Something for the Ladies

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Something for the Ladies

Making games for everyone is a swell idea, but that doesn't mean it's practical.

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I think part of the issue is just plain demographics, not necessarily ignoring a group of people. Does anyone have a survey from the 70's and 80's that showed a majority of female players? I think game companies followed the thought process of since the vast majority of the people who play our games are male, we should create games that would appeal more to males. Making a game that has a strong female lead character and would appeal more to the average female may alienate your mass male majority and lead to low sales. Nice to do every now and then, but remember that game companies exist to not just make games, but make money. Even games with strong female lead characters tend to appeal more to a mass male player base. I know 2 women who have played Tomb Raider, and I can't count the # of guys, don't know any woman personally who has played Beyond Good & Evil (not saying they don't, just that I don't know any.) On the flip side, I know at least 20 - 25 women who play The Sims, and maybe a handful of guys that have tried it, and the Sims is a multi-million dollar enterprise, so what do I know....

As for the addition of voice acting based on africian race, that might be nearing a racist line a bit. Unless there is some need for an "urban/gangsta" dialect (which a white guy could have too), I don't see a need to re-record. Color has nothing to do with how you talk. That is an environment varible, not a race one.

Given the amount of input we get to give to game developers, we're probably just going to have to take what they give us in terms of story.

This doesn't mean, however, that things have to stay static. You don't really need more female leads, you just need more realistic relationships within games. A very rough example could be Riviera: The Promised Land for GBA. There are four females to the single male in the party, and while you inevitably hook up with one at the end of the game, which one it is has to do with how you treat them throughout the game. It's not quite a dating sim, but you can't just say whatever you want, amd doing things like looking at a statue of a woman for too lang will get everyone mad at you for being a perv. The responses are fairly realistic, even if they're limited, but knowing what everyone likes, as well as their relationships with each other, will help you build up trust with your party. It's a game where you have to actually work on your relationship with others for it to be successful. It's not the best effort, but it shows that you can have non-lead females in games that are more than a trophy at the end of the game.

Wait, why do we have to have the option of choice for everyone? Shouldn't we make games where it makes sense for gender, race, country of origin to fit into the plot? I mean, one thing about Cmdr. Shepard is that he/she's just a empty name. We shoehorn his/her lack of backstory in with a couple of options. But we don't get anything more than that. It's not like we can go: "Hey! He's from..." (Googling) "...Mindoir. How come he's white? The Mindoirians were uniformly of African descent" because like Shepard, "Mindoir" is just a name.

Conversely, in Overlord, which is a satire, it makes sense to have a male protagonist, because he's basically a stand-in for Sauron, who is referred throughout Lord of the Rings as being male.

I think you're attempting to make a molehill into a mountain here by going the "let's please everyone" concept. That's not how compromises work, nor is it how problems get solved. You can't please everyone, as anyone who's ever worked towards attempting to mediate a dispute quickly discovers. But you can make sure that no one gets unfairly shafted. I mean, where it makes sense for a character to be a white American guy, do so. But maybe you have a theme like "dealing with discrimination" so you make him black. But maybe you also want him to have a British accent, because, well, I can't think of theme or trope for that, but what the heck, he's British, so the character becomes West Indian. Oh, and it's discrimination in general, so you make the him a her. It makes sense, within the context.

Likewise, the prevalence of white guys from America make sense, because it seems like the vast majority of games center around "Soldier/pseudo-soldier solves [insert problem] by [insert explosion+guns]." Most of the developed world (read: Western world) is populated by majority white populations, who are the primary recruits for armies, and no one spends more money on their army than America.

I think that once we escape from the "action is the only thing videogames do well" mentality, then we'll start to see some changes. It's interesting to note that videogames have arrived as new media in a time when we're especially socially conscious, and thus can call attention to its short comings in that department. It may help to hyper-develop the medium (or, possibly, stunt it's growth).

I'm married to a non-gamer who is just begining to explore the hobby (using the gateway drugs of wii-sports, tetris and now working our way into Mario Galaxy and Okami)

We have discussed this issue before. My wife gets frusterated with the lack of female representation, as well as the latent sexism (you know, I might not have noticed it in Okami, but I see it when I look from her POV).

