Jimquisition: The Creepy Cull of Female Protagonists

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Art imitates life
There's a reason why most of the soldiers in modern FPSs are male; because most of the soldiers in real life are male. As are the overwhelming majority of combatants in every conflict since before recorded history.

Heck, if someone somewhere is doing something dangerous and exciting, they're probably male.

Now if every society on Earth has shared this trait, then I think it's fair to say it has some biological component. Successful societies have thrived just because women weren't willing to dive on enemy swords like men are (which is kinda obvious, a dude can father hundreds of children a year, a woman can mother maybe 1. If survival is an issue, we need more women than men).

Maybe at some point we can overcome this with society, once women start taking dangerous jobs and having adventures like some of our menfolk do, so then the idea of a female protagonist in a dangerous game might seem more reasonable to the gut instincts of the unwashed majority of gamers. Possibly. Eventually. But I'm not holding my breath.

Making women is HARD WORK
Stop making it a no-win for games designers. Female characters face ENORMOUS amounts of scrutiny for every single aspect of their design, compared to their male counterparts. Too much/little sexuality/femininity/violence/sexiness/dialogue/vulnerability/characterisation/etc. It's tedious. It's unfair.

If it wasn't such a minefield of offence, then maybe that'd mean more people would try.

Coercion is almost as bad as censorship
Complaining that you want more female characters in a game is totally fine. You're just saying what you want, after all.

However, saying that there's a moral obligation, and that we're somehow not good people if we don't have gender parity in our games, is not cool.

Games are already awesome for women
Saving anyone from a badguy's castle, princesses included, is actually a nice thing to do, so let's not demonise it unnecessarily.

And if you ever think that the gaming industry isn't doing enough to promote an image of strong capable women, just consider that with the invention of Lara Croft alone, there's been about a 1000% more tomb raiding women in games compared to female tomb raiders in real life. Ditto that (to a greater or lesser degree) for any other typical gaming profession (professional fighter, bounty hunter, soldier, etc). Games are already leading the charge on presenting the genders more equally, our so-called egalitarian society is far far behind.

Defeated Detective:
I'd like to meet this panel of people who thought that Booker DeWitt would make a better cover than Elizabeth.

I really want to punch each one of them in the fact.

Ken Levine was completely honest in an interview, saying;

"I looked at the cover art for BioShock 1, which I was heavily involved with and love, I adored. And I tried to step back and say, if I'm just some guy, some frat guy, I love games but don't pay attention to them... if I saw the cover of that box, what would I think? And I would think, this is a game about a robot and a little girl. That's what I would think. I was trying to be honest with myself. Trust me, I was heavily involved with the creation of those characters and I love them."

"Would I buy that game if I had 60 bucks and I bought three games a year... would I even pick up the box? I went back to the box for System Shock 1, which was obviously incredibly important - that game was incredibly influential on me, System Shock 2 was the first game I ever made. I remember I picked it up... looked at it and I said, I have no idea what this game is. And I didn't have a lot of money back then. So, back on the shelf. And I was a gamer."

There was also a vote, which Ken Levine held, over an alternate cover on the other side of the game's box art flap. There were actually four covers with her, two without Booker, the male lead.

http://irrationalgames.com/insider/poll/

oreso:

Making women is HARD WORK
Stop making it a no-win for games designers. Female characters face ENORMOUS amounts of scrutiny for every single aspect of their design, compared to their male counterparts. Too much/little sexuality/femininity/violence/sexiness/dialogue/vulnerability/characterisation/etc. It's tedious. It's unfair.

If it wasn't such a minefield of offence, then maybe that'd mean more people would try.

This is a very good point. It does take courage to make a female protagonist, because if you screw it up then your gonna get a lot more shit that you would for a male protagonist. If you make a male protagonist, as long as his actions aren't sexist etc. you wont offend anyone.

CC17:

oreso:

Making women is HARD WORK
Stop making it a no-win for games designers. Female characters face ENORMOUS amounts of scrutiny for every single aspect of their design, compared to their male counterparts. Too much/little sexuality/femininity/violence/sexiness/dialogue/vulnerability/characterisation/etc. It's tedious. It's unfair.

If it wasn't such a minefield of offence, then maybe that'd mean more people would try.

This is a very good point. It does take courage to make a female protagonist, because if you screw it up then your gonna get a lot more shit that you would for a male protagonist. If you make a male protagonist, as long as his actions aren't sexist etc. you wont offend anyone.

Apart from the folks who think it should have been a female protagonist and your game is yet another drop in the sea of testosterone dominated waters.

It is essentially a "no-win" scenario but you'll win worse if you make the protagonist a female and -get it wrong- which you have a higher chance of doing due to the scrutiny every female character suddenly receives.

