We talked about the issue of female protagonists in videogames on this week’s Nerds Assemble, but I just wanted to jot down a few more thoughts on the issue here.
In case it wasn’t clear in that episode of the podcast, I have no problem with playing as a guy in videogames where I can make no choice on the gender of the character that I play as. If I did have a problem with the act of playing as a male character, I wouldn’t be playing many games at all.
But if you’re making a game that’s at least loosely sets its world with social values, customs, cultures and whatnot that are based upon the real world – having a female character in a role does allow for a diversification in the story. At least subtly – it can add dramatic nuances that wouldn’t otherwise be experienced if a character was male. (The same can happen if you’re playing as any group that isn’t considered “the norm”.)
Take for instance how playing as a female Shepard in the Mass Effect series can feel – in the real world, women aren’t on the front lines of military forces, they’re not in direct combat roles. The exotic nature of playing as a woman in a controlling military role adds a dramatic impact to the ME series for me, because it’s going against stuff in my own world.
Though regular women are just as good a source for potentially dynamic stories. We’re not all about shoes.
Of course, what matters to publishers is cold, hard cash. As David Gaider recently explained to RPS:
“The only way the industry can’t ignore something is when money is involved.”
So, it doesn’t matter what the storytelling potentials are, cash, sadly is the bottom line. And apparently the latest Tomb Raider hasn’t been selling well enough, so that may further cloud publishers’ views on games with female leads.