Once she said, "why can't you just choose a sex?" I said exactly what mr Shamus said, because it doubles the work. Fable is a good example but I also think of Oblivion: you could choose lots of things about your character- but by result your character had no character- dialogue was generic, and you could easily forget who you were.

I never though about it though, he's right. This would have worked so much better 5-10 years ago when nobody cared to think about it!

Character Creation is my FAVORITE thing you can have in a game.

Macar:
I'm married to a non-gamer who is just begining to explore the hobby (using the gateway drugs of wii-sports, tetris and now working our way into Mario Galaxy and Okami)

We have discussed this issue before. My wife gets frusterated with the lack of female representation, as well as the latent sexism (you know, I might not have noticed it in Okami, but I see it when I look from her POV).

Once she said, "why can't you just choose a sex?" I said exactly what mr Shamus said, because it doubles the work. Fable is a good example but I also think of Oblivion: you could choose lots of things about your character- but by result your character had no character- dialogue was generic, and you could easily forget who you were.

I never though about it though, he's right. This would have worked so much better 5-10 years ago when nobody cared to think about it!

If you forget who you are, thats your own fault, or atleast not enough imaginaton. I never forget who I am, rather the opposite. Maybe Im just weird, but I really remember my characters because I become them and think and see like them. not literally, but I just play with my thoughts imitating what theirs would be, even in the voice I have created in my mind for them.
I've been told Im a really skilled Roleplayer though, so maybe Im expecting too much. (Sorry for the ego at the end of that, I am not trying to sound like a jerk)
But created characters are my favorite, since they are your own. You decide how they are, what they look like and all that.

Probably we will be given many more choices the moment a good speech sintesys (and I mean good) is available to game developers: that would solve most problems, even allow much more easily to have dynamic scripts.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Something for the Ladies

Making games for everyone is a swell idea, but that doesn't mean it's practical.

Read Full Article

What about a larger selection of playable characters for transgender gamers? There needs to be a hero to fill that void!

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If you don't stand up for them Shamus Young, no one will!!!!

(Do I win the thread?)

hansari:

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Something for the Ladies

Making games for everyone is a swell idea, but that doesn't mean it's practical.

Read Full Article

What about a larger selection of playable characters for transgender gamers? There needs to be a hero to fill that void!

image

If you don't stand up for them Shamus Young, no one will!!!!

(Do I win the thread?)

0.o I do not need that image brought up in that context thank you... :P

That aside, there is a point to this.
It's kind of circular.
Nobody makes games for demographics they don't think play games, but consequently, those demographics never will play games, because there's nothing around that would actually interest them.

Kiutu:
Character Creation is my FAVORITE thing you can have in a game.

Macar:
I'm married to a non-gamer who is just begining to explore the hobby (using the gateway drugs of wii-sports, tetris and now working our way into Mario Galaxy and Okami)

We have discussed this issue before. My wife gets frusterated with the lack of female representation, as well as the latent sexism (you know, I might not have noticed it in Okami, but I see it when I look from her POV).

Once she said, "why can't you just choose a sex?" I said exactly what mr Shamus said, because it doubles the work. Fable is a good example but I also think of Oblivion: you could choose lots of things about your character- but by result your character had no character- dialogue was generic, and you could easily forget who you were.

I never though about it though, he's right. This would have worked so much better 5-10 years ago when nobody cared to think about it!

If you forget who you are, thats your own fault, or atleast not enough imaginaton. I never forget who I am, rather the opposite. Maybe Im just weird, but I really remember my characters because I become them and think and see like them. not literally, but I just play with my thoughts imitating what theirs would be, even in the voice I have created in my mind for them.
I've been told Im a really skilled Roleplayer though, so maybe Im expecting too much. (Sorry for the ego at the end of that, I am not trying to sound like a jerk)
But created characters are my favorite, since they are your own. You decide how they are, what they look like and all that.

I think the problem is that in a game like Oblivion or Fallout 3, your created character's appearance, and gender affect very little. Because you could be any race or gender, the dialogue is inherently designed to not leave anything out, which makes it more generic and less believable. Unless you pretend that the other characters are saying things that they're not to make the game universe more believable.

