Something for the Ladies

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I'd argue with each pairing doubling the amount of work necessary. Take Mass Effect, lots of different choices, but in fact they were mostly the same responses regardless of how you choose. It add some work I'm sure, but if you keep the group the same and just swap characters, it need not consume so much effort. And is there really that much difference between a guy hitting on a girl and a guy hitting on a guy that the entire scene would need to be re-recorded? Really all you need is a name (Shepard) and androgynous pet name (babe, doll, etc...). As for voice actors, wanting a "black" or "Asian" voice actor, in the most part leads these days are silent enough. Plus I would say that it's a fair enough bet, that any game with that much choice would have an empty vessel lead.

But as an general issue, I don't really care who I'm playing as if the story is enjoyable and the gameplay good. I mean if the deciding issue for me to buy or play a game was the main character then it probably wouldn't be worth playing in the first place.

Is it a demographic issue? Maybe it's a developer issue, lots of white males making and greenlighting video-games, I'd say it's a fair bet that female writers place female protagonists in stories more often. Gay / Female / Transgender etc... if you want games to reflect the true diversity of the world, then you've got to get these people making games. And I know there are already women working in gaming, and there are already gay people working in gaming but I can't remember the last time I heard, read or saw an interview with a developer that wasn't with a white male...

The idea of a Female Video Game protagonist that isn't meant to be an asskicking sexpot (Lara Croft, any female character in a Tomonobu Itagaki game, the protagonist of X-Blades Whatsherface, Myriad Others) is something of an untapped market. Villain Franchises like Overlord and (to a lesser extent) Disgaea are sort of the same thing, though on a more "Tapped" scale.

I do enjoy female characters that are competent and likable without being overtly sexualized (IE in either a costume where her breasts are begging for escape or in skintight "Armor" that emphasizes her ladybits), Alyx Vance herself being a good example. Still, as mentioned before games are meant to be for Manny Men Men Yaargh. That and a good market for games is still for Males. While girl gamers exist they're still hardly thought of as a profitable target.

Still, maybe a new game of a non-Adventure/Puzzle Game genre will star a competent female protagonist who is neither a Shallow Love Interest or an Action Girl with the power to stuff THAT figure into that getup as a certain feline companion once stated. She'll be skilled at whatever deed she does and have the respect of a well-developed cast of characters...

And ended up being lambasted by Yahtzee as "Affirmative Action: The Game" for our amusement.

I've seen plenty of threads where males have expressed being perfectly comfortable with a female protagonist. Developers may feel this is not the case, or are "writing what they know."

Macar:

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.

I am not surprised at all by the latter concept.

As to the former, re: Japan. I've done proofreading work for a Japanese sociologist who focuses on women's issues, and based on her and others' academic research on the issue, I would say that overall, sexism is a major problem for their culture overall (for example, though things are improving, it's very difficult for a woman to get a job in business that isn't a temporary secretary position).

But (according to my personal experience/observation, not academic research) Japanese media/pop culture seems to be divided into two wildly different factions. One adheres to the deepest rooted sexism, producing at their most extreme, things like rape games and some of the more terrifying "dating" Sims. Some might say games like Onechanbara Bikini Samurai Squad (I may have gotten that title slightly wrong) might also fall into this group, even if the women are the leads.

Another group seems however invested in making sure there are strong female characters to root for and who often are clearly in control of their lives and their destiny. Although some of them still suffer from gratuitous cheesecakery more than the male characters (with some exceptions), they still to be standout representatives of a Japanese concept of an empowered woman. I would say many, though not all, JRPGs are good at having characters like these.

paypuh:

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 this will certainly not change with the ghettoization of the female audience. So yes, leave this giant market untapped and whine about piracy and rising development costs instead because thats how the world works. [/sarcasm mode]

Oh well. While I could argue about the size of your reference pool and compare it to mine and jump on the fallacy to declare this fact, thus rabidly biting back at what was hopefully meant tongue-in-cheek... Forget it. We are at polar opposites here and way to dismissive to acknowledge the others arguments, we might as well start the shootout now instead of dancing around.

