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Bithell: "Male heroes should no longer be the default"

Bithell: "Male heroes should no longer be the default"

Thu 20 Feb 2014 8:29am GMT / 3:29am EST / 12:29am PST
Development

Thomas Was Alone creator urges developers to question choices

Indie developer Mike Bithell has suggested gamers are tiring of the standard male protagonists in games, and revealed he had a female protagonist in mind when he started his latest title, Volume.

"Male heroes should no longer be the default, it's a choice, a choice that should be deployed when it works for the story being told," he told Polygon.

"The thing that's interesting with gender, and is exciting, is that the conversation has gotten to a point where I'd even be asked 'Why male?'. That's a big deal, and speaks a lot to the awareness that's brewing in the industry about gender depictions, and frankly, the boringness of the standard chiseled beefcake with the big gun. People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns."

For his own part Bithell started developing Volume with a female hero in mind, but went with a male hero once he decided to follow a Robin Hood style story so he could "challenge that particular form of rich masculine heroism." He still regards his protagonist as " a different kind of male protagonist. Smarter, non-violent, and a bit arrogant." He's also including an option to play as a female character for players who finish the game.

Bithell reiterated his point speaking to The Guardian yesterday, and pointed out the gender options in Titanfall.

"I don't recall seeing anyone even mentioning that the Titanfall beta has female avatar options," he said.

"It has zero effect on the enjoyment of the game for players who don't care, and a massive effect for those who do. Everyone wins."

72 Comments

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Popular Comment
For his own part Bithell started developing Volume with a female hero in mind, but went with a male hero once he decided to follow a Robin Hood style story so he could "challenge that particular form of rich masculine heroism." He still regards his protagonist as " a different kind of male protagonist. Smarter, non-violent, and a bit arrogant." He's also including an option to play as a female character for players who finish the game.
Yes, I've never seen a male character that is smart, arrogant, and largely non-violent. It's completely untrod ground that absolutely necessitates a male lead. It's well known that games featuring smart, arrogant, and non-violent females are far too overplayed to even bother with except as a bonus mode for people who are already done with the product.

I say make the characters you want to make, don't try even bothering to "justify" it somehow. It's a simple question with a simple answer, "is this the character you want to make?" If "yes," then that's all the answer that's needed. If "no," only then do you need to provide a reason for why you would go against your own artistic vision.

Posted:6 months ago

#1

Robin Clarke
Producer

300 684 2.3
Mike is right of course, but I think it's fair to say that a lot of games where there's any actual role playing component already offer a choice.

"People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns" is a bit of an oversimplification. The patterns that a lot of big action/adventure games have run to are heavily influenced by technical limitations. Controls are basic and graphics are indistinct, so we're still in the silent movie era of BIG EXAGGERATED ACTIONS. Which leads to window dressing which fits that.

If a game needs you to identify with your avatar as a character choice is important but if they're just a playing piece for interacting with the world it doesn't always matter one way or the other really.

Posted:6 months ago

#2
Popular Comment
Male, female, it...it doesnt matter as long as it fits its context. What are we, still in the 1960s mentality?

Posted:6 months ago

#3

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

644 263 0.4
If you want tell a story, make a movie, not a game - which neglects the gameplay and is just another doom or tomb raider clone.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 20th February 2014 12:14pm

Posted:6 months ago

#4

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Popular Comment
I'm getting pretty sick of the, "don't try to tell a story in a game" crowd. If you don't like games that do this, such as the Uncharted series and the Tomb Raider reboot (both of which I think are brilliant), that's fine. I don't like sports games, either, but I don't go around saying that they ought not be made.

Posted:6 months ago

#5

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

331 279 0.8
Story definitely has a place in games, most critically acclaimed games are so because of the strong narrative that runs alongside the gameplay.

I also think gender issues should be solved by making characters that make sense for the story, and that developers should be encouraged to widen their horizons for storytelling beyond 'men who shoot things to solve problems'. It's not equality if you say "there aren't enough games with female protagonists, let's make our character female".

I do feel that things are getting better and better as time goes on though. Games like Half Life 2, Titanfall, Skyrim, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect, Portal, Dragon Age and Borderlands are just a small fraction of really popular games that I think have good examples of females in games.

Posted:6 months ago

#6

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

199 1,091 5.5
I think that it is all nice and I agree with every word... BUT... the thing is that the "male mentality" is out there in the market. Not the developers, but the people playing games. If you don't have Lara Croft, it is difficult to sell a female character. How many successful non-Tomb-Raider games, where a female was the lead character, can you name? And there were female-led games. Mirrors Edge, Wet, Remember Me, ... all of them failed. Portal is an exception, but the heroine of Portal is an empty shell...

And it is not just games... name me a few big-budget movies with female leads. It is not just the mentality, the stereotype. The people making these kinds of decisions know, that for a big part of the market, female leads are less attractive for some reason.

I do not approve this, I do not agree with it, but that is the reality. You don't risk your 50 million game to sell 2 million copies less because a female character better fits the story...

Posted:6 months ago

#7

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

644 263 0.4
Male, female, it...it doesnt matter as long as it fits its context. What are we, still in the 1960s mentality?
Ash would say : Male? Female? I am the one with the gun.

Posted:6 months ago

#8
@Jakub The audience buy what we sell if it's good enough to attract their money. They are not setting the terms, we are. If you make it well enough, you can create whatever you want and they'll gladly pay for it. That's the joy of the whole thing! I hope you see the irony in your using Lara Croft to explain why female leads don't work. If you worked on Tomb Raider in 1994 with that attitude you wouldn't even have her shining example to ruin your point in 2014.

Posted:6 months ago

#9

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

199 1,091 5.5
@Barry I don't defend my attitude. It is a bad one :-) Tomb Raider became a hit because it more or less invented a genre. Because it was the best game on the market at that moment.
I really wish that there were more game like that today. But even when not minding the audience, when someone tries to make female an important character, they always get a backlash from someone. Tomb Raider got it. The Last of us got it. Bioshock Infinite got it. Your female is either too vulnerable and needs men -> a bad thing, or your female is strong and badass -> does not correctly represent women.

Posted:6 months ago

#10

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
Your female is either too vulnerable and needs men -> a bad thing, or your female is strong and badass -> does not correctly represent women.
Which implies the industry needs to focus more on actual quality writing, than on polygon-counts, PhysX and multiplayer. Well-rounded characters are the starting-point for creating playable females who aren't just place-holders or a sign that "political correctness has gone mad".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 20th February 2014 2:42pm

Posted:6 months ago

#11
Popular Comment
@Jakub - "But even when not minding the audience, when someone tries to make female an important character, they always get a backlash from someone. "

The silent majority support risk. Beyond them, internet arseholes are entirely the last group that anyone anywhere making creative work should care about.

Posted:6 months ago

#12
Popular Comment
Commander sheppard swung both ways, why cant we give the gamer a choice? :)

Posted:6 months ago

#13

Craig Page
Programmer

382 218 0.6
Why male? Because, so far there has never been a woman who has saved our planet from an asteroid. There has never been a woman who saw an alien invasion coming, and decided to pick up a gun with infinite ammo and save the whole human race all by herself. It's never happened...

Mass Effect, RPGs, and MMOs all have the right idea. Let the player decide their race/gender/appearance.