CrystalShadow:

That aside, there is a point to this.
It's kind of circular.
Nobody makes games for demographics they don't think play games, but consequently, those demographics never will play games....

On what authority can you speak with insight into this matter?

Who is to say there aren't any gay, lesbian, transgender, cyborg gamers?

I don't really mind. If there's a choice I'll probably be a girl, but if there isn't it won't affect the gameplay for me.

I have an unrelated point before my main discussion: Not everything should be about sex. People, especially people in the kind of epic life-or-death situations most games represent, are capable of forming genuine platonic relationships. I want to see more of that in games, and less of "there's a character you can have sex with, so we're going to give them three times as much dialogue as everyone else".

Main discussion: I think the reason this has been becoming so much of an issue recently is that game designers have taken to putting character customization into places it's not supposed to go. There's a distinct difference between whether a game is setting based or story based, and that line has blurred recently. A setting based game is one where you are presented with a world and are set loose in it to do whatever you want (sim-games being the most extreme example). A story based game is one where you have a set plotline to go through in order. Character customization belongs in setting games, but not story games. As the two have blurred together, things have started to go wrong. When plot starts to show up in a setting-based game, you get that dividing tree you described, because the plot has to be tailored for every possible character option. Conversely, as more freedom begins to show up in linear story games, people start complaining about their customization options not meaning anything.
Mass Effect is a good example of a plot-driven game that suffers from weak attempts at customization. I can only speak from personal opinion here, but I would have been far more satisfied with 3-4 pre-set options for main character that actually had fleshed out backstories and felt at least as much like actual people as the rest of the characters did.
Basically, my point is that games that want people to make their own stories should provide all the customization that is realistically possible (and fits within the setting), and not try to throw in plot elements beyond their capabilities. Maybe one day we'll have the technology to make every single NPC a fully developed character capable of responding naturally to every possible situation, but we can't yet. Meanwhile, games that have a story to tell should go ahead an tell it without trying to shoehorn in a giant blank dot as a main character for the player to fill in whatever style of generic smiley face they want.

I do like having plenty of options, and it certainly has been easier to do this with older RPGs.

Baldur's Gate is a good example of such variety of player character, it's very easy to make a very unique character that reflects what you want.

Voice acting was done quite well in Mass Effect, but I disliked the fact I was referred to as "shepard" the whole time. It distanced me from the character, and I ended up playing through as a violent thug (usually I tend to err on the goody-goody side of things).

I do hope we can get some variety in games in the future, I'm not suggesting that we should ditch the male/white/american completely, just allow for a bit more variation.

I'm sure if people raised enough of a **** storm they could get a game where the lead
Character is a fork, who rides into the lAnd of spoons to kicK utensil tail and rescue a hElpless confection. But obviously the CAKE is a lie because there's no call for such a game (and I haven't made it yet).

Light or *shudder* casual games have no problem being able to reflect multiple demographics because the pool isn't that deep, that's what makes them casual games. The regular (or "hardcore") game scene is very deep but they don't suit everyone not necessarily because of how the player is portrayed (also ignoring the Japanese Ero-game market) but because you are spending X amount of time and wracking your brain to accomplish something that ends as soon as you turn off the console, and -that's- what people can't relate to. Those who are willing to sink that sort of effort into something that is, aside from it's entertainment value, essentially worthless are quite happy with fantasy archetypes.

The second thing is that even though they are trying to make us spend our money, it's their game. If you don't want to play a video game because they don't have your personal racial/sexual/fashion demographic represented, my question to you is "Why?".
*dons his asbestos vestments*
IMO that's the same thing as debating the validity of Christianity based on Jesus' color. They don't mention it outright in the original bible because it didn't matter, it wasn't the man it was the deeds. No one comes out to a press conference and says "We're releasing a new game with an awesome action star. They're white and female and..." because it's not important

Here's are two excerpts for previews to Mirror's Edge, specifically the first line where the main character is referenced from IGN's preview from Feb 2008
As soon as our demo fired up we were greeted with a shot of who we were later told was Faith. She's the main character of the story and everything within Mirror's Edge will be seen through her eyes. The story follows Faith as she tries to clear her sister's name as she was framed by the menacing, totalitarian government that rules the region with an iron fist.

