A Male on Females on Female Characters

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AAA games sell on having a manly man with insane body firing a gun at some foreigners.

Change that to a woman and you either lose sales (Unthinkable) or turn her into a T&A (See Japan).

This won't change soon, and it's not just to do with a female protagonist. While nearly all visual media follows the same path, games would kill their own audience changing.

To actually address this problem, we'd need to address society and find out why it needs "Alpha Dog Gang Culture" front and centre in all it's media.

AgentNein:

mattag08:
Oh poor, benighted betas and omegas...(I include you Shamus.)

You simply don't understand (or refuse to accept the power of) economics or sexual politics. There are only three things you need to know:

1. Supply and demand.

2. What women say they want is rarely what they really want.

Your sweeping generalization really inspires my confidence in your understanding of sexual politics.

3. Accurate representations of females in video games would make people angry, bored, or both.

So you're saying that real women tend to make you either angry and/or bored? That's what I'm getting out of this. I'd love some clarification on this one thnx.

Generalizations are useful if they describe something to a significant degree to be useful (in this case the economics of game making). Publishers are not ignorant people. They've studied sales figures, focus groups, etc. to come up with what they believe their customers want. And by and large people want material they can relate to.

lesterley:
3 Questions To Ask Yourself When Viewing Any Movie Or Video Game (that contains cinematic elements):

1) Is there more than one woman?
2) Do the women talk to each other?
3) Do they talk about anything other than the male characters?

How many movies or video games can you think of that pass this test?

Leslee

I assume you're making the point that there should be more situations where women interact with each other? Why is that important?

Well, I am a guy, and I like playing female characters, because it's something different. It's sort-of a new point of view.

Edit:

Cenequus:
Really what's wrong with females showing skin even as a main character. I find people complaining as much misoginistic as those who actually believe women=kitchen. Having freedom of choice means not beeing judged for what you do and not doing what it's supposed to be equal or special.

Oh, and thank you. I agree.
Although I guess not all female characters (not even most) should necessarily show that much skin. More diversity would be nice.
Anyway, the personality of female characters is more important than their looks. Just like in real life, right? ...right?

mattag08:

lesterley:
snip

I assume you're making the point that there should be more situations where women interact with each other? Why is that important?

It's important because if you ask:
1) Is there more than one man?
2) Do the men talk to each other?
3) Do they talk about anything other than the female characters?
Almost every game and movie will pass. Females make up roughly 50% of the population yet they probably hold less than 10% of the conversations in popular media.

Shamus:
BioWare gets points for letting us choose the appearance and gender of our protagonist in Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but then they lose those points by making the default box-cover characters a couple of generic white dudes.

THANK YOU GEEZE. That exact sentiment is one I've desperately wondered about. Does it actually raise sales? Really? Can't they just have no default Shepard or Hawke?

It's worth noting that there isn't even, ala Mass Effect, a 'default to male' Hawke in DA2. You choose gender and class before anything else and you can't just say "default please". The male Hawke is no more 'canonical' than the female one, judging by the game.

So why the HECK have we got to have this huge marketing campaign built around tough rugged dude?

Edit: Also,

The_root_of_all_evil:
AAA games sell on having a manly man with insane body firing a gun at some foreigners.

I don't doubt the truth of this, which is sad as hell. But the thing is this: AAA films don't sell on having a manly man with insane body firing guns at foreign dudes. Sure, some do, but a long way from all or even most. Why the heck is gaming so resistant?

(And for my money? Part of it is a self-perpetuating cycle. We have only white men on the covers. Funnily enough, white men like 'em. So they make more games with white men in 'em. And onward and onward. Until there's a determined effort to break this cycle, it will stay this way, and only the industry side can make that push.)

Apart from

It's just that I hate being treated like an idiot. It's like a toothpaste commercial that shows a guy attracting hot young women because he switched to the advertised brand. The message I get from the advertiser isn't, "Buy a tube of our tooth-cleansing goop," but, "We think you're stupid enough to believe that strange women will be dry-humping you on the subway if you buy this product." It's hard to enjoy something if you're left with the impression that the creator thinks you're a knuckle-dragging simpleton.

which is a valid point, the rest of it isn't our fight.

