After digging through the E3 2016 announcements for Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and EA, I’ve only been able to count six games that feature either exclusively playable female characters, the choice to play as a female character, or a segment involving playing as a female character. This is a significant drop from E3 2015, where the illustrious Sam Maggs found 23 games that featured female playable characters. Seven of those games only offered female playable characters, as Feminist Frequency pointed out.
It’s disappointing to see female characters fall to the wayside at E3 presentations yet again, though perhaps unsurprising. It should be noted, though, that this list goes over games that were announced or presented at E3 2016. There are many more games in development that haven’t made a showing at E3 2016, such as Tacoma, Hellblade, and Ashen. Anyway, here’s the (kinda short) list:
Mass Effect: Andromeda
If, during the reveal of this trailer, you heard a high pitched screeching noise coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the San Francisco Bay Area, that was me. I’d like to go ahead and formally apologize for driving your puppies insane. I’m sorry. (Not really. It’s Mass Effect, people, come on.)
A holdover from last year, Mass Effect: Andromeda made another appearance at E3 2016 with a new trailer that featured many of the new characters you’re likely to run into on your adventure throughout Andromeda. The big reveal came at the end of the trailer, when a woman wakes up inside of a massive ship. She would turn out to be the lead character of Mass Effect: Andromeda, known simply by her last name, Ryder (according to producer Mike Gamble).
As is tradition with Mass Effect games, it’s likely the player will be able to choose which gender they wish to play as, so featuring this particular Ryder as the first glimpse of the player character seems to represent a move towards having female characters as the “canon default,” so to speak. Totally rad.
Horizon Zero Dawn
This game’s another holdover from E3 2015, but this year they showed off more of the gameplay side of things. The video above shows off eight minutes of gameplay, with the player running around as Aloy, the protagonist of the game. She beats up and steals components from robot dinosaurs, crafts explosive traps, and shoots up baddies with her wildling bow. The concept seems solid, and I found myself intrigued by not only the gameplay but the setting as well; shouts of, “Goddess have mercy!” are just welcoming to the ear, you know?
Dishonored 2 is—yes, you guessed it!—another game that premiered at E3 2015. At E3 2016, though, the folks at Arkane Studios showed off some of the superpower-enabled gameplay that the player can choose to exploit in order to carry out those brutal kills. Players will be able to play as one of two characters: Corvo Attano (the protagonist of Dishonored 1), or Emily Kaldwin. I’ll give you one guess as to who I’ll be playing as here. Moreover, as Sam mentioned last year, one of my most favorite writers ever, Cara Ellison, is involved with the creation of the story, so it’s a safe bet that it’ll be incredible.
ReCore was featured pretty early on in Xbox’s presentation this year, and that was kind of a welcome bit. They shared a character-focused trailer, showing off the protagonist, Joule, and her veritable army of robot pets. Joule reminds me a bit of Rey (or, should I say Rey reminds me a bit of Joule), seeing as how she’s described as a fearless leader and looks to be a bit of a desert wanderer. Her Corebot companions are just straight up adorable, and I’m going to say this for the, like, umpteenth time: when the hell can I have my own Mack robodog to walk around with? Please?!
This stunningly gorgeous PS4 puzzle game centers on a ballerina who journeys through a wide array of abstract landscapes. It’s not easy to pull information about the story from the trailer exactly, but to be honest, it’s one of the most beautiful trailers I’ve seen in a long time. What’s especially nice is that Plastic, the studio behind the game, brought in a real-life ballerina, Maria Udod, to perform for their motion capture animations. So the dancing and movement you see on screen is all about as true to life as it gets. Astounding.
Battlefield 1 (Maybe, Kinda, Not Really)
So here’s the thing. Much has been said about the pretty unsound reasoning behind why DICE decided to forego adding female characters to the multiplayer. Rather than citing lore and canon issues (like Nintendo with Zelda: Breath of the Wild), a former DICE coder said that project leads didn’t think that boys would believe female soldiers are realistic. This, of course, flies in the face of the fact that there were a significant amount of female soldiers who fought in World War I.
All that being said, it’s on this list for completeness’ sake, as DICE has said that there will be a segment in the single-player campaign involving a playable female character. So you know that it’s not a technical issue, like how Ubisoft said female characters were hard to animate for Assassin’s Creed: Unity. It (allegedly) very much ended up being some project leads getting in the way of including something that people wanted. Ugh.
So, there you have it. Six games that showed up at E3 2016 that had female playable characters. A not-so-small part of me hopes that I’ve simply missed something, that perhaps I’ve overlooked a part of a presentation (or, more likely, fell asleep during one). As I said above, this small list doesn’t necessarily mean that these are the only games featuring female playable characters coming out soon. But—and it’s a pretty large but—these are the games that these companies and developers have all decided to highlight and present.
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