...and one from Eurogamer's on July 10 2008
"...and the Runner's Vision which allows Faith, the fleet-footed courier protagonist, to instinctively know which environmental objects she can use as she heads from A to B..."

Notice that neither of them emphasize who she is, it's what she's doing, because that's what DICE wanted to tell you about. A free-running parkour character who is out to clear her sister's name and is referenced to as "she" because it would be awkward to speak of her in the third person.

So long story short (too late, I know), if all you want is to be able to recreate yourself digitally, the Sims 3 has been out for a while. If you want to have some more variety in terms of fashion or appearance to your (limitedly) customizable character, ask for an expansion or DLC. But if you're going to say that you have an actual problem with games like Mirror's Edge or Mass Effect where you can't totally re-arrange the writer's story to your hearts content? If you need to have the ability to reproduce every single aspect of a person onto your onscreen persona? Well, short of sucking eggs because if you go looking for something to offend you'll end up finding it (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/93499-Gay-Gamer-Turns-Down-EA) you should write up why and send it to a studio or gaming site. Seriously, but do it politely. The industry needs new ideas and new looks, so instead of saying "That's not fair!" say "That's cool, but this would be cool AND new".

And hands off the CAKE idea, I've already punished myself with 50 lashes for making that reference.

Gender will always be an issue in the gaming world, yes there are a few huge female leads. Lara Croft and Samus Aran which you mentioned. Yes games are male dominated and yes females do play video games, but most current gen games have giant, burly, space marine like men who talk like Rorschach after a bad bout of laryngitis. Be it Marcus Fenix or Kaim Argonar, our male leads tend to be the same action hero typecasts. Then there is always the plucky female sidekick who half gets in the way an half tries to help. Yes there do need to be more games with female lead characters maybe in a sort of Xena like position. In every game there are typecast roles to fill, the powerful hero, the plucky sidekick and the evil villain. Who is to say a woman can be the powerful heroine and the man be the plucky sidekick? Who is the say a woman cannot be the evil vilainess? What it comes down to is the developers ideals and motivations. Maybe the men in the developing team are louder than the women who work there but correct me if I am wrong but game development is ever so slightly tipped in the males direction. Its sort of makes it hard to get the large male video game splaying audience to want to play as a woman unless they have huge jugs or booty to ogle at. Unfortunately, men are petty at times. We can't all be the crusading "women are not objects" people and not occasionally drool over Jennifer Love Hewitt's rack. Yes women play video games, I understand that, hell I needed a female friend to help me beat Fable, but its just that to more you try to compensate for gender and racial issues the harder it is to make a game. We can all think of the usual cast of characters but it dosen't mean you can't shake it up a bit.

hansari:

CrystalShadow:

That aside, there is a point to this.
It's kind of circular.
Nobody makes games for demographics they don't think play games, but consequently, those demographics never will play games....

On what authority can you speak with insight into this matter?

Who is to say there aren't any gay, lesbian, transgender, cyborg gamers?

I know of some.

hansari:

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Something for the Ladies

Making games for everyone is a swell idea, but that doesn't mean it's practical.

Read Full Article

What about a larger selection of playable characters for transgender gamers? There needs to be a hero to fill that void!

image

If you don't stand up for them Shamus Young, no one will!!!!

(Do I win the thread?)

Well, transgender people generally view themselves as male or female, but with the burden of being physically like the wrong one. So I do not really see many trans people wanting trans characters, since would rather just have been born male or female, as opposed to having to 'become' the other.

I understand that some games tell a story, and if that story has a romantic subtext, then the gender and sexual identities of the parties involved are necessarily decided ahead of time. I don't resent playing a male character who will end up with a female character or a female character who will end up with a male character in that final, triumphant ride off into the sunset, just as I don't resent the plot of a book involving a male and female character who hook up. If the main point is storytelling, then I bow to the artistic decisions of the storytellers, of the people making the game.

