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Don’t simply ‘ask’ for more female characters
by Sergio Rosa on 06/30/14 02:31:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

As always, this was also posted on my blog.

When I got into game development it was because I found it to be a very cool way to tell stories. However, I have always been interested in any form of storytelling. A few years ago I spent a long long time writing a (roughly 500 pages) book, a second and a third draft, based on a short story that I wrote based on a dream I had. The story was about a robot girl and how she would deal with being the only one in a world of humans, where some hated her and others liked her.

I also wrote a script for a short film, about a young girl who met a tormented ghost girl. That script went through nearly 30 different drafts, and then with a group of friends we made the film. It was actually cool to see the film made it to a few film festivals and we even got an award.

At some point I was working on a script about a princess who didn’t want to be a princess because she didn’t like the idea of “a woman in a men’s world.” One day she would escape with a sailor/adventurer she met (but never got emotionally involved with), because she wanted to see the world and find an island she had read about in books. The project was canned because that’s when I began to walk away from filmmaking.

At roughly the same time I wrote a story about a young woman and her struggle to deal with her divorce. That one was very surreal, because half of the story took place in a dream world.

After I finish Enola I have the basic treatment for the story of 2 different games. One of them is for a sequel to Enola, and it will be from a different girl’s perspective. The second game is about a girl who meets an older woman and helps her solve a problem. That’s all I can say about either project so far.

But before all of this, I wrote a story about a man who went to the desert because he wanted to solve the mystery of his best friend’s suicide. By the way, some people consider some of these stories to be good, others to be not so good (or very bad).

Some people like “stats” and whatever, so I will share some “stats” of these stories with you: The character count for the first one was 5 women and 5 men. The second one featured 3 females and 1 male. The one about the princess only had one girl, the princess, and roughly 8 men. The next one had 2 women and 1 man. Enola features 6 women and 2 men. The next 2 are kept under wraps so I won’t say. The one about the man featured one character: the man.

If you’ve paid enough attention, you will notice all of the stories, except for one, feature a woman as the main character. I did that because it made sense, and because the stories needed a woman, not a man, as the main character. Some of them feel emotionally or sexually attracted to someone else, and some of them don’t develop any kind of emotional bond to anybody because they don’t need it. Basically I find female characters more interesting. Also, none of them falls into the category of “she kicks ass” because they are not fighters, martial artists, warriors or anything like that.

IMO it’s all cool and all, but I have to be honest about something. I NEVER wrote a story with a female lead because I wanted to be inclusive, because people were talking about the need of more women in this or that, or because I wanted to help solve any problem with the current state of whatever. I wrote all the stories because I wanted. I’m making a game with a female lead because I want to, and I plan to do more games with female leads because I want to. Because I care too much about them to make them “just for the stats or so that the male is no longer the default.”

By the way, I could also mention the videogame characters I’ve cared about the most, but I want to finish this blog post sometime today…

capture

I say one does not simply “ask” or more female characters for two reasons:

Reason number one…

We have “enough is enough” response in our country that goes like “te voy a decir que sí para que te callés/para que ya no jodás.” I’m sure most of you don’t understand spanish, so I’ll explain it to you. It is something you say to imply “I’ll do it because I’m tired of your requests” but in a very rude way. I mention this because I think we’re lucky we don’t have people with the “I’m fed up” attitude, but I can’t help to wonder if we’ll see the day when we will get more female characters because devs are fed up if the requests, so they make female leads so people asking for them will shut up.

On top of that, every time a woman makes it into a game, we get a million of critics dissecting them just to check if they are strong enough. I can already see what would happen, because I wouldn’t expect much from a female character that was added just for the sake of adding her.

Personally I don’t want to see that day.

I want to see more games with female characters, but I want those characters to mean something more than stats or ideological agendas (or whatever they are called). I certainly don’t want more females “so that the male is not the default character.” I’m not interested because that means that instead of the male dude running around killing dudes I’ll see the female running around killing dudes. Certainly, if I got “Princess of Persia” I would only care if the story was good (I was going to say “Assasin’s Creed but that was too obvious, as that’s the reason why I’m writing this), because “male-emulating-badassery” is the cheapest way of making a strong female lead.