Posted:6 months ago

#14

Andreia Quinta
Creative & People Photographer

214 535 2.5
If you want tell a story, make a movie, not a game
Yet most of the (debatable of course) interesting games are heavy story driven, and they're the ones racking up awards.
Last of Us
Heavy Rain
The Walking Dead by Teltale
ICO
Uncharted series
Legacy of Kain
Metal Gear Solid
Half-Life
Bioshock

When did an FPS or MOBA or anything really racked up as many awards as these guys did for their originality and innovation. If you don't have a story to tell why would someone pick up your game other than a fad (CoD) or pure addiction (WoW). The better the story the more distinction the game will have.
Saying for example that Tomb Raider 2013 'won' because, hei, it had Lara is irrelevant. The game had amazing looks + amazing story. I could make up a similar example with Duke Nukem Forever; Heavy weight champion of manlyness, with a track-record just as legendary as Lara's, MALE, huge fanbase and it tanked miserably since it failed to both look good and have a great story.


Story is KEY. Doesn't matter if you have breasts (Mass Effect <3).

Edit: Typooos

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 20th February 2014 5:29pm

Posted:6 months ago

#15

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
I'm wondering if some of these comments are serious, or so sarcastic as to be from another world... (No, I'm not trying to be rude, yes, I am genuinely curious). Case in point:
Why male? Because, so far there has never been a woman who has saved our planet from an asteroid. There has never been a woman who saw an alien invasion coming, and decided to pick up a gun with infinite ammo and save the whole human race all by herself. It's never happened...
Because Hollywood hasn't written it? Oh, wait, here's Sigourney Weaver, talking about Ripley.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 20th February 2014 5:37pm

Posted:6 months ago

#16

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
If you don't have a story to tell why would someone pick up your game other than a fad (CoD) or pure addiction (WoW)....Story is KEY.
Someone might pick up your game because it has great gameplay, even if there is no story. World of Tanks is a good example of this (even if the majority of players don't understand the brilliance and subtlety of its battle tactics).

Some games are great because they have great writing. Others are great for other reasons. It's part of the beauty of the art that there's so much room for doing different things in games.

As far as women as lead characters, I think it's something every game designer should contemplate. There's often nothing wrong with deciding not to do it, but I suspect that you'll come out with a better game if you at least considered the option, and consciously did or did not take it.

Posted:6 months ago

#17

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,159 1,081 0.5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4ElNGpfn5A

Heh. Said this years ago, but I think Nintendo should take this old Gainax game, rework the plot and make it into an actual Legend of Zelda game where you play as Zelda who has to rescue herself And Link after he gets KOed at the beginning (as in right after the usual tutorial where you think you're playing a new Zelda game and get the shock of your life.

Oh, and galaxy-saving Samus Aran is glaring at a few people here (er, Metroid Other M's story aside)...

Anyway, I like having the CHOICE of hero or heroine to play in as many games as possible. I just get bored with the usual guy running around and saving everything, which is why I found some of the Alien games refreshing (Alien 3 on a few platforms, Alien Trilogy, Alien Resurrection all feature Ripley as a playable character).

Posted:6 months ago

#18

Craig Page
Programmer

382 218 0.6
@Morville. You're right, I totally forgot about Sigourney. She deserves as much credit as Dennis Quaid or Bruce Willis for protecting humanity.

Posted:6 months ago

#19

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
As is becoming increasingly common, I agree with Robin and Barry.

Posted:6 months ago

#20

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Commander sheppard swung both ways, why cant we give the gamer a choice? :)
As someone for whom there is no Shep but Femshep, I love having this option in a game, but there's plenty of reason not to do it, basically coming down to having a female option adds a huge cost to the game's development that might not be worth it. I mean, you could add a "male mode" to Portal without much trouble, but if your character has a visible model? $. If that character is animated? $$. If that character has variety in face and hair and that sort of thing? $$$. If they have customizable costume options? $$$$. If they have a voice with thousands of lines of dialogue? $$$$$.

It costs a lot of money to give players options, and developers, or at the very least publishers, need to justify that investment by seeing it attract enough players to offset it, and it can be tricky to make the argument that the returns are there.I love when games offer broad character creation systems and multiple choices, but I don't tsk-tsk when they can't. It's never effortless, it's never "why not?"

Posted:6 months ago

#21

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

811 1,020 1.3
>> "The thing that's interesting with gender, and is exciting, is that the conversation has gotten to a point where we'll get a ton of free publicity by using women to earn money from'.

There, I fixed that for you. :)

Posted:6 months ago

#22

Nicholas Lovell
Founder

185 170 0.9
Story is only one of the components of a great game. I tend to favour systems games over story ones. They are also the ones that scare investors less (because story is expensive, hard to do well and frequently struggles to add enough value to justify the cost).

Some games do have story, and that is great. Some great games have great stories, and that is even greater.

But games don't need to have stories.

Posted:6 months ago

#23

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

521 749 1.4
edit: just noticed Tim Ogul already made this point :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Herod on 21st February 2014 3:02pm

Posted:6 months ago

#24
I'm with @Nicholas - story schmory.

Posted:6 months ago

#25

Iain Stanford
Experienced Software Engineer

33 126 3.8
Bithell: "Male heroes should no longer be the default"

Bithell: "Volume was totally going to have a female lead....but then I decided not too...but the rest of you shouldn't!"

Bithell: "But don't worry, I'm going to put the female lead BACK into it (as it doesn't *really* matter to my story). But you have to work for it by completing the game first"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Iain Stanford on 21st February 2014 3:35pm

Posted:6 months ago

#26

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
I tend to favour systems games over story ones.... But games don't need to have stories.
This is an interesting contrast in sentences, and it got me thinking.

I pen-and-paper roleplay, and some of the best systems for roleplay are the ones which allow the story to flow, and don't get in the way of what the characters want to do (Dogs in the Vineyard, Mountain Witch). Because, sometimes, the GM just wants player interaction and to tell a good story. And, sometimes, the opposite is true, and players just want to run around screwing each-other over, and backstabbing everyone for huge DPS because it's a laugh.

My point is, if we're having both types of game - with and without story - then putting thought into the story-based games makes sense. Any game designer or writer should ask themselves the same questions a good GM does - what race are these characters? What gender? How can I play with the expectations the players have? What assumptions will they make based on what I present them? Are they involved in the game? And that last point is key when dealing with anything. If the industry wants to broaden its horizons, it should ask itself what will involve all members of society. Not every game has to be the same, but Mike's point is a good one - the default should a) not automatically be a male, and b) not be assumed to be anything at any point, until it finally resonates with the designer/writer.

Not every game needs a story, no. But in the best story-led pen-and-paper games, playing a different gender radically affects how a player will approach a situation. Why, should multi-million dollar games get a pass when hobbyists can create something ten-times as good, simply because they consider every question, right from the start?

/rantover :)

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st February 2014 3:53pm

Posted:6 months ago

#27

Kieren Bloomfield
Software Engineer

92 79 0.9
@Morville, clearly you missed some of the comments further above about the added cost that providing this choice makes. For a hobbyist making a pen and paper game the choice is almost free. But if you're spending multi-millions telling a story with one lead character think about how much extra it costs to add more, particularly if the choice means more to the story and gameplay mechanics than a simple model or texture swap. I know you'll be the first to complain games are too expensive but you just don't get the moon on a stick for 30 quid; it wouldn't even buy a stick big enough.

