hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The game industry doesn't want female heroes

8:00 AM on 03.19.2013 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

"You can't have a female character in games"

Remember Me is currently in development under the watchful eye of Capcom, but the story of a woman who can "remix" peoples' memories had to do a lot of fighting to exist. According to creative director Jean-Max Morris, the industry at large hated the idea of a female protagonist.

"We had some [publishers] 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,'" he told Penny Arcade"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.'

"I'm like, 'If you think like that, there's no way the medium's going to mature.' There's a level of immersion that you need to be at, but it's not like your sexual orientation is being questioned by playing a game. I don't know, that's extremely weird to me."

I've never really thought about the whole kissing thing, but he's right. Women are overtly sexualized in many videogames, but they're rarely allowed to be sexual. Sure, have your female avatar swing massive boobs around in bikini battle armor, but if she dares to show physical interest in somebody? Oh, the scandal!

That, right there, is objectification at work. Having a female character exist for our saucy gratification, but not ever being allowed to reciprocate, initiate or otherwise become an active participant. Outside of games where players can create their own characters, I don't think I've actually seen a playable female protagonist kiss a guy in a game. The closest examples would be Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, both by Quantic Dream. I'll give them credit there, though if I recall correctly, both those games' sex scenes had players in control of the male lead at the time, not the female one. 

As Morris says, it's weird. More than that, it's kind of creepy to me that so few female leads, if any at all, are actually allowed to be in straight relationships, lest it incur the homophobic insecurity of the male audience. This is to say nothing of the base fear of letting a non-sexed-up woman be allowed a leading role in the first place. 

I recall one game that was in development a few years ago. Faith and a .45. It was set to be a cooperative shooter starring a man and a woman -- lovers -- who would very much be in a "Bonnie & Clyde" style relationship. Aside from working together in combat, the game was going to have a really cool revival system -- if one player is downed, the other can kiss him or her to get them back up. I joked at the time about it messing with the minds of homophobes, but it was truly an inspired idea -- even outside of any potential statement it could make, it was just a clever new spin on the revival system that worked perfectly in the context of the characters. 

Unfortunately, that game never saw the light of day, which is hardly surprising given the climate and the attitudes in the market.  

We have some exceptions, of course. Tomb Raider is an obvious example of a successful game with a female lead, but she exists today more thanks to legacy, and one wonders if the more recent Tomb Raider would have gotten anywhere if it were a new IP -- something some fans claim it ought to have been. Back when Tomb Raider was a fresh idea, Lara Croft was a massive-breasted sex object. The Lara we have today likely wouldn't have existed without the Lara back then. 

We recently saw BioShock Infinite's Elizabeth relegated to the back cover of the game case, for fear that the presence of a woman would turn consumers away. Naughty Dog also recalled a similar situation, where it had to fight to have a girl appear on the cover of The Last of Us. There's something eminently shuddersome about the message that sends, a message that suggests women have their uses, but are best kept locked away with the rest of the tools until they're required. It's the kind of situation that puts an itchy feeling under the skin. 

There are some who argue sexism isn't a problem in the game industry, but I don't know how a rational person could see this kind of stuff and not admit, even grudgingly, that it exists in abundance. When publishers are trying to eradicate female protagonists or hiding the womenfolk away lest an audience be turned off, there's some ill sentiment at play. Whether the fault of the industry itself or the audience, there is a fault, and it's a downright unsettling one at that. 

And if you'd be seriously upset by seeing a female lead kiss a guy in a game, you're emotionally broken.



Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Myles Cox avatarMyles Cox
Down with that PAX Pox. Auhhhghghghhhh
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV: Sneaking into a heavily guarded Russian military base in Afghanistan at night, slashing throats while listening to this. [youtube]https://youtu.be/-hWZqllm3mQ[/youtube] Comes off like a perfectly planned scene in a Scorsese movie or something.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Tortilla chips: The only food I know and love to betray me by deciding to flip to a bad angle and stab me in the gums.
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
I'm ok with Namco shutting down Soul Calibur: Lost Souls, as long as they keep Ace Combat:Infinity running. Love that game and just hit 3 million credits.
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
Holy fuck I feel new again. I've been on hiatus for a while and haven't been up to writing. I might just jump back into things after I relearn things here. Does anyone even remember me? Like damn it's been a while.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
In MGS5: The Phantom Pain, Solid Snake dies from lung cancer from all those years of smoking. #FakeSpoilers
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
[youtube]http://youtu.be/FDSHslyrxkM[/youtube] If you don't know the truth, you don't know the score. The end is coming near. MAJOR SPOILERS!
Paul S avatarPaul S
Wow, it's really easy to get people upset over video games.
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
I hope MGS V is living up to everyone's expectations. I can't get enough.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
I dislike the idea of intentionally reinforcing the notions that either race or gender are character traits, and those that don't match your own are completely unrelatable.
Shinta avatarShinta
Who's your favorite female black writer on Destructoid's staff? Post a comment below with your votes.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
I'm ok if someone chooses a character's ethnicity in a story with the intent of being more representative, as long as the story is good. And if even SOME people feel like it helps them relate, then good! Don't bother me none.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
OK. So the Mad Max game is basically the combat from the Batman games, the driving bits from Rage and the taking over the outposts bits from Far Cry 3 and 4. I guess what I'm saying is that it's super fun and I'm really, really enjoying it.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
@Jed Whitaker I might be missing something, but does the race of the characters really matter? I'm white and if every VG character was black I wouldn't care. It's skin color... that's it. I guess others care more than me about this stuff though.
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Who is your favorite Jewish game character? I'm pretty sure BJ Blaskowicz is (right?), so I'm going with him.
gajknight avatargajknight
Interview tomorrow! Little apprehensive, I really want this job. Working with adults and children with learning disabilities, perfect experience and a worthwhile job. We'll see how it goes! :D
Parismio avatarParismio
Being in the hospital Fucking blows.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Who is your favorite black Super Smash Bros. character out of the roster of over 50 characters? Oh wait... Game and Watch doesn't count.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
One thing I've noticed about the Halo series; the more epic the teaser, the more disappointing the game. And the "opening cinematic" for Halo V: Guardians looks epic.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
I hear through the grapevine that a game called Metal Gear just came out that is sort of a big deal.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -