comScore
  1. Mediaite
  2. Gossip Cop
  3. Geekosystem
  4. Styleite
  5. SportsGrid
  6. The Mary Sue
  7. The Maude
  8. The Braiser

What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Essay

In Which I Am Pretty Darn Sure That Most Gamers Are Fine With Female Protagonists


Last week, the Penny Arcade Report interviewed Jean-Max Morris, creative director of the upcoming female-led game Remember Me. After going into the game’s cyberpunk roots, Morris discussed the publishers who wanted nothing to do with a female protagonist. “We don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed,” he paraphrased. “You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that.”

As the article made the rounds, I couldn’t help but notice what gamers were getting excited about elsewhere. Tomb Raider had just slipped to number two in the UK sales charts, after two weeks at number one. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm had already sold 1.1 million copies in its first two days. Indie developer Supergiant Games, the folks behind Bastion, announced their new action RPG, Transistor, which features a leading lady. Their booth enjoyed two hour lines at PAX all weekend. I’m told that the lines for Remember Me were comparable.

I don’t think it’s gamers who have a problem with female protagonists.

That disconnect is what’s been bugging me the most about that article, more than all the girls-have-cooties implications. I read these blanket statements about how male gamers are supposedly allergic to female protagonists, and it doesn’t mesh with my impressions of the gamer community at large. I’m not even talking about stances on gender issues here. I’m talking about why people buy the games that they do. I have a bias in this, I know, but even so, I can’t shake the feeling that the publishers who say these things are failing to understand why gamers actually play.

There are two components to my thinking on this — how I go about playing, and how the guys I know go about playing (spoiler: they’re basically the same thing). I’ll start with myself, even though I’m not the sort of player being considered by these publishers. My purchasing habits strike me as pretty standard for a long-time gamer. I play shooters, RPGs, action games, and anything else that tickles my fancy. My carefully planned monthly budget includes a portion for games. I preorder new titles. I buy DLC. Take away my gender, and I’m exactly the sort of gamer the industry wants.

I developed these habits despite a lifetime of playing heroes that, more often than not, don’t look like me. A male protagonist does not stop me from playing. A male protagonist does not prevent me from developing an emotional attachment to his character. Do I gravitate more toward female protagonists, when they’re available? Yes, if I’m interested in the game itself as well. But will I turn away from an enticing game just because I can’t play as my gender? Of course not. What draws me to a game above all else, regardless of whose story it is, regardless of if there are even any women in the game at all, is whether or not it looks fun. I may feel more at home with a female protagonist, but I’ve got no problem connecting to a hero with a beard and a gravely voice. Gents, correct me if I’m wrong, but seeing as how we’re all human beings here, I imagine that for the most part, you and I react to differently-gendered protagonists in much the same way.

But okay, I’m not the target audience. Perhaps my experiences are moot. I obviously can’t speak directly to what it’s like to be a male gamer, but for what it’s worth, I have spent the better part of my life interacting and socializing with them. We like the same sorts of games. We play with equal enthusiasm. We talk about talent trees and boss fights and weapon upgrades. We sit and watch E3 together. We send each other articles on game releases and industry news. And not all of the male gamers I’ve known or even befriended have shared my views on gender portrayal. I’ve debated these things plenty with people I’ve gamed with. I recall being part of a group that got in a somewhat heated squabble over the Jennifer Hepler debacle before we all sat down and played Descent together. Our opinions on such topics may differ, but set them aside, and we’re buying the same games, and playing in the same way. From a gameplay standpoint, we’ve got the important stuff in common.

So let’s talk gamers in general. You can split us into two groups: those who are drawn to game mechanics, and those who are drawn to story (and yes, there’s a lot of crossover between the two). For those who are keen on mechanics, the protagonist doesn’t matter much. The setting and the story may affect how devoted they become to the game, but these players can and will overlook just about anything if they love the mechanics. The guys of this sort that I’ve played with have no qualms about choosing a female character, so long as her abilities are what they’re after. They’re far more concerned with class than gender.