So yeah, Anita’s idea about the princess that escapes by her own means and then levels up and fights whoever sent her to jail is not interesting to me because I could swap the woman for a man and the story would be pretty much the same. If she added the “this and that and what it means because she’s a woman” then I would find it interesting (and no, the simple "she no longer needs rescuing" is not enough, at least not to me).

I want more female characters in games, because they are the ones I find more interesting. However, I want characters like Alyx, April Ryan, Heather Mason, Mio Amakura and such. I certainly don’t want empty-vessel female characters or “skin swaps.” I find them interesting not because “they can do the same things a man can do,” because “they really kick ass because they kill everything that moves” or because “this girl is tougher than Chuck Norris.” I want to see more women in games because, as I’ve said before, many times, they can bring a different perspective into something, and because they can be heroines in their own way.

Reason number two…

We have another saying in our country that… is way too rude, so I won’t write it here, but I will tell you what it implies: talk is useless without action.

Here’s a crazy and maybe stupid idea: maybe stop asking others to do something and just DIY? Maybe, instead of going into Twitter and ranting all day about some dev not making a female lead, you can put together a team and work on a simple game with a female protagonist. I say “simple game” because you don’t need to make the next Halo or Star Citizen to do something meaningful. Something with simple graphics and simple mechanics can do a lot. What if you’re not a developer? Well, if you are an artist or a writer, just gather a team as well.

If more of those teams “going indie” opted to make their games with a female protagonist AS LONG AS IT’S MEANINGFUL, it would also help.

Hell, if Anita Sarkeesian decided to put a team together and work on that game about the princess, I would definitely buy it if the game was good. At least IMO, that helps more than just posting videos about “how things with female characters ought to be” on Youtube.

People from countries with established videogame industries are lucky because they have something we don’t: you are A LOT of people and it’s very easy for you to get small teams of devs together. Here in my country we are around 25 game developers in the whole country (I mean 25 people, not 25 teams of people). Now ask me how many have a game with a female protagonist as their first option: less than 10…

I say maybe it’s stupid because I don’t really know how difficult it would be for people working on those big companies to develop another game as a weekend/side project, so I don’t know if my crazy idea would be too much. Devs “going indie” would certainly find it easier.

But when I see “risks” being taken in many areas except protagonist gender, I can only ask how interested people really are.

Hell, I’m even willing to put up with the “generic female that kicks ass and kills zombies” if she has a good story to tell. I should clarify I don’t mean I want them to write a story so good it’s at least comparable to The Lord of the Flies. I just need something that’s engaging enough, like Fatal Frame or even Diablo.

And who knows. Maybe if female protagonists were not so rare, we wouldn’t have all those critics dissecting female protagonists over and over…

In my mind, action helps more than words. I’ve seen many gaming-industry-related people discussing talking about why we need more female characters for some time. However, for some reason I haven’t seen many games featuring female characters being announced. So here’s my final stupid question (and it’s sorta stupid because I don’t know how the industry works in your countries, because we don’t even have an industry here): Why are there so many industry-related-people talking about wanting more female leads in games, but yet so few people making games with a female lead? So maybe I could say “don’t ask for more female characters; make them.”

Ruka_piano1

Just some final thoughts…

Note: All this was written by a guy living in a country with zero game development industry; who may or may not be a decent writer; who is NOT a programmer but is able to make games because Unreal Kismet is extremely easy to use but didn’t know how to make a game until 3 years ago; who has zero first-hand experience in the videogames industry. If I managed to come up with a story with a female lead and put together a small team to make a game, I’m pretty sure those of you who are far better writers, who are real programmers and artists, can do a far better work.

When I got back from PAX this April (we were showing Enola there), I read an article, but what I remember the most was one of the comments. The guy had wrote “the devs’ mistake was to make a game with a female protagonist.” However, experience has showed me that for every guy complaining that the main character is a girl, there are hundreds who are happy that the main character is a girl.

It turns out “the risk” of making a female lead is not “as risky” as people think.


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Comments


Javier Degirolmo
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Of course now the real issue is making a game with a female lead and not look like you're doing it just because people complain.

In my game the character is female but there isn't any real reason for it, but the same goes the other way. She's a girl just because I felt like it, although I have to admit I do have a tendency to go with female leads for whatever reason... (and yes, I'm male).