Anaphyis:

paypuh:

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 this will certainly not change with the ghettoization of the female audience. So yes, leave this giant market untapped and whine about piracy and rising development costs instead because thats how the world works. [/sarcasm mode]

Oh well. While I could argue about the size of your reference pool and compare it to mine and jump on the fallacy to declare this fact, thus rabidly biting back at what was hopefully meant tongue-in-cheek... Forget it. We are at polar opposites here and way to dismissive to acknowledge the others arguments, we might as well start the shootout now instead of dancing around.

Listen lady, I have no qualms about gamers with two X chromosomes, but to think game companies are going to give up the reason why they are selling millions of copies of games is a bit ridiculous. There is enough room in the game market to have both female friendly games and the games designed for guys. And considering most women would rather play virtual card games, puzzle games or MMOs, it will be a long time before the majority of FPS's are designed with women in mind.

If you want a game about Black, Female, Transexuals, go make a game about them. People make games based on what they know, and I can't imagine there are too many Latin women with gender confusion issues working in the gaming industry. Not of course, that they shouldn't be allowed to be there, or that if a group of them wants to make a game they shouldn't be allowed to market it to whatever niche market they want to.

I'm sure as the demographics of the industry change, so too will the diversity of main characters change. If the demographics don't change, then neither will the characters. People doing a bunch of hand wringing because South Asian Ladyboys are underrepresented as main characters can please do it quietly, or make their own games. By the way, if women, people of latin descent or transsexuals want to make a game, I will judge it by it's merits as a game, I'll even play it if it's good.

Also, what Paypuh said.

The argument that if we add options for these people that we'll have to have options for all these other types of people is fairly weak. Catering to all groups would be nice but impossible and I'm sure many (including those who would be left out) realize. Though it does stand to reason that you might profit from at least extending your market to include another large chunk of people. It doesn't have to be all encompassing to get a profit from it.

What is up with the geek community (games, roleplaying, and comics) swearing up and down that the is no female audience to win or cater to? Or saying its not worth the extra effort to try to pick them up? I'm reminded of the comics industry sitting on their thumbs catering to fanboys ignoring the female audience potential and then acting all confused when manga came and picked up the group they'd been ignoring.

There is a market to be had if anyone bothered to actually look for it. Though I'm not saying that one needs to stoop to the level of the 'Girl's Game' shelf full of pink boxes and baby simulators. Girls can like the same thing boys do within reason. As a girl gamer I have played God of War and other violent games geared for the more testosterone laden individuals.

Though I have found myself more drawn into and willing to invest more time and money into a game that either had a faceless main chracter (ala Bioshock) or a character that I could customize and make more relate able to me (Baldurs Gate, Fallout, Elder Scrolls) but as nice as it is, I don't need it to enjoy a game. Hell I'm currently enjoying the Thief games which star a character who is male but the game doesn't insult my gender and tells its story in a way I can enjoy (fun game play doesn't hurt either).

In the end I just want a game that doesn't wave titties at me and make me feel like I need to give up my self respect to enjoy.

sigh...this could go one forever. the good news is, even though your race/sexuality/whatever preferences may not be fairly represented in the mass majority of games, chances are there's at least a couple out there that do feature them.

The debate over this question has been raging since the first time a guy made a videogame and the first gamer lamented that neither of them knew any chicks, but I'm sure we'll be able to sort it out in the comments.

That's what I like about your articles, Shamus: the relentless optimism that flies in the face of all experience.

civilization, sim city, startopia, total annihilation, gran turismo...

people forget there whole genres out here that avoid the male/female lead issue almost completely:

1 TBS
2 RTS
3 racing
4 (flight) simulation
5 puzzle

I remeber when I had to reinstall Bioshock as a girlfriend had wanted to play it. It was... different.