A story-focused gamer, however, is looking for one of two things: a good story about someone else, or a story in which they can be the star. The latter hinges upon character customization, which nowadays usually means variable gender protagonists. Everybody wins. But for gamers who are happy to play as a pre-defined character, what they don’t want is the same story they’ve seen a dozen times before. They want to experience something new. Otherwise, what’s the point? You can only go through the same narrative so many times before you get bored. These players won’t care what the protagonist’s gender is, so long as the story is engaging.

If we’re talking about courting core gamers (I dislike that term, but there it is), protagonist gender seems like a non-issue. I keep thinking back to Transistor, a game helmed by a dainty lady with a buster sword. The people at PAX weren’t lined up for her, or despite her. They were lined up because Supergiant Games makes great stuff, and because Transistor looks awesome. I’ll confess, seeing that the game had a female protagonist was a side bonus for me. You know what I was primarily excited over? Combat that allows you to stop time and plan out attacks. I had already started digging into that cake before I appreciated the icing. I think a lot of gamers go about choosing games in the same way. Again, I can’t speak for the guys out there, but I’d be very surprised to meet a male gamer who turned up his nose at a combat system that appealed to him solely because he had to play a female character. That seems like an uncommon mindset.

But what if these publishers aren’t talking about core gamers? What if the concern here is the untapped market? Appealing to non-gamers is indeed a consideration you see throughout the industry (for better or for worse). This has been said by others many times before, but if the goal is to interest as many new gamers as possible, how does it make sense to focus only on straight white men between the ages of 18 and 25 (not to mention, how insulting is it to imply that such people are incapable of relating to anyone other than themselves)? And I may be off base with this, but I tend to think that someone who has never bought a game before is probably not going to start with a new IP. They’re going to pick something that they’ve heard of, something recommended by a friend who already plays it. A gamer. A gamer who will be recommending the game for its mechanics, or its story.

I am sure there are some men out there who might be put off by a female protagonist, just as there are women who might feel similarly toward male protagonists, but in my experience, this just isn’t the case for most. Give a gamer — of any gender — a good game with a solid story and fun mechanics, and we’re happy. (That’s not to say that character gender doesn’t matter at all. That’s a whole ‘nother article.)

And as for those hypothetical men who would feel “awkward” about seeing a female protagonist “kiss another dude” — okay, putting aside how immature that notion is, I feel compelled to note that games make me feel awkward all the time. Every time a game puts me in skimpy chainmail without offering an alternative, every time the women in the game are only there to be rescued or ogled, every time a game imparts the message that women are weak or vapid or just not good enough, I am left feeling awkward. And yet, I love games anyway. I’m still here, going bleary-eyed over strategy guides and handing over my hard-earned cash. If I can remain this loyal after the onslaught of awkward that games have put me through, then trust me. The dudes will be fine.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. Like most internet people, she has a website. She can also always be found on Twitter.

TAGS: | | | | |


  • Samuel

    “For those who are keen on mechanics, the protagonist doesn’t matter much. The setting and the story may affect how devoted they become to the game, but these players can and will overlook just about anything if they love the mechanics. The guys of this sort that I’ve played with have no qualms about choosing a female character, so long as her abilities are what they’re after. They’re far more concerned with class than gender.”

    This, this right here. As a “gamer” or w/e that is all I’m ever concerned about with a game purchase, I need to like the story, sure, but for me personally it’s all about the game/class/rpg mechanics. In Bioware RPG’s I tend to do a play-through as both genders, just to hear the differences in voice and dialogue. And no, as a guy, I’m not weirded out by a female protagonist kissing a dude anymore than my male protagonist kissing a chick, or a dude, or w/e. I would play an rpg/martial arts game staring The Midnighter knowing full well there would be dude on dude action as long as the story was good and the combat was fun. Dammit, now I want to find someone to reskin Batman: Arkham City as a Midnighter game.

  • Anonymous

    ” it doesn’t mesh with my impressions of the gamer community at large”
    I’m ready to believe it’s more the case with YOUNGER players, and (hopefully) that feeling decreases as they get older. It’s still a case of teaching them that there’s no inherent cootieness in girls, something (again, hopefully) learn, glean or have beaten into their think skulls as they age and interact with others socially.
    Of course, one issue that is getting a lot of talk is that kids AREN’T interacting more socially, they’re staying home on their computers, and their interaction is limited to 140 characters. So it’s possible that more is needed to make sure those young beliefs don’t stay in the “true” column.