CC17:

oreso:

Making women is HARD WORK
Stop making it a no-win for games designers. Female characters face ENORMOUS amounts of scrutiny for every single aspect of their design, compared to their male counterparts. Too much/little sexuality/femininity/violence/sexiness/dialogue/vulnerability/characterisation/etc. It's tedious. It's unfair.

If it wasn't such a minefield of offence, then maybe that'd mean more people would try.

This is a very good point. It does take courage to make a female protagonist, because if you screw it up then your gonna get a lot more shit that you would for a male protagonist. If you make a male protagonist, as long as his actions aren't sexist etc. you wont offend anyone.

I think WORRYING about it is a self-imposed limit. Just write a good character, gender neutral, and if the character is strong on that principle alone, he or she would be a good character regardless of gender. If Samus in Other M was a boy, she'd still be an awful character, just as Raiden in MGS2 would still be lame if it was a woman in the role.

One of the strongest women in science fiction is Ripley from Aliens... and she was written in the first movie to be entirely gender neutral; they could've cast a man in her role according to the script, but Sigourney Weaver gave the best performance so they went with her.

Lara Croft in the new game is a well-written character, as either a man or woman, but she has elements of femininity that help shape her without defining her. Samus Aran in the original Metroid games was almost entirely gender neutral because her gender was a non-issue when fighting aliens just as much as Master Chief's gender is a non-issue (screw Other M, though).

Writing good women in games is "hard"? Yes. But that's because writing GOOD characters is HARD, regardless of gender. It's insanely easy to create a lackluster male OR female character, and it's just as difficult making you care about the new Lara Croft as it is making you care about Garrus Vakarian or Lee Everett or Alan Wake or any other male hero.

Surprisingly, "quality" means work. But if you slack off from writing a good female character because "it's a lot of work", then the problem is the creators for being both lazy and/or afraid of stepping out of their insanely small comfort zones.

CC17:
This is a very good point. It does take courage to make a female protagonist, because if you screw it up then your gonna get a lot more shit that you would for a male protagonist. If you make a male protagonist, as long as his actions aren't sexist etc. you wont offend anyone.

That doesn't hold up to me. The situation is either the writer is a complete idiot and touching upon a subject they're unprepared to, or the person is an idiot. A situation of the former would be, oh, say, Duke Nukem Forever, particularly the most horrendous and offensive joke I've ever encountered, when Duke says "It looks like... you're fucked" to two women who are currently being raped in front of him, also impregnated by their rapist. An example of the latter is, say, the reaction is Zevran and Isabella in the Dragon Age series, where they're a stereotype because they're both bisexual and very sexually liberal. The former can be avoided if a writer knows his or her limits. The latter, unavoidable. You know people are crying "racist" at Bioshock Infinite? Its a "white people-killing simulator". Granted, they're racists themselves, but its damned if you do, damned if you don't. In those circumstances, where you can't please everybody, you should do what you think is the right thing, not necessarily the most profitable.

Thank god for Daddy!

Good points made in the video. What I found to be worthy of bonus points is that Remember Me looked totally awesome from the shots you included yet everything I've noticed from it's marketing campaign, what little that was, has been mediocre at best.

Also an important point is that it's really quite hard to attach blame to anyone. Are developers and publishers to blame when every female characters faces much, much more scrutiny and criticism than any male character, you're basically guaranteed to be called sexist at some point if you even mention the possibility of a female character let alone include one but if you just never bring it up no controversies happen (and shouldn't)? Are consumers to blame when, even if they wanted with all their heart to buy games with amazing female protagonists, there aren't really many of such games to be found?

It's a difficult question and one I hope the games industry will eventually grow out of as more and more people grow up with technology and games, hopefully leading to much more variety in every aspect of games, both playing them and creating them. And not just women, they certainly aren't the only ones who rarely get turned into protagonists.

boots:
I'm sick of hearing that argument because I'm sick of the assumption that women don't like war games or shooters or strategy games, and that the only way to make games appeal to women is ... I don't know, having customisable high heels or sticking flowers all over the box art. Rather than the relatively simple adjustment of just making the same old shooter, but with a grizzled badass female character instead of a grizzled badass male character.

Except that, like it or not, there are large swathes of the playerbase who don't enjoy playing as persons of the other gender. Heck, we've even had various women admit as much about playing as male characters on this very website. Its not a "sexist" thing, its just that some people enjoy playing as the gender they can relate to.

I'm also sick of this argument because it assumes that, as a female who likes war games, and strategy games and stealth games and shooters and horror games, I must be some kind of freak or outlier or anomaly. Along with all my female friends who are into horror games and shooters, apparently.

But see, anecdotal evidence doesn't an argument make. Under many of the "gaming demographic" breakdowns, my mother falls into the "girls who game" demographic because she plays a few cell phone games.

Here. for instance, the ESA...

According to a study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association in 2012, "Forty-seven percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (30 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent)."

So 47 percent of all gamers are women. It doesn't go on to define what KIND of games. Heck, many people consider playing solitaire on their windows PC as "gaming".