Interesting fact: Bioware discovered(spied) the number of players picking the female Shep in Mass Effect was insignificant. More than 9 out of 10 picked the male lead, despite the general concensus that the female voice-over was superior. The female lead is something gamers rarely want apparently.

Hereīs a parallel for Shamus:
When Iīm complaining about the dumbing down of gaming and the decline of the tactical RPG, I donīt expect fans of action games to come to my aid (the opposite in fact).
So this is something I and other gamers of this nerdy minority have to do on our own.

Likewise, if the ladies want more female leads and better female characters in general let them be vocal about it and not expect guys to do it for them. Itīs insulting.

Here's an idea - just a thought: stop caring about gender.

Since when does one's chromozones matter?

Every time you cry out for a character with or without a penis, it sounds more like 'sex is important to me. I see everyone as a gender. Your sexual organs are important.'

I don't even think a Bioware game (or any game with a blank character) could encourage diversity. I mean, there really isn't anything about Shepard in the "Mass Effect" games that make him stand out as an individual character unless the player commands him to that action. S/he is merely a robot/vehicle for the player in that game world, picking the witty one-liners the player decides appropriate for that situation. This is just something I've been thinking about based upon Moviebob's article on "blank characters" rant on how blank characters are not allowing us to escape well (versus a fleshed-out character), but this is just my opinion.

I find it interesting how you react to sexual pandering of women, Shamus. I'm a heterosexual male too and I often find a lot of the sex-object women in video games, Anime, Mangas, or comics to be annoying--and this is coming from a person that enjoyed playing "tongue-in-cheek" games like "Bonetown." I can definitely see why you would be offended by how these developers think sex would attract you, since I usually step away from games that just "shove in" 12-year-old sex dreams as a means to make the player feel better.

davidarmstrong488:

I define depth by the number of simple sentences required to adequately describe that character. Personally, I hold Kreia to be the greatest female character of all time. Observe:

You run the risk of confusing depth with breadth (a common gamer problem).

Ripley's character depth comes from examining one conflict in detail (her fear of the alien creatures versus her desire to protect Newt), rather than spreading out her character over multiple disconnected traits. Admittedly some of the detail in her motivation is in a scene only present in the Special Edition, where Ripley is told that her own daughter, who she remembers as being roughly the same age as Newt, has grown old and died whilst Ripley was in cryosleep. Her drive to protect Newt is more than just Woman = Mother, it comes from her own loss, and it's that which allows her to truly overcome the trauma of her first encounter with the aliens.

Depth isn't about having lots of surface, it's about examining motivations in detail, supporting those motivations with personal events which are likely to give rise to them, and then following through believably on those motivations.

If you try to reduce "depth" to simple sentences you will miss the very detail which grants it in the first place.

Twilight_guy:

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 always thought that if was ever to make any kind of intellectual property I was going to use the underlined method.

Other that that, all I can say for Shamus' article is that I fully agree with it.

Erana:
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.

Is Batman a real person?

Moving on. I think developers tend to add this stuff, not to pander, but because they personally like it. Games built purely on sexual fan service just don't sell very well, that has been demonstrated many times. If they did, we would be on at least Rumbles Roses 5 by now, and Dead or Alive: Island Something Something 7. Game developers tend to add sexiness because they personally like it.

lesterley:
3 Questions To Ask Yourself When Viewing Any Movie Or Video Game (that contains cinematic elements):

1) Is there more than one woman?
2) Do the women talk to each other?
3) Do they talk about anything other than the male characters?

How many movies or video games can you think of that pass this test?

Leslee

Why ask these questions? I would like to put forward The Human Centipede btw.

Nice idealistic article here, and I'm sure the world will be a better place with more diversity in videogame protagonists. But it's simply a fact that the vast majority of 'hardcore' AAA titles is played by white young males, and it's another fact that adding the option of a female or coloured protaginist costs money. And since only a small part of those minorities will keep themselves from buying a game because they can't play as someone similar to themselves, that money is better spend elsewhere.