But if the game is built to hinge on the player's decisions, then that's a bit different. I'm not asking for new characters or new voice acting or new animation. All I ask is that when my character visits a brothel in game or meets a random NPC, there shouldn't be any problem with her hitting on the female NPCs because I chose to play a female character. Why can't they offer the same dialogue trees to everyone? Yes, in some games, it would require a lot of extra work to make them open to the options of playing any of the possible genders/sexual preferences/racial identities/etc. that players identify as, but I don't think most of us are actually asking for that.

Sure, I'd love to see more games with a strong female lead, or that at least offered the option of playing a woman, but mostly, I'm content to play a male if the story of the game is about a man. I won't refuse to read a book because the protagonist is male, so why would I refuse to play a game because the protagonist is male? What really irritates me is the tendency of game settings to conform to an everyone-is-heterosexual-in-this-made-up-game-world-so-we-don't-have-to-think-about-messy-issues protocol that marks so many games on the market.

I think there's a straw man argument lurking here: the idea that everyone wants their gender and sexual preference and race and nationality represented in all games...so we might as well ignore this because it's too much to manage and we ought to just keep doing things the way we are now, right? We minorities generally know that we're minorities, whether we're just minorities of the population or minorities of the audience, or both. What we're asking for is not a complete overhaul of how games work and what games are produced. We're asking, simply, for the games industry to acknowledge our existence, in their game worlds and in the real world. The simple acknowledgment that there are women who do not fit the damsel-in-distress stereotype and men who do not fit the in-charge-ready-for-action stereotype. The simple acknowledgment that there are women who love women and men who love men. The simple acknowledgment that there are people of all races, nations, and creeds whose stories are worth telling.

I don't blame any game company from making a game about a white in-charge-ready-for-action male who saves the white damsel-in-distress female, because it's an old story with which many of the world's gamers are familiar and comfortable. But I am saying that it's ok to push the envelope, and that many of the world's gamers are waiting eagerly for the game that will tell their story, that will let them play the protagonist they've always fantasized about being, even if it's a little skewed and cliched. And I think that if the game play is good, you won't scare away too many regular customers either.

I realize that it would be impossible to please everyone in regards to race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

But we're talking about GENDER. With the exception of our hermaphrodite friends, you're either one or the other. Women make up 50% of the human population. That's HALF!

So why is MALE always the automatic DEFAULT option?

Leslee

Just wanted to add an additional complication for story-based games where the main character isn't customizable (which can give you a more in-depth story than customisation, as

While in some ways comparable to development of film characters, people are much more intimately linked with their characters in games than the protagonist of a film, which makes people demand not just an interesting story, but a protagonist they relate to (while I can enjoy a film where I disagree with things all the main characters have done).

To solve a problem like this, you need to make story games specifically for a subset of game players. This decreases who will buy your game, but can work well (all games are at least partially targeted).

The really odd twist videogames give to this is then having a set of gameplay elements that run alongside the story. This means if you are making a game for an audience, you not only have to make a story that appeals to them, with a likeable protagonist, but make the gameplay appealing.

In most contexts, I think it is gameplay that sells games, the stories are there, and often important, but not the deciding factor.

So this means a story-driven game must: pick it's target audience, develop their story to appeal to them, and then find gameplay that will be liked by the target audience. Quite a challenge.

To top this off, certain types of games are associated with a male audience. If you are making an FPS, you expect your game to have a mostly-male audience, and adjust the story accordingly.

- Noviny

Err... what? Maybe this is the result of you cutting down the article. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I don't know. But the second page basically reads like "Yeah, if we consider these pesky womenfolk when making a game, next thing you know we have to make options for gay black brits!"

What Leslee said. Women are not a minority. That we even have to discuss about including half the worlds population is beyond me.

Another slam dunk, Shamus!

As an inveterate RPG player, I started out with games where you could choose the gender of all six of your characters (gold box FTW!!!), and since then I've always found it a bit odd that I couldn't play as, well, a girl. But I've still enjoyed games where I'm stuck with the Male Lead as my character (Gothic), even when some aspects of those games seem to have been designed with young males in mind. But I have a mannish personality for a woman because I actually *like* young males even when I find their peccadilloes amusing and I'm not in the least offended if some enjoy seeing some bouncy boobs. I can't imagine how women who are actually uptight about these sorts of things must feel.