On a related note, for what its worth I didn't think the story in Tomb Raider was very good. The change in Lara into a gun wielding Rambo character just didn't work. I spent ages picking up GPS caches with no explanation as to why. And the old guy just kept saying "You can do it, you're a Croft" without ever really spending any time on the Croft family back story for that repeated comment to ever mean anything.

Posted:6 months ago

#28

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
"The thing that's interesting with gender, and is exciting, is that the conversation has gotten to a point where I'd even be asked 'Why male?'. That's a big deal, and speaks a lot to the awareness that's brewing in the industry about gender depictions, and frankly, the boringness of the standard chiseled beefcake with the big gun. People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns."
Since when were they the default? I dont recall men being the default, just make more female characters. All this commotion about what gender the characters should be is making me sick. Its come to a point where making a male characters in a game is a bad thing. If you make a male character your sexist or have issues against woman... WTF man? What is wrong with people now a days!?... Seriously people should cut it out.... we are not living in the 1950's I think the world has come a long way from those times.

As if... Lara Croft, Bloodrayne, Wet, Bayonetta, lightning, Samus, Jill Valentine, Claire redfield, Sarah kerrigan, Naya Deveraux, Isabelle Sinclair, Meryl Silverburg and many other female characters... didnt tote guns. And lets not forget those games that allow you to create a custom character in which both male and female counter parts have equal standing.

I agree you have more male characters doing that... But I think he is tired more of shooters than anything else. And I can agree on that.

And right now I dont see gender representation being a huge issue as right now there are so many female characters in games of all types that its pretty much negligable.

I just say make the character whatever sex you want as long as it fits the context of the game or games story. And be done with it. You also need to consider who you want to play the game and alot of time you can make a character female, but if you make it a 1st person shooter your going to have a hard time getting woman to play it. I mean Grand Theft Auto got alot of slack because of it had 3 male lead characters. And if the context of the story didnt accomidate a woman i dont see that as a bad thing. As there are games in which the lead character is female.... many of them!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 21st February 2014 7:53pm

Posted:6 months ago

#29

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Yeah, if you're making a pen and paper, then adding gender options is as simple as adding the line "you can also make a female character." Or even just leave it out and players can assume that to be the case. In a video game though it requires art assets and audio assets, and the more effort you put into developing the visuals and audio for the default character, the more effort would have to go into the non-default. It goes the other way too, imagine how much effort it would have taken to play through Tomb Raider 2013 as Alex instead? Even considering he was already modeled and rigged, they'd have to make sure he had all the animations Lara did (like bow shooting and executions), all the costume varieties, record all the necessary dialog, etc. It's not always, or even usually worth the effort.

Posted:6 months ago

#30
If cost is a issue, let's just stick the hero/heroine in a giant iron suit of armour or mech, cover their face and make them mute. Problem solved......

Posted:6 months ago

#31

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
@ Kieren

*sigh*
I know you'll be the first to complain games are too expensive but you just don't get the moon on a stick for 30 quid; it wouldn't even buy a stick big enough.
I don't complain when good games are expensive. I complain when bad games are priced more than they're (subjectively) worth. I paid a pretty-penny for DA: Origins, for instance, and it's my favourite game according to my Steam profile. :)
But if you're spending multi-millions telling a story with one lead character think about how much extra it costs to add more, particularly if the choice means more to the story and gameplay mechanics than a simple model or texture swap.
Branching dialogue trees don't cost that much, do they? :p

(sorry, cheap-joke)

Re: Development cost

I wonder aloud how much Dragon Age: Origins cost, vs DA2. And I wonder this because DA2 both shrank the number of playable races, and raised the budget with a fully voiced main character. If the latter were dropped, I think something like Planescape: Torment with more options would be a viable AAA possibility. (I forget - is that what Pillars of Eternity is semi-aiming for?)

In any event, your's and Tim's arguments against the freedom that a pen-and-paper system allows (that is, the issue of cost), put paid to the argument that the writer/designer should have the final choice. What if the designer of an RPG wanted to tell both male and female perspectives? Something akin to Broken Age, maybe? Two sides of the same coin? Or two different female perspectives? (That last would sell great with the Dudebros.)

Obviously, extra assets and design choices and dev time cost. The point I'm making is, those costs should (surely?) be factored in at the start, when the writer/designer has been given his brief, so that, he/she can create with freedom. Or else, design choices are gutted, and the default option is the cheapest and most generic.

Interestingly, I never advocated that every game run to the pen-and-paper model of "Ohhhh, let's include options for this, that and the other." I said: "Why, should multi-million dollar games get a pass when hobbyists can create something ten-times as good, simply because they consider every question, right from the start?"

Give me a reason why the main character is male; give me a reason why every character is white; give me a reason why everything said sounds misogynistic. I'm a role-player - build the world for me, and let me play. Otherwise, include women, hispanics and husbands cooking.

Also, let's totally ignore my point about inclusiveness, yeah? Because, hey, why not.

*sigh*

(now I know how EA feel. :p )

Edit:

Re: Your points about Tomb Raider

This actually (I think, anyway :) ) proves my point about design choices being gutted. There were whole swathes of TR's original design that were cut, including more survival elements, and more to do with the GPS caches. Sadly, they got tossed when the game started running near/over budget.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st February 2014 8:45pm

Posted:6 months ago

#32

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
If cost is a issue, let's just stick the hero/heroine in a giant iron suit of armour or mech, cover their face and make them mute. Problem solved......
You can do that. It certainly cost them no more to make Samus female in Metroid than male, and you could make an alternate "male mode" of Samus with only a few manhours of sprite work, or make a "male" version of Portal with only a little effort to throw in some "manlier" legs, but it isn't always the "best" way to do things. Gender parity is not the most important factor. Yes, if you create a shallow character experience then gender parity becomes cheaper, but you're stuck with that shallow character experience, and in many cases players want to have a less shallow player experience, they want their player character to have more. . . character.
I wonder aloud how much Dragon Age: Origins cost, vs DA2. And I wonder this because DA2 both shrank the number of playable races, and raised the budget with a fully voiced main character. If the latter were dropped, I think something like Planescape: Torment with more options would be a viable AAA possibility. (I forget - is that what Pillars of Eternity is semi-aiming for?)
Sure, it's always a trade-off. Did they specifically say that they raised the character budget on DA2 though? Yes, it cost a lot to voice Hawke 1 and then Hawke 2, but they also got to cut down on NPC responses to whether you were human, elf, dwarf, etc. I expect it did cost more, but maybe not a ton more. It definitely would have cost a lot more if they'd allowed more playable races AND player audio. But DA was a franchise, like Mass Effect, where they committed to having a high character-based budget. That's great, I love their games, I totally support that, but I also recognize that it's not always a budgetary option, and not always the use of the budget that the developer wants, and I'm totally fine with that too. Let them make the games they want to make.
What if the designer of an RPG wanted to tell both male and female perspectives? Something akin to Broken Age, maybe? Two sides of the same coin? Or two different female perspectives? (That last would sell great with the Dudebros.)
If that's what the developer wants, then they should. I don't think I've ever heard anyone actively complain because a game allows both genders. My only point is that there's no justification for getting too upset when they don't, nobody should argue that there was "no good reason" why you couldn't play as either gender. There are very good reasons why you sometimes can't play as either gender, and while it's fair to express disappointment in passing, there's no justification for writing entire articles on the subject.
Obviously, extra assets and design choices and dev time cost. The point I'm making is, those costs should (surely?) be factored in at the start, when the writer/designer has been given his brief, so that, he/she can create with freedom. Or else, design choices are gutted, and the default option is the cheapest and most generic.
If the developer decides that having multiple gender options is important, then yes, they budget that in early in the process, but this typically means that other elements are trimmed, and if the game they want requires those elements instead, then they may not have enough resources to do both. They have to make a choice. Sometimes the better game results from the choice to have a single gender option.