If you (and me) want a solution to this, we'd better start lobbying for government subsidies. As long as big gamedevelopers aim to make as much money as possible (and there is nothing wrong with that), trying to convince them to do otherwise won't be very fruitful.

I think this is more an issue about making decent characters. In the motivation poster on the first page, only a few of those are characters with personalities. Alan Wake, Nico Bellic, and Big Boss. Every other one could be the same character model.

There is something meaningful in their appearance. Big Boss is Kurt Russel in Escape from New York. Alan Wake is Stephen King.

The problem comes with some game philosophies espousing the idea that a player avatar cannot have a meaningful personality without encroaching on the player's 'immersion' and 'identification', and this causes designers to fill their games with these cookie cutter personas, which are merely vehicles for whatever excuse of a plot there is, to showcase the game mechanics. A big problem is that most white American men see themselves as tabula rasa, and thus characters, if they are defined, are defined by characteristics other than their appearance. This means we have a bunch of guys who look the same, with different characteristics. Oh, Nathan Drake is sarcastic, Dante has a dark past, Marcus Fenix has...a doo-rag. It's not enough.

First of all great article. But this seems like a little too much:

BioWare gets points for letting us choose the appearance and gender of our protagonist in Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but then they lose those points by making the default box-cover characters a couple of generic white dudes.

These games allow you to play as any gender or race, which in effect provides the diversity which other games lack. A lack which was the general topic of this article.

I am sure one could make games which allow for even more diversity then these games by Bioware, but currently these games are one of the more diverse when it comes to the main character. It seems a bit harsh to only give Bioware "points" for being pretty well in compliance with the article as a whole. Not to mention to take those points away for the box-cover character not being a minority. (Come on man. You sound a bit like you know who)
Can't resist to also point out that the support cast in both these games have allot of pretty strong female characters.

Falseprophet:

bdcjacko:
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.

He did explain how it affects him. He doesn't like game devs making the assumption that male gamer fans think exclusively with their gonads and will buy a game based on how hot the chick on the box-art is. I tend to agree with him on that.

By extension, it also means outsiders look upon gamers as a whole as horny teenage males or immature man-children with no real taste or appreciation for things like story or meaningful gameplay, and a lot of us resent being lumped together that way.

Yeah I saw that. Doesn't change my initial reaction.

Shamus, I think you're a great writer, and I've enjoyed reading you for a while, but I think you're really off base here. One of the issues is that games tend to have little room for "diverse" viewpoints, since they tend to show soldiers who are overwhelmingly white 20-30 something guys (with a moderate black population). http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110308/ap_on_re_us/us_military_diversity .

The other reason is that most games are heavy action flicks. Women are slower, weaker and less durable than men, making them either unrealistically identical to men, or angering female gamers even more by being the "weak" option.

Well done games will use this to make the characters more interesting. I'll use the Resident Evil example. In the original Resident Evil, you could play as either Chris or Jill. Chris was stronger, more durable, and faster. Jill had lockpicks and more flexibility with her route. Both felt fun (Jill was the easier path by a bit), and it was a great game. Resident Evil 3 stayed with it. When you had to play as Carlos you were stronger and faster than Jill, but Jill was still the main character, even when Carlos clears out a route for her.

On the other hand, in RE5, Sheva's only distinguishing characteristic is that she's a black lefty (left-handed, I'm not going politics) that wears skimpy clothing. She is otherwise identical to the bruiser Chris, making the characters much less interesting.

Also, Persians are Caucasians too, Shamus. They may have on average different features, but their average skin coloration isn't much darker than the average American.

PlasticTree:
[T]he vast majority of 'hardcore' AAA titles is played by white young males[.]

I find the idea that, as a white male, I only want to play as a white male to be extremely offensive. When given the choice, I will play as anything but a white male.

krellen:

PlasticTree:
[T]he vast majority of 'hardcore' AAA titles is played by white young males[.]

I find the idea that, as a white male, I only want to play as a white male to be extremely offensive. When given the choice, I will play as anything but a white male.

