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The Lady Killers

The Lady Killers

Fri 13 Jun 2014 7:00am GMT / 3:00am EDT / 12:00am PDT
Development

The Assassin's Creed Unity controversy is just the tip of the iceberg; this industry still has a problem with women

It has overshadowed what should, otherwise, have been a pretty great week for Ubisoft; a controversy stemming, ostensibly, from a single ill-considered quote suggesting that female playable characters were dropped from Assassin's Creed Unity for the sake of a bean-counter's calculation. The initial story, as suggested by those quotes, was pretty unpleasant; the representation of female players was so far down the priority list that it was considered to take up too much resources to implement, this in a game whose scope includes a simulation of the entirety of revolutionary-era Paris. "It's just a commercial consideration," the original explanation blandly explained, apparently unconscious of the fact that it was effectively saying "hey, women gamers: this is precisely how little we think you're worth, in dollar terms".

Ubisoft has since been in damage control mode - which is progress in its own terms, I suppose, since it's not so many years since any suggestion of controversy at E3 over the presentation (or non-inclusion) of women would have been dismissed with a snort and a suggestion that we all pop down to one of Sunset Boulevard's sleazy strip joints to sort out any unwanted white-knight feelings we may be harbouring. I wish I was kidding; I'm not. Upon raising the suggestion that a certain game might have been a tad leery and grotesque in its presentation of women at an E3 many moons past, the genuine response of a reasonably senior manager at the publisher (thankfully no longer in this industry) was to invite me to a notorious strip club that evening to "get my head straight".

"Animation and modelling are hard work; they take time and effort, and they cost money. Still, that's not actually an excuse for dropping female models; it's just another way of saying 'you were far, far less important than all this other stuff on the feature list'"

We've moved on. Rather than wooing its critics with unwanted strippers, Ubisoft's response has been to acknowledge the problem but backpedal on its characterisation. A female protagonist was never in the works, as Assassin's Creed games focus on a single protagonist with a distinct character; moreover, in the co-op mode (which is what everyone was talking about, making the discussion of the "protagonist" a fairly transparent and dishonest piece of misdirection), every player is actually playing as the same character, the aforementioned protagonist. Thus, awkward women don't need to be involved at all! You're all playing the same guy. Never mind the fact that the posters clearly show four guys with different facial hair, skin tone and facial features; it's the same guy. Honest.

I'm being snarky, I admit, although I'd contend that snark is a perfectly reasonable way to respond to a publisher that chooses to clutch at straws rather than having the guts to say "you know what, you're right, maybe this was a mistake". Still, through all my snark, I do honestly feel that this is progress in its own right. Moreover, I'm genuinely happy to see how many people have supported the idea that perhaps half of the human population shouldn't be excluded from representation in a game for the sake of saving a tiny fraction of the development budget. Assassin's Creed Unity isn't about to change its approach, I suspect (although I'd be overjoyed to see the team go back to work after E3 and fix this oversight), but the next time a team starts planning out its resource allocation, I reckon female player models might find themselves further up the pecking order. Hell, they might even manage to make some whose armour doesn't resemble a tinfoil bikini.

A lot of very articulate people have made the argument that dropping female player characters is wrong on a moral and feminist basis, and I have no intention of reiterating that argument, because those people made it very well. A few articulate arguments have come from the other side too, I'll grant, along with a very large number of inarticulate ones - I've particularly enjoyed watching people argue that a female assassin in the French Revolution would be historically out of place. Your homework today is googling "Charlotte Corday", although you could just google "French Revolution Assassin", as she's the first result; the second result, a bloke, wasn't actually an assassin, but her victim. I've also invented a fun game which involves finding comments in which the author argues that not including female player characters is solely Ubisoft's commercial decision, it's their money to spend and therefore it's immune from criticism; I then check through their comment history to see how long it is before they pledged to boycott a game for including DLC or F2P features. You'd be entirely unamazed, I suspect, at how little the sauce for the goose is equally applied to the gander.

