A Male on Females on Female Characters

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A Male on Females on Female Characters

Shamus would love to see more gender diversity in games.

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Huh, I have a game idea swirling around in my head at the moment and I suddenly realize... why can't can't my PC be a woman? Why can't it be black or Asian or anything else? There's nothing particularly specific about the admitted currently thin back-story that needs to be of any particular group. As a matter of fact having a female character makes such game ideas more recognizable because they are doing something different.

I've though about the "there pandering here, shame on you" but I admittedly have though less about how to improve that or objectively analyzed my own ideas to diversify them. I know the first thing comes to mind is white male America because I am white male American but maybe there is more value in immediately rejecting that default and instead trying to come up with something else or identify some specific topic to address with the gender/race and seeing if white male really does gain anything.

I think gaming could benefit from such introspective reflections that that rather then take the default (that one dude that has about a billion games about him where he just changes his cloths and hair slightly between each one) and trying to come up with something different and predict how this would alter the story. What if that character was woman, would it change anything? If no, then why not, if yes then does that improve the game? I have to go watch that panel when I get the chance.

Edit: can haz first? really? :O

Here's a rule of thumb for devs: If you couldn't have this character fit anywhere into your game world, and you're not trying to make something cartoony like Ratchet and Clank, you need to reconsider your characterization.

Its not about diversity, its about having real people, rather than stereotypes and charactures. Diversity would follow suit.

Funny. Weren't a ton of guys offended by Lisa Foiles' attire when she started off - because they felt that kind of objectification is usually reserved for frat boys and doesn't suit their demography?

Of course, Lisa then later goes wearing a shirt that made everyone want to do the Konami code. Oh, the cheek of that girl...   :)

Well diveristy will take time, we are slowly moving into a less male-centirc industry but the AAA titles (and most of the more niche PC titles) are really still a boys club. Of course a section of gaming that has been made by, consumed by and is marketed at males is going to be lacking in female perspective. The industry has evolved in a very male enviroment and the AAA market represent the pinacle of the "Old thinking" of gaming, they are the direct evolutions of the games of yor, bigger louder and shinier but still the same market.

Since you mentioned STALKER i would like to point out that the game features ZERO females. None. At all. I was ashamed i didn't actually notice this until the 3rd playthrough.... Now this is mainly through the general lack of charactetr model veriety (same dude, different outfits) but it's just something i find interesting.

Since I game mostly with my partner (who is a woman), we shoot for cooperative games almost exclusively. And a frustrating thing is how few cooperative games actually give you the option of playing a female character. Even when there's no story involved and the developers aren't under the pressure to give you a convincing and uninsulting caricature of womanhood, they often opt just to give us a bunch of 'dudes'. For those that do manage to provide some female options, it's often a case of 1/4 is a woman.

It's gotten to the point where we kind of shy away from such multiplayer/cooperative games that don't provide female options. We had been rather excited for Brink, as an example, and their bragging about the endless options for customizing your character. Then we learned those endless options don't involve being able to pick a female for a list of variously lame reasons. We decided: if they don't care to even try to appeal to us we wont give them our cash.

Although that's no guarantee of success either allowing us female options. We grimaced every time the female characters in Unreal Tournament loudly shouted about how their opponent got beat by a girl and wouldn't let up on the constant similar references from a character that was described in their profile as intelligent.

I'm one of the strange few that despite being male, enjoys playing as female characters in video games. I can agree that you simply don't see enough of female characters, even in multiplayer modes but there is one case where the addition of females just wouldn't make sense. In the wave of 'realistic' shooters that the AAA industry likes to shove at us, it wouldn't make sense to have women playable since they can't be on the front line as infantry for various reasons.

In my opinion, use female characters when it'll make sense, build them from the ground up and don't just make a male character and decide at the last minute to get the artist working on making him female just to make yourself stand out. Nobody wants diversity if it feels forced.

As a male, I am annoyed by this as well. Why is every single hero of popular games a white male guy? Would it hurt to have the main character be a jamaican woman? An asian guy with a mohawk? Something to add variation from "generic short-haired white dude" would be nice.

To counterbalance the insane amount of male characters, I usually try to pick a female character when given the option (such as Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout, etc.) if only to get the illusion of diversity among video game heroes/heroins.