No justice until we see a female GTA lead.

Is all I'm sayin'

A large majority of gamers are guys, so much so that companies are able to release games with harems of women and still sell millions of copies.

I'm all for equality, but let's face it, somethings are the way they are because that's how life works. I mean, I don't see make up commercials directed towards guys. Where's the equality in that? It not that guys can't wear make up, it's that they don't want to. Same thing goes for girls and aggressive, blood splattering video games. Girls can still buy them, but they won't, and you know what? I don't think the devs making the game cares all that much, because in the end, they are still making their money.

No matter how much our society progresses and game devs start taking into consideration the female population, there will always be games purely for the enjoyment of males.

lesterley:
I realize that it would be impossible to please everyone in regards to race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

But we're talking about GENDER. With the exception of our hermaphrodite friends, you're either one or the other. Women make up 50% of the human population. That's HALF!

So why is MALE always the automatic DEFAULT option?

Leslee

I even said at the end that this doesn't excuse leaving women out, it's just that there is a lot more to it than flipping a one to a zero.

I think - and this is one of the ideas that I had to cut - that in situations where the game designer wants to have a well-defined character, there are several things that drive them to select male over female:

1) Game developers are mostly guys, and people write what they know. As an author, I can jump in and write a male much more easily than a woman. It's the path of least resistance.
2) Games tend to be about violence, which means they end up being for and about men. I wouldn't put a woman on the beaches of Normandy or have a woman in the Roman army just for the sake of equality. That covers a lot of games.
3) Since over half the audience is men, if you have to go one way or the other it makes economic sense to pander to the larger group.

Again, I don't think this excuses the lack of games about women, I'm just pointing out that the omission of female protagonists is not the result of misogynistic developers.

Personally, I think developers are shooting themselves in the foot. If I were to make a game, I would make the main character female simply because that would be a great way to set the game apart and make it distinctive. It's hard to have a male lead that isn't going to look like a "me too", because it's all been done to death.

It's interesting to see all the examples here, and yet the one that best fits the article isn't mentioned at all.

That would be Resident Evil, a game which let you play as either a male (Chris) or female (Jill), and it was huge in that that one choice you make at the very beginning affects everything in the game, from the people you meet (you'll never met Rebecca if you play as Jill, and likewise, Barry disappers when you're Chris), to how the plot unfolds (Chris needs Rebecca to help slove some puzzles, while Jill can get Barry to help with some bosses), which endings you can get (each character has four, making for eight in total), and even how the game plays! (Jill has eight inventory slots and a lockpick to open some doors, while Chris only gets six slots and has to carry around keys to unlock those same doors, which take up one much needed inventory space)

This game, by giving players the simple option of choosing a gender, was essentally giving players two games to pick from.

Resident Evil 2 took it even further, making it so what one character does affects how the other character can progress, and even changes the plot radically instead of just the endings.

But RE3, and every RE since, has gotten rid of the choice, and it's obvious why; they're way too much work!

paypuh:
I don't think the devs making the game cares all that much, because in the end, they are still making their money.

Yes. On the other hand, they could make even more money and I don't see devs declining money to keep their piece of art (i.e. square-faced grizzled space marine being manly with his completely heterosexual buddies and splashing aliens) intact.

What this debate comes down to is clichés and prejudice. Take a standard FPS for example. Are girls appaled by the whole shooty stabby concept or by the fact that all of them are so tuned toward a male audience (even the rare female protagonist usually has double Ds and about 2 inches worth of cloth) the game might as well be shipped with a issue of playboy? I don't know but I think it's time for a factual study.

After all, we are talking about considerable lost revenue here. Hell, we are talking about ignoring half your potential customers.

lesterley:
I realize that it would be impossible to please everyone in regards to race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

But we're talking about GENDER. With the exception of our hermaphrodite friends, you're either one or the other. Women make up 50% of the human population. That's HALF!

So why is MALE always the automatic DEFAULT option?