There's a nugget of truth in there, though; this was a commercial decision. At some level, options were weighed, and the cost of including female player characters was found wanting in comparison to the revenue it would generate for the final product. It's worth noting that the cost of animating and modelling female player characters is not insignificant; it's almost certainly not as high as Ubisoft's representatives seek to imply, but it's also not remotely as trivial as others have suggested. Animation and modelling are hard work; they take time and effort, and they cost money. Still, that's not actually an excuse for dropping female models; it's just another way of saying "you were far, far less important than all this other stuff on the feature list", which is like telling your wife that it's not that you don't love her, it's just that you love all the other women you're sleeping with more. It sounds like a clever technicality to you; it's still grounds for divorce to her.

"Here's a home truth that everyone in the industry knows, at some level, but few are willing to acknowledge the import of; AAA isn't a sustainable model. The market for core game experiences has barely grown in half a decade"

Even so - can we deny the logic of someone who sits down with a feature list and a sheaf of market research papers, establishes a ranked list of which features will sell games and which won't, and culls appropriately? Isn't that a cold business calculation, devoid of any of the trappings of misogyny or discrimination that critics wish to apply to it in retrospect? Shouldn't we respect the numbers and accept their outcome? No, we bloody well shouldn't - on two grounds. Firstly, if your idea of a good and worthwhile creative process involves a spreadsheet of market data and a calculator, then I sure as hell don't want to hear your idea of a fun Friday night, and I never, ever want to play anything you make. Secondly, and less emotively; the numbers are stupid, and their outcome is doubly so.

Honestly, that's a less emotive take. I'm not denying that the numbers might be correct, but as in so many things in life, it's possible to be absolutely correct and simultaneously mind-numbingly stupid. Your market statistics may tell you with absolute veracity that female player characters are a low priority (Ubisoft's clearly do, as they made precisely the same decision on the Far Cry franchise), and in doing so, they may simultaneously be telling you the unadulterated truth, and telling you something unbelievably blinkered and dumb.

Here's why; market stats tell you about the market that exists right now. As such, they're a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your market stats tell you that the most important market to target is young men with aggression problems and poor social skills, you'll focus in on that demographic with your next product - as will everyone else in the industry, because they're reading the same statistics in their planning process. A few years down the line, lo and behold! The stats say this demographic is even more important; so you focus even more intensely on them. With each iteration, you shed the attention of fringe demographics or emerging markets, who find themselves utterly turned off by the tone of the products you're creating; with each iteration, the market stats focus in more and more deeply on the "core" consumers. The prophecy self-fulfils; the market stats are right! More tits, more guns, more gore, less diversity; give the narrowly-defined sub-set of the people what they want!

Here's a home truth that everyone in the industry knows, at some level, but few are willing to acknowledge the import of; AAA isn't a sustainable model. The market for core game experiences has barely grown in half a decade. The industry as a whole has grown enormously, sure, but most of that is down to demographic expansion on the part of things that aren't AAA core games, from Wii Sports through to Candy Crush Saga. The group of people willing to spend £40 on a core game experience hasn't grown; by some measures, it may have shrunk. Meanwhile, the cost of developing an AAA game continues to skyrocket, while the chances of success plummet, and the safety net of an "AA" game category - good but not great, with solid sales to a medium-sized fan base - has all but disappeared. You hit or you miss; there's no middle ground.

Why has this happened? There are several reasons - new platforms, new business models, and so on - but the core reason is simple. For decades, the games business grew at a massive rate because with each passing year it engaged a wider and wider group of consumers. Older demographics, wider demographics, new socio-economic groups... And yes, new gender groups, new ethnic groups, new minority groups. They all trickled into the gaming fold and they delivered a category of entertainment which pridefully boasted for many years that it was "recession-proof".