  • http://anna.balasi.com/ AnnaB

    There’s always a disconnect between consumers and big publishers. It’s not entirely the publishers’ fault, mainly because the distributors insist on having everything labeled and categorized. Sellers want to hear such things as “demographics” and “genre”, which can be more alienating than they think. Unfortunately, publishers come to believe in these labels and categories as if they were rigid and unchanging values. To be honest, it can be maddening.

  • http://twitter.com/TGNProfessor Andrew McGrae

    I’m a straight, white, cisgendered male, and I always pick non-white female characters if I get the choice. It’s downright embarrassing how 95% of non-customisable game protagonists are nigh-identical straight, white, American males in their mid-thirties with short brown hair, stubble, an overly musclebound physique and a stupidly macho personality. It’s not that characters like this are inherently bad exactly (although I’d prefer them without the “stupidly macho personality” thing), but they’ve long ago utterly blended in together. Given how desperate publishers are to have their games stand out you’d think someone would have noticed that identikit protagonists was a bad idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/francisca.rojas.39 Francisca Rojas

    I don’t give f*ck if the main character is a woman or man, I mean, the thing that really matters is the game itself, the plot, the graphics, I´m a girl and personnally I don’t care about the protaonist, but well, other people may have a different opinion .-.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=756470230 Keith Allison

    This is exactly the same sort fo thing that film studio producers say about the movie going public: they won’t go see a film with minority leads, they won’t go see a film with a female lead, they won’t go see a film that doesn’t have a romantic subplot. Despite the fact that there are plenty of films that disprove this, the notion persists that the average American moviegoer is a drooling moron who hates minorities and women.

    It’s a shame, but not surprising, to see video game publishers travel the same road, because one that mindset is in place at the top — again, as film studios prove — it is dogged and persistent and damn near impossible to pry out regardless of real-world data to the contrary. “They’re a bunch of racist, sexist homophobes” plays to the very vocal minority AND feeds studio execs’ egos while allowing them to feel superior to their audience. “Well, sure, *I* would LOVE to make a movie/game with a female/black/etc lead, but you know how those racist idiots are.”

    Incidentally, my Fallout 3 character was designed to look as much like Janelle Monae as possible. I was heartbroken not because I was a man choosing to play a female character, but rather because of that game’s disappointing lack of bow ties for my power armor.

  • TKS

    As a white guy with dark hair who forgets to shave every so often, I’m kind of tired of every main character looking like me. Let’s make things a bit more interesting, please?

  • http://twitter.com/BeckyCFreelance Becky Cunningham

    I strongly suspect that the idea that this generation of kids is anti-social and limited to bite-sized communication is about as true as the idea that my generation (Gen X) was all a bunch of alienated loafers with little direction in life.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t a LOT of negative social interactions to be found on the Internet and particularly in the world of gaming. There’s a lot of peer pressure amongst young men on the Internet to participate in the racist, sexist, homophobic taunting that happens when online communities aren’t carefully moderated.

    That dark side of online socialization is a reason to create MORE diverse characters in games, though, not less. The more it’s normal for characters who aren’t brown-haired white marines to star in games, the more acceptable it’ll be to gamers of all ages.

  • Anonymous

    I think a big problem facing the gaming industry these days is the gaming industry. They give so little credit to gamers/consumers that they let their fear of imaginary reactions drive decisions and you get stupid comments about gamers being unwilling to play as a female protag. That is ridiculous. We’ve moved beyond the days when two of the biggest heroes around were He-Man and She-Ra, two characters most notable for the fact that their names indicated their gender beyond any doubt (although blindfolded, feeling on the He-Man figure’s pecs … I don’t know …). The point is that this is just a bullshit excuse to maintain the status quo.

    I’ve never had a problem playing as a female protag, neither have any of my friends. It’s embarrassing to admit but I actually have a few “less evolved” male friends who refuse to play as a male character when a female character is an option. Because you know if they’re going to be staring at a character’s ass for hours on end they’d prefer it be a woman. At least their sexism is sort of original … I guess. But even for those guys it’s about whether or not the game is fun, does it have unique mechanics or an interesting story. Hell the mechanics don’t even have to be anything revolutionary as long as they work well. I can’t recall in the past few years how many games I’ve picked up that were outright broken at launch. But it’s the gaming audience that’s the real problem. Please.