If you get a game and feel "Oh, they should have added a male option to Tomb Raider, and I totally wouldn't have minded if they removed the Lara/Alex voices and the alternate costumes and the melee executions," then fair enough, that's your opinion as a consumer, but you at least have to acknowledge that there would be necessary trade-offs involved, and that maybe other players would be fine playing as Lara if it meant they'd get all those other elements.

Posted:6 months ago

#33

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
They have to make a choice. Sometimes the better game results from the choice to have a single gender option.
Indeed. And sometimes it doesn't. But this is getting very subjective now. :)
If you get a game and feel "Oh, they should have added a male option to Tomb Raider... then fair enough, that's your opinion as a consumer, but you at least have to acknowledge that there would be necessary trade-offs involved, and that maybe other players would be fine playing as Lara if it meant they'd get all those other elements.
I'm fine with the trade-offs (though, as you point out, others might not be). I suppose my issue is that race/gender seems to be ditched more often than other elements of games. You say "there's no justification for writing entire articles on the subject." but if the ditched elements are ditched because there's a perception they're not wanted, then I'd argue there is justification. Saying "We want our gender choices" sends a message that there's a market for such things.

In any event, as I say above, it's all subjective, and I didn't mean to start anything crazy with my RP-related post above... It really was just a mini-rant that formed from a couple of Nicholas's sentences. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st February 2014 10:03pm

Posted:6 months ago

#34

David Serrano
Freelancer

299 270 0.9
@Andreia Quinta

Ron Moore's 2004 Battlestar Galactica proved when story is key, the gender of a lead or supporting character is absolutely irrelevant. Because beyond stripping the original story of its kitsch factor, Moore massively improved it by either splitting the narrative role of key male characters between a male and female character (Edward James Olmos / Mary McDonnell and James Callis / Tricia Helfer) or by simply rewriting male characters as female (Katee Sackhoff and Grace Park). And the end result was a far more believable, accessible, immersive and addictive storytelling experience.

And if you're interested, this interview with Patrice Desilets did a great job of explaining why AC 1 didn't contain "video gamey elements":

http://kotaku.com/5359999/the-lessons-learned--or-resisted--while-making-assassins-creed-ii

Posted:6 months ago

#35

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Indeed. And sometimes it doesn't. But this is getting very subjective now. :)
It's always subjective, but that's why it's fair in these cases to say "I'm disappointed that they made this choice rather than that one, and I would have preferred the game the other way," but irrational to say "How DARE they make this choice rather than that one, they are horrible people for not making the game the other way."
You say "there's no justification for writing entire articles on the subject." but if the ditched elements are ditched because there's a perception they're not wanted, then I'd argue there is justification. Saying "We want our gender choices" sends a message that there's a market for such things.
It really doesn't. If there are a hundred articles written about how more games should offer gender choices, what message does that send? It sends the message that one hundred people want to play those games. Less if one writer wrote multiple articles on the topic. That's just a vocal minority, a publisher wouldn't even roll over in bed for a hundred potential players, much less actually get out of bed.

What does send a message is when games featuring female leads or gender options out sell similar games with only a single gender option, and so far, the opposite seems to be true. So the lesson, if you support games with gender options, buy games with gender options, and don't buy games without them, that's literally the only thing you can do on the subject that actually matters.

Posted:6 months ago

#36

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
So the lesson, if you support games with gender options, buy games with gender options, and don't buy games without them, that's literally the only thing you can do on the subject that actually matters.
And this is where it's all gone chicken-and-egg. :) If developers/publishers don't put the options in, then we can't buy them, but if we don't buy them they don't produce them. And arguing this against publishers is worthless if no acknowledgement is made on the part of the consumer as to why they are or are not being bought. The next game with gender options might be awful, and thus sell badly because it's bad, the next game without them might be awesome, and sell well simply because of that. The only thing noted by the publisher is the sale/not sale, not the reasoning behind it. Hence... Articles about gender choices being good. (I... think we're back where we started. :p )

Possibly the perfect scenario from your perspective would be every person who did or did not buy a game that they agreed with emailing the publisher to say why. But, unless every single person did this, we'd be back to your argument of "That's just a vocal minority". (Apologies if I'm putting words in your mouth here).

edit:
It sends the message that one hundred people want to play those games. Less if one writer wrote multiple articles on the topic. That's just a vocal minority
There's also the point about silent majority/minority. All these posts in this thread, and only one comment by a woman. Does this mean the women reading it agree or disagree? Hard to say, but at least there's an opinion which takes the opposite stance to most of the men here.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st February 2014 10:46pm

Posted:6 months ago

#37

Marty Howe
Director

60 25 0.4
People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns.

How do you know?

Posted:6 months ago

#38

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
Im sorry but the story can change considerably because of the gender. And not just gender, a simple choice, like if a character dies or not. Cost is an issue and its not abut changing the gender and a few lines of dialog or text. Full recorded voice overs, massive story changes need to be done. So again, because of production costs a person has to stick to ONE gender unless you can cover the cost of making 2 games. Its like remaking the entire underworld movies with a male vampire lead to replace kate beckinsale in all the movies. I can understand if this guy wants to make a game with a female lead, I just dont swallow all this too many male characters crap... Its a design descision. Like when you choose the color of a characters hair or there wardrobe or the visual aesthetics of there hometown.

So while you can make any story using any gender, its a creative desision that is done in the beginning, in the concept and pre-production phase. Once the project is started thats it. You have to stick to it unless you have enough money to and resources to make two versions of the games. Then if thats the case why not make the game in which the characters are gay, black or chinese. You want to go into that too? When is this going to stop? Probably never.

If it was no big deal to take male character and turn them into a female character, then I think it should not be a big deal the other way around.

Among the top games of 2013 featured leading or predominant female roles we have ... The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, Bioshock... Sometimes I believe this gender issue exists in peoples heads. And while games like Mirrors Edge, Remember Me or Beyond Good and Evil didnt sell well, its not because they featured female leads. Its because of the type of game they were and they were relatively new brands with little recognition. But all the females featured in those games are very well written an interesting. Likewise there are many games featuring male leads that dont sell, but i dont see people mention those games. Why? because they didnt feature a female lead. Look some games are gonna bomb... and it doesnt matter the gender... and in many cases the games are actually very good. Alot goes into selling a game and getting t recognized.