-1 to the guy who said that women only play card games, puzzles or MMOs. *frowny face*

+1 to all the people who said that it's the story that counts, not the gender of the characters enacting it. I don't switch off a film because the main character is a guy, nor would I stop reading a book for that reason. However, of the games that I've played, I almost prefer male lead characters because they're usually convincingly done (probably as a result of the games having been written by men), rather than the female leads that leave me saying "Bwuh? I can't identify with that." -.- I'm looking at you and your inflatable jubblies, Ms. Croft! The games that will remain dear to my heart for all eternity have male leads - the Thief series, Deux Ex, Planescape: Torment, the Half-life series. OTOH, off the top of my head I can't think of any female-lead games that I'd go to the barricades for. Well, maybe NOLF - just remembered that one. Maybe I haven't played enough, and the point of the article is that there are few enough to be found, or maybe it's because most of the female characters I've played have still assumed that I'm male and attempted to push my non-existant man-buttons in a very trite, stereotypical way. As an example, "The Longest Journey" was a game where I really felt like a fish out of water. That April lass kept throwing out lines that were clearly aimed squarely at the groins of insecure male players, but left me either rolling in the aisles or wanting to strangle her for pandering to a stereotypical view of women. Plus the game itself irritated me, for some reason. Maybe I'd grown out of point-and-click adventure games by the time I played it. Maybe it was April periodically yanking me out of the story with another silly statement. Who knows?

At the end of the day, no matter how immersive the story is, I always know on some level that I'm playing a game. It's escapism and fiction, and I therefore have no problem with playing a male character, 'cos it's not for realz, it's make-believe. But this only applies if the story's good, and if the NPC females are well-thought out and not just cheesecake wallpaper. Currently, few real-life woman would act in the way many in-game women are programmed to. Because I understand this, even though I'm not the most girly of girls, it's much more jarring to me than just plunging straight into the fantasy by playing a male character and accepting that my in-game gender is another fantastical element. To change the status quo and bring in more female gamers, don't just do more badly realised women, make an effort to make them a bit more true to life as well! Please! :)

I also agree that if there MUST be a romance subplot, it should be done tactfully (and with options for same-sex relationships if you want; I'd play them for variety and curiosity's sake) and there should always be a way to say no without having to insult the NPC in question. Because usually they're the one person you need to complete the darned game and saying "No! I hate you, you smell of wee and your face looks like a Rottweiler's backside." can often offend but is usually the only negative option given, whereas every other response is read as "Why yes, I would LOVE to have you stick your tongue down my throat" by the NPC. Argh! Can't we just be FRIENDS?! *Goes off in a huff to play TT rpgs*

At the other end of the scale, I love a good FPS where the story is along the lines of: "ZOMG! Aliens/that country we hate/terrorisorists/all of the above have invaded, we must overcome them to save humanity/our sanity/ikkle puppies/all of the above!!11!!1" Cue many levels of cathartic bloodbath. Nice and simple, with relatively little plot to get in the way of my minigun, and usually gender doesn't matter a damn! I realise I might be a bit unusual in this, though.

Oooo dear, wall-of-text doom. Sry 'bout that! Have an eBiscuit if you got this far.

Surely a lot of time, space, and expense could be saved by using filters on the dialogue. Voice manipulation has come a long way in the last decade, and I see no reason why players couldn't manipulate how their character will sound in much the same way as Oblivion, Saints Row 2, etc. allowed for appearance manipulation. Of course, gender-specific lines would be required but that wouldn't exactly be a difficult task.

A lot of the points that I wanted to make when I finished reading the article have been covered, but I do have a few left.

1) Expanding on ThatJagoGuy's mention of Saints Row 2, that game had most of the options mentioned in Shamus' article, even a British voice. While yes, that is indeed a lot of customization, look at what they sacrificed. The main character (I love that Julius always called him/her "Player") was a caricature of a single-minded sociopath. Resurrecting the gang was all that mattered.

The character's gender only modifies a few lines of dialogue ("You bitch!" vs. "You asshole!"). The character's race and accent are completely ignored, and the issue of romance in the storyline is reduced to one suggestive remark made to Eliza Dushku's character (whose name escapes me), regardless of gender.

I believe this supports Shamus' point. The more faceless the protagonist, the worse the character story will be.