  • Anonymous

    Becky Chambers, will you be my BFF? I love your work, every time. Another great article here.

  • http://twitter.com/Hawkes006 Hawkes006

    As a gamer who is in it for the story, I do tend to pick characters who look like me (white male, brown hair, average height). That said, I love games that don’t let me customize. I love games with female protagonists. Because how I look is just one way I can identify with a character, beyond their sense of humor, intelligence, or actions.

  • Isen

    I’m a gamemaster for almost 15 years now, and I can play every sort of character if I want to – but for most videogames I prefer a male character (I’m female). But the only reason for this is, that male characters to this day come with benefits:

    In mmos I don’t get hit on by random guys or even asked if I’m a woman (because which woman would play a male character if she can play some scantily clad girl, right?), and in quite some games I have better dialogues and/or better looking armor as a male.

    But if there where more good female characters, I would play those too, you bet.

  • Travis Fischer

    What it ultimately comes down to is that developers are aware about how gamers feel about female protagonists as they are about ANYTHING about what gamers want.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Duffy-Austin/1230930793 Christopher Duffy Austin

    I will admit I was turned off to the first footage of “Remember Me” and it was partially because of the female main character.

    It wasn’t the fact that she was a woman: it was the fact that she wasn’t doing anything unique. It came off like the game was trying to push her as a Lara Croft clone: a trendy dressed, attractive woman who can kick butt to PR expectations.

    Newer footage did a better job of making her look interesting, though; she utilizes the in-universe technology in combat and it is incorporated enough into her design to make her stand out. It doesn’t hurt, either, that more recent footage has shown developers taking advantage of the meta premise in design.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree with the sentiment that the gender (or any other defining characteristic of a game protagonist) is irrelevant. You say only the game matters, but the reality is that a game is a fusion of many different components, of which story, character, and design are very necessary and critical parts without which you don’t have a game. So when you speak of “a game,” you’re speaking about all of the component parts that make up the whole.

    An important part of the lasting popularity of storytelling, whether in the form of books, movies, or games, is that the consumer can relate to the characters and conflicts within the story by identifying with certain themes or traits (Why do we care about Harry Potter’s fate, for instance? Because we’ve all questioned who we are, we’ve all gone through the strange period that is adolescence, we’ve all had our social and academic struggles in school, and we’ve all wondered what our purpose in life is, etc.). But if all book/game/movie protagonists were white, male, and cisgendered then we’d start to believe that anyone not fitting that description didn’t/couldn’t share in those struggles – that they had completely different (and lesser) life experiences simply because they were physically or emotionally different – and that, ultimately, that game or book or movie was not intended for their consumption because they couldn’t relate to it. By allowing us to identify with a game, we come to care about its resolution, and this identification and engagement with a story helps us to think critically about our own world and our own struggles.

    If the game industry continues to alienate a significant segment of their consumer base by telling them that people who don’t look like white, male, cisgendered protagonists cannot be heroes then they are presenting a warped, inaccurate depiction of the realities of our world where people of all types share in the triumphs and setbacks of life’s struggles. Thus, their product loses a bit of power to engage with us, inspire us, and make us better people. It’s no coincidence that people of all types self-identify with those that share certain characteristics with them – we see it in all walks of life. To deny your non-white, non-male, non-cisgendered, non-cissexual consumers the opportunity that those white, male, cisgendered consumers get time and again is to push away the very base game companies rely on for their commercial success.

  • Isen

    I think women are accustomed to play as characters that differ from themselves. We grow up without the luxury of almost every game being about someone from our gender, so maybe our mindsets tend to be more flexible about characters – because that’s what games do:
    “Imagine you are THIS hero” – and ‘this’ hero is male most of the time.

    So I think we women care generally less than men.