I have the same thing, especially with games with a fantasy setting. But don't forget that there is a big difference between games where you specifically want to be someone else and games where you want to pretend that it is you who is saving the world. Let's say, the difference between Uncharted (even though the guy is awfully white and male) and Legend of Zelda.
Secondly, a lot of people don't have too much imagination: even in the 'pretend-to-be-someone-else' kind of games, most people still want to play like someone whom they can connect with. In other words, someone white, young and male. Maybe that's not what you or me want, but it ís what most people want.

Magenera:

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.

[citation needed]. Really. Back up a claim like that plox.

lesterley:
3 Questions To Ask Yourself When Viewing Any Movie Or Video Game (that contains cinematic elements):

1) Is there more than one woman?
2) Do the women talk to each other?
3) Do they talk about anything other than the male characters?

How many movies or video games can you think of that pass this test?

Leslee

Half-life 2,[insert RPG with customizable character here], [insert any 2D/3D fighting game here].
I'll stop there and let you think about that one.

le picklez:

Magenera:

MGlBlaze:

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.

[citation needed]. Really. Back up a claim like that plox.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23547346/ns/us_news-military/
It ended good actually. This was in 2008 so my memory might have been a little off seeing how I heard it from a different news source. But yeah she gotten her silver medal.

I do find it strange how few main characters there are that are female. Also I can't believe how few characters of different racial backgrounds there are. You get the rare black supporting character and that is about it. This situation does somewhat mirror the movie industry decades ago in terms of diversity.

Off Topic: If you are reading this Shamus.(which I doubt that you are) How did you like inFAMOUS?I go to your site frequently and usually agree with your thoughts about games and the games industry, but I am curious about what you think about one of my favorite games.

Zom-B:

RevRaptor:

Zom-B:

Yeah, I'm not familiar with anyone ever using "PC" for player character, nor have I ever used it myself (and yes, I've played PnP RPGs for years). I couldn't for the life of me figure out what you were saying, but I knew you couldn't be talking about your computer.

Really? I hear it all the time when I'm around the PnP crowd, I used to play a bit too. It's yours it a character so its a player character. What else would you call them?

How about "my character"? Does anyone ever say, let me get out my player character sheet? Or, let me see the new player character you just rolled up? Not to mention, that as far as me and most of the western world is concerned, a PC is the computer that sits on your desk that's not a laptop and not a mac.

The term player character came from the original Dungeons and Dragons. It's as close to an official term as you'll get.

As to my thoughts on the article:
Page 1: Hey, what about Mass Effect?
Page 2: Oh....

Magenera:

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.

She was a medic, right?
If that's the case then she committed a war crime. Non-combat personnel are just that: non combat. They aren't supposed to attack the enemy and the enemy isn't supposed to attack them. Of course if they have to draw their weapon in defence of themselves or of the already wounded (also a war crime to attack the wounded or knowingly attacking medical personnel) then it's not a war crime, but they do sacrifice their Geneva Convention protection.

This is assuming she was wearing a distinguishing mark like the Red Cross, though. If she was in a uniform like everyone else and wore no distinguishing marks then she shouldn't have been court martialed.

Actually upon thinking about it some more, I think the story is more complicated than you're making out here, so I can't really be sure of anything.

Edit;
Okay, I saw one of your more recent posts. It's nice to see she didn't get court martialed after all.

VectorZero:
The term player character came from the original Dungeons and Dragons. It's as close to an official term as you'll get.

I won't dispute that, but it's also a term not widely used, even within the PnP roleplaying community. And as I said, across the far wider spectrum of the internet, where people are used to PC to refer to a "personal computer", PC as player character is a bit obscure.

Anyway, enough of this. I wasn't trying to get into an argument with anyone, I just didn't realize the OP (that's "original poster" haha) that I replied was referring to his "player character".

krellen:
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.

The canon Exile (KotOR II) is female.

RelexCryo:

Is Batman a real person?

In the context of fiction? Absolutely.

Actually, I play a Night Elf female in WoW.
And a female in most RPG's. Not because I feel like I need to change genders, but because I like looking at women a lot more then looking at men.