2) Overlord was brought up a number of times, but I should point out that that game (and its sequels) was written by a woman, Rihanna Pratchett. Given that point, I'm only suggesting (and not planning on following through with) the thought that maybe the one-dimensional women in that game are a form of satire? No one knows satire like a Pratchett.

3) With regards to marketing games towards women for reasons of population, studies from four years ago indicated that while the female presence was quickly growing in the gaming population, their choice of games was radically different. No, they weren't playing Barbie Horse Adventure or anything like that, but rather games like Peggle and Tetris. To the researchers who write about game demographics (and subsequently get quoted in marketing reports) casual games are typically indistinguishable from AAA titles like Mass Effect.

4) As for women in development, at least at the company where I do some contract work, there's only two female developers on the 80+ staff. This doesn't have to do with women in games as much as it is to do with women in software development. The programs used, like Visual Studio and 3DSMax are as convoluted as they come, and (going back to the four-year old studies) women tend to avoid those types of software during their formative years at a computer. This makes it harder (than it is for men) for them to pick it up later on when developing career skills.

So yes, developers make games for men because that's what they know. As someone mentioned before, as gender ratios even out in the industry, so will we see more diverse and better developed protagonists. It's a matter of time.

Sorry for another wall of text. We should have an entire building up before too long.

Sorry if I repeat anything that's already been said, but hopefully I can add something useful.

I get the impression that it really has to do with targeting the largest possible demographics. Gamers, traditionally, have been white, male and relatively young. That is obviously beginning to change, and consequently we are starting to see more diversity in the casts of games, but until we get more and more socially-aware people into the industry, both in development and publishing, we're still going to have these problems.

The easiest solution, in my mind, is to simply start telling more linear stories. As games become a more capable space for narrative, it means we can pull this off far better than in the past. These days, "player choice" is a buzzword and a bullet point on the back of your box, and games rarely deliver in a satisfactory way on those promises. This fits into the larger trend of games trying to appeal to the widest demographic possible by having more and more features, game modes, options, etc., which is itself a byproduct of skyrocketing development costs; in many ways it's a bit of a vicious cycle.

I think we just need to realise that most games are not going to appeal to everyone, and move on. We can learn a lot from looking at PopCap and other casual-oriented developers, who tend to have games without meaningful human characters; the gameplay is simple, but they can also maximise their audience by focusing on presentation that appeals to everyone. Recently, a guy from Infinity Ward (whose name I forget) mentioned in a GameTrailers interview that they had realised a while ago they can't appeal to everyone with Call of Duty, and shouldn't even try, which I thought was a bit surprising for such a successful game, but also probably quite telling. By focusing on creating a quality core experience, developers can use their talents to make the best games in one genre rather than the worst game across five genres. Similarly, simulation and role-playing developers have known for years that they can be successful by appealing to a hardcore fanbase without trying to cater to other demographics.

I'd love to see more games that feature more diverse racial/ethnic groups, as well as more diverse gender and sexuality representations, especially in leading roles. A recent study, for example, found that there is not a single game on the market that has a Hispanic protagonist (excluding games with character creation features; such features aren't an acceptable compromise anyway). The assumption, as said above, is that the people playing are going to be white and male, so the white male is the most obvious choice for a leading role. Yet even in games that feature lead female characters, often those characters are highly sexualised, objectified, or not treated in a realistic way with respect to social issues (i.e. the woman you play as doesn't have to deal with making less money than a male with the same job, doesn't have to deal with sexual harassment, etc.). Of course, this is because we still assume that the target audience is males; the point of having a female character isn't necessarily to be proactive or to appeal to females, it's to give the male players some eye candy. This is evidenced by the fact that most games featuring female characters are third-person instead of first-person; the only exceptions I can think of are Portal (which barely even mentions Chell's gender to begin with), and Trespasser (an early example of "full body immersion" that was likely just an excuse to let the player look down the main character's shirt).