Kujel Selsuru
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It doesn't matter what genitals one imagines for a player character as gameplay is all that really matters.

If you feel that female lead characters are what works for your games go for it. It doesn't matter what the "critics" think as long as people are enjoying your game then it is a success.

Christian Nutt
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But gender is much more than genitals, and games are, whether you recognize it or not, about much more than their play mechanics these days. Even if you don't care about anything else, it's also clear that yours is not the only or even, perhaps, the dominant perspective.

Kujel Selsuru
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In the context of gameplay gender is completely meaningless. In the contenxt of story gender does have meaning and that really should be where the debate is focused not on where or not a character in a game is one gender or another but on the story elements (if any).

In the end if the gender of the protangonists is a deal breaker for one then they have serious issues to address before they spend time enjoying video games.

Christian Nutt
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I believe a lot of designers would argue that storytelling and gameplay are not as distinct as you suggest they are.

Saurian Dash
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I would argue that this is the reason why so many games today do not stand up to being played more than once. Storytelling has nothing whatsoever to do with game design, they are two completely different things. If a game relies solely on a story in order to hold the player's attention, then it fails miserably as a "game" and can be best described as an "interactive movie/novel".

Expertly crafted game mechanics (or "gameplay" as people seem to call it) are timeless, they have the potential to hold the attention of the player indefinitely. A story is only entertaining the first time through, after that it really doesn't serve any purpose other than a refresher or as a mass of stuff the player skips through in order to continue playing.

The attitude that stories are somehow an intrinsic part of game design is killing the art of game design. Games should be games first, they must entertain regardless of the narrative wrapper they are placed in. This attitude has created an environment where it's actually hard to sell a game on the strength of the design of its mechanics, it has led to games being given a set "running time" by the gaming press in order to convey how much "value" a game offers.

it's really sad, and it needs to stop.

Johnathon Tieman
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Where in the hell are the rules that says a game must allow for more than one play through? Is D&D not a game because because once you've played a scenario, it doesn't change? Have you overlooked that perhaps you can play through games and, you know, make different choices (Infamous did this exceptionally well)? How many times must you be able to replay a game before it qualifies as a "game"? Is the original Pac-Man not a game because the enemies aren't randomized, and once you learn the pattern you can win every time?

I also don't know where you got the weird idea that stories are intrinsic to game design. Some of the most popular games ever made have no story (the Wii Sports line, Guitar Hero/Rock Band, various dancing games, etc). Guess what, video games have a range, and that range is more than big enough to include games with great stories and games with zero story. Sure, game mechanics are a part too, as well as graphics, music, and a million other pieces - and these pieces can exist in different amounts in different games.

Gabriel Acosta
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Hear, hear! Excellent article! That has been what goes through my mind every time the topic comes up. Way too many people complaining and not enough actually doing something about it. Talk is cheap.
Maybe in the past the only solution was to complain because game dev was expensive and exclusive. But today there's absolutely no excuse. Today we have tools like Unity, Gimp, Blender, etc. all free, with others like Unreal now being very affordable. The hardware needed is much less expensive now too. And with so many free tutorials online and on youtube, knowledge isn't a barrier either.

So it really is about people just wanting what they want and expecting it to simply be given to them. Heck, they can't even be bothered to vote with their wallets! The games with all the dudebros continue to make massive money and the games with female protagonists tend to make less. We can argue that the games with female protagonists make less money because they're just not as good or don't get as much marketing but that's irrelevant: If you want more female protagonists, you have to support the games that have them, otherwise the executives and publishers and people in charge get the wrong idea. Alternatively, you have to prove that you can be successful making games with female protagonists yourself because obviously the people in charge of the big games don't feel the same way.

Christian Nutt
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I think that much of what you say is fair, but I also think that the post (deliberately, I suppose) ignores the idea that cultural criticism serves a valid purpose. Sarkeesian's approach is valid -- we need people pointing out things in a digestible way that helps others understand. She shouldn't be making games instead. (And I say "approach" because that function is important irrespective of what you think of her actual output.)

We need critics, journalists, etc. who beat the gong for cultural change; we need observers who operate at a remove from the work they critique because having an outside perspective on the medium is, in fact, valuable.

