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Jean-Max Morris Recalls Being Told “You Can’t Have a Female Character in Games”


“We had some [prospective publishers] that said, ‘Well, we don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed. You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that.’ …We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin’s private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy,” Morris said. “We had people tell us, ‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.’ I’m like, ‘If you think like that, there’s no way the medium’s going to mature.’ There’s a level of immersion that you need to be at, but it’s not like your sexual orientation is being questioned by playing a game. I don’t know, that’s extremely weird to me.”Jean-Max Morris, creative director of Remember Me, to The PA Report.

Remember Me is a cyberpunk themed game whose hero Nilin “can “remix” an individual’s memories by hacking into their neural implants as she attempts to reclaim her memories.” Morris talked about the game, and the difficulties it encountered in getting made simply because it had a female player character, with the PA Report. His remarks illustrate, among other things, how misogyny and homophobia are often intertwined.

(PA Report via Gamasutra.)

Previously in Women in Gaming

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  • TKS

    When my renegade Femshep made out with Garrus I couldn’t help but think, “does this mean I am attracted to turians now? MALE turians? I’m uncomfortable, and I need to think about my life.”

    Point of View characters aren’t new to video games. Every medium uses them. Guys aren’t uncomfortable when they see Buffy kiss Angel (don’t blow holes in my ship) and they won’t be made uncomfortable when a woman player character kisses a male NPC.

    And if they are made uncomfortable by that, perhaps making them uncomfortable is the right thing to do.

  • Jen Roberts

    I like when Morris says (in the PA Report article), “The fact that our core target is males 15-25 is not an excuse. We need
    to be able to create, and respect the audience enough to believe that
    they can be smart enough to identify with that type of character.” That, right there. *applause*

  • Anonymous

    Everybody is attracted to Garrus. That’s just a fact.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    I’m not. Maybe I’m specie-ist.

  • Anonymous

    ‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.’

    That’s why I never put my Pokemon in the Day Care. The egg-creation process led to too many awkward questions about my avatar’s sexuality. It’s Adam and Eevee, not Adam and Steevee!

  • Anonymous

    For an RPG, I would understand why gender would matter*: chosing dialogues and making decisions creates a closeness between the player and the character that other games can’t fully reach. You want the main character to have your gender to better represent you.

    But for other games… I’m currently playing the new Tomb Raider and I find the portrayal of Lara Croft the best thing in the game. It doesn’t matter that she’s a woman and I’m not.
    *A gamer friend of mine once told me she prefer playing her RPGs as male characters. Maybe the force of habit can make the switch easier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    Yeah, that comment does come off as fear of making gay people seem like human beings to straight men… >_>

  • Anonymous

    It’s the same nonsensical, self-defeating “research” that leads to male, monochromatic palette in Hollywood. Execs think nobody wants to see women or minorities outside of certain roles because straight, white male audiences can’t “see themselves” in a character who doesn’t look like them. And yet they’re just fine assuming the rest of us can relate to nothing but white, straight male leads without any issue.

  • Anonymous

    And then of course there’s an annoying, deeply-rooted cultural component as well. I remember as a child (before I was out of the closet), my friends and even father would mock me for wanting to play as the female characters in games like Tekken and Dead or Alive.
    What can I say? they had the best outfits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    It’s great that we’re getting a game with what looks like a fantastic female lead in a game that’s very unique in its story while working with classic, sci-fi future dystopian imagery from Blade Runner and Akira…

    But what concerns me is that the lead, Nilin, looks like a very tanned white woman, or a biracial woman at best, instead of being black. If we are to discuss women characters in games and how much more and diverse they should be, then that representation should include everyone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    I can attest to this… I’m a straight guy and I’m down with Garrus.

  • TKS

    I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard in a game than in the Citadel DLC when Garrus is trying to talk to a lady turian in a bar.

    “Do you come here often? I’d think anyone who does is probably an alcoholic.” Oh, Garrus…

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

    She’s actually mixed-race. I don’t think they’ve specified what her mix is, but she looks half-black and half-white to me. I could be biased, though.