Nobody has said "recession-proof" since 2008, and that's not because that recession was particularly bad; it's because we stumbled, as an industry. We tried to make a few transitions at once. Physical to digital, offline to online; these are the ones we focus on, and suck at our teeth, and say, hmm, that was tough. In reality, though, the transition that truly stumbled for AAA games was the demographic transition. We'd already reached the majority of guys under 35 (albeit missing a reasonable swathe of sexual and ethnic minorities), and a handful of women in the same demographic; the next challenge was everyone else. The rest of the human race. There for the taking; there to become the consumers that would make games into the biggest entertainment business in the world.

"AAA has to grow to survive in any meaningful form, and that growth has to come, in part, from showing people who have traditionally dismissed games as "not for me" that this medium wants them to be involved"

Well, games are going to be the biggest entertainment business in the world - but how big the AAA core game market will be in that picture is another question entirely, because it messed up, badly. Just as it should have been expanding its reach, it closed its eyes instead. Just as the opportunity to be an entertainment medium for everyone approached, it pulled up the ladder to the treehouse and hoped that the world would pass it by. Some of that happened because of outright unpleasantness; there remains a group within the industry that bluntly doesn't like women, or gays, or minorities of any kind being represented, acknowledged and respected, because it threatens their dominance of a pastime they view as "theirs". The majority, though, had nothing to do with that. Most of it wasn't done with any ill intention at all. Most of it was done through numbers; stupid, blinkered numbers.

In the context of an individual game, the numbers are usually right. If the numbers say it's not an effective use of resources for Assassin's Creed Unity to implement female character models, those numbers are probably right. Ubisoft would probably make a little less money on the game if they did that. Yet that calculation, repeated over and over again at publishers around the industry, ends up being more than the sum of its parts. It ends up with many, many games lacking female player models or female protagonists. In each individual case it's commercially justifiable. Repeated across the industry overall, though, it says one thing and one thing only: "women, we don't want you or your money".

This is why the numbers are stupid - they only tell you what to do today, with no inkling of the consequences tomorrow. If the AAA games business continues to dogmatically follow the lead of blinkered analysts working with narrow market data sets, it will make good decisions today while selling out any prospect of a better tomorrow. AAA has to grow to survive in any meaningful form, and that growth has to come, in part, from showing people who have traditionally dismissed games as "not for me" that this medium wants them to be involved. Cutting their representation from high-profile games to save a fraction of a percentage point of a gigantic development budget sends precisely the opposite message.

Would the inclusion of female player models in Assassin's Creed Unity make a big difference to the engagement of women with core games? No, absolutely not. It's a tiny issue; a storm in a teacup, by any standards. The problem is, right now I'm looking at a pretty huge tea-set, and every bloody cup seems to have a storm in it. AAA publishers and developers, with some notable and wonderful exceptions, are marching in lock-step to a tune that's not only morally wrong, but commercially short-sighted. We grow or we die; and cost-cutting by removing representation of your best hope for a growth market is a pretty big step down the path to "die".

103 Comments

Gareth Jones UI Engineer, Massive Interactive

49 118 2.4
Popular Comment
I'm a firm believer in equal opportunities and rights, but I'm also a firm believer in common sense.

If the majority of your market are male and market research shows that games with female characters on the front cover sell less well than those with male characters, it's common sense that a company (i.e. not a charity or a cause) is going to favour male characters. They exist to make money, not to change the world and Make It A Better Place(TM).

Just like imposing democracy on populations that aren't culturally ready for it tends to end in failure, trying to impose a strict 50:50 representation on a market that is still clearly dominated by males in one night isn't going to end well either. Yes the industry should be moving in this direction - and it is. It's moving at its natural pace.

If you feel so strongly about this, why not put your hand in your pocket and subsidise the financial losses that Ubisoft would incur here by doing what you suggest?