Javier Degirolmo
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Yeah, but there's a lot of people who indeed have the skills required to make games and are not tied to their employer's wishes and still seem comfortable with just complaining or rambling around instead of doing something to change that.

Kujel Selsuru
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The problem with Sarkeesian is not only is she a liar (this has been proven) but she doesn't really do a decent job of actually examining the medium and rather just say it's sexists and an all boys club.

If she really wanted to address sexism in games (I'd argue is actually sexism in gamers not games but I'm digressing) she should have made a game that either shows strong female leads or one that is a satire of past sexsim not just post a few very poorly written/researched videos with stollen gameplay videoes crying sexism.

Christian Nutt
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Didn't I just say that the approach is valid, regardless of what you think of her output? Neither the original blog nor my comment were a referendum on the quality of her videos.

The point is: Cultural criticism is valid, even necessary.

Benjy Davo
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So you are saying here opinions are valid even if she has been proven to be talking utter nonsense and even contradicts herself. I hate that sort of argument why is everyone's opinion valid, what even complete morons? even people who have no knowledge of the matter they are giving opinions on? It such an unintelligent way of approaching things.

Brian Peterson
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@Kujel: Your posts come across as if you're only OK with cultural criticism as long as you agree with it. Unless you really believe that all critics should be forced to create a work of art that embodies their criticism rather than simply voicing their criticism in another more convenient form, like an article or a video.

@Benjy: Most of what she does is catalog and show examples of portrayals of women in games that she finds problematic. Regardless of whether you or likely someone else went all Phoenix Wright and dissected her videos to ferret out some "contradictions", it's really a stretch to declare her videos as "utter nonsense" when most of their running time consists of simply showing examples of really obvious sexism in games.

@Kujel and @Benjy: Name-calling (feminazi? complete moron?) is an excellent way to make your posts sound unprofessional and immature, which makes it really hard to take your opinions seriously.

Benjy Davo
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I wasn't calling her a moron I was decrying the fact that everyone's opinion should matter no matter what. As to Anita I was talking about some very specific issues with her content.

First as a backdrop to where I am coming from I have a degree in psych. Admittedly it turned out to be mostly pointless for me unless you count 2 years as a police officer and clearly wasn't useful for me as a 3d modeller in the game biz. But the point remains that there is supposed to be a certain protocol you follow when analysing something critically, when being trained as a psychologist.

Right off the bat you are supposed to approach said topic from a point of neutrality because if you go looking for something you'll definitely find it. Second you are supposed to disclose your own biases, but Anita lied about her biases by claiming she was a gamer despite also being caught on camera saying she wasn't one.

But the most damming of all is the fact that in her masters dissertation she said that examples of women in media where they take on male roles are not examples of female strength. They are examples of women being turned into pseudo males. Then in one of her own videos no less she claimed that there should be more women in traditionally male roles. Then applauded characters like Lara Croft for having the very traits she'd suggested were irrelevant in her own bloody dissertation.

On top of which how bloody offensive to the women in the military, police force, fire fighters etc. Sorry ladies you're not heroes because Anita Sarkessian thinks you've just been turned into blokes with female genitalia. Despite the fairly blatant and obvious fact that they aren't masculine traits, they are the traits needed to do that specific job. Which is why blokes who don't do those jobs don't have those traits either.

So no Brian if somebody completely lies and utterly contradicts themselves. Comes up with theories that are so ridiculous that no self respecting adult could take them seriously. Passes themselves off as the voice of women but at the same time actually offends the very women they claim to reflect, I do think that has little no worth.

Christian Nutt
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@Benjy, You're completely misunderstanding my point. I am specifically excluding Sarkeesian's work from my discussion.

What I am trying to separate is the idea of cultural criticism as a valid act from the quality of her work in particular, because I know it's a sticking point for some people.

The point the original poster made could be boiled down to something like, "If you don't like this situation, don't talk about the issue -- do something about it." Personally, I reject that premise, because I believe that criticism is a goal of its own -- valid, perhaps even crucial.

Benjy Davo
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And indeed you are missing my point. There is little doubt that there needs to be more variety in game characters across the piece. Your argument is that even if people like Anita and others are a little misguided in how they vocalise that opinion, that the opinion still stands.