    That’s still some progress, as I can only think of a few games that star mixed-race women protagonists, compared to the trillions with white men.

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

    Always found it interesting how everyone has to bend over backwards for the delicate inhibitions of straight white men, while consuming media that consistently reminds us how straight white men can do and be anything…

  • Canisa

    I doubt they’re assuming that’s the case. Most likely they just aren’t thinking about us *at all*. No wonder, given that they apparently can’t relate to us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    True enough… in a way, I really hope this game does well so it’d be a BIG middle finger to video games that games with women, and especially women of colour (who are represented even LESS than white women in video games as leads) can do well in sales.

    They just need time and effort put into them, like any other game starring any other white guy. None of this set up to fail shit.

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

    I want to be Garrus when I grow up.

  • Canisa

    I’d be careful about implying that some racial groups are more worthy of representation than others. Suggesting that multiethnic women are somehow just a lower priority milestone along the road to black women strikes me as a little unhelpful. Certainly I do want to see black women (and all other PoC) get more representation, but I’d also quite like a little bit of representation for my own genetic arrangement as well.

  • TKS

    The thing is, they’re not even talking about gay CHARACTERS in that quote. They are saying a male player would be unable to cope with playing a female character kissing a male NPC. what? WHAT?

  • TKS

    I don’t think that is what he is saying. I think he is making note that in order for a person of color to be represented in games they are often made to be “as white as possible.” Fairer skin, strait hair, etc. The only example of a woman of color who doesn’t fit this mold that I can think of is the “evil” love interest in Infamous 2.

    I think Jamie isn’t saying that fair people of color aren’t worthy of representation…I think he’s saying that people who aren’t white or fair people of color ARE worthy of representation.

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

    Then the male player won’t be able to pretend she’s his waifu.

    ;~;

  • Anonymous

    Oh, you’d best believe they’re thinking about us and our wallets. They just know that we’ve been used to supporting films with all-white casts, and will probably continue to do so. Hollywood and the game industry won’t change until their profits (or lack thereof) tell them they have to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    What TKS said, but I apologize nonetheless. It’s just been something that was pointed out to me and which I saw in movies, such as Harriet Tubman in Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter, the casting of Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men movies… it’s like they want actresses who are black, but not ‘too’ black.Like, it’s messed up as all heck…

    Nonetheless, I do apologize. We definitely don’t need the stepping on some less privileged and represented people to elevate other, and I should have made that point clearer.

  • Shauni Farella

    I think its very much like the cheescake superheroine outfits. Its not that all gamers/readers are teenage white boys, but the people selling them are acting like teenage white boys, and this is what they want to see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.ruttle.1 Jordan Ruttle

    The makers of Bastion also have a game coming out next year staring a woman. The trailer debuted yesterday.

    I’m excited to see all these female leads. :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dessa-Brewington/721495970 Dessa Brewington

    I don’t even know about that. How many times has a piece of media starring someone not straight, white, or male gotten big, only to be overlooked later? Tomb Raider dominated the late 90s, yet here we are today, in a world where Lara Croft is still selling, and being told that boys won’t play make-believe as girls.

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

    That’s a good point. While she looks clearly mixed to me, to the untrained eye (also see: the white eye), she *could* pass as a tanned white woman. I can already think of a few tropes that fit this: But Not Too Black, Ambiguously Brown, etc.

    Sigh. It’s a step. A cautious step, but a step.

    It’s a shame about Chell, as she was more obviously mixed in the first game. When Portal 2 came out, she was visibly lightened, as well as ‘prettied’ up, I suppose to appeal to more people as she gained more screen time. As for Traynor…yeah. Going to borrow a quote someone said about this occurrence in media: ‘she looks like a white woman dipped in tea’.

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

    You know how it is. Women gamers are able to relate to a male protagonist getting the girl, but the other way around would just be weird. Men cannot relate to female characters because something something biology something something hunter gatherers.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe habit makes the switch easier, maybe not though. I’m a straight, cisgendered male, but I prefer to play female characters in RPGs. All my Elder Scrolls characters are female, and I’d take female Shepard over male any day, even if it means I can’t romance Tali, which is a major drawback for me. I’m not sure why this is. My best guess is I’m just so bored of having male protagonists all the time that I’d rather play a female character whenever I’m given the option.

