Video Game News, Reviews and Reflection! New Articles Released Randomly Every Week!
This is a bad time for women in video gaming. The roles of woman characters have been greatly relegated to stereotypes, damsels-in-distress, and eye candy. Chris Perna is the Art Director of Gears of War developer Epic Games, and when recently asked about the idea of a female protagonist in future installments of the popular shooter, stated “That’s certainly interesting but I don’t know. If you look at what sells, it’s tough to justify something like that.” I think it’s about time that kind of thinking should change.
Lead By Example
Thank you to transfuse at Deviantart for making this
Honestly, it doesn’t make much sense. Looking back, there are a lot of female protagonists that starred in best-selling games. Samus Aran, the notorius Metroid bounty hunter was one of the first in 1987 (North American release), and her series has sold very well. The Tomb Raider series is one of the best selling video game series ever, and despite a history of oversized bazoombas, a new one is one the way this year with normal sized jumblies and a focus on her culturally significant character story. Perfect Dark sold remarkably well on the N64 and was a worthy successor to the classic Goldeneye, impressive considering it had nothing to do with Bond.
FemShep, like the other Shepard, but with a better voice actor
Even games with CHOICE over the sex of your main character have done incredibly well. The best of these, Mass Effect, always left the choice to the player, and dare I say that the voice actress (Jennifer Hale) delivered lines more passionately, a female Shepard makes for a more powerful feeling Renegade, and the influence was obvious as the third game used much more promotional material featuring the female option. How much did that game make again?
Lightning, the “better looking Cloud Strife”
Realistically, how much does the sex of main character really matter? You could play the entirety of the Halo series, and if the voice was changed to a woman’s, would it be any less fun? I chose the Siren class in Borderlands because I love lots of bullets and subtle powers. Think I cared about anything beyond stats? And what about the growing number of JRPGs with women in the starring roles? Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t particularly well received for its linearity, but Lightning, its protagonist, was anything but a stereotype (at least in America, not too well versed in Japanese culture).
Remind you of any video game drill sergeants?
Let’s face it, the market is already oversaturated with the polar opposite of what I’m suggesting. I’m going to describe a video game character for you, and you tell me who it is: A physically strong male protagonist, the best at what he does, leads his squad through hell and high water against a powerful threat to the world as we know it. He cares about his group, cause or world, but doesn’t show it outwardly. He just does his job and does it well. Now, if that sounds like every video game male protagonist you’ve ever heard, it’s because it pretty much is. Hell, if you just changed the pronouns, you’d have a fresher game, even just novelly. And in this COD world, anything that stands out is considered original.
How about a real world example: you end up in a hospital because you’re sick, and your doctor is a woman. She gives you your diagnosis and tells you she thinks its *insert medical condition you don’t know because you didn’t go to medical school here*. She procedes to tell you what procedure she believes you need done. Do you think any less of her medical opinion solely because of her gender?
Grow Up or Go Home
Pilot, fighter, great gay character
It’s time for male gamers to realize a growing trend: women are a growing demographic in video gaming. According to a 2012 study by the Entertainment Software Association, “47% of the game playing population is female, and women 18 or older now comprise 30% of all gamers.” Despite those numbers, my fellow men seem to think gaming is a man’s world. It’s time to wake up. This is especially true for video game developers and producers. To put it into money terms, making games that objectify or otherwise offend about half your potential market translates to sales that won’t reach their full potential. People care about the perceptions games present about them. LGBT characters in games were often used for comedy effect in games like FFVII (the entirety of Cloud’s crossdressing sequence), Flea from Chrono Trigger, Birdo from Super Mario Bros 2 and the notorious Alfred Ashford from Resident Evil: Code Veronica. But as U.S. societal attitudes about homosexuality began to change, we started to see stronger characters emerge, like Steve Cortez in Mass Effect 3, Veronica and Arcade in Fallout: New Vegas and the Silvari of Guild Wars 2. They were all presented as relatable and not stereotypes. Although some games still use the cliches, the attitudes of writers are starting to change.
No… Just, No.
Women deserve all that and more. Strides have been taken, but for every Jill Valentine or Zelda, there’s at least two Lollipop Chainsaws or Bloodraynes around the corner to destroy the progress. And I’m a guy. I like ta-tas as much as the next guy, but video games have grown up, and it’s time we grow up too. I want stronger female characters that draw me in because of their character, not their chest size. At the same time, I want the character to be decidedly female, with the world and that character’s personality affected by that difference.
She could kick your ass and do calculus as she does it
The best example is The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3. She was one of the most badass soldiers in the world: she founded the Cobra Unit, helped develop CQC, mentored the man who became Big Boss, and set up her own death to prevent global nuclear war. These things could be accomplished by anyone of any gender. What makes her interesting is her feminine traits: she was described as motherly in her treatment of and by troops under her command, her love for The Sorrow was a deep and emotional character point, and she was a mother who birthed the dastardly and brilliant character Revolver Ocelot on a battlefield. These three points are uniquely female, and they make this character stand out in a very positive and attractive way.
Back to the Beginning
Yes, you can, Epic Games…
All this brings us back to Chris Perna of Epic Games and his statement. Above are the ways a female protagonist can be profitable, progressive and effective in storytelling. We have a growing number of female gamers looking for more convincing and interesting women as protagonists. Even Gears of War featured Anya Stroud and Samantha Byrne, and although they had relationship aspects, Anya gave the commands in the first two games and the two of them kicked as much ass as the men they fought alongside in 3. You can obviously make great, interesting female characters without resorting to oversexualizing them. I guarantee you if you made a game with that much character quality, I’d buy it, and so would others. Something to think about.
This has been a male-perspective article. For a female perspective, we suggest this wonderful article by Becky Chambers.
Anyone have an opinion on this article? Drop a comment below to sound off like you’ve got a pair (or like you don’t)!