My argument with that is something along the lines of...don't you have any standards? Do people just get a cookie for covering a topic that lots of people already agree is an issue? Anita Sarkeesian and her like don't own the concept of sexism in games. It's like when people make movies about racism, aids, socially taboo topic X and are instantly nominated for an Oscar no matter what.

Wouldn't you like this issue discussed by people in a way that is more intellectual, knowledgeable, better researched, less inflammatory, less offensive to people making games?

It seems to me that game journalists and analysts alike seem to think they have a right to criticise game developers on the standard of their work, but cannot take it when others criticise theirs.

Kujel Selsuru
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@Brian Peterson: I'm not against cultural criticsims but Anita is not a valid critic. I call her a feminazi cause she is, she feels we men are inferior and should be subjagated by women which is no better then what we men did to women for thousands of years. I call her a moron cause her arguments are based on falsehoods and straight out lies.

If she actually used valid research and didn't lie, cheat, and steal I'd taker her more seriously but she didn't really use any valid research and she lied and stole from others.

Yes the games industry and gamers have an issue with sexism but Anita is only making that issue worse with her BS not better. The way to engourage change is to lead by example and not throw out a bunch of lies claiming it as research.

Anita has said on camera she is not a gamer and does not want to be a gamer and thinks games are only about shooting. That alone invalidates her but her arguments are so bad and have been so completely destroyed by many that she has no creditbility.

Phil Van Houten
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@Benjy I can't speak for Christian, but I'm going to do so anyway.

You keep coming back to the validness or invalidness of Anita's opinions, which isn't at all relevant to the point Christian is making. Unless I am seriously misreading him, he is not trying to say that every opinion should be validated. All he is saying is that the idea that someone can just express such an opinion rather than just produce something in the medium they are criticizing.

I don't think anyone here is saying that criticism of analysts and game journalists is wrong, just that they have a right to exist.

Christian Nutt
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@Benjy Davo. Actually, that is not my point. I am explicitly telling you: That is not my point.

Jennis Kartens
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It is thin ice between the "outside perspective" criticising certain elements, wanting for a change but playing with fair elements and the "outside perspective" growing into a very narrow-sighted campaign with little to no valuable output.

That can turn out to do more harm in the end, distract from the core issues, as it actually helps moving forward.

Benjy Davo
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Your point isn't that ppl should be allowed a voice even if what they are saying contradicts itself and is ill informed?....

"Didn't I just say that the approach is valid, regardless of what you think of her output?"

"Sarkeesian's approach is valid -- we need people pointing out things in a digestible way that helps others understand."

Christian Nutt
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I don't see how her approach (cultural criticism via video post) and her opinion are intrinsically connected.

Again, the distinction I am trying to draw is this: Not everyone has to be a maker. Not everyone has to solve a problem. It's valid and viable to have someone who sits outside that process and critiques it. It's valuable.

Whether Sarkeesian's critiques are valuable is not something I am addressing. As I have already said, the original post suggested that she ought to stop making videos and start making games. I disagree with that thesis.

Benjy Davo
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I agree with the notion that Anita shouldn't start making games and as she isn't a gamer, nor is she actually qualified to make games I cannot see why she would or even could.

If you are saying that the concept behind what she was trying to do i.e. look at how women in video games are represented is valid I sort of agree. I definitely would be interested in seeing someone who was more moderate in their views like Tara Long or Andrea Rene and had an engagement with games cover this topic in detail.

But part of the problem with opinions of course is that everyone has them and they often conflict. Which could in the long run confuse developers into freezing creatively, as they literally cannot please everybody. Really the only people they should be trying to please is gamers as that is who is paying their wages essentially. It's a business first and foremost don't forget, no audience, no sales, no sales no job.

Take the recent outburst about Lara Croft for instance. Some people felt the fact that she was in counselling was the creator making women seem weaker than men. Others really liked it and felt it showed the character had more depth. The writer Rihanna Pratchett a card carrying bona fide women, couldn't understand where the first group were coming from as she was simply trying to show that character had been through a traumatic experience and nothing more. So how useful is the first groups views really?