But then, a more in-depth study done years earlier, once more, by the ESA, showed this...

According to a survey done in 2004 by the Entertainment Software Association, 25 percent of console players and 39 percent of PC game players were women. Also, 40 percent of online game players were women. According to a report by USA today 60 percent of female gamers played on mobile devices says a survey done by EEDAR. The same survey done by EEDAR also finds 63 percent of these female mobile gamers played online multiplayer mobile games.[29]

Even Nintendo themselves came out with figures that showed there's nowhere near a 50/50 split of gamers in the console space during the beginning of last generation.

image
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But the main reason I'm sick of that argument is because it's a very lazy and very transparent attempt to dismiss the concept of women playing games. "No, there aren't really any women playing real games, the surveys must be lying, gaming is still a safe male space, it is, it is!" It's the same attitude that brought us the ever-pervasive "fake gamer girls" meme, and it's starting to get old.

And I just showed you why this is patently false.

Let me put it this way, if there was a huge untapped 47% marketshare, ripe for the picking, do you think suits would be passing on making a game catered to the untapped demographic?

Its not that the argument is a shallow attempt to show that women don't belong in gaming. Its a valid argument that the industry is just playing to the group that'll make them the most money. Its not necessarily a gaming thing, but more of a societal thing where women could have just been conditioned to stay away from. Which means major kudos to you for liking what you like and letting society be damned.

Heck, the "basement dwelling neckbeard" trope that gets bandied about... guess what, its a male stereotype readily used and accepted by women. It can also be one of the prime reasons why many women don't have an interest in gaming, since hey, the only people who play games like Gears of War or Halo are "basement dwelling neckbearded men".

I admit i don't play female characters too often in games (I have a few times though: Dragon age 2 and Mass Effect series for one). But, i certainly agree this whole "Can't have Female Protagonists EVAR!" is a big problem. Seriously, variety is awesome and i certainly am getting a bit tired of just seeing big burly SPAEC MARINS! all the freaking time. We should not be afraid to have female characters in a leading role, nor should people be scared to put them on front covers.

So if we can get to work on getting the people in charge from using values from the 1950's out of our industry, that'd be great.

Guy here. I really think we could do with more female characters, and less hang-ups about them, both hang-ups about including them and pushing it in our face that 'zomg you're playing as a GURL!'. See, this is why I like Dark Souls (well, aside from the lovely lore, fun combat etc. etc.). You can make a chick or a dude character, and not only does it not affect story or character interactions, it leaves armor models intact too - no bits of string, unless I dunno, you're playing as the 'deprived' class, but then that's par for the course. To me, that just felt like a fresh breath. Actually, that's one of the reasons I like RPGs a lot - as well as the new XCOM (haven't played the old one). Basically, I don't find gender to matter - unless there is, like Jim points out, a disturbing overweight of male characters, and a pathological fear/hate towards having female characters.
I'm entirely comfortable with women being in lead roles, kicking ass, having romances, developing as characters and so forth and so on, and I really fail to get why dudebros/executives are terrified of that. Although, speaking of dudebros, I am not entirely sure, but I think the effect of Far Cry 3's main arc wherein white-as-snow, pasty dudebro Jason Brody gets his world flip-turned upside down might have been slightly diminished if we were dealing with, say Jane Brody - not that I would mind, but...nevermind, train of thought crashed.

TL;DR: Yes, more female characters, both leading and supporting, please. Moar agency, less being treated like fine china or something to rub one out to. Oh and yeah, let them be allowed to fuck up. Seriously. Flaws are just as instrumental in making a character work as positive qualities.

Why does the audience have to be spineless and weak, or repressed homosexuals just because they prefer male characters in games? I mean, it's presumably just because most gamers are male.

Sure, the attitudes toward female sexuality could be different, but the preference, as it exists, doesn't make anyone a bad person. It's just a preference, right?

I personally prefer a male protagonist in a game. It may have something to do with my preference for self projection or something, I'm not sure. But it doesn't make me a bad person, does it?

I like the show and all, but Jim seems to be way off this week.

boots:

Right, because sex is a male theme. I'd forgotten that ladies aren't into sex.

I'm sick of hearing that argument because I'm sick of the assumption that women don't like war games or shooters or strategy games, and that the only way to make games appeal to women is ... I don't know, having customisable high heels or sticking flowers all over the box art. Rather than the relatively simple adjustment of just making the same old shooter, but with a grizzled badass female character instead of a grizzled badass male character.

I'm also sick of this argument because it assumes that, as a female who likes war games, and strategy games and stealth games and shooters and horror games, I must be some kind of freak or outlier or anomaly. Along with all my female friends who are into horror games and shooters, apparently.

But the main reason I'm sick of that argument is because it's a very lazy and very transparent attempt to dismiss the concept of women playing games. "No, there aren't really any women playing real games, the surveys must be lying, gaming is still a safe male space, it is, it is!" It's the same attitude that brought us the ever-pervasive "fake gamer girls" meme, and it's starting to get old.