I wonder how big the percentage of female gamers actually is (although it'd be even more interesting to know the figure in the hypothetical situation that more games would be targeted at them). Of the girls/women I know, exactly 0 are interested in gaming. And I have the feeling it doesn't really have anything to do with the usual gender of the protagonists. They just seem put off by the whole idea of sitting in front of a computer and playing. Now of course, the women I know might not be representative of the gender as a whole, so I'm wondering what the actual amount of female interest is.

And although I personally wouldn't mind seeing more games aimed at women, I don't know if it's immediately a sound business strategy to do so. Let's be very generous and say that the male/female gamer ratio is 60:40. It may seem intuitive that the best strategy is to make 60% of games for men and 40% for women (of course there's a middle ground, but I'm simplifying), but the simple fact of the matter is that the optimal (short term) strategy is to aim everything at the majority (search "matching vs maximizing").

On the other hand, if more women (and people in general) could be persuaded to take up gaming, it may very well help building a much bigger target audience to begin with. But that is probably more of a long term thing (i.e. if they'd put a female Hawke on the DA2 box, none of my female friends would have even noticed). I'm not saying this isn't a good time to start tapping into that market and hopefully changing some of the negative views that many people have of gaming. I'm just saying that if you're only looking at the short term (i.e. you want your game to succeed NOW), it might be safer to make a white American space marine game.

I always think it is funny when someone who isn't directly affected by stereotypes is more offended than the people who are. And then more zealously defend the precised victim. So I chuckled at how Shamus is more offended at sexual pandering than the ladies at the Comic Con.

Other wise I think he makes some valid points.

So stop buying AAA games with dumb stories and bad character development?

Wow, got all the way through that without dumping on Miranda. Well, except from the picture. But still, commendable. Especially after spoiler warning.

More on the topic, hell I'd settle for decent characters period. I don't mind all the sexuality or whatever, and I don't care who I play as. I just want to play as someone who's, well someone and not some boring, cardboard cutout of a character.

This is one of many reasons I constantly insist that LucasArts made a colossal mistake by making Revan male (in their canon); the female version of Revan simply has far more potential for depth and exploration than male Revan (and by extension, makes Malak more interesting: a Malak that is jealous of Revan's power is inherently less interesting than a Malak that is jealous of Revan's power AND desirous of her attention). And it's clear that LucasArts simply completely rejected the idea of a deep, interesting Revan; there was an ending, almost completely finished, that ended up on the cutting room floor where a Dark-Side Revan reconciled with Carth, then the both of them went up in flames as the Star Forge exploded - a last minute redemption that didn't end in happily ever after.

It is by far the most interesting and best-written of the endings of KotOR, and it's the one they ended up cutting.

Fearzone:
So stop buying AAA games with dumb stories and bad character development?

I've been doing that for years. I own like 4 AAA games and I'm bored...well until I got minecraft. But yeah...

Eikoandmog:
I'm one of the strange few that despite being male, enjoys playing as female characters in video games. I can agree that you simply don't see enough of female characters, even in multiplayer modes but there is one case where the addition of females just wouldn't make sense. In the wave of 'realistic' shooters that the AAA industry likes to shove at us, it wouldn't make sense to have women playable since they can't be on the front line as infantry for various reasons.

Actually in the New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland (thanks, wikipedia) armed forces, Women CAN take active frontline combat roles.

It's embarrassing there aren't more.

Personally, yes, I find the lack of female protagonists rather sad, but I must say, I'd rather play as a male space marine than one of those hyper sexualized female counterparts. Why is it that I can only play as a female character in games where gender doesn't matter? People have named Mass Effect and Dragon Age and indeed, these are good games and I'm a fan of both, but your gender doesn't really change anything to the storyline. And if gender is not important for your story, why not make those options a standard? To me, it just sounds like male gamers are taken for beings who are unable to consider a game awesome because its protagonist is a normal female by fear they might not identify with the character.

Shamus Young:

image

Is it just me, or does this screenshot show up every single time we discuss something related to women in gaming?

Maybe we actually need more obtuse sexualization in gaming so that Shamus can get a more original picture for Page 2.