Jennis Kartens
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@Christian

I think I see what your point is, though I don't know if I can actually separate these two entirely. The "how" of an approach is tied to the approach itself imo and therefore is always a part of it.

However I agree as well that neither every critic is in the debt to *make* something for the better, nor everyone should. It is a more complicated thing, as you pointed out, since there are most certainly a lot of ideas that never seen the light of the day, because they were rejected elsewhere.

Which in the end leads to the core problematic of the modern world over and over again. The "women in games" problem is just one of many sympthoms of the core issues of modern, pricey game development tied so much onto decade old and false social claims that were often artificially created.

KMS Bezio
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Here's another thing, though - in part the call for more female protagonists isn't fully aimed at developers, but at publishers to greenlight projects that have female protagonists. There may be a dozen pitches that happen in a development house that have a female lead that get canned (at least in part) because the publisher thinks that "female protagonists don't sell games." The call for more of them might therefore encourage a publisher to allow a dev team to make a game withe a female or female-optional protagonist that might otherwise have bought into the bull**** line that games with female protagonists don't sell.

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, and that's a valid point. I recall a developer friend of mine working on a pitch for a project at a major publisher, and telling me that while he was able to get a woman through as a secondary character, by the end of the approval process she'd gone from average looking to completely sexed-up at the request of the publisher. This was an internal studio owned by a major third-party publisher and a major console project (which never saw daylight thanks to financial troubles at the publisher in question.)

These kinds of roadblocks exist very much in those organizations.

Gera Hmurov
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I always remember the quote from Miyazaki: “When a man is shooting a handgun, it's just like he is shooting because that's his job, and he has no other choice. It's no good. When a girl is shooting a handgun, it's really something.”
Strangely enough Miyazaki used girls as main character in all his movies except for Laputa. There was a boy in Laputa, but then great animator said that adventures of girl is more interesting for viewers as girl triggers more emotions than a boy.

Girls and boys are diffferent in the world and they are tend to do different activities, different roles in society (like with babie-born thing or this whole feministic thing and call for female thing). So you cant just change male character to female without a word and believe this character to be true.

And that's why I don't like all this female whine. Lets make Master Chief a female just for the sake of anything and lets completely forget about Cortana. There were so many beautiful female characters in games, even main one, but many people try to forget this only because of AC Unity news.

Johnathon Tieman
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To reiterate something the author stated, talk is cheap. Publishers don't care how loud people like Sarkeesian yell, nor how much criticism there is of video games or culture. They are a business. If you want publishers to change their opinion that "female protagonists don't sell games", you need to do things. Specifically, there are market evalutations that can be done to determine viability of those products. I've never seen one done to determine the viability of female protagonists in video games (yes, this needs to be done, whether you like or agree with it or not). All the individuals complaining are just upset that their particular viewpoint isn't represented, and in a country of roughly 300,000,000 people, even 100,000 complaints don't actually amount to much (especially since some of the people buy the other products produced).

Another approach is exactly what the author suggests - produce indie games first. That gives some data points in regards to the idea. If several indie games were produced, publishers will take note. It isn't going to happen overnight, but it would happen. Of course, it will only happen if the massive criticism of every female character that doesn't meet a certain standard stops. Surprisingly, women are people, and exist in many different forms. Lara Croft is sexy, therefore she isn't "good enough". Zelda is rescued by Link (despite a lot of the plans for her rescue come from Zelda), so she isn't "good enough". What is a character that is "good enough"? I've yet to hear Sarkeesian name one (although I haven't seen her latest video, and given the flaws of her previous ones, probably won't). If every female character is dissected under a microscope and criticized for every little thing that doesn't meet an arbitrary person's standard (like Sarkeesian), why would developers want to open that Pandora's Box? There's enough things that are already complained about in regards to video games that any publisher is going to be wary about adding another point of contention.

TL;DR: If you want other people to care, you have to present it in ways that address their concerns. It doesn't matter whether you agree with those concerns or not, you have to address it, and by and large I haven't seen any of the people complaining do this step. Whether you are asking developers versus publishers doesn't matter, especially anecdotally. It should be done professionally, that their position is understood, and that their concerns are addressed. Otherwise, it really is just selfish whining.

