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343 hopes to set an example for fighting gender stereotypes in  Halo 4
343 hopes to set an example for fighting gender stereotypes in Halo 4
October 31, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

October 31, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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    14 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



343 Industries believes developers have a responsibility to ensure their games don't encourage sexist behaviors in their players -- or in the game industry -- and kept that idea in mind while designing Halo 4.

Studio head Bonnie Ross acknowledges the perception many have of Xbox Live as being rife with players making offensive and sexist comments against others.

While the service often bans those players, Ross told GameSpot in a recent interview that developers also need to think about how their games will be perceived before sending them out, to help hinder that kind of behavior.

"As developers, we have a personal responsibility to think about how our games come across," she said. "With Halo 4, we were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game, and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why."

The game's executive producer Kiki Wolfkill adds that games not only reflect the culture of their developers, but also reflect consumer responsibility depending on their success or failure. She argues that successful games that depict women in a respectful, non-stereotypical manner can help change people's perception of the industry as one dominated by males, and mostly serving male audiences.

A recent survey found that nearly 80 percent of gamers believe that sexism is prominent in the games community, and 60 percent of female respondents said that they had personally experienced some sort of harassment while playing games online. 20 percent said they were even after the game ended, they were followed and bothered online by a male player.

Microsoft can only do so much to stamp out that kind of behavior on Xbox Live Arcade -- Ross believes developers also have to step up to address sexism in the game community and industry.


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Comments


Freek Hoekstra
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is not the fact that one would potentially change a role of say a female character to not conform to stereotypes the exact problem here? possibly changing the role of the character or gender of him/her to dodge a potential touchy issue.

the fact that we choose to not something that is not be inherently sexist or motivated by sexist ideas, but because it can perceived as sexist is I think a problem, we can;t save a princess froma castlee anymore because women can defend themselves and are equal...

soo we resque a dude from a castle, by another dude... hmm that could give issues of its own and we might annoy another part of the audience by that. we will never get over these issues if we keep dodging the problems...

don;t get me wrong i'm entire against sexist behaviour but I do feel like this type of behaviour keeps the other behaviour in place. the best way to fight racial,sexist or otherwise insulting behaviour is to get rid of online anonymity, and provide education. however anonymity also has it's upsides. and people do play games to release stress and pressure. thus I do believe in the Honor initiative in League of Legends,
banning did not work so how about rewarding? personally I believe it is a good idea and very analogous to how we do everything else in gaming. reward good behaviour and punish bad. and I believe that the real methods for change lie here, not in changing(or basing) the role of characters based on gender or potentially being seen as racist/sexist while you are not as you ahd a perfectly fine other reason why this character is this way.

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Maximilian Herkender
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If there are cool, tough-as-nails men that can kick ass as well as any man, then sure, why not?

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Lyon Medina
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Great article, Kiki is always a delight to hear from. I have always enjoyed the fact that I can share the same feelings I get when I play Halo with other people, and to me Halo does a great example of this because the game relays a blending a of sexes while keeping them separated.

In example, the choice of having a female Spartan and a male Spartan. Yes you can hear and see some subtle differences, but when you play the game those issues become buried by the game itself. Its' not men versus women (in my game play experiences. ) Its team versus team, could be all men, all women, mixed, but that doesn’t matter. It is who the best is and that is all it comes down too.

We should embrace what we find different, but respect what we share.

Darcy Nelson
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Huzzah! Glad someone in development is thinking about this stuff.

Kyle Redd
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"With Halo 4, we were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game, and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why."

http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Cortana.j
pg

Keep fighting those gender stereotypes, 343.

Raymond Ortgiesen
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To the commenters here who are giving them shit for saying this: What the fuck is wrong with you?

@Freek Hoekstra - "is not the fact that one would potentially change a role of say a female character to not conform to stereotypes the exact problem here? possibly changing the role of the character or gender of him/her to dodge a potential touchy issue."

By publicly confronting the issue, they have done the exact opposite of dodging a touchy subject. By considering the cultural feedback between developer, game, and gamer they have made deliberate choices about their characters to reflect their intent. Somehow because they took the time to think about it and make intentional design decisions they are sexist.

@Maciej Bacal - "Nobody's disagreeing with what she's saying, it's just that it's a bunch of pretty words. Nothing concrete was said and AFAIK Cortana is still a sex doll that's catering to young heterosexual males on XBOX Live. 343 objectify women with one hand and do interviews like this with the other. It's disgusting."

@Kyle Redd - "Keep fighting those gender stereotypes, 343."

Both of these statements show a staggering level of ignorance about how Halo has been developed. Cortana was a character created for Halo 1, by the original Halo team. That team continued to develop the series until 2007 at which point they left Microsoft to become independent. At that point, Microsoft of course still owned the Halo franchise and created 343 studios to oversee future games in the franchise.

The new developers recognized a social issue surrounding their game, as being something of a public avatar for what the Xbox Live experience is and they made steps within their studio to fix that. The idea that anyone would condemn them as "disgusting" for attempting to redirect some of the toxic cultural norms surrounding their game is, well, disgusting.

For simply saying that sexism is a known problem with their franchise and they want to fix it, you have condemned them as hypocritical sexists. So sorry for the cussing but, what the fuck is wrong with you?

Kyle Redd
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343 Industries is patting themselves on the back for supposedly fighting against gender stereotypes. Meanwhile they have simultaneously given the Halo franchise's lone recurring female character a breast enhancement and stripped off what little "clothing" she wore in the previous games.

Please clarify how that is not hypocrisy?

Raymond Ortgiesen
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I didn't see any back patting, they never said "aren't we fucking great" ? They just opened up a little about their thought process.

What clothes was Cortana wearing in the first game? She's always been a skin-tight hologram.

Kyle Redd
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Cortana Halo 1: http://www.mobygames.com/game/macintosh/halo-combat-evolved/scree
nshots/gameShotId,522687/

Cortana Halo 3: http://tinyurl.com/bk9e6xh

Cortana Halo 4: http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Cortana.j
pg

I'm not claiming Cortana wasn't always given a certain amount of sex appeal by Bungie, but Bungie never claimed to be consciously fighting against gender stereotypes in their games. My criticism is not that 343 is sexist, it is that they are hypocrites.

"(Executive producer Kiki Wolfkill) argues that successful games that depict women in a respectful, non-stereotypical manner can help change people's perception of the industry as one dominated by males, and mostly serving male audiences."

They are presenting their game as depicting women in a respectful, non-stereotypical manner, while sexing up the franchise's lone recurring female character. If you don't see that as the most blatant form of hypocrisy, then I don't know what else to tell you, because I'm starting to repeat myself here.

Raymond Ortgiesen
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If you think sexism is about never showing a girls body or presenting them as attractive, then I don't know what to tell you either. None of your argument focuses on Cortana's character. I never heard her whispering seductive things into chiefs helmet. You're focusing entirely on the differences between how she was textured between games. What about Cortana's character is sexist ? That she has an attractive holographic body? That's it?

Jason Patterson
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This coming up about a game makes me cringe. The paramount thing and core of any game design should be the narrative, not altering it to avoid gender stereotypes. If you're willing to subvert the core elements of a story by changing the gender of characters and even the core behavior that makes characters what they are I question the quality of any story that you put out.

Ian Welsh
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Oh, for God's sake, it's not hard. See Mass Effect 1 (not 2 or 3) for how it's done. Not that it applies to a game with an established male protagonist, but Mass Effect also handled the female protagonist perfectly with only one major exception I can think of: FemShep is not sexualized. wears full body armor, etc...


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