That said, I totally agree with Shamus about sexualized advertising. That's why I tend to prefer, say, Old Spice's body wash commercials over Axe's body wash commercials. I'd rather buy a body wash that has 15 hours of BO blocking POW-ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!1!!!1!1 than one that's going to turn me into chocolate and have random chicks taking bites out of my face, or have every woman in my apartment dry-humping the standpipe leading to my shower.

Jordi:
I wonder how big the percentage of female gamers actually is

The largest gamer group are women between the ages of 18 and 24.
2/3 of "online" gamers are female.
46% of "game purchasers" are female.

This was interesting, and I, like Shamus, am slightly surprised that females don't mind over-sexulization in female characters as much as I thought they would.

I would love to see more female characters in games, specifically, more playable ones who aren't afraid to kick some ass. Or at the very least, a choice between characters with one of them being female. For example, in Borderlands, the female character (The Siren) has some awesome abilities that the 3 males don't have access to. In Fable 3, it's cool to see a player-chosen female character become the queen and fight for her country, and to be able to hear her voice as well. If nothing else, I'd like to see more of these kinds of things, though ideally it would be nice to see more Jade's, Samus's, ect, without copying those characters of course.

You know the reason you see this guy all the time?

image

He's a Hollywood leading man. 20-40 years old, white, brownish hair, good looking. He's your Tom Cruise, Kevin Costner, Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Harrison Ford, et-motherfucking-cetera, but unlike the real hollywood male he won't get old and go nuts from drugs.

He's pretty enough that you can put him on a poster, but generic enough that you can throw him into just about any story in any genre and no-one thinks he's out of place.

The reason american made AAA games have american or at least white, male leads is because the only thing americans even notice are things with attractive, white, male leads with attractive ladies all around. The stereotypical Duke Nukem archetype.

When americans wake up and start playing games with more depth and diversity I think I might have a heart attack.

Lord_Ascendant:
The reason american made AAA games have american or at least white, male leads is because the only thing americans even notice are things with attractive, white, male leads with attractive ladies all around. The stereotypical Duke Nukem archetype.

When americans wake up and start playing games with more depth and diversity I think I might have a heart attack.

Oh right, because other countries never make games like that. Remind me where the makers of Grand Theft Auto, Heavy Rain, Killzone, Metal Gear Solid, Mass Effect, Dead Rising, and Alan Wake (just to pick out a few from that image in the post above yours) are from?

What's that? United Kingdom (Scotland specifically), France, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Japan (DR1 & Frank West) and Canada (DR2 & Chuck Greene), and Finland respectively? Maybe it's you who should wake up and get off that stupid America hating bandwagon you seem to have fallen asleep on.

I think the list is a little unfair Young white Americans??. Batman was created in 1939 and any other character created outside the game industry shouldn't count. Sam Fisher is almost 60 years old age wise, Master Chief never takes off his helmet, and Ezio doesn't even speak English half the time. Just a few examples.

Stereotyping is not necessarily bad, it existentially how our brains store and organize information. Look at cultural things too, how many women do you see in the military special forces? A ton of these games are based where the main character is part of the military special forces. Maybe things have to change outside of games, before they are acceptable inside of games.

I'm currently playing Pokemon: Black/Portal 1/Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood/Final Fantasy XIII/Mincraft.

Hmm only one of those has a Male Character lead you can't change.

Well I think we're getting there. In games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect we got female characters who were sexy as hell but also very compelling and well developed. And RDR had Bonnie MacFarlane, and I wouldn't call her an airhead (especially not to her face). Miranda herself was far from useless, even if the camera had a tendency to...
image

...

I'm sorry what were we talking about?

I personally would like to see a game where a female character has to act like the stereotype of women in games, and then as you get to know her the layers are slowly peeled back to reveal that she acts that way because it's the only way to make it in the man's world she operates in.

I know this won't be true for some, maybe a lot, of women, but I know some female mathematicians, scientists and engineers or mechanics, who seem to fall into three distinct categories.

1. They become sexless. Usually the scientists and mathematicians. They wear deliberately indistinct clothes, make no effort to clean up their appearance even as much as their male counterparts, and act as if they have no personality beyond that of their field. Usually they relax a little when outside the influence of their peers, but even then there's always a hint of guardedness, as if they can't quite be fully female or they won't be recognised as significant in their fields.

