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An interesting trend seems to have taken E3 by storm this year. Does its arrival signify the coming of an enlightened era of gaming full of diversity and equality, or does it miss the point entirely? What is this trend? Well, if this article’s title doesn’t give it away, maybe the list of games below will.
- Alone With You
- Cosmic Star Heroin
- Death Tales
- Heart Forth Alicia
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- Lara Croft Go
- Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
- Monster High New Ghoul At School
- Rise Of The Tomb Raider
- Senran Kagura 2
- Skullgirls Second Encore
- The Walking Dead: Michone
- Xenoblade Chronicles
Hmm … what do all these have in common? I’m sure you can guess, but I’ll tell you anyway. These are all games that were shown at E3 and featured exclusively female lead characters! At least, to the best of my knowledge. Details concerning some of these titles is scant and still forthcoming.
Does that seem like a lot? I can tell you right now that the amount of games mentioned at E3 that feature exclusively male lead-characters is not nearly as much. Not that I’m complaining. It’s just an interesting observation, and an indication that a recent push from certain female gamers and their supporters is definitely being noticed by the industry.
If the above list wasn’t enough to convince you that something is going on, maybe this next list will.
These are series which shall soon include a female playable option in their single player play-modes, but have never (to the best of my knowledge) launched with them before. I mean really, we’ve gone through 20+ FIFAs, but somehow this magical FIFA 16 is the one where we get female characters. Does that seem like coincidence? No, this is definitely an industry attempting to respond to feminist concerns. How’s that working out? Is it effective? Will it attract more girls to core gaming? Well, we’ll get into that a little later, but first let’s take a look at some of the more interesting factors concerning the transition of these series.
First on my list to discuss, we have Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which is getting a female playable character in the form of Evie Frye. She definitely appears to be much more than an afterthought, unlike Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’s DLC character Aveline. It’s my guess that’s she’s going to share an equal portion of the spotlight with the male protagonist.
What possibly makes this addition a little more surprising is how officials at Ubisoft had previously lamented the extreme cost and difficulty of adding female animations to Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
Apparently the animation budget is no longer a concern.
Then we have Halo 5. Some people and publications are guessing this title will have a female protagonist. Honestly, based on the E3 footage I’ve seen, I’d say they’re right. This seems like a pretty big deal, because I don’t think you could ever play as a female in Halo before, or at least not as a main character.
Finally, it’s probably worth mentioning that even Gears of War 4 will have a female main character. I didn’t put it on the list because in Gears 3 players could play as Anya during some levels, if they were playing co-op. It seems like in this upcoming title, the female lead character, Kait, will have a much more important role.
So … there you have it, enough females to cast a harem anime series. But you see, therein lies the biggest problem. Here we have the industry scurrying to include female characters in their games. Presumably in the name of equality and diversity! But really, how diverse is this cast?
What gamers are getting is an array of similarly aged, similarly beautiful female characters. Every one seems to be tailored to the liking of the straight male gamer. Now, personally, I don’t think there is a huge problem with that, but if one is going for diversity, it’s probably best to actually be diverse. I mean, really, even straight male gamers are certainly going to be attracted to a wider range of girls than what was provided at E3.
I think it’s great that the industry is interested in offering more playable options to players, but I’m not sure this is progress. Male characters come in a very wide array of shapes and sizes in video games. Sure there are a few stereotypes that are overused, but almost every type of guy imaginable is playable. Old guys, frail guys, chubby guys, muscle guys, and just plain ugly guys, to name a few. Female playable characters simply do not come in such variety. While it’s certainly debatable whether this should be considered offensive, I don’t think it’s debatable that it’s simply less interesting.
I’m left wondering exactly what some developers are thinking here. Are they just trying to fill a tick-box on a long list of features that have been focus-grouped into existence for the sake of maximum profitability, or are they really trying to offer some diversity? Hell, it could be both. What do you readers think?
A small, maybe greedy part of me is just a little annoyed that I won’t have as many male options to play — guys I might be able to identify with. Another part of me is just kinda bored with the stereotypically perfect bodied video game girl. Besides, I’ve been a gamer for nearly 30 years! I have grey in my beard now. If I were inclined to be checking out all these chicks, it’d feel kind of gross when games tried to market nubile 18 year old girls to my sexual desires.
In the end, it’s hard to imagine that these overtures are going to ease the opinions of feminist factions. It’s also extremely questionable as to whether all these female characters are actually going to attract more women to the hobby. I’m not just worried about women though. Will this new laser focus on females begin to alienate male gamers? For my part, I do see this as an industry completely missing the point of the controversies going on this year. I think they’re trying to appease feminine interests, and what they see as their core audience at the same time. I don’t see these efforts really making either groups happy. Hopefully we’ll find out if such a shift effects sales and attitudes as the year progresses and these games hit shelves.
What are your predictions? Does this annoy you, or do you think it’s great? Do you think consumers will even take notice? Please let us know in the comments below.