Now a days you feature a male character in a game and your automatically sexist or some shit like that. If its relevant to the story and context of the game, let the creator do what they please.... geez people got to lighten up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 21st February 2014 11:05pm

Posted:6 months ago

#39

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
And this is where it's all gone chicken-and-egg. :) If developers/publishers don't put the options in, then we can't buy them, but if we don't buy them they don't produce them.
Enough games put the option in that you can selectively purchase if you'd like. You're never going to get "Mass Effect" and "Mass Effect with no gender options" at the same time, but you have your Mass Effects, Dragon Ages, Fables, and Saints Rows on one side, and your Last of Us, Bioshock, Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed on the other, and you can choose to buy from one stack and not the other and send that message. I buy them all, which sends the message that I don't much care either way so long as the game is good.
And arguing this against publishers is worthless if no acknowledgement is made on the part of the consumer as to why they are or are not being bought.
Not really. Unless every customer that does buy the game is surveyed as to why, they won't know exactly what the reasons are, but writing articles about it or making forum posts doesn't give them any better idea, because if they sell five million copies, and a thousand people go around saying that it was because they had gender choice options, well that's nice and all, but that is .1% of their total audience talking, and they have no idea how many of the remaining 99.9% of the audience that represents. Self-selecting advocacy is not statistically relevant.

Now, with the "silent majority" stance aside, you can't reasonably say that there is any audience that doesn't want choice, but I think that given how many games have been successful that don't offer it, there's a fair argument to be made that the audience doesn't need that level of choice in order to be satisfied with the product.
Hence... Articles about gender choices being good. (I... think we're back where we started. :p )
No, hence. . . Articles about gender choices being potentially misleading.

Posted:6 months ago

#40

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/commentisfree/2014/feb/19/video-games-need-more-women-female-characters

Regardless of the sides we're taking in this discussion, I'm not sure if a) the cost/price argument is a good or true argument, and b) whether the average person reading The Guardian actually cares how much it costs vs the fact that they want a female main character.

Just something to note, now that this is actually being discussed in places other than gaming sites.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 22nd February 2014 9:16am

Posted:6 months ago

#41

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
My point exactly.

And for the record, that article is just as fundamentally flawed as the VG247 article she references, and is shameful from anyone who claims to be a member of the gaming press. I do find it funny that she quotes Rhianna Pratchet though, who wrote a game in which you cannot play as a male character, to support the idea that having both gender options should be considered a financial non-issue. It clearly wasn't a non-issue for Squenix. No, adding female characters does not double the art budget, in most cases, but it definitely increases it significantly for most types of games, and that's not inconsequential.
Umm, not exactly a title you want to reference in favor of having female leads in a game.
And yet, a woman wrote Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider caught a lot of early flak from the press because reporters were running off at the keyboard about a scene that they'd only viewed out of context, or maybe just heard about at E3. Press over-reaction to the potential for sexism is a very rational fear from a development standpoint. At worst, not putting female characters into the game gets a note that you didn't include them. Putting them in, even with the best of intentions and research and well thought-out placement and every precaution one might take, can still open you up to a ####-storm of press about how your game is "abusing" or "demeaning" the women in it, which is far worse than them just not being there. Another simple example is also the "Tropes vs. Women" videos, which constantly takes material out of context to portray certain games as being negative portrayals of women, merely by their presence in the game.

Posted:6 months ago

#42

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
Re: Remember Me
Umm, not exactly a title you want to reference in favor of having female leads in a game.
Why not? The point is proven by the fact that it hasn't sold half as well as it ought (it's generally considered an under-rated, if flawed, classic, by a lot of gamers). The quoted "publishers" will take its poor sales as indicative that the consumer doesn't want a female lead in an SF game. (Not all publishers will, no, but it's confirmation bias, surely? The publishers who were against it because of the female lead have, in their minds, been proven right.)

Posted:6 months ago

#43

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Also, Morville, are you seriously still questioning whether cost is a factor? Ok.

Let's take the "best case scenario" for adding a female character to a game. Let's say we have a game in which you choose between four primary characters. Each of these characters is hand modeled with a completely unique body, a completely unique animation rig, their own set of animations, their own VA, each one is a snowflake that borrows nothing from the other characters and must be balanced independently. Let's also posit that what story exists is designed in such a way that gender is never addressed. There are no NPC characters that would use a pronoun in a sentence to address the character, or treat a male character differently than a female one.

In this scenario, the perfect case scenario, Keza MacDonald would be right, it would cost exactly the same to have one of those four characters, or two, or even all four be female as it would cost to make them male. Since each is built from scratch and shares nothing with the others, it would be identical. I've played maybe one or two games in which this was the case, Brute Force for the X-Box, for example, but most games are not this easy.

The simplest difference from that ideal would be a game in which NPCs address you with pronouns, referring to you as "he" or "she," or taking note of your gender in any way. If this happens, then each line of dialog where this occurs would need to be doubled from the addition of a female character, whereas the original dialog could support an infinite number of male characters. These additional lines could be relatively few, or could be quite extensive, and even though a good writer can work to minimize this, it means both a lot of extra work on his part to make it seem natural, and also hamstrings his creative options to some degree.

But let's get back to the art budget, because there are a lot of games in which each model is not a unique snowflake, but rather an iteration on a single snowflake. Instead of being hand modeled, rigged, and animated from scratch, many models share features, perhaps being identical from the neck down with a different head slotted on, perhaps using scaling to make the model larger or smaller in some dimensions, but retaining the basic structure.

In this case, any of the work you do to model the body, rig it, animate it, and clothe it with customizable gear, if you do it once for on character, it automatically applies to every other character that shares those elements. You might have to make some minor tweaks here and there to prevent clipping, but if you build the system right, making a change for one character is the same as making the change for all the characters, so if you have four male leads, and one costs, say, $50,000 to produce (visually at least), instead of costing $200K to make all four, it may only end up costing $70K or so, just that little bit extra to make the unique face for each. If you male one of them a female character, with a completely unique body, rig, and animation set, then it would cost that initial $50K again.

In a game with highly variable character options, like Saints Row, this is even more pronounced. To make the male character, they need to make a highly flexible male model, rig it up, do all the animations, and then generate hundreds of pieces of clothing that fit that model and distort along with it, without clipping, so that a short and fat model will look as natural wearing the clothes as a tall and buff model, or a medium and skinny model. This set-up, once achieved, allows for a massive amount of variation within the male form with no additional work on their part, allowing players to create millions of different characters with zero additional work on their part. When, however, they decide to add a female option, that means doing ALL of that stuff from scratch a second time. They need to make a new model from scratch from the same parameters, a new rigging from scratch, new animations from scratch, and new clothing from scratch. They can save a few bucks here and there by importing some clothing options that wouldn't change shape (like a hat), or that they can modify to fit differently without having to start from ground zero (like taking a T-shirt and altering the fit while retaining the basic geometry), but it still represents a 90%+ redo of the art assets to make that single female option. Making the female player character doesn't cost more than the male one, but having both does cost almost twice as much on that element of the budget.

Now again, some games choose to do all this, and that's great, and good for them, but if any game company chooses not to, they are not horrible people for it, they have decided that other factors of the game were better places to put that budget, and that's a fair call. Including Bithell, and including Pratchet's bosses.

Posted:6 months ago

#44

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
Tim said:
Also, Morville, are you seriously still questioning whether cost is a factor? Ok.
I said:
I'm not sure if a) the cost/price argument is a good or true argument,
By good and true, I mean that it appears (note the emphasis) like it's a cheap (no pun intended) way out of the whole discussion: "Oh, it costs money, therefore no." (My fault for using a slightly archaic saying. :) )

Also, a few posts up, I say:
Obviously, extra assets and design choices and dev time cost.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 22nd February 2014 10:16am

Posted:6 months ago

#45

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
By good and true, I mean that it appears (note the emphasis) like it's a cheap (no pun intended) way out of the whole discussion: "Oh, it costs money, therefore no." (My fault for using a slightly archaic saying. :) )
Well, but why is that not a good and true argument? If it's a fact that it would in most cases cost more, why is that a factor not worthy of serious consideration?