2. They become tomboys. Usually the mechanics and engineers, but a couple of the mathematicians I know as well. They start deliberately conforming to male stereotypes. They act crudely, talking about sex and men in the demeaning ways men would talk about them, they swear, they spit, they work out at the gym and have perpetually grease stained clothes. They wouldn't act feminine if their lives depended on it.

3. They become parodies of feminitity, applies to all. Some of the women I know in the above fields become absolute parodies of their gender to the point of being like a videogame character. They dress provocatively, make everything sound like it's dirty, do themselves up with makeup routines that must take hours.

And of course, when you really get to know them, all of the above three suddenly become people, and you realise that with very few exceptions they have adapted their personalities to fit into a male dominated field, just the same way that a lot of the men on my course (Creative Writing and English) have adopted feminine mannerisms to fit in with the 70-80% female cohort. Including me of course. I know I've started doing things I might not normally do because it helps you fit in with a predominantly female group.

That would be interesting to see. We find out that Samus Aran has deliberately made herself genderless in order to fit in, when really she'd like to wear something other than a suit of armour every once in a while, but doesn't feel she can because no one would take her seriously. Lara Croft actually slobs out in a baggy hoody and sweatpants at home, but knows that she has to dress up all sexy because then at least people will pay attention to her.

Worked right this could also be a jab at the player, sort of 'these women weren't just acting like this for the others in their field, they were acting like this for you.' Bring in that element that the player is part of the reason these women have been so constrained into their respective roles, which as far as I can see basically fit into the above three categories I've picked out of real life women-in-male-dominated-fields.

Just to clarify

That's just my view though.

Atleast Ezio was italian..

As a blond male of the Germanic peoples, the whole "brown haired 30-something male protagonist" is sort of fun to observe. And people I find talk alot less about it in regards to movies and tv, than games.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlondGuysAreEvil

As for female characters, my favorite part of DA2 was probably Aveline, she is a great character. And I think Mass Effect generally is good at it, it's just the whole Miranda business thats ..unfortunate.

Portal 2 is coming soon, interesting to see if there's more focus on the player character this time around. And speaking of, I find it hard to believe that anyone can fault Alyx as a character. While L4D1 and 2 lets you play as females without making much fuzz about it. There it's more the fandom..

Funny how it turned from "More women, less men" to "less white men" Sorry, "Less generic white men".

I don't mind people getting on their soapbox if they just stay on topic. This felt like another diversty bashing exercise, ugh. Yes, we all get that you like to stand out and not be a part of the target market developers are pandering too. But if you shoehorn something in like "oh and not white too plx" it just makes you seem a bit too zealous about championing equality, and that makes the whole thing feel a tad disingenuous.

I find those sorts of commercials insulting too, as a man. (Buy this bottle of Lynx deoderant and women will suddenly lose all mental capacity and succumb to your sudden sexiness! Yeah. Right.) I agree that i'd like to see more female protagonists - and that's coming from a man, but that's partly because i've been terribly jaded by the douchebag MALE protagonists we've had so far. Just two off the top of my head, there's the SHIT YEAH, BRO one dimensional character that is Marcus Fenix (who is so ridiculously shallow and rooted in "alpha male" culture that it's almost sickening) and Nathan Drake, who is a suave prick, also shallow and one dimensional as you get this image of a Charlie Sheen-esque ragamuffin who really has no redeeming qualities beyond humorous one-liners and picking up chicks down the local bar. Ironically, women tend to be better developed as characters - ones that are protagonists, anyway - because they don't need to pander to an audience that fantasises about being that person. Every man supposedly wants to become an overly muscled Fenix or a smooth talking Drake, but i think every woman perhaps sees herself as that well-rounded and more human female protagonist, who isn't so flat and one dimensional, who looks at things more rationally, who grows through character development and what have you.

the thing i always annoyed by is that when we can play as a female character, its always a over-sexualized person. but really at the point that she isn't wearing anything else as underwear. is it so hard to make al believeable female character? adn when you have a good written character who is a female, most of the time its a character where the gender does not really matter. look at the mass effect games: almost every character is good written, but always are the characters replaceable with someone of the oppisite gender.

MelasZepheos:
That would be interesting to see. We find out that Samus Aran has deliberately made herself genderless in order to fit in, when really she'd like to wear something other than a suit of armour every once in a while, but doesn't feel she can because no one would take her seriously.