Leslee

Actually women make up more than half the population. And because, like it or not, we as a species are still stuck in a sexist mentality. Males go win the bacon, females cook the bacon. And I eat the bacon. And no you cant have any.
The better tactic is to make a character that nobody would care if they were male or female, since the focus of the game is to go out and do things to win the objective. Not play 'Days of Our Lives Online.' I get to do that at my job everyday. From what I hear, games like Half-Life and Bioshock do that quite well, where it is actually not so noticed that the protagonist is male. If it wasn't for Freeman having a first name called out from time to time, then you could choose your own gender for Freeman as you could for Shepherd.
Mmmm, good bacon.

Anaphyis:

paypuh:
I don't think the devs making the game cares all that much, because in the end, they are still making their money.

Yes. On the other hand, they could make even more money and I don't see devs declining money to keep their piece of art (i.e. square-faced grizzled space marine being manly with his completely heterosexual buddies and splashing aliens) intact.

What this debate comes down to is clichés and prejudice. Take a standard FPS for example. Are girls appaled by the whole shooty stabby concept or by the fact that all of them are so tuned toward a male audience (even the rare female protagonist usually has double Ds and about 2 inches worth of cloth) the game might as well be shipped with a issue of playboy? I don't know but I think it's time for a factual study.

After all, we are talking about considerable lost revenue here. Hell, we are talking about ignoring half your potential customers.

While there is a fair amount of girl gamers, they do not make up half of the people who buy games. Not even close.

And while I might be a self professed nerd, I am not clueless when it comes to the opposite sex. The girls I know who play games stay away from FPS's, even games like Call of Duty which do not portray women as objects. I can only imagine, and by that I mean I know for a fact, girls just don't find the same amount of joy in maiming others as guys do. Because of that, game devs make their games for guys, and that's just the way of the world.

I'm a white, hetero, male American, so the default options usually work out pretty well in my favor. Nevertheless, many times I would prefer to play a female character, particularly in 3rd person games (if I have to stare at someone's backside for hours, it might as well be a decent view). What bothers me most, though, are the highly customizable games. They let me choose between multiple races, multiple sexes, multiple classes, multiple skin colors, all sorts of armor & weapons, sometimes I can even vary the height. But if I want to put a sword in my left hand, that's just unacceptable.

one day there will be games for guys, games for girls, & the big mashup in the middle. ATM, thers games for guys, games for guys with female protagonists, & games for girls which are also games for kids. Alas, it will be a long time before the market changes. Because as with movies, many more girls are okay seeing an action film then guys are seeing a chick flick. Since the market for all but Wii casual games is still dominated by male, insecure homophobes, it will be a long time before publishers/devs feel the real pressure for change.

Cousin_IT:
one day there will be games for guys, games for girls, & the big mashup in the middle. ATM, thers games for guys, games for guys with female protagonists, & games for girls which are also games for kids. Alas, it will be a long time before the market changes. Because as with movies, many more girls are okay seeing an action film then guys are seeing a chick flick. Since the market for all but Wii casual games is still dominated by male, insecure homophobes, it will be a long time before publishers/devs feel the real pressure for change.

I think you've really hit the nail on the head with that one. I think it's going to be some time, and a gradual changing of dynamics that will solve this problem. The vidoegames industry is changing fast and it's experiencing growing pangs in this and other areas- and there are still too many people stuck in the past (both gamers who wont accept outsiders, and cantakerous non-gamers who cant beleive games are anything but juvinile toys)

Interesting read; it's often something I've thought about myself.

I think making identifiable leads is something that can be addressed incrementally. Right now, just seeing more female leads would be nice. (Especially since studies of Tomb Raider show that a lot of male gamers like playing Lara Croft, even if for no other reason, they like looking at her rather than some beefcakey ass running around. I think this--and the other reasons for male players being fine with female leads--can extend easily to other games.)

Likewise, more variety in appearance/race would be nice. I don't think those things in itself require a whole lot of re-thinking/extra technology.

The complication comes in when yes, you have romance or sex interests.

There's option 1: don't have romances. Most video game "romances" I've played through suck anyway--I feel like I'm romancing cardboard. (The only one I ever enjoyed was TNO and Annah in Torment, and that only went so far--but it was extremely well written.) I'd honestly rather have no romance then have, say, some guy I've tried to ignore the entire game suddenly throws himself at me because the game's script told him to (I'm looking at you, NWN2).