Posted:6 months ago

#46

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
If it's a fact that it would in most cases cost more, why is that a factor not worthy of serious consideration?
Because cost shouldn't matter when it comes to equal representation of the population. I posted then deleted (it was a bit rude, I felt :) ), an immediate response to Rick's post above, which was essentially "Yes! We need more gays, blacks and Chinese in games. Cost shouldn't matter."

The gut reaction I have when it's raised - even though I see it as a valid point - is "Well, find a way to make games cheaper, because we can't keep on having straight white dudes in the majority of games." And we can't. In my RP-rant above, I said this:
If the industry wants to broaden its horizons, it should ask itself what will involve all members of society.
Using cost-of-dev to evade that argument is cheap. It's cheap to me, and it's no doubt cheaper to someone like (picking a name out the hat) Germaine Greer. Dev cost is already an issue, and it needs to be dealt with. Deal with it, and more varied representation in games can happen. Don't deal with it, and you'll have people stamping their feet arguing that cost shouldn't matter in games.

(Sorry if this is ranty... It's something I've been trying to explain in a not-ranty way for the past couple of days, but I couldn't, so kept backspacing my comments into nothingness. :) )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 22nd February 2014 11:27am

Posted:6 months ago

#47

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Because cost shouldn't matter when it comes to equal representation of the population.
Of course it should. Cost matters because if you take the stance "whatever the cost" then you quickly go out of business and can't keep making progressive games. Games should not discriminate against players, any player should be able to buy a game if they want, and games should not actively try to discriminate, to make choices against practicality because they want less equal representation, but they are under no obligation to sacrifice other elements of their product in the name of equal representation if they don't want to.

"Because equal representation," is no better reason to do or not do something than "because cost" is, and by most accounts it's a far worse one. There's a reason this site is called "GamesIndustry International, rather than "GamesCharity International."
The reaction I have when it's raised - even though I see it as a valid point - is "Well, find a way to make games cheaper, because we can't keep on having straight white dudes in the majority of games."
Making the game cheaper is not always an option though, and even if the game can be made cheaper, there might be other priorities that could take advantage of those savings that would make for a better overall game than having more balanced gender representation. As I noted above, they could have added a way to play through Tomb Raider as a male character instead of a female, it would just cost more, but if they could find the budget to afford that option, I would have preferred they spend it on adding a few more platforming/puzzle tombs instead, I would value added gameplay elements to added cast diversity.

Money always has consequences, it never comes for free. Any time you say to a developer "you should add this to your game," you're also saying "you should remove this from your game" at the same time. High quality games will never be so cheap to produce that cost is not a factor, there will always be tradeoffs in production.

There's no reason you can't just "keep on having straight white dudes" in your games, so long as games featuring straight white dudes continue to sell better than others. It's totally not representative, but the industry has no obligation to be representative, they have an obligation to get the best returns on their investments. Of course if the developer wants to do some different type of character, then they should, but if they don't want to, then there's no reason they should be bullied into it.

Posted:6 months ago

#48

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
the industry has no obligation to be representative, they have an obligation to get the best returns on their investments.
Right. Which is why EA should not be criticised for what they did to Dungeon Keeper; The history of the game, the art, even making it fun is not important; gamers are merely wallets from which EA has a responsibility to take all the money they can. If that's what makes the cash, that's what EA (and everybody else) should be doing.

Posted:6 months ago

#49

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
@Morville

Just want to clear up my statement:
So while you can make any story using any gender, its a creative desision that is done in the beginning, in the concept and pre-production phase. Once the project is started thats it. You have to stick to it unless you have enough money to and resources to make two versions of the games. Then if thats the case why not make the game in which the characters are gay, black or chinese. You want to go into that too? When is this going to stop? Probably never.
I know you delted it but anyway, you replied or were going to reply:
Because cost shouldn't matter when it comes to equal representation of the population. I posted then deleted (it was a bit rude, I felt :) ), an immediate response to Rick's post above, which was essentially "Yes! We need more gays, blacks and Chinese in games. Cost shouldn't matter."

Morville what I was trying to say was that to make a game that caters to all these audiences AT THE SAME TIME will add additional costs to game development. Among the game design choices, the demographical group the game is aimed at is one of them. Making a Game like Mass Effect costs alot and those costs raise considerably by simply adding both male and female options. A full voice over recording needs to be done for both, and all the relationship options and added scenarios they bring need to be done twice. NPC or party member dialogs need to be adjusted to be adressed towards male and female versions.

I am not against in anyway or form that games be made for any demographic group of people. Im very glad that Mass Effect and Dragon age are able to cover a broad range of them. Including gays, blacks chinese and pretty much any race. But then again, the game allows you to customize your character anyway you want and we are talking EA. They got lots of resources to do that type a thing.

-------------------------------------

Anyway to add a bit more to the discussion:

We have games like the last of us, Bioshock and Tomb raider, that storywise they are heavily rooted in the designs and personalities of the main characters. Thats ok too.

To add one more example, take a game like sleeping dogs, which is rooted in a story about the chinese mafia. Does this story warrent the need for a black or american character? Would changing the character to a female make more woman play it? Is it worth the extra cost, and finally... would it add to the story the creator wanted to tell?

But alot of these things are design decisions. It should be left up to the creator to decide what they want to do. And when designing a game there are many decisions that need to be made. The demographical group of people you want to aim it at happens to be one of them. Since killing off a character or simply deciding what the hometown of a character should be can change the flow of the story and how its designed. Even relationships between characters. Its not just the demographical group of people. And these design decisions are usually limited by production costs.

Likewise I feel the creator of the game should create the game they want to create. Instead of having to think about how to please everyone. Thats why we got games like Mirrors Edge and Beyond Good and Evil. Im hoping to see sequels to both. And I applaud EA for doing a sequel to Mirrors Edge.

And in defence of Remember Me. I bought that game. I like the female lead character. I can find two reasons why it didnt perform well and its not because of the female lead. First off its a new brand and second the game play faultered alot. It was no uncharted regarding that aspect. And if you want to add in a third, the story, while having a nice concept and interesting premise it did not deliver on the scale of games like last of us or Bioshock infinite. So I can understand its lackluster reception. And it annoys me a great deal of people who think all this can be corrected by simply changing the female character to a male character. However I liked the concept, the characters and the world they created enough that Im hoping for a sequel. This game showed alot of potential and DOTNOD as a developer showed it can deliver a AAA game expirience. The game had a terrific presentation. DOTNOD just needs to make a few more games to polish off there potential.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 22nd February 2014 5:01pm