I don't know if this is just me being male, me being practical, or a combination of the two, but maybe she goes out to her missions in a suit of armor every time because it provides good protection from all the hazards she has to deal with and lets her do neat tricks like that Morph Ball thing. It's not like we ever really see her lounging around at home to know what she'd wear then.

The only other thing she's ever really worn in a game for more than just an ending scene is that skintight blue suit thing, which basically turns her from #1 on your list to #3 as far as all the screenshots I've seen of her poses in it go. Of course, those shots were all from Smash Bros Brawl (although it's my understanding that she wears the blue suit in one of the actual Metroid games), so maybe those screenshots don't really count for much as far as what her actual character as intended in her own games would do.

Game Developers need to just snap a character creator toolkit with their games, and I'm sure everyone will be happy. So, you want your character to be male or female? Toph (Spelling mistake done on purpose <3), Idealist, or Sarcastic? What color of skin you want your character to be? Choice of accent?

Actually, I think that's possible, with the right technology, try to imagine playing as a black female Nico Bellic with an Indian accent and a sarcastic attitude :)

Jamie Doerschuck:

Jordi:
I wonder how big the percentage of female gamers actually is

The largest gamer group are women between the ages of 18 and 24.
2/3 of "online" gamers are female.
46% of "game purchasers" are female.

Really? That is not at all what I am experiencing in my social circle. Do you have the link to where you found these numbers?

Anyway, if the numbers are like that, than it is definitely a little bit crazy that women aren't served better (although on the other hand: apparently it barely matters in terms of sales). But if over 40% of gamers are already women, I think it is only a matter of time before the situation gets fixed, as more and more interested women enter the game development and publishing business.

Erana:
Its not about diversity, its about having real people, rather than stereotypes and charactures. Diversity would follow suit.

I think you have a point here in that diversity is meaningless if it is just a bunch of stereotypes used to fill a diversity checklist. When they do try to include diversity they get punished for it not because demanding diversity are secretly hypocrites but because it is often done so very very badly.

MGlBlaze:

Eikoandmog:
I'm one of the strange few that despite being male, enjoys playing as female characters in video games. I can agree that you simply don't see enough of female characters, even in multiplayer modes but there is one case where the addition of females just wouldn't make sense. In the wave of 'realistic' shooters that the AAA industry likes to shove at us, it wouldn't make sense to have women playable since they can't be on the front line as infantry for various reasons.

Actually in the New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland (thanks, wikipedia) armed forces, Women CAN take active frontline combat roles.

It's embarrassing there aren't more.

US is funny about that. We train our military women to fight, but they are not allowed to fight. Practically illegal for them to do so even in the front lines. A medic saved her squad and instead of being praise she was gonna get court martial. US have a percentage of train soldiers who are not allowed to fight back, even in the tense of combat.

Twilight_guy:
Huh, I have a game idea swirling around in my head at the moment and I suddenly realize... why can't can't my PC be a woman?...

Are you talking about your computer? Or are you saying protagonist in some sort of shorthand unknown to me?

mjc0961:

MelasZepheos:
That would be interesting to see. We find out that Samus Aran has deliberately made herself genderless in order to fit in, when really she'd like to wear something other than a suit of armour every once in a while, but doesn't feel she can because no one would take her seriously.

I don't know if this is just me being male, me being practical, or a combination of the two, but maybe she goes out to her missions in a suit of armor every time because it provides good protection from all the hazards she has to deal with and lets her do neat tricks like that Morph Ball thing. It's not like we ever really see her lounging around at home to know what she'd wear then.

The only other thing she's ever really worn in a game for more than just an ending scene is that skintight blue suit thing, which basically turns her from #1 on your list to #3 as far as all the screenshots I've seen of her poses in it go. Of course, those shots were all from Smash Bros Brawl (although it's my understanding that she wears the blue suit in one of the actual Metroid games), so maybe those screenshots don't really count for much as far as what her actual character as intended in her own games would do.

Samus and Lara aren't actually the best examples, I just chose them because they are the two biggest known along with Princess Peach. Even non-gamers have heard of Lara at least.

Also, I still can't think of any female characters who really fit stereotype 1, they usually fall under either 2 or 3, which I think is due to most writers being male, and if they aren't pandering to stereotypes they're trying to subvert them and going too far the other way.

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