Visual sexualization is a male biological trait. This is fact. We are stimulated by visuals by far more than women. Don't patronize me and pretend that there's no difference between genders and don't tell me that because women CAN be interested in the things I mentioned, that it goes as an average. If this was true, we'd see a vastly larger difference in the market.

It's all catered to men, that's my point.
*Maybe* if it wasn't gender targeted, it might be more appealing to a broader audience and the average female gamer. Like I said, there's no reason to dismiss any and all arguments that it has an effect.

Call yourself a freak or whatever, that's your own issue, not mine and has nothing to do with what I said. Again, your sarcasm is pointless and the post you wrote earlier brings nothing to the table.

Too many factors:

> Foundation of the gaming industry primarily being made by males back in the 70's and 80's.

> Statistics are happy to reveal that 40-45% of gamers are female, but when it came to breaking down that percentage by GENRE (what sort of games they're playing) then suddenly reports get very tight-lipped (i.e. such statistics are almost nowhere to be found).

> Today less than 1 out of every 10 game developers is female. Females are far less interested in developing games than males, the majority of them sway away from degrees/certifications that revolve around Programming, CAD design, game design, etc. The world needs to understand that men and women have different career paths in mind. But how are we supposed to get a solid female perspective on games? Universities/schools are 100% open to females, so who do you blame for this?

> Female agency in general is something that has taken the back seat for the last hundreds, if not thousands of years. A great example of this is that even today, in many cultures and in many people's MINDS a man is judged by his worth and a woman is judged by her beauty. Don't believe me? Just take a look around the internet! Also if it wasn't obvious enough, the entire beauty industry rose primarily because of female consumers. If you're STILL too thick to be convinced, look at the prostitution, the oldest "occupation" in the world.

> Till today we are still completely devoid of detailed statistics on what sort of games women are buying, what percentage of consumers of specific games are female (e.g. CoD, Halo). Huge publishers like EA/Activision HAVE all these statistics, or at least they can take a fairly accurate stab at the ratios. ..but they are not sharing it with the world. They are making decisions based on stuff that only they know, and if it's one thing I REALLY hate it's being left in the fucking dark.

> And of course, as Jim said people often say one thing and do another. Why? No idea, someone needs to do a PHD on it.

The last 1000+ threads on the Escapist would've been greatly helped if we just had some concrete statistics about male/female consumers! But alas, we're still waiting...

Anyway, I heartily want more female protagonists in games. That game that Jim was playing looked like it had an awesome protagonist, I absolutely wouldn't mind playing her! And NO, I'm not one of those people who says one thing and buys another.

Creepy? No, Jim. It's not creepy at all.

STOP! Just... hear me out.

See, 'creepy' implies intent, and intent implies thought. There's no thought to this. Therefore, it's not creepy that developers need to fight tooth and nail to keep their female protagonists.

It is sheer, utter stupidity of such an appalling degree that you can probably hear my mental facepalm. Having written female protagonists in a relationship a few times, (mostly in forum games admittedly, but one of the leads in a novel I'm writing is also female) it is not creepy in the slightest to see a character of the opposite sex in a straight relationship. Maybe (MAYBE) it could feel awkward if you deliberately insert yourself into the character's role, but frankly that should only happen with blank-slate characters. None of the examples you gave (as far as I know) were blank slates. And if your character IS a blank slate, then why aren't homosexual relationships an option for the gay people in your audi-

... No, HT, one problem that needs tackling at a time.

I mean, this is stupid, disgraceful and sick. 'Creepy' is too good for it. SCREW. YOU. GAMES. INDUSTRY.

ccdohl:
Why does the audience have to be spineless and weak, or repressed homosexuals just because they prefer male characters in games? I mean, it's presumably just because most gamers are male.

Sure, the attitudes toward female sexuality could be different, but the preference, as it exists, doesn't make anyone a bad person. It's just a preference, right?

I personally prefer a male protagonist in a game. It may have something to do with my preference for self projection or something, I'm not sure. But it doesn't make me a bad person, does it?

I like the show and all, but Jim seems to be way off this week.

What Jim was getting at is the way there seems to be an unecessary fear to show women on a cover let alone have one as a main character, it's not so much about what you personally prefer but rather the fact the big wigs (from publishers i guess) have demonstrated a either disrespect or lack of vision when a game involves or is centred around a woman. That is bad.
If you don't want to play a female character that's fine but what seems to be the problem is that even if you wanted to you aren't given an option and women aren't given fair representation in games where they are/could be the focus, just pushed to the side as it where.

I'm a female gamer. I love my FPSs as much as the next man (or woman). I don't feel romance is necessary at all in games. You can be a fully rounded human being and save the universe without locking lips with a lady about to burst out of her spandex space suit. In fact, saving the universe should be your number one priority at that point, not the woman in spandex.