    I think someone for the site actually wrote a post about males playing as female characters a while back.

  • http://twitter.com/MaryKateClark Zombie Marykate

    Playing Gears of War: Judgment for the first time today, I was sorely disappointed by the egregious lack of female playable characters. In the Character Setup menu, there is ONE female character versus EIGHT male characters. 1:8 …that’s insulting.

    In multi-player, it turns out, true to old school stereotypes, the female character (Sophia) is only available as the Medic class. So it seems with the newest installation in the franchise, a game about warriors, they’ve fallen back on the cliche that the female must be a healer (as opposed to an engineer, a soldier or a scout).

    Publishers that turn their noses up at a female lead may try to justify themselves with myths and misinformation, but they’re just expressing their sexism, pure and simple.

    The same is true for marketing and merchandising teams that ignore female characters and players. The statistics do not support their neglect. Just the opposite.

  • Anonymous

    I can understand where you’re coming from but the Tali example you gave would be a deal breaker for me. I feel the romance in Mass Effect is a big part of the experience and it would’ve killed me to realize I can’t date Yvonne Strahovski in ME2 because I chose to be FemShep in ME1.

  • Anonymous

    OK, seriously, WHO are these boneheaded publishers who say you can’t have a female lead? I know publishers can sometimes have the same level of intelligence as film producers, but honestly, does Lara Croft not exist in their universe? It’s gotten to the point where I’m actually calling shenanigans on the developer, because I cannot believe that anyone would be THAT stupid. Right? … Right?

  • Canisa

    You make the mistake of thinking that publishers are as objective as they claim to be. The reality is most likely that they *know* games with female protagonists do actually sell, but they ignore that fact because they themselves are misogynists and just like to have the criticism deflecting excuse of “We’re only making rational business decisions!”

  • Maninahat

    I worry about this game a lot because, judging from the trailers and gameplay vids, it has un-compelling writing and gameplay, and that this’ll make the game sell badly. I’m worried that this will only encourage a chilling effect on female protagonist games – that devs will point to the female protagonist as the reason for the game’s lack of success.

    There have been good, well selling games with female protagonists (Portal 2, the new Tomb Raider, Bayonetta), but there have been a great many flops as well. In the last few years, we’ve had Hydrophobia, Wet, Silent Assassin and Mirror’s Edge – poorly received games that had female protagonists. When so few games cast female protagonists in the first place, it is more damaging when many of those titles do badly.

    One consistent failing I noticed is that outside of making the protagonist an attractive, 20-something, strong! Independent! female, the writers weren’t able to provide much in the way of decent characterisation. I get the impression that the writers thought that making her female would be enough, whereas whenever writing a male character, they make a conspicuous effort to try and differentiate them from the hundreds of other brown haired, hunky, space marines. In Portal 2, the female casting feels incidental, and the most remarkable qualities about GlaDOS and Chell are not their sex or appearance. That indicates far better writing than when someone says “let’s be different and have a female protagonist. She’ll be strong! and Independent!” and ends their character outline there.

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

    The only other game I can think of with a black female lead is Assassin’s Creed Liberation. And that’s probably the only other one.

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

    These are the guys focus testing everything into a boring homogenous oblivion. People will buy a game if it’s good.

  • Anonymous

    Chell’s appearance is that of a real person, Alesia Glidewell. With the better graphical capabilities of Portal 2 they could make Chell resemble the actress better than in Portal 1. It’s what the character was supposed to look like in the first place.

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

    This is true. I looked her up, and it does look a bit more accurate.

    I’m always a little on edge whenever I see a woman of color, or just any woman, lightened and prettied up and changed over time. It happens a lot in media, and even when it’s a more benign example (like the correction you gave me), I still get a knee-jerk reaction.

    :/

  • Anonymous

    If that’s the case, then they aren’t even good businessmen: deliberately ignoring things that are proven selling points is freaking ridiculous.

  • Canisa

    Yeah, exactly. Sexism is freaking ridiculous as well, after all.