type, D'arci also broke the mold for being the first African-American female lead in a game. UC not only featured an open-ended world, to a certain degree, it also offered witty writing and an interesting story, for it's time. As time has slowly crept away, I've wondered... where the fudge is D'arci Stern?
On another point, diversity in video games, for a while, was just stunted to the white guys being the hero, the black people being gangsters, and the other nationalities were either the bad guys or not even mentioned at all. There's no shortage of male heros, or buxxom female heroes, but there is a real shortage of just memoriable characters being introduced. Mostly (and thankfully), that is ending, due to games like "Fallout 3" and "FO: New Vegas", and "Mass Effect". (One of my personal favorites is, "Saint's Row 2", but that kind of diminishes the point, just an honorable mention). These video games are tailor made for the players, and let you customize the character you control throughout the game to almost no limits. While all of this is going on, the story changes to who you and your character are. A beautiful sight for gamers eyes.
I don't know if we'll ever be able to have the Mario's or Sonic's of yesteryear, as video games begin to cater more and more to the customization of the main character. I'm sure there will always be video games with key characters, but the more we open doors with online gaming communities, as well as give these gamers their customization delights, video games, as well as the stories they produce, will be a very different experience. At the end of the day, we should all just be thankful to live in the times we do to witness these wonders.