That being said, I keep seeing people say the same things on this site - that women are treated as objects rather than fully rounded characters in mainstream gaming, but nothing happens to change that. It's like a very loud protest that rises from the ashes every few weeks but turns out it's a tree falling in the woods and no one's around to hear it.

boots:

Sir Thomas Sean Connery:

The poll they held is a very silly thing to pick on.

They just wanted to know what the players wanted instead of just designing some random person for the box cover.

Besides, the default is honestly kind of scary looking.

I'm not "picking on" the poll. It's not the fat kid in the playground. I'm mentioning it because it's relevant to the discussion of customisable characters.

If you can customise your character in-game, then it's just silly to offer the fans the choice of customising the character in the marketing as well. It defeats the purpose of the appearance customisation mechanic, which is built off the assumption that different people like different things.

My main point is that they didn't do a poll for the male Shepard's appearance "to know what the players wanted". But when it came to the simple challenge of designing a female character for box art, they were too scared to come up with and decide upon their own ideas and instead resorted to throwing options at their audience and going, "Which lady is the prettiest? Which lady will make you buy the game? Please, please tell us."

They couldn't have effectively done it with the male Shepard since that had to be designed for ME1. Without a fanbase for the game in place, the poll wouldn't have even been noticed.

Also, I still see no issue in having the players decide which FemShep looked best.

I mean, there HAD to be a default. There's no question about that. So why not let the players decide? That's the whole point of RPG face customization: To let players decide what the main character looks like. It had nothing to do with fear. It was just about giving the players a bit more control.

So what if it was a "beauty contest?" It's not like the other Shepards are going to get their feelings hurt.

I just don't understand why you consider it to be a bad thing.

sweetylnumb:

erttheking:
Oh dear, just when I thought the sexism threads were done.

Oh dear, just when i throught sexism was a thing of the past. I really dont get nor support feminism in its mission of turning every female into a hypersensitive bitch, but this kind of thing does suck.

I think you'll find the vast majority of feminists are simply egalitarians and in no way see their mission as, as you put it, "turning every female into a hypersensitive bitch".

game development is one of the final frontiers for the old boys club and its one of the most entrenched. my best friend just finished her programing degree here in australia, she was the only female student and the rest of the students almost without exception made her life a living hell.

it doesnt suprise me in the slightest there are next to no female protagonists. publishers today aim for the 15-25 year old white male hetrosexual demographic

Elexia:
I'm a female gamer. I love my FPSs as much as the next man (or woman). I don't feel romance is necessary at all in games. You can be a fully rounded human being and save the universe without locking lips with a lady about to burst out of her spandex space suit. In fact, saving the universe should be your number one priority at that point, not the woman in spandex.

That being said, I keep seeing people say the same things on this site - that women are treated as objects rather than fully rounded characters in mainstream gaming, but nothing happens to change that. It's like a very loud protest that rises from the ashes every few weeks but turns out it's a tree falling in the woods and no one's around to hear it.

That's because complaining on an all-round gaming forum isn't really the place to go to get this sort of thing changed. If people are unhappy about how specific publishers and developers behave in regards to this subject matter, the best place to go is onto their forums.

A place like this is for discussion with fellow consumers. It's like having a bunch of co-workers around your house to complain about work conditions rather than speaking to the management.

Although the official forums for most companies aren't much better. In most cases if you criticise the company in any shape or form you are a "hater" or a "troll", and if you support them, then you are a sheep or a "blind fanboy/girl".

KaZuYa:
Well there is many reasons for this and it is and it isn't the fault of industry, I can understand games like Call of Duty and Battlefield being very male orientated because that's life the military is like that and with wanting realistic games that's what you're going to get and all the female gamers I've met who play these kind of games are not bothered by it in the slightest.

That just changed last month. Females are now going to fight on the frontlines.

The industry is just lazy, I mean male characters aren't exactly at the same level of Raziel & Kain, many are as one dimensional and wooden as the worst sexualised females.

As for whose fault it is, I think it's both:

Gamers who by and large don't want complex games, instead they are quite happy buying the same old clones with a new lick of paint.

The industry especially the AAA industry that really needs to stop making games as a one size fit's all lest we turn away ppl who have more particular needs. One only has to take a look at the Japanese Anime industry to see where that will get us. IE games made to cater to the demographic with the fattest wallets, the okatu and teens where after 5 years that's all that gets made because the adult mainstream demographic has stopped watching anime.

wow really? really this happened? im shocked... really shocked (insert bioshock pun here) that we are in this a bad situation when its not implied but outright said by publishers "we dont want women in our games"... just wow i feel kinda sick...
oh btw about your offer jim unfortunatly i wont be at pax so i cant take you up on your promise but ill contact you next time ill be in the U.S. ;)

I've always wondered why Infinite couldn't at least have a more 'busy' cover art with other elements from the game including Elizabeth along with Booker and his gun? but I guess since they're going with the CoD/BF style then it's the minimalistic man + gun art lol...

burningdragoon:
Though really, if I can "deal" with staring at Solid Snake's skintight buttcrack, I can "deal" with *gasp* a women going to kiss someone.

LOL I was thinking the same thing while my friend played through Metal Gear Rising. Raiden's butt was glistening in the light 90% of the game

Magenera:
Why does female characters not get face time on covers, or play second fiddle, or not be the playable characters? Because they don't sell at all, game is a business first, entertainer second. If you want them, you have to buy them, bitching about it won't do a damn thing, as action speaks louder than words, and as far as businesses are concern, most prefer the status quo.

That's correlation, not causation.

The fact is games with female protagonists are not even MADE at all. That and of the few games with female-only protagonists they get less marketing exposure, you see the problem isn't caused by them being on the cover.

I think it's reasonable to have the protagonist on a front cover of a game, the problem clearly is the lack of female protagonists in gaming.

It doesn't help that while the sexists oppose female being any thing other than for appearances or support, the supposed advocates of women in gaming are sniping at every aspect of their depiction.

If they don't kiss a guy it's objectification, if they kiss a guy it's conforming, if they kiss a girl it's pandering to men. Bayonetta is terrible because she is sexual. Lara Croft is terrible because she isn't sexual.

The problem is - if it isn't entirely imaginary - so blown out of proportion it has the effect that developers simply don't want to bother with women in games, it's just too much trouble and they won't be appreciated. That was their solution to race and ethnicity in games, it's all white people now.

That Ken Levine story of choosing that cover art... did the focus group reject Elizabeth from the cover JUST because she was a woman, or because she clearly wasn't the protagonist of what was most definitely a shooter? I mean if the protagonist had been Becky DeWitt, on a mission to recover the time travel scientist and young genius Elliot... would they have demanded that the male scientist supporting character be put on the cover and the gun toting female protagonist put on the back??

Sorry, I know publishers are morons, but the blame here really has to go to the publishers, why they keep making action games with male protagonists. A single case isn't the problem is it keeps happening over and over and over again.

Straight male here. Here's the amount of playthroughs I've done with females in games where I choose the protagonist's gender.
3 playthroughs (out of 6) of Mass Effect: 2 with romances with guys, one with Liara.
2 playthroughs (out of 3) of Dragon Age Origins: 1 romance with Alistair, 1 with Leliana and Alistair ultimately settling on Alistair.
2 runs (out of 3) of Dragon Age 2: 1 straight romance, 1 lesbian.
1 run (out of 2) of Jade Empire with a lesbian romance.
2 runs (out of 3) of KotOR with straight romances with Carth.
1 run (out of 1) of KotOR 2 (no romance).
8 out of 16 of my characters in SW:TOR are female and I'm planning on doing the romance subplot for all their LIs (who are only guys at the moment).
My only character for Fallout: NV is a girl.
And so is my only character for Skyrim.
Moving beyond RPGs my Halo: Reach character is a chick and my Halo 4 MP character is a chick.

I don't do this for the usual "well if I've gotta look at a character's ass, why not have it be a chick's?" reason. I hate that reasoning since it objectifies the female character. One reason I do it is for reality disconnect: it's much easier for me to get immersed in the game world if I sever most connections to reality. Thus I change gender, ethnicity (or at least most features like skin (a bit), hair, and eye color), philosophical view, morals, etc.; if I don't do this I eventually start metagming which also breaks the immersion. After I know the story I'll go back and play as a guy (or as a girl again) and not worry about that; since I already know the story from the first playthrough I'm already technically metagaming since I'll be preparing for what comes next instead of being reactionary. Besides, I paid $60 for the game, why would I restrict myself from experiencing a portion of the content?

And out of my 13 or so straight male gamer friends NONE OF THEM have a problem with this. Once during a weekend session I was playing the romance subplot for a guy love interest and two of my friends were giving me advice so I wouldn't run into any pitfalls (the romance flags had a few bugs).

So I'm blaming the publishers on this. There aren't many games out there with ONLY female protagonists so there's a view that gamers don't want female leads, yet if you allow gamers to choose they'll choose a female. Otherwise G.I.R.L.s wouldn't exist, would they?

oreso:
Making women is HARD WORK
Stop making it a no-win for games designers. Female characters face ENORMOUS amounts of scrutiny for every single aspect of their design, compared to their male counterparts. Too much/little sexuality/femininity/violence/sexiness/dialogue/vulnerability/characterisation/etc. It's tedious. It's unfair.

If it wasn't such a minefield of offence, then maybe that'd mean more people would try.

Or rather than writing women characters, maybe people could try, I dunno, writing... people? To quote from an interview with George R.R. Martin:

George Stephanopolous: There's one thing that's interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from?