The fact is, beyond sexuality, it's nearly impossible to design a love interest that appeals to everyone. We all have different tastes, and what one person finds hot another person is going to be disgusted with.

Option 2 is what Bioware does: be reasonable, give the player the choice of gender and race (this to me is always my favorite solution to the lead-diversity issue), and design the romantic interest from the perspective of the NPC--if you're female and they're a straight male they'll hit on you, but so will the gay female on the team. The straight female will not hit on you, however. They seem to be already capable of creating a set cast with well-developed NPCs who can at least appeal to several if not all gamers, so if they just keep doing what they're doing and build on it as they're capable, there will be a good system.

Also, importantly, you should ALWAYS have the option of turning down a romance or sexual offer. If you don't have the resources to program in a romantic partner for every potential player, someone who's turned off by the offer should be able to turn the character down--and with a better dialogue option than something that makes your main character sound like a douche. (I remember in Baldur's Gate 2 "leading on" Jaheira because any choice I had to get her to stop trying to romance me was something like, "Shut up you stupid half-elf bitch" while apparently something like, "Uh-huh, that's nice," was a major turn on to her.)

Some day devs may have the time and money to program in multiple leads and multiple romance interests and I think it may actually be possible one day. In the meantime it's still important to do what you can to be as inclusive as possible, even if all that is is being able to toggle the "male/female" switch in the character creation screen.

For games like Overlord, any "relationships" therein are purely shallow and sexual, with no real personalities to worry about writing (I haven't played Overlord, so correct me if I'm wrong). Seems easy enough to make some beefcake meshes and slap them over the harem, and let the player choose what kind of member of the harem they want (in fact, when its time for you to "earn" your next harem member, let them choose from a list--you can therefore get the ones you want, both male and female of a variety of appearances). Seems well within today's technology, and all it takes is a couple more character designs and animations and you're done.

In addressing Shamus's questions at the end: "Does this sort of thing keep the ladies from playing? Do females stay away because games are made for men, or are games made for men because females stay away?"

As a female gamer, I've noticed many games I play are assumed to be "made for men"--despite the fact that research shows that 40% of gamers are women. So if I were to stay away because games are "made for men" I wouldn't have anything to play.

I do stay away from games that appear to be particularly degrading to women. A little cheesecake is fine (as is beefcake) but if every female character is there simply to be fucked or slapped around.... or even to just be weak and useless... I'm not going to play it. I know that kind of thing is going to lead to me feeling angry and attacked personally, so I'm going to avoid it. It's why I avoided The Witcher despite being an avid RPG fan; people kept saying it was the best RPG EVAR, but I kept reading the nonsense about seducing women for rewards and it just didn't sit right with me, so I kept far away from it.

But I won't avoid a game just because it has a male lead. My favorite game ever is Planescape: Torment which has a male lead--and a fantastic story. I'm bi so I'm happy with the romance, and you can avoid the romance easily enough if that isn't your thing. The story is excellent and all the characters relatable to in some way, so the fact that the main character happens to be a guy isn't a big deal to me.

Likewise, I--like a lot of female gamers--like to play JPRGs, which are almost solely dominated by stories with male leads (usually annoying, bratty, teen male leads at that). I can play games like that, even if I can't identify with the lead, because there are still other great characters, male and female and other, to enjoy. One of my favorite series is Suikoden, which has a lot of strong women to relate to and characters of all stripes, shapes, colors, and sizes to enjoy--truly something for everyone. I think the JRPG genre in general does inclusivity pretty well. And I think FFXIII's having a female lead is a nod to the fact that so many players of JRPGs are increasingly female.

Wow, that was a teal dear. Sorry about that.

DeathQuaker:
Likewise, I--like a lot of female gamers--like to play JPRGs

It's interesting, I've wondered weither issues of sexisim are thought about less in Japan.

I will say, that having lived in another country, american young men are worse about being homophobic than possibly anybody in the world.

If a game is good, I wouldn't care what gender the protagonist is.

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