Because men just don't attract me, and I like looking at eye candy a lot more than at a ridiculously bulging musclebound caveman. Oh no, how mysoginist! Actually I don't think there is any difference in the amount of asskicking a character can do based on gender.

But at least it gives you another reason to develop games with female leads. Because most men like to look at women.

4173:
The canon Exile (KotOR II) is female.

So? Doesn't make the stupid canon male Revan any more right. They made the Exile female simply to appease all the fans of female Revan, and failed completely.

And I actually think the Exile's story works better if he's male. Kreia acts more like a mother would towards a son than a daughter.

Eico:
Here's an idea - just a thought: stop caring about gender.

Since when does one's chromozones matter?

Every time you cry out for a character with or without a penis, it sounds more like 'sex is important to me. I see everyone as a gender. Your sexual organs are important.'

Unfortunately, that doesn't really work. Society has seen fit to acknowledge and address a power inequality in the portrayal of gender in games and the community has seen fit to address it. You usually can't just simply undo movements like this. Once an unequal power relationship is address it and becomes a rallying cry it will not be ignored until it is seen as "solved." On top of that, ignoring the problem won't solve it either. If we don't address this topic then the issue of bad characterization will continue uninhibited and to many that is unacceptable. Social norms like the largely white male protagonist reproduce themselves in society over time and letting them do so will mean that they will continue indefinitely until some other social pressure enforces something else. People are trying to hider that reproduction of the norm and create a new norm. I personally think this is a worthy cause and I know that nothing is going to change until it is actively addressed. Sitting idly by does not make you gender neutral in your thinking, it makes you a passive recipient of a genderist power divide. If you got the short end of the stick on the relationship by being a woman then simply accepting it means accepting a lower position in gaming while others have a sort of male privilege and more representation simply because of their y chromosome. What needs to be done is an equalization of power. My only concern is that we must keep in mind to not go to far and become genderist the other way by trying to make women superior but instead address the equation in a way that seeks to give both sides equality. [/soap box]

krellen:

4173:
The canon Exile (KotOR II) is female.

So? Doesn't make the stupid canon male Revan any more right. They made the Exile female simply to appease all the fans of female Revan, and failed completely.

And I actually think the Exile's story works better if he's male. Kreia acts more like a mother would towards a son than a daughter.

I agree with you about the Exile, 100% I just thought it was worth pointing out, especially if, as you say the Exile was written specifically because of Revanette fans.

I'm of two minds on Revan a number of things are better with female Revan: Jolee, Malak's resentment towards Revan and torture of Bastilla, Carth, trope subversion with female Revan as the Revanchist etc. On the other hand, the Bastilla arc with a male is better.

MasochisticMuse:
I can't disagree with this article. It's obnoxious when you play game after game and never get to see or play as your own gender - it's even worse when you're given the option to play as a female but are penalized for doing so (eg: can't enter the Arena in Fallout: New Vegas if your character is female).

Disagree here. It would of been silly to let a female compete in the arena seeing as the Legion has a "get back into the Kitchen" attitude towards them. I don't think it is fair to fault the game for being coherent in portraying the various soceities that populate it's world.

Honestly though don't people write what they know? It's not like they are actively being prejudiced but they are drawing grom their own expereinces. While I could imagine what life is like for an Iranian women I doubt my picture would be wholly accurate. I think the answer is to have more females in the creative process of games then it is to force men to design female character* as that would have a problem of making them see it as a choure and thus not do the character justice.

*I know there are some men and women who are incredibly good about getting beyond what they know. Fair play to them and I think that's great but it is silly IMHO to expect everyone to be that good.

Sod the main character! How about we concentrate on just getting the game mechanics right and making something fun to play no matter who is the lead.

Saying that I like having the generic male tough guy character as then I know where I stand with the game and what to expect.

Zom-B:

How about "my character"? Does anyone ever say, let me get out my player character sheet? Or, let me see the new player character you just rolled up? Not to mention, that as far as me and most of the western world is concerned, a PC is the computer that sits on your desk that's not a laptop and not a mac.

So A party of Pc's is a party of my characters? That really doesn't roll of the tongue to well.

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