George R.R. Martin: You know, I've always considered women to be people.

That, to a great extent, is why people go on and on about Mass Effect: the dialogue for the male and female Shepards are practically identical, differing only in delivery (owing to there being two different actors involved) and in the romance subplots. And yet, both versions are equally believable as a man and a woman because before anything else, Shepard was written as a person.

Chessrook44:

cyvaris:
I wish to god we had more non-sexy, single (?), female protagonists in the vein of Ripley or Samus just because it would add something different to the endless amounts of "Dude-bro" protagonists.

Would Samus really count outside of her armor?

I mean I don't know sexy so I can't really comment, but it really seems that's what they were going for when they put her in a ponytail and the skintight blue bodysuit.

Outside of her armor, no, she wouldn't (and the same goes for Ripley). The important thing, however, is that the attractiveness of both characters is basically irrelevant to the way they're presented. When you think of Samus, the first image that pops into your head is one where she's wearing her Power Suit, and that's because that image and what it represents is reinforced by the games (and their marketing, for that matter). It's fortuitous the Ripley was brought up, because she illustrates the point extremely well; she's an attractive female, but the films never use that in lieu of characterization even in the rare instances where it's addressed in the first place. Because the series refuses to treat Ripley as an object rather than a person, people respond to her as a person instead of an object. Just as you'd never see an Alien poster showing off a scantily-clad Ripley, you'd never see a suitless Samus taking up the space on a Metroid game's box art (unlike a certain other series) when the developers have an image of the Power Suit that they know will resonate much more widely. (The one exception - Other M and maybe Super Smash Bros. Brawl aside - is the inclusion of multiple endings based solely on how revealing Samus's attire is, which I honestly could do without at this point.)

Krantos:
I has to be said that a lot of games with female protagonists don't sell well simply because they're not that good.

Lets take a look at the big games in recent years featuring female protagonists:

-Metroid: Other M
-Mirrors Edge
-Hydrophobia
-Tomb Raider
-Amy
-Final Fantasy XIII

...I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones off the top of my head. Notice anything about them? Aside from Tomb Raider, they panned by critics and audiences alike. Not because they had a female lead, but because the games themselves were of questionable quality at best.

If publishers and developers want female protagonists to sell well, for gods sake put them in good games.

True enough, though that observation raises the question of whether games with female leads are immediately placed on a lower priority level than those with male leads, and the seemingly greater-than-average number of poor-quality titles is a result of less money, time, and manpower being devoted toward these games.

On the other hand, the inclusion of Metroid: Other M on that list raises what I regard as a far more significant issue, which is the way female characters in video games as well as other forms of popular media are so often written. That is to say, abysmally. In the original Metroid, the ending reveal that Samus was a woman worked so well because it made the point that a female is capable of being every bit the hero that a man in the same situation could. By the third game, Samus's gender was being established in the intro, and Metroid Prime peppered visual and audio reminders of it throughout the game's whole length. The best thing about the Metroid games' gender representation was that Samus's femininity was present, but totally incidental to her character. By treating the subject of her gender as no big deal, the series resoundingly demonstrated that nobody should be making a big deal about a woman being able to fill a role traditionally done by a man, and in doing so communicated a message of female empowerment via gender equality.

Come Other M, the concept of "equality" was thrown out the window, and the story chose to define Samus first and foremost not as a person, but as a female - or, rather, the warped caricature that is Yoshio Sakamoto's concept of femininity. And lo and behold, suddenly the galaxy's greatest bounty hunter became cowardly, obsessed with babies and motherhood, and irrationally fixated on the nearest male authority figure in the face of all reason. If, say, Half-Life 3 suddenly decided to give Gordon Freeman a voice and personality, no one would even think to pile those traits onto him and call it characterization. But when it comes to female characters, a depressing number of writers seem to think that "being a woman" not only counts as a personality trait in and of itself, but is the only personality trait any female character could conceivably possess. I'm not saying that gender can't be an important aspect of characterization, but only in stories where it's a relevant issue, and not crowbarred in out of a perception that femininity is somehow abnormal - a perception that people, both inside and outside of the video games industry, desperately need to get past.

duchaked:
I've always wondered why Infinite couldn't at least have a more 'busy' cover art with other elements from the game including Elizabeth along with Booker and his gun? but I guess since they're going with the CoD/BF style then it's the minimalistic man + gun art lol...

burningdragoon:
Though really, if I can "deal" with staring at Solid Snake's skintight buttcrack, I can "deal" with *gasp* a women going to kiss someone.

LOL I was thinking the same thing while my friend played through Metal Gear Rising. Raiden's butt was glistening in the light 90% of the game

Beefcake is (apparently) not gay when a dude is kicking ass.

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I would love to play a game with an interesting female lead and I am looking forward to Remember Me. To be honest, I already tend to make female characters in RPGs because I am bored with playing some dude-bro. Although, I tend to make her a bit manly and have her drink and knock people over and be generally bad-ass.