Posted:6 months ago

#50

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Right. Which is why EA should not be criticised for what they did to Dungeon Keeper; The history of the game, the art, even making it fun is not important; gamers are merely wallets from which EA has a responsibility to take all the money they can. If that's what makes the cash, that's what EA (and everybody else) should be doing.
Maybe, that's certainly one way to take it. Personally I wouldn't go so far as to say that EA is on the right track. I think their strategy is too focused on short term gains rather than long term ones. I think there's a balance point between making the right choices to attract as many players as possible, vs. using techniques that exploit what customers you do attract. On the other hand, EA exploiting the idiots that would play their "gouge to play" mobile games is what gives them the capital to fund projects like the Masss Effect and Dragon Age games, so in the end it does allow for more diverse options.
And in defence of Remember Me. I bought that game. I like the female lead character. I can find two reasons why it didnt perform well and its not because of the female lead.
Nobody is really saying that Remember Me failed because it had a female lead. But. . . If out of the thousands of games being produced, most of them have male leads, and only a tiny number have female leads, and just coincidentally NONE of the games with female leads have outperformed base expectations and most have fallen well short of those expectations, then if all you care about is return on investment, can't you understand how that is a worrying sign? I mean, you may not like that game are a business or that profit matters, but so long as it does it's a factor that will be considered when design choices are being made. I'm just pointing out that it would be easier to pitch a game with a female lead if there were at least a few games with female leads that did not bomb completely. With Remember Me specifically, if it had succeeded then it could be used as a great example of "see, they told me not to use a female character and I ignored them, and look how great we did!" But with it's abject failure, it's hard to take a victory lap about bucking the system, "see, they told me not to use a female character and I ignored them, and it's possible that the game failed for entirely different reasons!"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Ogul on 22nd February 2014 9:12pm

Posted:6 months ago

#51

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,521 1,317 0.9
@ Tim
It's totally not representative, but the industry has no obligation to be representative, they have an obligation to get the best returns on their investments.
True, true... "It's a business". The counter-argument to that is that, the more representative games become, the more chances there are for consumers to be welcomed to the industry, and the more cash flows in.

(On a time-limit, here, so this is shorter than it would ordinarily be (praise be! I can hear you say. :p )
Money always has consequences, it never comes for free. Any time you say to a developer "you should add this to your game," you're also saying "you should remove this from your game" at the same time.
Not "any time". I got Might and Magic X - Legacy a few days ago. First Person Dungeon Crawler, party of 4 (like Dungeon Master! Woo!). I figured I'd have a party of 4 women. Except there's only a total of 4 avatars - two men, two women. It seems unlikely that this gender split is for story-reasons (though not impossible). They're (at a guess) 80x160 jpegs. The cost of adding more avatars is so small as to be nothing. Nothing would have to be removed from the game to have 4 female, 4 male avatars. Yet... the dev/publisher said "No" to more avatars (or, more likely, didn't think of it in the first place). This genuinely impedes my enjoyment of the game, and I'm not even a woman.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 23rd February 2014 9:38am

Posted:6 months ago

#52

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
True, true... "It's a business". The counter-argument to that is that, the more representative games become, the more chances there are for consumers to be welcomed to the industry, and the more cash flows in.
I don't think that's true, or at least it hasn't been established. Making games more representative does not seem to have any correlation to more consumers entering the industry, as the more representative games don't tend to attract larger audiences. Just as I'm perfectly fine playing as Lara Croft, plenty of women are fine playing as Link or Mario. It's possible that certain segments of the audience would prefer, given the option, to play as a character that is more similar to themselves, but there's no real evidence that even this is the case, much less that there exists a significant population that won't play at all unless they get to play as a character much like themselves. I have eight characters in my favorite MMO, only the least-played of which looks even remotely like me, five of which are female, three are tiny gremlins, one is a giant cat, and one is a plant. If I were told I could play the game as much as I wanted, but never play as the human male again, I wouldn't even bat an eye over it.

Basically, there's a theory going around that if you had more games with female leads, you would have more girls playing those games, I just don't see any reason to believe this to be the case. I think that every girl who is interested in playing a certain genres of game is probably already playing in that genre, even if the avatar they are using happens to be male. I think that having more customization options is more a quality of life benefit, rather than an audience expander, in most cases.
Not "any time". I got Might and Magic X - Legacy a few days ago. First Person Dungeon Crawler, party of 4 (like Dungeon Master! Woo!). I figured I'd have a party of 4 women. Except there's only a total of 4 avatars - two men, two women. It seems unlikely that this gender split is for story-reasons (though not impossible). They're (at a guess) 80x160 jpegs. The cost of adding more avatars is so small as to be nothing. Nothing would have to be removed from the game to have 4 female, 4 male avatars. Yet... the dev/publisher said "No" to more avatars (or, more likely, didn't think of it in the first place). This genuinely impedes my enjoyment of the game, and I'm not even a woman.
If it were actual zero cost, then they would have done it. Instead, in the real world, it would have taken some time to develop additional avatars, maybe not a lot of time, but more time than they cared to spend doing it. That time, however much it would have been, would have had to be taken from other developmental activities or budgets.

Posted:6 months ago

#53
Let's just help develop interesting characters or fictionalised role models, with enjoyable narrative or gameplay .

That should cover 80% of all previous and future articles/debate :)

Posted:6 months ago

#54

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
On the other hand, EA exploiting the idiots that would play their "gouge to play" mobile games is what gives them the capital to fund projects like the Masss Effect and Dragon Age games, so in the end it does allow for more diverse options.
Well, EA has clearly gone wrong there, then. They should not be using the money they get exploiting idiots to fund "artistic" projects; they should be either using it to fund more ways to extract maximum profit from consumers or they should be returning the money to shareholders as dividends.

There are admittedly quite a few people in the industry who, for some odd reason, don't understand that money is the only factor that's important here, and are willing to sacrifice profits to make what they feel is a "better" game in some way. These people are also appropriate fodder for those who understand what's really important, and much free labour can be extracted from them by appearing to pander to their wishes or, often, even by simply letting them work on games.

But I am glad to see that so many here do understand that how much profit is made and "responsibility to shareholders" are the primary criteria on which a games company should be judged. It's unfortunate that many in that parasite industry known as "gaming journalism" (something clearly unnecessary, when companies supply their own perfectly fine PR departments to write appropriate propaganda) do not understand this, and label Dungeon Keeper s terrible product, rather than the crowning glory of what games clearly ought to be.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 23rd February 2014 3:02pm

Posted:6 months ago

#55

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Well, EA has clearly gone wrong there, then. They should not be using the money they get exploiting idiots to fund "artistic" projects; they should be either using it to fund more ways to extract maximum profit from consumers or they should be returning the money to shareholders as dividends.
Again, I think that's short sighted. If that's all you do then you tend to burn out the audience and then they won't spend any money playing anything. You need to keep them on the hook, which means providing some less profitable products that keep them interested. Even when you do though, you want to game to at least break even. There's no reason to believe that providing more diverse characters would serve that role any better than the current character selections though, back to the point of this thread.

Posted:6 months ago

#56

Jessica Hyland
Character Artist

270 999 3.7
Game developer suggests other developers should interrogate their works more. Maybe, he suggests, instead of making a game about a man because that's just what you do, you could consider... maybe this character could be a woman instead? Could that be more interesting?

Game industry comments pit loses its mind. How dare anyone question any aspect of anybody's creative process? Much less that person themselves? Madness! Political correctness gone mad! Money! Effort! Who even cares about women's stories anyway?

Business as usual...

Posted:6 months ago

#57

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Exactly. If Bithell wants to have more women characters in his games, then that's great, nobody's trying to stop him. It' the games journalism cacophony on the issue that's getting tiresome.

Posted:6 months ago

#58

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Tim, that you're actually taking my comments seriously suggests to me that you ought not be in the games industry. There are other areas, such as finance, where you can make a lot more money and put up with a lot less crap. In the gaming industry, the business folks do indeed exploit the people who are in it for the art, and the only good reason to put up with that exploitation is because you love the art.

