Why We Need to Tell Publishers We Want More Female Protagonists

The games industry is often called sexist. After all, it is an industry focused around men, and female gamers are often forgotten about or treated as a minority. That may have been the case in the past, but as time goes by, more women are getting into games, both in the creative and playing side of the industry.

Alas, we still get ignored. As you may have noticed, there’s a huge lack of female protagonists in video games. Up until Lara Croft first appeared on our PS1’s the only females you got in games were the princesses that needed to be rescued. Lara probably wasn’t intended to be an iconic character for females, she was mostly treated as a virtual sex object. But for many women, she was the start of beautiful relationship with video games. You would think the number of Lara Croft’s would increase but even now in the modern day of video games, I can’t think of many female protagonists. There is a very startling reason for that, publishers refuse games that have them.

The developer of Remember Me, a sci-fi shooter with a female lead, has revealed that a good number of publishers refused to publish the game because Nilin was the main character. What publishers hated more than a female lead, is the fact that Nilin has a boyfriend and she kisses him in the game – gasp! Yes apparently you can’t “make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game” because it will make the player feel awkward. Sorry gay gamers, you can forget having a homosexual lead in a video games because your lifestyle might make the straight male gamers feel weird.

Ow, the irony is hurting my eyes.

Creative director of Remember Me, Jean-Maxime Moris, goes on to say video games are never going to mature if publishers still think this way and that video games aren’t going to make you question your sexual orientation. He’s right, the games industry wants to be taken seriously and yet a scarily large amount of people say that a female protagonist won’t sell a game. It’s simply not true, men like to look at women, so I’m sure a lot of male gamers would rather spend all day looking at a female character rather than a bald,  half-naked, muscled man. It’s amusing that publishers talk about how you can’t have a protagonist kiss a male in a video game, but you can make a male gamer look at an overly-fit male character all day…hmm.

Probably one of the most important points here is that publishers are forgetting female gamers exist. I can’t speak for all women here but personally I prefer to play as a woman, especially one that’s a good combination of sexy, strong and sassy. Female gamers might be a smaller portion of the overall market, but often I hear games companies ask how they can make games that appeal to women. Well, we don’t want ponies and we don’t want cooking games. What we want is the same games the boys are getting but with a female lead. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been put off a multiplayer mode just because I can’t play as a woman. I don’t mind playing as a man, but I always feel like there should always be a female option, we do make up 50% of the population after all.

The market is over-populated with male characters that all look the same, having a female protagonist will make your game stand out, as shown by a report by Penny Arcade. They looked at 669 current-gen games and found that only 24 of them had an exclusively female lead. Sadly, male-only games sell better than female-only games, but the reason for this is because games with female protagonists typically get 40% of the marketing budget that games with male protagonists get. So, publishers say that they sell less but actually female protagonists are stuck in a vicious cycle – they won’t sell well so we won’t bother wasting money on them so they don’t sell well.

The video game industry isn’t the only industry to act this way, take a look at what’s on at the movies next time and see how many films feature leading ladies. Women are only good as sex objects or love interests society says, but I want that to change in video games first. I love characters like Bayonetta, Nariko and Lara Croft and I know many male gamers do too, (for a variety of reasons, I’m sure) so let’s embrace them. We shouldn’t have to wonder why games like Remember Me ever got rejected in the first place.

Thanks to Eurogamer for the info.

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