  • ACF

    I’m a pretty casual gamer, so my experience may not be the best guide, but I did pick up Tomb Raider, and have loved every minute of it so far. I identify with Lara far more than I’ve ever identified with a predefined protagonist before. I identify with her because the writing is incredible, her character is realistic, she says the things I think, and cares about the game world in a way I’ve never seen portrayed before. As someone who’s looking to get a little more into games, I’d pick up any game I thought would give me a comparable experience. The fact that Lara’s female and I’m male doesn’t affect this.

  • Isen

    Isn’t this a contradiction?
    You were turned off because of the ‘female’ character – but then again it wasn’t about the characters gender?
    That must mean at first also a male character would have turned you off, right?

  • Anonymous

    As a straight white male, I *prefer* female protagonists in games. April Ryan is probably my favourite video game character. In fact, I’ll even play a mediocre game if it has a female protagonist: Venetica was seriously flawed in execution, but I gave it a shot because you play as the daughter of death. Maybe because it’s the closest we’ll get to a Susan Sto Helit game, but there it is.

  • Anonymous

    “It’s embarrassing to admit but I actually have a few “less evolved” male
    friends who refuse to play as a male character when a female character
    is an option.”

    And my (young) cousins refuse to play as female characters when a male character is an option, because they’re still developing their sense of gender and sexual identity: playing as a female character messes with that, apparently. But I’ve been encouraging them to try going female characters at least once in a while, and they seem to be warming to the idea.

  • snailspace

    Damn, if there was a Susan Sto Helit game, I would so play it until it fell apart. Particularly if you could summon Binky as some sort of aeon.

  • Anonymous
  • http://www.google.com/profiles/adam.skinner Adam Skinner

    I heard an argument a while back that won me over to playing female protagonists, when given a choice: would I rather look at the back side of a male or female character while playing the game?

    The choice is clear.

  • Nick Gaston

    I’d guess that the wariness stems from an impression that the developers might have been making a game about “a WOMAN!” first—and specifically, one crassly designed to be marketable—and all other characteristics later, indicative of a lack of skill or caring. (Thankfully, in the case of “Remember Me,” this seems not to be the case!)

    Something similar might have happened if the footage seemed to be highlighting that the main character was a “SPACE MARINE in GREEN ARMOR™!” or “a TRENDY SUBCULTURER™!” or “a PERSON with A DISABILITY!” Again, suggesting that the product was a shameless cash-in, or the gaming equivalent of brussels sprouts.

    A tragedy…not only for the great games and characters left by the wayside like mute, inglorious Miltons—or Behns—but for the gamers ourselves, who are passing up or denied fantastic stories and experiences starring NON generic-straight-white-guys™.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002045791893 Krystal Henderson

    As a white cisgender lesbian woman, I will play male characters if I have to (I loved playing as Mike Thorton in Alpha Protocol) but I would vastly prefer playing a character who looks like me.

    One thing I really liked about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was that they had female characters in the promotional materials. Unless the game has a female protagonist, you don’t see a lot of female PCs in promotional stuff (Mass Effect 3 aside).

    I wish publishers would just get a clue. This is exactly the sort of thing TV execs said about “The Legend of Korra” and everyone loved it. There will always be idiots who refuse to play as a woman because “GIRL COOTIES!” I think it’s time more big studios took some risks and gave us some other protagonists to play with besides “Beefcake, beefcake, woman in skimpy outfit, beefcake space marine…”

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    First off, you get all the points for making your character like Janelle Monae. Just…take them. Here.

    Second, I agree. It seems that we have a vicious cycle of higher-ups who are raging bigots who only want to cater to other raging bigots. Makes me really eager for new blood to come into the industry. As much as they can, with the already obvious barriers and glass ceilings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Their sexism isn’t original at all. It’s actually a really common line uttered by guys who are trying to seem progressive while not being progressive at all.

    “I love playing as women! I’d much rather stare at her ass than a man’s!”

    Objectifying, heteronormative AND boring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    So progressive! So creative! So funny!

    You get a gold star, Adam!

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re getting caught up on wanting more girl characters just so that there are more girl characters, rather than just wanting the storyline to be good. I’d rather the storyline be well done, and be a character of either gender.

  • Anonymous

    Word.

  • Anonymous

    If you really cared, you’d be asking for more female antagonists.

  • Video Attack!

    I think the problem typically ends up being the idea of closing off markets.