The reasonable conclusion to draw from my arguments above is that, while there will always be business factors involved, it makes no sense to use those as a justification for not looking at including a broader spectrum of characters and experiences in games, because if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, you throw out everything related to fun, art, or anything similar and merely see your game as a money-making making machine. And that's how you end up with EA's new Dungeon Keeper, and why you don't care a whit that Eurogamer rated it one out of ten (aside from the fact that it might deter some people from playing it).

Posted:6 months ago

#59

Christopher Pickford
Producer

54 76 1.4
I've started playing "GamesIndustry.biz Commenter Username Bingo" - I find that threads about gender mean I can complete the entire set in less than a few hours, though I'm missing Bruce on this one.

Posted:6 months ago

#60

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Tim, that you're actually taking my comments seriously suggests to me that you ought not be in the games industry. There are other areas, such as finance, where you can make a lot more money and put up with a lot less crap. In the gaming industry, the business folks do indeed exploit the people who are in it for the art, and the only good reason to put up with that exploitation is because you love the art.
But we weren't talking about "the art." "The art" means you can do whatever you want. Have a male lead, have a female lead, up to you. Nobody's talking about getting in the way of "the art," nobody has argued that if you want to put more female characters in your games, that you shouldn't do so, only that if you don't particularly want to, you shouldn't be bullied into it by outside forces.

The discussion here is whether game designers Should include more female characters, as some sort of public service or something, in opposition to their artistic vision, and/or whether doing so would cause any sort of positive movement in the gaming audience. These are issues which have nothing to do with "the art," but since we're talking about what artists should do, whether their personal vision compels it or not, then economics is a far better justification than amateur social engineering.
The reasonable conclusion to draw from my arguments above is that, while there will always be business factors involved, it makes no sense to use those as a justification for not looking at including a broader spectrum of characters and experiences in games, because if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, you throw out everything related to fun, art, or anything similar and merely see your game as a money-making making machine.
Which is why following arguments to their logical conclusion is almost always a bad idea. Logical conclusions almost always suck. Instead, just follow the argument to the point at which it stops making sense, take one step back, and then stay right there.

Posted:6 months ago

#61

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
We're not talking about the art? Perhaps you should go back and read the original article. And "artistic visions" should be challenged (even by the artist him- or herself); that not only makes them stronger, but is part of the point of art. Looking at the interaction of the audience with this vision is the core of art; art isn't art without an audience. That makes "amateur social engineering" a great basis for modifying one's vision, and economics important only inasmuch as it determines how far you can go before you stop creating art entirely and instead go in to banking.
Just follow the argument to the point at which it stops making sense, take one step back, and then stay right there.
You've clearly done this, which just goes to prove my point (which you utterly ignored) that I think you'd be much happier in an industry such as finance where you can simply do whatever makes money and not have to confront things that make you uncomfortable. Facing uncomfortable thoughts is part of art.

I come back to Dungeon Keeper again: the designers on that either believed that money was the important thing, or were being unwillingly exploited by those who thought that, which is how they ended up with 60% of their media reviews being 4/10 or less (according to Metacritic at the moment) and a user score of 0.3, with 96% of the user reviews being a 0 out of 10.

Do you honestly think that Dungeon Keeper is a fine effort, rather than a blot on the face of gaming? If so, you need to ask yourself why you're in (or wanting to be in) the industry. If not, you have to ask yourself if there really is any big difference between telling EA it's not fine to pursue the almighty dollar that way, and telling others it is ok to use that as an excuse not to look at what would happen if you designed your game with a female lead, even if that makes you uncomfortable in some way.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 25th February 2014 3:49am

Posted:6 months ago

#62

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
You've clearly done this, which just goes to prove my point (which you utterly ignored) that I think you'd be much happier in an industry such as finance where you can simply do whatever makes money and not have to confront things that make you uncomfortable. Facing uncomfortable thoughts is part of art.
Maybe, but having fun is the point of games. Facing uncomfortable truth can be a part of games, but is wholly unnecessary to the process. If facing uncomfortable truths gets in the way of having fun then it should probably be avoided outside of indy projects that are just designed to make a statement.
Do you honestly think that Dungeon Keeper is a fine effort, rather than a blot on the face of gaming?
You're the one obsessed with Dungeon Keeper, not me. I've never once defended the game, but I have not played it myself so any opinion I would have on the matter would be hearsay at best. I don't think it has anything to do with the topic at hand, because we aren't talking about exploitative game mechanics here, we're talking at most about personal design preferences, like whether Dungeon Keeper has a primarily warm color pallet or a cool one.

Posted:6 months ago

#63

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
If you consider the perception and treatment of certain groups of human beings (such as women, amongst many, many other groups) to be the same type of decision as whether you chose a warm or cool colour pallet, you have a pretty skewed sense of values.

Posted:6 months ago

#64

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
If you consider the perception and treatment of certain groups of human beings (such as women, amongst many, many other groups) to be the same type of decision as whether you chose a warm or cool colour pallet, you have a pretty skewed sense of values.
Nobody's talking about the perception or treatment of any human beings, we're talking about video game characters.

Posted:6 months ago

#65

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Nobody's talking about the perception or treatment of any human beings, we're talking about video game characters.
Do you seriously think that how people are represented in the media has no effect whatsoever on how they are perceived and treated in real life?

You are clearly so distanced from reality that it's not even possible to have this discussion with you. Which is sad, because you're a perfect example of the whole problem. ("There is no problem" is what the problem always says.)

Posted:6 months ago

#66

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
Do you seriously think that how people are represented in the media has no effect whatsoever on how they are perceived and treated in real life?
Nobody's talking about representing anyone poorly though, just about whether developers should use the characters they'd like to use, or substitute alternate characters in for political reasons. I haven't seen anyone advocating for deliberately negative portrayals of any group.
You are clearly so distanced from reality that it's not even possible to have this discussion with you. Which is sad, because you're a perfect example of the whole problem. ("There is no problem" is what the problem always says.)
No, "there is a problem" is what the problem always says. They just don't realize that they are the problem.

Posted:6 months ago

#67

Jessica Hyland
Character Artist

270 999 3.7
Taking the occasional minute to think about the decisions you make and what they say about your view of the world and the people in it really isn't the egregious burden on creativity that you seem to think it is, Tim. An artist that doesn't interrogate their own decisions is a poor excuse for an artist. 'I'm making this like this because I like it and it is cool to me' is an incredibly shallow artistic vision.

Posted:6 months ago

#68

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
I don't mind shallow, so long as it's fun. I'd rather "I like it and it's cool to me" result in a fun game than "well, I guess we need one of these, and two of those, and I guess to balance out we'll need a half dozen of that," resulting in blegh.

Posted:6 months ago

#69

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
..."well, I guess we need one of these, and two of those, and I guess to balance out we'll need a half dozen of that,"
If it surprises you that I (and probably everybody else in this thread) agrees with you that one shouldn't do that, you might want to go back and try to learn what everybody here but you has been talking about, including the original article.

Posted:6 months ago

#70

Tim Ogul
Illustrator

335 462 1.4
If it surprises you that I (and probably everybody else in this thread) agrees with you that one shouldn't do that, you might want to go back and try to learn what everybody here but you has been talking about, including the original article.
It might be helpful if you did that as well because you seem to have lost course.

Posted:6 months ago

#71

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