Something strange has been happening in the past few years. Suddenly females, minorities, gays, and the mentally challenged are playing video games, and demanding to have their likeness appear in every game that comes out. I know, right?
If you are unable to sense the sarcasm in the previous paragraph, I'm sorry, and I feel bad for you.
Let me start by saying, I'm old. Well old comparatively to most of you. And I distinctly recall as a child, and a teenager, and even in college and beyond, that most girls I knew, played video games. And not like casually. Like they really enjoyed playing them. My sisters played them, My neighbors played them. Maybe in some more backwater parts of the country, girls weren't playing games as much, but not where I grew up. Same thing goes for my Asian friends, my African-American friends, the kids I knew in wheelchairs, or in home schooling, the homeless kid I knew (j/k) yadda, yadda, yadda.... you get the point.
With that said, I remember those people enjoying those games. I also remember that about 90% of the NES/SNES/Genesis/etc libraries featured male leads. White male leads, straight white male leads, straight white male mentally stable leads.
And you know how all of those people I knew reacted to that? They had fun playing the games they thought were fun. And ignoring the ones they didn't. But you know what was even funnier about a lot of those games? The leads weren't even humans! Or gendered. Like who's driving the car in Spy Hunter? What about the crew of J.A.C.K.A.L.? What about that Marble in Marble Madness? Which way does it swing? Does it really matter?
Modern games try so hard to be cinematic, therefore it's understandable that equal representation is desired. Hell, it SHOULD HAVE ALWAYS been that way. But let's take a moment really quickly to take a look at the recent history of games that came out with not only "female leads", but "STRONG and interesting female leads".
Just off the top of my head: Mirror's Edge, Transistor, Remember Me, AssCreed: Liberation, Beyond: Two Souls, Gone Home (I think?), Beyond Good and Evil, Alice: Madness Returns, Syberia, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us DLC, Walking Dead: Season 2.
Of all of those games, only Tomb Raider and the Last of Us DLC sold very well.
What does this tell you? It tells me that when developers DO try to introduce interesting female leads, we the gamers aren't buying those games. When we don't buy their games, they won't try to make more in the same demographic. This is just business economics 101. Period.
So if you want to see more diversity, support the games that attempt to be more diverse. Show the industry with your wallets, not your twitter tantrums, what you want.
Now, on the topic of shaming developers like Ubisoft for debuting games, and daring not to feature more diverse characters... Your change IS coming. But you can't act like a child, and cry and whine every time some developer doesn't fall down to their knees, and cater to your every whim.
Does it suck that AssCreedU, doesn't feature a female avatar in the Co-Op campaign? Yeah, it kind of does. Would it make sense in the context of the game's mechanics for it to feature one? No, no it wouldn't. Every player is controlling Arno, the currently completely mysterious main character of this particular title. So with that in mind, why would you play as a female character, when all of the other co-op players are also controlling Arno in their own games?
I'd love to play as a Charlotte Corday-esque main character, but Ubisoft went another direction. And that's totally ok. As long as they aren't portraying females negatively in the game, what's the big deal?
And come on give the guys a break! They brought us Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, and Aveline! Arguably two of the most interesting female leads in gaming history. Let them make their games... Damn. Don't tell them that you aren't going to buy their shit, because it isn't exactly what you want. Rent the game, play the game, and decide if you like it. Then buy it if you want, or don't.
Besides, I'd rather see a game built from scratch with a good female lead, than to buckle under public pressure and shoehorn her into an already, mostly finished narrative, meant for a completely different person. And no you can't tell me that Arno's character would be the same if he were a she. Because a male in France, would grow up a completely different person, than a female would, no matter what social status or station they were in. They would have to rewrite the entire script.
But enough about this whole Ubisoft silliness. You know who would be a fantastic lead character in a game?
Nellie "Ultimate Bad Ass" Bly!
Just look at her! Ready for action!
I could write her whole bio here, but instead I'll just link you to it. She was an amazing female investigative journalist in the 19th Century. A good 30 or so years prior to the suffrage movement in the 1920's. She exposed the inhumane conditions of woman's asylums in New England by going undercover as a patient, and she was also the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in under 80 days (beating Jules Verne's record lol). Think of all the different types of games that could be built around her story!
She's only one of a whole history full of amazing females to base characters on. Ada Lovelace, Catherine The Great, Rani Lakshmibai, Ching Shih, Queen Boudica, Tomoe Gozen, so many more!
And on a slightly related, but different topic; why on earth hasn't their been a female focused game development studio yet? I mean a studio that is founded by a group of women, but not necessarily staffed "only" with women. That focuses on making stories featuring strong, interesting, female, and other underrepresented types of characters? I smell a kickstarter. Surely this would go over like the coming of a new age in video games?
I dunno, I have no idea why i spent so long writing this. I think I just wanted to stop replying to individual commentators, and then it just went out of control. Well at least now I have something to link to anytime the topic comes up. lol.
Now if you'll excuse me, I am on Episode 7 in Remember Me, and after I finish that, I've got; Beyond: Two Souls waiting to be started.
As always, I welcome your civil debate, and discussion in the comments.
P.S. I just finished Remember Me, it made me cry a little. And that is a good thing.