    It’s not that everyone would refuse to play as a female character, but rather that a small minority would. Because of that small minority, they are forcibly catered to. As the article said gamers are going to play games for gameplay and the story- you’re never NOT going to play a game that’s good just because it doesn’t have a female character but there are some people who might.

    I’m not agreeing with it by any means, but there is a kind of cold, heartless logic to the whole process.

  • Video Attack!

    What often ends up being an issue with cases of female characters is that publishers can cite sales data as a reason for why they aren’t going to use a female a character. There is a history of female characters selling less copies of games then male characters, but there are such a large number of factors in the sale of games- especially games with female characters- that this idea is complete bunk.

    Look at a game like Mirror’s Edge, which I have actually heard used as an example of “female characters don’t sell”. Could Mirror’s Edge have been less successful because it featured a female protagonist? Possibly. Could it also have been less successful because it was a first person platformer with a complex control scheme whose entertainment value relied largely on time trials, a concept in gaming that is virtually dead? Yes, it also could have been that. In fact it was probably much more like that.

    Publishers have a bad history of justifying a lack of sales on virtually everything. Look at the recent Devil May Cry. If the game had sold well, we would probably have been told that it sold well because it was a new experience and that the changes to the series worked. Since it didn’t sell well, Devil May Cry as a series is considered unprofitable and dies.

    I blame the whole idea of the AAA budget industry standard right now where games have to sell millions of copies just to break even. Companies take so few chances on larger budget games that you’re never likely to see anything that could rock the boat even slightly, and a female lead is- sadly- one of those things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    My freshman year of high school the big FPs games were Perfect Dark and No One Lives Forever. Around that time Resident Evil 2, 3 and Code Veronica were also massive hits … along with Metroid Prime. Parappa da Rappa was replaced with Um Jammer Lammy. All these games had female leads and no one reacted any differently towards them. Why is it today that this is such a big problem?

  • Penny Sautereau-Fife

    I have this theory that the executives in charge of videogame companies were either NEVER gamers themselves and thus don’t truly understand their audience, or WERE gamers but are embarassed by the memory that they, like 80% of all male gamers, frequently chose a female character to play as when possible, and shun female protagonists of of internalized embarassment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    Mirror’s Edge also released against some serious competition. And it’s kind of sad the new DMC isn’t doing as well as DMC 4. Say what you wil about the reboot but I don’t like us gamers sending the message that experimentation is bad … because that’s how we end up with a stale market.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    I have a theory that publishers focus test character designs and go with whatever does best which will always be something they feel is broadly disseminatble. Naughty Dog had to fight their ad department to put a female character on the Last of Us box art.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    You can want both at the same time.

    WOAH!

  • Anonymous

    You can, but they’re specifically wanting girl characters for the sake of there being girl characters. That’s silly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andre-Evans/100001095910136 Andre Evans

    I will play whatever I think looks best. Female Hawk from DA2 for example, not because of anything more then voice there really. This idea that I won’t play a woman… is just wrong.

  • Lorraine

    It does sound silly doesn’t it, but actually what you’re saying is:

    The default is (and should be?) white male and you would need to have a really good reason for a character to be something other than that.

    Why does there actually have to be a really good reason? Wouldn’t it be sensible for games to have a range of characters, just like real life? When you really think about it, isn’t narrowing the characters in games to just a few options the abnormal and peculiar thing to do?

  • http://www.skreee.de/ Skreee

    I tried a new game yesterday (trucking) and when I selected my in game picture, they were all male. About 50 of them. Mostly white, some asians, but all male. WTF? That DID put me off, because if felt like the designers went out of their way not to include women. The token female avatar next to five male ones is bad enough, but not ONE out of 50?

  • http://www.skreee.de/ Skreee

    Or, more relevant to the article: things like that put me off, but I have no problem playing as a male character usually.

  • Anonymous

    As a strong confident girl growing up, I found myself enjoying Blink 182 more than the Spice Girls. Want to know why? I found that the music that they put out was superior. Did I care that it was mostly about boys acting silly? No. I didn’t even see it that way, because I thought it was about people acting silly. Even later on when someone posted an article about them being misogynistic, because of their album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, I still refused that notion because of their narrative. If we gender swapped the meaning of the title of the album, just for the sake of it, it wouldn’t make sense.