In any case, the industry and the players both need to acknowledge that not all games are for everyone, and that it can be an opportunity to appeal to minorities; the incessant pandering that makes up the games industry these days has to go if games really are going to be taken seriously in the future.

I may be repeating some of what was already said, but honestly as a girl gamer...playing as a boy REALLY doesn't offend me at all. I would honestly be a little angry if I was playing a historical war game and they tacked on a female character that never would have been there in the actual historical event. That would be annoying, and kind of feel like they were pandering to me. I enjoy playing as a male character in most games, it really doesn't bother me in the slightest (depending on the game, I may choose to play a male character over a female). I love having the option of a good female lead, but if there's not one there it doesn't matter as long as I'm having fun. I don't even care that most FPS games are made with male leads-I know I'm in a happy little minority playing those.

What I would like to see, and what would make me feel like more games were made "for me" would be if more of the female characters that ARE included were strong, likeable people. In some games (like overlord from the sounds of it, but I've never played it) it's totally fine to have bimbo female characters, because it adds to the humour or to the storyline...but I would really like for more female leads or side characters to be normal, well adjusted, maybe even fully clothed human beings, instead of a set of boobs with a squawky harpy voice. Alyx Vance, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, even Elika from Prince of Persia...all characters that I genuinely like and care about, and can see bits of myself or my friends in. I don't expect ALL female characters to be like that, but I would honestly love to see more girl characters that I can relate to.

This goes double for games that expect me to romance a female character. If you're not going to give me the option of seducing a guy or opting out of the romance plot, at least give me the option of seducing a chick that I don't hate.

I see a way to fix this problem, if a female/lesbian/gay/race/etc. wants to be the star of a game, then fucking build it yourself!

Most of the game makers, besides the Asians, are white men! straight males who like large boobs on each side of there head while they shake their head back in forth making a buzzing sound with there lips while some kinky girl is taking it hard on his genitals!(Try saying that in one breath)

I think it would very much work. Don't be a doubter, doubting is for morons and socially awkward people.

How about the other side of the coin? Strong female antagonists.

It's been a long time since SHODAN threatened the universe with the fury of her awesomeness....and that is the last great female antagonist that I can remember.

Now we have a march of giggling waifs who just end up being under the thumb of a male villain, like whats-her-face from RE 5.

Wildrow12:
How about the other side of the coin? Strong female antagonists.

It's been a long time since SHODAN threatened the universe with the fury of her awesomeness....and that is the last great female antagonist that I can remember.

Now we have a march of giggling waifs who just end up being under the thumb of a male villain, like whats-her-face from RE 5.

I would love to see another female antagonist as developed as the Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3. IMO, she is the strongest character created in a video game to date, regardless of gender. Kojima was right to practically retcon the MG universe so that she turned out to be the staple of everything that had happened.

Also, searanox with you most of the way, but small point, a nitpick, really: would Rico from Just Cause count as a Hispanic central character? I'm fairly confident that there have been others, but heck if I can think of any.

Edit: YES! this was bugging me all day. Also, Total Overdose, for Xbox, PS2 and PC. It had a character named Ramiro Cruz. Not a groundbreaking game, but I knew it came out. Thank you google.

With Overlord II, I would consider most of the content satirical. Plus the game usually tries to favor the more reasonable Mistress in the games (Rose in the first and Kelda in the second).

Also do have one thing to add to Shamus' comment on the mistress. Fay is not trashier than Juno. No one is trashier than Juno (who is the Velvet of the game).

Wildrow12:
How about the other side of the coin? Strong female antagonists.

It's been a long time since SHODAN threatened the universe with the fury of her awesomeness....and that is the last great female antagonist that I can remember.

Now we have a march of giggling waifs who just end up being under the thumb of a male villain, like whats-her-face from RE 5.

Does GladOS count as a female antagonist?

I still think you're right, either way, it would be good to see more female antagonists (and for that matter, antagonists of either gender who are something other than either baby eaters or soulless corporate white collar murderers with no developed character background).

But we do at least have GladOS.

