Women in games revisited

19 March 2013 by , No Comments

I’ve already written about how I feel that the portrayal of women in games still isn’t as good as it could be but I feel the need to revisit the issue again in light of the recent revelations that science fiction game Remember Me was passed over by many publishers for having a female protagonist.

Creative director Jean-Maxime Moris told Penny Arcade, “We had some [companies] 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.'”

Clearly these naysaying corporations have never touched a Metroid game (Other M doesn’t count) in their lives or been anywhere near the Broken Sword franchise and its snarky female protagonist Nico Collard. Even if they had, though, their negative attitude towards the female gender shone through when Moris stated, “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. 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.'”

Quite frankly, I’m not sure where to begin with that one. I know that the player character is often the audience surrogate – asking the question that need to be asked and playing the part of the newcomer to help ease people into the constructed world – but they’re still a character. These aren’t the days of silent protagonists anymore. This is an age where characters are… well, characters. They have personalities of their own, lives of their own… maybe, just maybe, they have their own significant others, too.

‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.’ Oh, God… What, are they going to start hiding behind the sofa for fear that they’ll catch teh ghey from watching the leading lady snog her man? Actually, when I put it like that, it sounds homophobic as well as gynophobic, doesn’t it? Two offensive messages for the price of one! That makes it even worse. Just what kind of insecure meatheads were these people? As a male gamer, I feel annoyed being lumped into the same category as them – I dread to think how livid all the female ones must be over being told that nobody wants to make a game about them because it’ll make all the boys uncomfortable with their sexuality.

But it gets even worse. Another article from the Penny Arcade team states that, “games with only a male hero sold around 25 percent better than games with an optional female hero. Games with exclusively male heroes sold around 75 percent better than games with only female heroes.” Now, I understand that stats don’t lie but, if you use them as an excuse, then nothing is going to change. If you don’t start taking risks and placing women in the centre of your digital stage, then everything is going to stay the same. Lads are going to continue being insecure morons who think girls have cooties, girls are going to continue regarding gaming as a silly boy’s hobby, and geeks from both ends of the gender spectrum are going to continue slamming their heads into their desks in annoyance with how stagnant everything is. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But there is hope. Remember Me has been picked up by Capcom for a June release, so maybe if we all check it out we’ll finally break the cycle and do something to get more girls into the world of gaming. Granted, she’s posing seductively in the cover art but let’s be grateful for small mercies and hope that things will turn around in the future.

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