Something for the Ladies

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"Fable took a decent crack at solving this, although it solved the problem by making everyone in the world generic interchangeable shells, which gave us diversity by making all choices bland and irrelevant. But hey, at least they were equally bland and irrelevant!"

Ahahahahhaha! So true!

Gunner 51:
If a game is good, I wouldn't care what gender the protagonist is.

This.

Me being a white guy doesn't mean I prefer to play as white guys (or NEED to play as one). I've played games as white guys/girls, black guys/girls, Asian guys/girls, robots, bears, cars, and blue hedgehogs.

The only thing I care about is whether or not the protagonist is likable and I can identify with them. Nothing else matters.

Out of idle curiosity I just took inventory of my video game collection to see just what the ratio of male to female protagonists came out to, and out of the 115 titles where there isn't any choice of gender (or where gender is pretty much irrelevant like (most) RTS titles) only 11 of those featured a female protagonist.

But of those 104 games with male protagonists, you can probably excuse titles like Sam and Max, Loom, Grim Fandango, or the Monkey Island series without anyone minding much, so that's 7 gone (97 left). Then you have the WW2 FPS titles, where it would be completely thematically inappropriate to insert a female protagonist, so that's another 7 gone (or 8 if you count Iron Storm, which is an alternate reality where they are still fighting WW1), so we're down to 90. And you can't really fault a game for using a male protagonist when it's using an established character who is male (Indiana Jones, Wolverine, etc), or fictionalizing a real person (Soldier of Fortune's John Mullen) and games like Max Payne and Serious Sam have the main character's name in the title, so it would be silly to expect the option to play as a woman in those (though Max Payne 2 does feature segments where you do in fact play as a woman whether you wanted to or not), so you can probably give those all a pass (that's another 12 gone, 78 left).

I would also consider titles like Sanity: Aiken's Artifact (Ice T), Tachyon: The Fringe (Bruce Campbell!) and the Splinter Cell series (Michael Ironside) to be mostly exempt as well as the respective actor's portrayal of the main character pretty much makes the game what it is (that's another 4). And is anyone honestly going to fault the Hitman series for sticking with 47, or Thief for using Garrett?

The Legacy of Kain series is another I would toss out as Kain and Raziel ARE the game, so that would bring us down to 64. Anachronox is an eastern-style RPG done by western developers that parodies itself and everything else with a 'hard-boiled' detective as the main character, ergo can't see that really working with a female protagonist since the inspiration was old noir films (but in space!), Armed and Dangerous would have to be completely re-written (probably for the worse, as it is hilarious), Bioshock has you playing a mute that might as well be genderless so the option to pick a character you then never actually see much of seems like needless frippery, Clive Barker's Undying is set in the 1920s with a protagonist who was a former soldier during the Great War, Contract J.A.C.K. was a spinoff of a series that featured a female protagonist (and unlike N.O.L.F., he's not characterized at all) so that probably doesn't count, Descent has you basically playing the ship, and until the 3rd game the protagonist never actually appeared on screen (just a tiny bit of text in the first and some voice-work in the opening/closing cutscenes in the 2nd), Doom 3 is another case of the mostly invisible and irrelevant main character where the option to be female would be essentially meaningless, same thing with System Shock 2...

I would go on, but the point is that the bulk of the titles I own that force you to play as a male protagonist either couldn't really accommodate a female lead without becoming a different game entirely since the character was a very large part of what made the game good, or it would honestly make no difference and be kind of pointless for the developers to bother. The games that I own that would work with either gender tend to have that as an option.

Ericb:

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?

I am way too impressed by the second statement than I should be. I don't want to sound like I'm lashing out or anything...but that's an amazing point. In the end, I think that women may have some say in the female character at times, but men will ultimately decide how she plays out.

Then again, there are many great female leads that were written by men. It really depends on the guy and what his personal feelings are on women. He might be more tempted to write a bitchy, annoying character because that's how he views women himself?

I have to agree with some of the other gal gamers. I usually didn't find very masculine things appealing, but my boyfriend taught me that it can be very fun! I don't find myself drawn toward the "military" sort of genre, unless there's an element of fantasy or goofiness. When I think about it, I have played many games with male leads and have enjoyed them.

I usually choose to play a female on MMO's. I find it more personal since I have to interact with real people and not npc's, so I feel awkward playing males. I enjoy playing males in rpg's such as ME2, Dragon Age, and Fallout 3. I enjoy interacting with the characters differently as each gender.

So in all, I am a girl who happens to enjoy games where I get to blow things up, shoot people and monsters, punch/headbutt people, and kick ass. This includes girls kicking ass. I also kind of love skimpy outfits on female characters....My boyfriend teases me about it often.

I also enjoy games where I feel like I can connect with the character through the story and relationships that they have. I will usually play through these games as both genders to test out the reactions of npc's and storyline. It really depends on what mood I am in....

Let's have more intelligent, cool, strong, and interesting females in games. They don't need to be the main character, but I love having them around.

I also fear what it would look like if we had all games made super feminine. I'm not a huge fan of sparkly vampires, princesses always getting saved by the perfect prince charming, and everything being about the menial actions of everyday life and love. How would I ever make things explode and kick people in the face?!!!

Ahh that was a rant. I am done now. :)

Gir1yG4m3r:
I also fear what it would look like if we had all games made super feminine. I'm not a huge fan of sparkly vampires, princesses always getting saved by the perfect prince charming, and everything being about the menial actions of everyday life and love. How would I ever make things explode and kick people in the face?!!!

Actually, that's sounds like an interesting pitch for a game.

One game I would suggest that examines this well is "Enter the Matrix". Similar to the RE2 idea above, the story is based on two possible protagonists, a male (Ghost) and a female (Niobe), who have an interweaving story-line. A couple of the chapters are done the same regardless of who you pick (the first one, noticeably) and interestingly who you choose plays no bearing on your fighting styles. The choice only affects the point-of-view of the story, which in turn is one of the philosophical motives in the game and the Matrix story as a whole. The individual story-lines are equally challenging, and it is interesting to replay as the other character when you finish it to find out what the other character was doing at the time. Also, the only game-play where both characters are on screen are when you are driving or flying, and it is only here where the characters have set roles. But while Ghost rides shotgun and shoots, Niobe's driving is certainly not sedate. (Actually, that's not entirely true: there is a few scenes in the game-play where Ghost's role is to cover Niobe with a sniper rifle)

Interestingly, there is also a love interest in this game. However, it is one of unrequited, and ultimately unfulfilled, love. Uniquely, it is the male lead who is hopelessly in love with the female lead, who in turn does not notice him. (Compare to say, Doctor Who...)

All in all, it attempts to show that gender is not a driving force behind the characters' personalities and abilities, but that it does play some role in their relationships.
It is a very interesting game, and an important experiment in multimedia story telling. The fact that no-one else I know ever played the game, to me gives a reason as to why no one I know ever understood what was happening in the Matrix:Reloaded.

(For those who didn't know, the Matrix:Reloaded was only one part of a bigger story that was to be the middle part of the trilogy. The story actually starts in the Animatrix short film "Final Flight of the Osiris", picked up in the computer game "Enter the Matrix" which ran concurrent to the movie "Reloaded". The game ends in Revolutions, and it is this game that introduces the random characters that find their way into the movies. In fact the game has movie cut-scenes shot during the second movie. It was an experiment in releasing a story in multiple forms; a type of storytelling based in viral marketing that unfortunately fell short of succeeding.)

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