Todd Boyd
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What about more genderless characters? More often than not, a gender is assigned to a character "just because", or as a way to write a story without thinking (girl kidnapped, guy upset, guy saves girl, etc.).

Timmy GILBERT
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NO! I can't take this rhetoric anymore, so here I come to upend the tea table!

You don't NEED valid reason to make a cis male white character (CMWC), why would you need one for any "minority"?
- The subtleties of mannerism and relation of the CMWC is never under scrutinies
- There are plenty bad and good writing of the CMWC
- The number of gary stu CMWC was never a criticism

The problem is that the reason we need more minorities is not to treat them like special snowflakes that need special attention, it's because EXPOSURE allow them to be accepted as normal people by everyone instead of otherizing them. If the only character you can make is CMWC then it makes anything that deviate as the other, the anomaly, the different.

Especially when to justified their presence you only reinforce subtle stereotypes about them, even good willed game like the new shafer adventure game have associated black character with sacrifice as a residual artefact of black = tribal and his white character is "white and nerdy".

Minorities are not special, like white people they come in all shape and desire, and if a white character can be relatable, then why not "any people", people are just people that's why we need to stop the CMWC as "default anything goes". Less CMWC and more minorities mean anybody can be relatable without having to justify is existence to the face of the earth.

Timmy GILBERT
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Also I can clearly see the rhetoric at play since I start trying to make ebony character with kinky hair beyond generic brown dude. It's like there is an never ending stream of "you don't have to do that", "","your game is not universal enough", "that wont have any success", "you should do something more exciting", only negative things only base on the appearance of the main character. And just asking for help people brand me as an "activist", because obviously that's bad despite not even trying (at the beginning).

I'm so fed up of this shit, everything seems gear to hide and erase those kind of difference or put them in small convenient box where we don't want to see them go beyond, if you are black and not a thug who are you? why are speaking like a "white person"?

That's why need more of any quality, not reason to have less and more of the same shit.

Sergio Rosa
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"The subtleties of mannerism and relation of the CMWC is never under scrutinies"

As a matter of fact, that's the main problem I have with people dissecting female characters (or minorities, for that matter). Nobody cares if the white dude represents white dudes correctly, but everyone's a critic and interested how well the female represents females (or how the X-race dude represents X-race dudes in the real world, and when they find a problem with the character they cry out "racist" or "stereotype").

Kyle Redd
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"Everyone's a critic and interested how well the female represents females (or how the X-race dude represents X-race dudes in the real world, and when they find a problem with the character they cry out "racist" or "stereotype")"

No sweat. You just need to have a female character who is non-white, with an unidentifiable foreign accent (otherwise she is either using a stereotypical accent or is "speaking like a white person"), with no sexual desire or appeal (can't risk being seen as "hyper-sexualized"), and is completely self-sufficient to the level that no male character is ever seen assisting her with anything. Also she needs to be an ass-kicking heroine, but not to the degree that she could ever be seriously injured or put in a gravely threatening situation (triggering content and such).

Bart Stewart
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Setting aside arguments about social change for a moment, I'm not seeing any question about what's maybe the most interesting part of this essay:

>> I want to see more women in games because, as I’ve said before, many times, they can bring a different perspective into something, and because they can be heroines in their own way.

What are these different perspectives? That is, what are the kinds of perspectives and behaviors that players might find more satisfying when expressed by a female character than by a man?

I'm not asking this as some kind of hidden criticism or defense, or to try to provoke argument. I'm genuinely interested in how game developers think a female character should be portrayed if she's meant to be someone other than a generic character who happens to have been given a female skin.

Benjy Davo
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Great point Bart, certainly in relation to Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, all the females from the Resident Evil games and Chelle from Portal it isn't obvious that there is a difference in the way female characters play. Contrasting Nathan Drake to Lara they are pretty much like for like in the way they tackle things.

On top of which this could be a bit of a logistical nightmare in that what happens when a male players plays as a female character but wants to play in a male way? and vice versa.

In all honesty it is mostly balls. My mother and sister are police officers and I used to be one for a brief time. I can tell you more often than not the situation dictates how you handle things and secondly protocol given to you by your training over your gender.

On top of which game developers are in a no win situation in this regard as they have some people are saying men and women are equal in most regards and then another bunch saying we need to embrace the differences between gender. Yet clearly they cannot both be right here.