<-- Female gamer, thoughts are as follows:

Generally, if a game is good, I'll play it (as a few have said). Half-Life 2 and the episodes are some of my favorite games of all time . . . male lead, female companion (who is pretty kick ass, funny, and not annoying!), done right. As Valve does.

Games made 'for guys', gears of war comes to mind, DO tend to disinterest me as they just go over-the-top with the beefcake "YAARGH LETS KICK SOME ASS BRAW!!!", but I find that MOST games, even if they feature a male lead, are not quite that far on the meter and are perfectly enjoyable by anyone.

Games made 'for girls', ie pink fluffy and cute tend to make me puke. Actually I'll admit I don't really know of any, but I don't go looking for them either. I guess what I'm saying is I don't WANT games made 'for girls', I just want GOOD games.

Give it a good story, a good main character, good writing . . . and I don't care who the main character is.

I WOULD be interested in playing more games with good female leads . . . but mostly because it'd be something interesting and different from everything else, not because I'm a girl.

Also, in games where you can pick a male or female? Half the time I'm male . . . just because I have fun playing a fantasy of being something other than myself. Male tauren shaman mooo!

Really people games for girls really means under 12's women shouldn't be complaining about girly games because they are adults now and thus not the target of games involving pink or ponnies.

...Plus there's always the (rarely mentioned) option of fancying the pants off a male lead character! My bf is officially jealous of my relationship with Garrett. :P Or is that just me? It's not just me, is it? Is it? Oh dear! *hides*

DeathQuaker:

Wildrow12:
How about the other side of the coin? Strong female antagonists.

It's been a long time since SHODAN threatened the universe with the fury of her awesomeness....and that is the last great female antagonist that I can remember.

Now we have a march of giggling waifs who just end up being under the thumb of a male villain, like whats-her-face from RE 5.

Does GladOS count as a female antagonist?

I still think you're right, either way, it would be good to see more female antagonists (and for that matter, antagonists of either gender who are something other than either baby eaters or soulless corporate white collar murderers with no developed character background).

But we do at least have GladOS.

I knew I was forgetting someone! Not only is GladOS a powerful female antagonist, but she is also a multi-talented villain. Why? She sings!

Let's see Revolver Ocelot or Wesker top that!

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?

Lol. First of all, at least one of those listed categories applies to me personally.
And to answer the other part, you just need to look at the games that actually get released.
(and if you must know, I'm a student game developer. That doesn't mean I know everything about the industry, but it's in my interests to know as much about the realities of commercial game production as possible.)

The point is, with the occasional (very rare) exception, nobody targets those groups specifically.
If any people from such groups play games, they tend to play what already exists; In other words, the fact that they may belong to a group that theoretically has other interests, gets missed, because they themselves play games which are technically targeted at a different demographic.

It isn't that nobody from these kind of groups plays games, but rather that the ones that do don't represent the interests of the ones that don't.

What I meant with that statement isn't related to people that already play games.

It's the groups that might play games, but isn't interested in the ones that already exist.
They don't play what already exists, so they don't currently play games.
Because they don't play games already, the people that make games conclude that this means they have no interest in playing games.
Therefore, they make no attempt to make games that might appeal to this group...

There's The Longest Journey and Dreamfall and Syberia 1 & 2 and there's Mirror's Edge.

I just had a stupid thought in my idoit head....why would females want to play over sexauilized females that are targeted at men to "play" with?

Would not a game targeted at females(romance based story,relationship drama more than moral delimisas,cooking,cute/fun,ect,ect,ect) be more apt to get females interested, rather than to play females who are made to target male demographics??

It's interesting that of all the games you mentioned that featured a female protagonist, all of them (with the exception of Portal, I guess) featured protagonists that had defined personalities.

You rarely ever see a FPS with a female mute protagonist.

