In a recent interview with Penny Arcade Expo, Jean-Max Morris reported that when Dontnod Entertainment was shopping around the upcoming game Remember Me the company had trouble finding someone willing to publish their endeavor. Why you may ask? Not because the game is a new IP launching fairly late in a console generation, which it is. Not because Dontnod, while being an amalgamation of proven talent, is itself a new and unproven studio, which they are. No, those might be valid concerns a publisher would have, instead they were declined because the games protagonist, Nilin, is a woman.
It says a lot about the gaming industry when creative people with a new and interesting idea are turned aside for a reason such as this. When we look back just at the current console generation there are many games that feature female protagonists that are widely praised by gamers, and while the publishers may deem some of these games financial failures, is this because gamers didn't want these games or because of over inflated production budgets combined with unrealistic sales goals.
Let’s take a look and compare some of the big blockbuster games that have been released this year and their sales in the first month after launch. Gears of War: Judgment 425,000, God of War Ascension 360,000, Dead Space 3 605,000 and Tomb Raider 3.6 Million.
Now I’m no business analyst but to me it seems like the game with the female lead was embraced by more gamers then the other 3 games coming from top tier franchises combined. And yet publishers say we don’t want female protagonists. Now granted Lara Croft is an established face but at one point she wasn’t. Tomb Raider was a new IP in 1996 and it was given a chance to prove its own merits rather than being dismissed because of a female character. If this year’s Tomb Raider had been a new IP instead of a reboot would it have ever seen the light of day? I’d guess probably not, and gaming would be worse for it.
Mirror's Edge was a game that those that played it widely praised and the game has sold over 2 million copies in its lifetime. Now I can understand that 2 million isn't COD numbers but it is very respectable for a new IP that tried something completely new, and is a lot better than most games will sell.
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, the only title in that series to feature a female lead, is the third bestselling title on the Vita with over 600,000 copies sold. An astounding number for any game on Sony’s struggling handheld. That any Vita game could produce those kind of numbers is not something to overlook.
In Bioshock Infinite, you play as Booker Dewitt, generic action hero extraordinaire, now don’t get me wrong Booker is fine as a character in the story he is placed in, but make no mistake Infinite was Elizabeth’s story as much if not more so than it was Booker’s. Elizabeth is by far the more interesting character and is the centerpiece of Infinite, and is what makes Infinite a unique and enjoyable experience without her you would have a pedestrian FPS with superpowers thrown in.
X-Blades, Alice Madness Returns, and Metroid Other M did not fail because of the gender of their leads they failed because they were bad games. Conversely Bayonetta, Beyond Good and Evil, and Portal 2 are beloved by gamers and have us begging for sequels because they are great games.
So rather than dismissing gamers as woman haters who only want to play generic stereotypical white guys, give us some credit. I for one will play any game that is good because it is a good game regardless of the gender of the lead character, and I don’t think I’m alone. I believe most gamers feel this way. Put a female in a game with good character’s, solid gameplay, and a gripping story and you will see that gamers will embrace that title. Stop pushing out shovelware that only sells females as sex symbols and has nothing to back it up then claiming we don’t like female character because garbage games for the most part don’t sell.
We are a smart and well-connected consumer group; we go online to find out about a product before we spend our hard earned dollars. There are vast amounts of product previews, reviews and opinions available at our fingertips. Gone are the days of blindly picking up a title because it has neat box art. Give us substance and quality and you will earn our dollars, regardless of what the lead character looks like.