    We should have a similar stance on videogames. Some things just don’t work when we have a girl main character for the sake of having a girl there. I want them to only use a female character if the storyline is improved by it, and it logical. After all, I want the best possible storyline, just like you probably do, because I find the most enjoyment in that. I connect with the characters as they are, regardless of gender, so long as they are interesting.

    It seems you want girls in there just because you feel like you cannot connect to anything else, which is unfortunate. Try connecting to people rather than genders. Their sex is equal to ours right? Look past the gender, otherwise you’re saying that you hate half of the world for no good reason.

  • Eric S. Smith

    “I want them to only use a female character if the storyline is improved by it, and it logical.”

    What kind of problem are you worried about, that you make this stipulation? It sounds very much like the attitude that Lorraine identifed: “The default is (and should be?) white male and you would need to have a really good reason for a character to be something other than that.

    It seems you want girls in there just because you feel like you cannot connect to anything else…

    Who are you talking to, here? Not anyone who’s written anything on this page, I hope, because they’ve all been clear that they can connect with various videogame protagonists.

  • Anonymous

    Eric, please stop trolling. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/streever STREEVER

    I played Mass Effect as female shepard because I thought the male shepard sounded a bit too macho. Granted, he probably had nicer dialogue options and most of the silly videos I saw were probably Renegade mode, but I felt a little “Dude man bro” about the clips I heard.

  • http://twitter.com/pounddollarsign Michael Corey

    Here’s an opposite perspective. I am a straight white male, and I prefer to play games, and read books, that feature a protagonist that looks like me. I’ll take it a step further and say that I find female protagonists to detract from my enjoyment. I like my entertainment to be immersive, I prefer RPGs to shooters, and can’t play a game without an amazing story line. All of this is because when I’m playing, I want to imagine myself as the character. It’s easier for me to do that when the protagonist already looks somewhat like me. Call me lazy or unevolved, I don’t really care. This is my entertainment and I have no problem being shallow about it.

  • http://twitter.com/dracuella Maya Pedersen

    This. So much this. A game featuring Susan would be more dangerous to my already diminished social real-life than any mmorpg such as WoW or EverQuest ever could. As long as it included an option to occasionally talk to Death (who ofc still TALKS LIKE THIS) <3

  • http://twitter.com/sarasakana Sara Sakana

    “Look past the gender, otherwise you’re saying you hate half the world for no good reason”

    Says the person who thinks video game protagonists should be male by default and only female if it’s “logical.”

  • http://twitter.com/sarasakana Sara Sakana

    Why don’t you?

  • http://twitter.com/sarasakana Sara Sakana

    Sexist and homophobic at the same time. WTG, dudebro.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a real shame that you don’t understand what was simply written in front of you. The gender should be selected based on what’s best for the storyline. It takes a real retard to not understand that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Nice ableist slur. You’re really helping your cause!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Did you really just say that a female character needs to have a ‘logical reasoning’ behind her existence?

    Tell me, what’s the logical reasoning behind constantly including men as the focal point in everything?

  • Anonymous

    You’re silly for thinking that it doesn’t apply to both genders. I’m saying to pick the gender which best tells the story. You’re saying, “OMG UR ONLY WANTING MEN CHARS”. Since I am a girl, I would only want girl characters where it is best to have them. You want them for the sake of wanting them, which is stupid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Hm. I don’t recall accusing you of only wanting male characters. I did ask you a question, though, and you didn’t answer beyond putting words in my mouth.

    I’m saying wanting diversity, just to have diversity, is never a bad thing. Wanting people to just EXIST and not to have to constantly come up with reasons for their existence is not a bad thing.

    Women are never allowed to just BE, and I’m tired of having to swallow ‘well you need a reason’ and ‘your presence is not logically sound’ and ‘well you can’t do this because’ time and time and time again. I’m used to it from politics, the media and education. From another woman?

    It’s just kinda sad.

  • Anonymous

    Wanting diversity just to have diversity is stupid. That’s what is really sad. That’s like inviting another ethnic group to your “white friend” group just so that you’re not considered the “white group”. You’re adding diversity for the sake of diversity. This applies with making a character a girl just for the sake of it. That cheapens women.