I'm a lady and I quite like playing as a guy. In The Witcher you play a guy who collects cards of all the women he's slept with, but that doesn't offend me at all. I think Geralt is an awesome and incredibly sexy man. 8)

I find that when there IS a female lead, she's usually the tough bitchy chic and is, quite frankly, boring to play. Across all media--games, novels, movies, etc--I always enjoy male characters more. I think it's incredibly difficult to create an amazing female character. Most are just.. annoying. Starbuck from BSG is an example of an awesome female lead. She's tough and bitchy, and yet she somehow doesn't fit that stereotype and is instead a unique and intriguing character. /babble

First, whoever said that a female option for more games should exist, is dead on. Even in most FPS games it really wouldn't make a difference if you think about the situations the lead is in and the relative scarcity of romantic plot lines in the genre. The only real cost is the animation and the acting -- the programming would hardly have to change as the player switched from M to F. A week with Poser and another in the recording studio and viola, Marcia Fenix is born.

Personally, though, I'd like to see a female character that challenges her male counterparts not necessarily on their own terms by barking her way up their established alpha-male pecking order, but rather by discomfiting them of their own preconceptions of what "strength" really is, eventually humbling them as they discover that there is another way to lead apart from bravado and humiliation. Instead of fitting into and subsequently thriving in the male world (which is really a kind of a Pyrrhic victory, isn't it?) she makes the males accept her worldview as equally valid and useful. As a dude, I would totally play as that female.

Because one thing I'm tiring of is "strong" characters, and I put that in inverted commas because the videogame definition of "strength" is usually just macho banter or pointless profanity (see "WET"). A good antidote is Samus, mostly because she doesn't talk -- she just DOES bad-ass things and then you see people respecting her for it.

Another version of strength you don't see much is endurance and personal integrity through some deep emotional trial, or perhaps being totally broken and then reconstructing a sense of self (something Fable 2 had a chance to do with the Spire section and didn't really deliver on). I want to see someone who is tough but doesn't feel like they have to act like it, and I'm afraid that developers who want to shoehorn women onto a story will just end up making them textbook tomboys or dudes with boobs because their writers can't write anything else (and God forbid they hire women!)

Silly children. This is why it's stupid to voice the main character in RPGs. This is why BioWare is not doing this in Dragon Age, while still offering a fuckton of variety and options that have meaning.

In the larger scheme of things, however, a lot of these examples in the article were over-the-top portrayals of men and women as...well, slabs of meat over which the main character salivates. Why does every game need to have a man/woman who collects a harem of women/men? Isn't the great thing about a game the fact that you can go beyond superfluous things like that?

And thank you for stereotyping all female leads as femme fatales that only really want to mack out with their hot male sidekick. Is it just me, or is that a transportation of many female sidekicks and just making them a little more...useful? I will now go ahead and stereotype any and all males in video games as Duke Nukem.

^ My point in that paragraph was that, since it's a video game, since it's something that's malleable, that allows for a creative use of imagination, main characters don't need to be static and all the same. We can have variety. Not every game needs to have this variety, but it can change from game to game. In this game, we'll have a quiet but determined lead. In this one, we'll have a loud and boisterous jerk.

And ultimately, if the game is good, who cares what the protagonist is. Planescape: Torment was a great game and I didn't really care that the lead was male. I was able to relate to/associate with the main character. This was the most important part. This is always the most important part.

junkwired:
I find that when there IS a female lead, she's usually the tough bitchy chic and is, quite frankly, boring to play. Across all media--games, novels, movies, etc--I always enjoy male characters more. I think it's incredibly difficult to create an amazing female character. Most are just.. annoying.

How much are you willing to bet most of those annoying female characters were written by guys?

You know what always surprises me in discussions like this one?
no one mentions movies. I mean, just look at most action based movies that come out. Last few movies I remember watching are terminator, batman, harry potter, wolverine, transformers 2. All male leads. Females usually only appear as leads in drama and romatic movies, and sometimes comedy (though this genre also favors males). Also, almost all white male leads are white.

It's not just games suffering from this problem, but the entertainment industry in general. Only some female singers take steps away and show as strong independent women in their own music.

Isn't it odd that when we want to refer to a strong woman outside of games, everyone comes up with Xena, and only Xena? (well, ok, at a few times I hear Starbuck, who is the most well developed powerful female character in my opinion, but all BSG characters are very well done!)

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