I think that the publishers are just afraid to scare away the thirteen year old dumbass demographic who are afraid of thinking of women as human beings.

boots:

Sir Thomas Sean Connery:

The poll they held is a very silly thing to pick on.

They just wanted to know what the players wanted instead of just designing some random person for the box cover.

Besides, the default is honestly kind of scary looking.

I'm not "picking on" the poll. It's not the fat kid in the playground. I'm mentioning it because it's relevant to the discussion of customisable characters.

If you can customise your character in-game, then it's just silly to offer the fans the choice of customising the character in the marketing as well. It defeats the purpose of the appearance customisation mechanic, which is built off the assumption that different people like different things.

My main point is that they didn't do a poll for the male Shepard's appearance "to know what the players wanted". But when it came to the simple challenge of designing a female character for box art, they were too scared to come up with and decide upon their own ideas and instead resorted to throwing options at their audience and going, "Which lady is the prettiest? Which lady will make you buy the game? Please, please tell us."

So... instead of going after the sensible topic of Mass Effect completely ignoring the existence of "Femshep" in Mass Effect 1 and 2, you waste your time nitpicking and whining about Mass Effect 3's little "Femshep" poll when they finally decided to start advertising her? Yep... definitely sensible. I mean god, I am certainly no fan of the execution for plenty of things in Mass Effect 3, but the poll? That is benign, doubly so compared to the nonexistent acknowledgement of a "Female" Shepard in advertisements and such, which by the way, could be just as big a factor in why Femshep was played less than Male Shep as anything.

Any game with customization has templates. Male Shepard is essentially JUST that. I mean sure, he may of been the only half-decent looking one compared to the blurry messes that I always ended up with during character creation, but he is still only a template, made up of all the choices you could use for the most part. It doesn't "Defeat the purpose" at all, and hell it certainly didn't affect Elder Scrolls: Skyrim now did it?

And, as its been said before, its completely ignorant of you to expect a then unknown IP to have some "appearance poll" running for a character we know nothing about, have no experience with him or the world, and the like.

Don't forget Other M was suppose to expand upon the brief story of Adam from Fusion (Metroid 4) and somehow completely missed the point of their relationship. Adam's an A-hole and Samus is (essentially) a slave who talks to much. And that's just backwards on so many levels,

Anyway, could you imagine if these publishers said these things about other races? There'd be a sh*tstorm the size of Simon Cowell's ego. This kind of inbuilt sexism shouldn't be tolerated no more than if this was about race.

Would this be a good time to bring up Saint's Row 2, if it hasn't been mentioned yet? (and probably just as much The Third?) I remember playing through the whole game with both a male and a female character, and in cutscenes, they had the exact same lines. (British-accent male, hispanic female, at least, can't say I've gone through with all 6) The Boss was the exact same vengeful, psychotic sociopath whether they were male or female, their gender made no difference to anyone but the player, near as I can tell.
EDIT: And perhaps not even them.

Though I guess that might just have been to save time, not having to write/record everyone's different reactions? They don't seem to mind when you show up to missions in pink combat boots and a zombie mask, either.

CrossLOPER:
I would love to play a game with an interesting female lead and I am looking forward to Remember Me. To be honest, I already tend to make female characters in RPGs because I am bored with playing some dude-bro. Although, I tend to make her a bit manly and have her drink and knock people over and be generally bad-ass.

I think that the publishers are just afraid to scare away the thirteen year old dumbass demographic who are afraid of thinking of women as human beings.

I do this as well, I really enjoy playing female characters in Skyrim for example. When so inclined I'll even marry them to a male character, though my lack of enthusiasm for that is more because the game tends to overwrite any and all badass personalities with a generic lovey dovey housewife one the moment you do so.

Personally I think strong female leads in games are awesome, and that we need more of it. Not really for gender equality reasons, but because I'm sick of it almost always being some big muscle man these days. It's not like that's a character I can identify with as the industry seems to insist, so instead let's just focus on making these leads more awesome in general. And sometimes that will mean making them female.

LaughingAtlas:
Would this be a good time to bring up Saint's Row 2, if it hasn't been mentioned yet? (and probably just as much The Third?) I remember playing through the whole game with both a male and a female character, and in cutscenes, they had the exact same lines. (British-accent male, hispanic female, at least, can't say I've gone through with all 6) The Boss was the exact same vengeful, psychotic sociopath whether they were male or female, their gender made no difference to anyone but the player, near as I can tell.

Though I guess that might just have been to save time, not having to write/record everyone's different reactions? They don't seem to mind when you show up to missions in pink combat boots and a zombie mask, either.

I noticed this in SR3 (I don't know how you feel about that title.). I was really refreshing to hear a female character crack a sex joke or hang out with dudes like a normal human being. It was also very surreal.

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