Mike Higbee
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I think Sergio's example of the Fatal Frame series is a great starting point that shows the ways characters based on writing and their gender react differently when tossed into the same situation. If you haven't examined the series check it out.

Sergio Rosa
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Well, it would depend on the type of game. In story-driven games it could be things like how the female character reacts to something as opposed to the male character (for example, in my country it was common to hear "men don't cry" so it could be related to displaying emotions). Another example could be how they act based on certain situations (for example, showing how everyone just takes men "for granted" when it comes to doing things but women need to "earn their place and recognition").

For gameplay, there could be differences in her skills, or gameplay elements "tailored" to the skillset (so, maybe she could move faster/slower, she could be more agile in certain situations, or make games so she's not the "agressive character in the skin of a woman" or things like that).

When working on our current project, I designed gameplay so that the main character would not be aggressive, and that she would only act to defend herself (also considering that she's never needed to be aggressive to someone in her entire life), or go Chuck Norris on someone only when she's pushed to do it (and yet use something other than punches because she is not a skilled fighter). Another thing was how fast the game could be for a "girly-girl" wearing her sunday dress (it may even sound stupid), so no crazy Portal-like platforming or things like that. Also how she reacts/responds to the things she sees and learns through the game, and how they affect her emotionally. She's also looking for some sort of "damsel in distress" but her motives to look for the damsel are also different, and also the damsel is not completely a damsel (but explaining this last point would mean major spoilers).

At the end it would be about gameplay but also story, If we talk about the regular gameplay-is-king platformer where you just run to collect coins, it wouldn't really matter, because the avatar is mostly about showing something on the screen that players would need to control.

Seth Strong
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The burden of a large producer of games is different than a small shop. The more games you make, the more your inclusiveness of the variety of people in the world becomes visible. You don't need to include women or any other category of person. But you might need to sensibly answer a question that asks why you never do if you are a developer who never does. And if you have previously included strong female characters and you don't, you'll be asked about that too. Asking why women or why another class of character isn't in a game is a good thing to do because asking allows that consideration to happen and it allows the developers and producers to explain their decision in a way that acknowledges players who are themselves aware of diversity.

Vasily Yourchenko
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Game design is a difficult craft. That you can write functional software doesn't mean that you are necessarily good at actually designing games. There is minimal crossover between the skills of a critic and those of a game designer. Critics, by and large, literally can't make good games. That does not invalidates their opinion or negates their right - nay, their duty! - to call for change.

John Flush
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I wonder what would happen if race and gender were random instead of defined. Take Mass Effect, you get to make your Shephard however you want, I wonder if every other supporting character were created in the same way, only automatically, how much that would affect the game? This is an interesting question because you don't even have to worry about the romance scenes in anyway either... all characters traits random. I wonder, would it be backlash or praise such a game would get (with all the same writing that was already expected out of the character)?

I know Christian probably doesn't like the idea, but I still think the only useful end to the whole debate is to get characters as homogenized as the gameplay for mass appeal at all levels...

Think about it. Wouldn't you be okay with such a pitch? and if not try to explain why it wouldn't work, without using any stereotypes or expectations of said characters race, gender, or sexual preference.

Kujel Selsuru
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I like this idea, I'm curious what would happen. I'm also curious how hard would it be to set up such a system.

Larry Carney
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Am I the only one interested in his film? I think it would be helpful for the article if the author of this article were to show us how he approaches the subject in his own work: that might speak more eloquently to what he is saying more than anything else.

Sergio Rosa
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Well it was online at some point but it was too NSFW so I took it down. Basically the story is about a man who molested his daughter... I think that upset some people in my country, maybe because they don't like to see in movies something that actually happens in real life...

Larry Carney
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I think the same thing can be said for video games: most of the recent cultural dialogue in gaming appears to revolve around reality or at least the perception of different groups about it, and what should or should not be "allowed" in gaming, as you speak towards in this very blog.

Glynis Mitchell
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Are any of the posters women? It seems as though there are no or few experiential perspectives similar to Mr Gilbert's re: POC in games in this thread. I think that would be valuable - indeed, necessary - contribution to a conversation about women's representation in games.


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