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Elsa avatar 2:42 PM on 06.23.2009
Girls with Guns

A few years ago we saw online playable female avatars for R6Vegas, Mercenaries 2, UT3... even GTA4 had online female characters, Then, Battlefield - no women, the SOCOM franchise took a giant step backwards and neglected to include a female avatar, and Resistance 2 and MGO launched with no female avatars, followed up by Killzone 2 and a decided lack of big Helgan women. For awhile it seemed that online female avatars were "almost" becoming normal and accepted... then wham! - the ability to be a one-woman wrecking machine with a gun disappeared. It seems that the devs are taking a step backward instead of forward. Resistance 2 and MGO have rectified this oversight with DLC that included female avatars, but why were they not included in the original game launch? Also, why are upcoming games like MAG deciding not to include female avatars?

Top 5 reasons I've heard for the lack of female avatars in shooter games:

1) There are no female soldiers in real life.
Huh? That picture at the top of this blog is Leigh Ann Hester.. an American female soldier who was awarded the Silver Star in 2005 after killing at least 3 enemy combatants with her M4 assault rifle and clearing other combatants using hand grenades and an M203 grenade launcher. Please tell her that she's not supposed to engage the enemy.
I'm Canadian... and in Canada women serve on submarines, ships, as pilots and as infantry. We are not restricted from any aspect of the military (though to date females have only served in support roles in our Special Forces unit). We lost our first female infantry soldier (Nichola Goddard) in 2006 in Afghanistan when she was killed by an RPG round during a planned assault on a Mosque harbouring Taliban members. Even WW2 games can utilize female soldiers. Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a famed Soviet sniper credited with 309 kills.

The Soviets used female tank crews, snipers and even infantry. While women are not common in the military, they ARE soldiers.
... however the biggest argument against the "realism" issue is ... get this... it's a VIDEO GAME. If you want realism, then lets make games so that you do endless patrols where absolutely nothing happens... then you hit a roadside bomb and die - and you can never play the game again.

2. It's too difficult to program separate female movement animations.
This is the reason given by both Zipper (MAG) and Guerilla Games (Killzone) for why they don't have female avatars in their games. It seems that they actually haven't seen real life female soldiers, because they don't sashay or wiggle when they walk or bounce when they run. In full kit, it's difficult to tell a female soldier from a male from any distance. Add some bumps to the top and a female head.. done. That isn't so hard is it? (Most male avatars don't even have a "package" so they don't even really need to change the bottoms).

3. Female avatars are smaller and more difficult to hit in a shooter game.
Ummm... it's called a "hit zone" and most avatars have a similar hit zone programmed in. Many games successfully use female avatars and the size difference needn't be substantial.

4. Not enough females play shooter games to warrant having female avatars.
Who says it's only females that use female avatars? According to the Daedalus Project (one of the few comprehensive studies on gamer demographics), 97% of female gamers prefer to play as their own gender, but only 77% of men prefer to play as a male character. Approximately half the female characters found in WoW are actually men. Men play games like Heavenly Sword and Tomb Raider and I have yet to hear a complaint that the main character is female. Having female avatars might actually encourage more females to try shooter games, and is unlikely to alienate a large percentage of male gamers.

5. We guys don't want girls ruining our shooter games.
Yeah, we're going to come in there, giggle, and talk about shoes or recipes. Chances are pretty good you've already been killed by a female gamer (and possibly even t-bagged.. or v-bagged by one too).... and you never even knew it was a girl. The more gamers that play shooter games, the more money developers make. The more money developers make, the more money they have to create more (and better) shooter games. It seems that everybody wins.

All I want to see is an option for a female avatar in more shooter games. SOCOM gave us big-ole-dumb-ass-blond-macho-guy avatars all duded out and dripping in masculinity with a plethora of choices in facial hair, scars and face paint... but not one female avatar. Get with the current century! I'm tired of my boy-toy avatars and want a kick-ass female avatar. It all comes down to money. The current male shooter gamer is unlikely to be alienated by incorporating female avatars into a game, and the game developers might attract more female gamers to this genre. More people playing, means more money for better games, it's really a win-win situation.

To put it all in perspective... ... just imagine online gaming where all the characters were female. Sure it's a novelty at first... sure most guys would have fun choosing the most visually interesting avatar to play... but after awhile wouldn't they long to play as an onscreen guy again? Wouldn't they want to scratch their virtual balls and feel just a little bit manly again?


So girls with guns.. yeah, let's tap that potential!

(and yeah, this started out as something for the "Untapped Potential" series... but I got lazy and didn't want to put the real work into it. I also would have held off on posting it (because I probably post too often) but it seems like a slow day and there's not enough new content to comment on.... so I gave in and hit that "publish live" button!)
:)

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