    Inviting them because you want to know more about their culture, or because they’re an interesting person is a proper reason that seems to be lost on many. Add them if they make the story better, just like making the character male instead if it’s better for the storyline.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    That’s not diversity, though. That’s tokenizing.

    You’re right in that a bad reason can lead to bad results. I won’t dispute that. But true diversity is when nobody is getting handed the favorite stick. That’s why I want a bunch of girls. It evens out the playing field, and there are PLENTY of stories that would benefit from a female lead.

    Unless we’re doing some historical drama, there are very few reasons a girl wouldn’t ‘make sense’ in a story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.fry.3914 Dawn Fry

    There are plenty of parts for women and minorities in historical dramas, too. They may not be in the positions of authority, but they are certainly present (in most cases) and can make significant contributions to plots, or even be main characters themselves. I think a character is much more interesting if they are having to deal with societal issues as part of the storyline.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    That’s very true. I really wasn’t thinking when I wrote that last part, because there are a TON of women who have made amazing strides over time when society was even more oppressive than it is now.

    Just because history tends to brush them aside or ignore them all together doesn’t mean that Josephine Baker, Ada Lovelace, Violette Morris, Mae Jemison and Running Eagle didn’t exist. (how far back do you have to go to consider it a ‘historical’ drama? just back in history or…?)

    So, yes, you’re right. Historical dramas would be just as interesting and relevant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Duffy-Austin/1230930793 Christopher Duffy Austin

    I mean that the character looked like something I had seen before. In this case, the trendy spy.

  • http://handfulofhealth.com elaine!

    I’ve been playing Tropico, and while you get a customizable female avatar, the dialog is pretty half-assed… my advisers refer to me a “he” all the time, lol. Plus, the female Presidente is kind of annoying, her voice overs are all, “Hurry up and do my manicure!” and “My people will love me, because I am soooo beautiful.” Of course, I assume the male Presidente is also humorously annoying, this being a Cuban dictator game, but they could have made her annoying in an evil dictator way, not a vapid starlet way.

  • http://handfulofhealth.com elaine!

    Man, yesterday, with all the backlash to the articles on gender equality at E3, I was reading the comments wondering where all the good, upstanding men of the internet were. Apparently they’re all at The Mary Sue. :) Nice!

  • http://handfulofhealth.com elaine!

    I was wondering this too while reading the article. Women just don’t know what it’s like for every character in pretty much every video game to reflect their gender or social identity. Must be nice!

    On the other hand, women are slightly more comfortable in male trappings than guys are in female trappings. We all get to wear pants OR skirts, but your run-of-the-mill guy isn’t going to be wearing a skirt outside of Burning Man.

    I still don’t think that’s a good excuse for eliminating female protagonists from games, though. Imagining yourself in another person’s shoes, whether in a video game, a novel, or a movie, is about empathy — a global human attribute — not social identity. Everybody except serial killers has empathy, so there’s no reason for protagonist gender or race to affect the playability of a game.

  • JamesJournal

    Also in the current enviroment anything other than the standard 30ish white male with short brown hair really calls attention to itself.

  • Anonymous

    Use your words, my dear. If people don’t understand you it’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because you are being unclear or you really do mean what they keep saying you mean and you won’t admit it. I understand that randomly sticking female characters in stories with no characterization beyond “woman” is a bad thing, but you seem to be saying that you have to make the story oriented to a female character in order for them to be a female character in much the same way that no one can seem to write a story about a black character without that story being about how that character is black. There doesn’t have to be a “reason” for a protagonist (or antagonist) to be female, she can just be a woman because that’s the way the story goes. This worked with Samus. Unreal Tournament has a lot of female characters. Women abound in the Final Fantasy franchise (although it took 13 of them before a woman was the lead character) and they all have personalities beyond “woman.”

    And when you talk about what’s best for the storyline, I have to wonder what you mean by that. There’s not going to be very many stories that absolutely and resolutely require a man, just as there aren’t going to be very many that absolutely and resolutely require a woman. Especially when your opening salvo seemed to be bashing women who like feminine things. I liked Blink and the Spice Girls. Now what?