Yeah, I didn't think you'd be willing to take it that far.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gareth Jones on 13th June 2014 9:53am

Posted:6 months ago

#1

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

209 1,139 5.4
Popular Comment
We live in a strange world.
A headshot is considered a skill, but an intercourse is a taboo. Putting a guy in a pink suit on a game cover is considered homophobic, but putting money-extracting mechanisms known from casinos into games aimed at children is considered a business model. Not having the choice to select a woman character in a game is the beginning of the end for AAA games, but not having the choice to resolve conflicts in any other way than excessive violence is a golden rule of game design.

Somebody explain to my why the "Three musketeers", a novel, which is actually about four guys, does not have a female lead character and nobody complains about that. Perhaps Three musketeers was the death knell for the classic literature. And Dumas is a sexist and we should all righteously complain and force the publishers of the book to alter it and give us a new edition "Three musketeers and the lady d'Artagnan"

Posted:6 months ago

#2

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
AAA has to grow to survive in any meaningful form, and that growth has to come, in part, from showing people who have traditionally dismissed games as "not for me" that this medium wants them to be involved.
Absolutely this. People are eager to imply that the OR will introduce a new demographic ("It's so amazing, your family will be stunned"), but relying on a hardware advance when the software doesn't represent them means the AAA part of the industry will continue to atrophy.
They exist to make money, not to change the world and Make It A Better Place(TM).
Long-term survival of any company - in any industry - requires reading the tea-leaves, and determining what short-term costs are mitigated by the long-term benefits. Intelligent companies will see that changing the world and making money can go hand-in-hand. Here's an example:

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jun/11/coca-cola-fewer-calories-less-sugar
Coca-Cola has announced plans to launch a new version of its bestselling soft drink with a third less sugar and a third fewer calories as part of government and industry efforts to tackle obesity.
It might fail. It's certainly costing them money in the short-term. But if it doesn't fail, that money is going to be recouped many-times over, from good PR, from sales, from less government interference. And, oh look, it's Making The World A Better Place(TM).

Short-termism can kill industries. Ask 1980s Atari. The question is, is wider representation this century's E.T?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2014 10:09am

Posted:6 months ago

#3

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
Somebody explain to my why the "Three musketeers", a novel, which is actually about four guys, does not have a female lead character and nobody complains about that.
For every book that has a male lead, there's a book that has a female lead. For (almost) every piece of porn that is marketed to men, there's a piece that's marketed to women (whether it be book or film). For every piece of art that features a man, there's at least one that features a woman.

Look at games. Can you - honestly - tell me that for every game that features a man, there's one that features a woman just as predominantly?

No? Then don't argue the straw-man of "Oh, but no-one complains about other media." Other media is not this media.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2014 10:08am

Posted:6 months ago

#4

Gareth Jones UI Engineer, Massive Interactive

49 118 2.4
I'm a 6ft, 100kg rugby player, yet I really enjoyed Tomb Raider, D, Beyond Good & Evil, Bayonetta, Perfect Dark, Giana Sisters, various Aliens games and many more.

It's entertainment. Some people really need to get over themselves.

Posted:6 months ago

#5

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

224 462 2.1
Everyone quoting "Charlotte Corday" reminds me of every time some big news event occurs, there's a flurry of bad CNN / BBC info-graphics, then suddenly everyone's an expert on the demographics of southern Somalia and the disposition and key political goals of the various tribal forces in the region.

A historical figure absolutely no one had heard of last week, and after a brief internet ruckus now quoted sixteen thousand times a day as proof that the Ancien Regime was toppled by a nefarious gang of female ninjas / assassins.

Who says games can't be educational, eh?

Posted:6 months ago

#6

Rob Fahey Columnist, GamesIndustry.biz

76 190 2.5
Popular Comment
Gareth, I think that we actually agree on more than you might imagine. You say "Yes the industry should be moving in this direction - and it is. It's moving at its natural pace"; I would point out that consumer anger, petitions and pressure are actually an intrinsic part of that natural pace.

This is how the free market works. A company does something or makes something; consumers respond, either with their wallets or with their voices, informing a company's actions in future. That information flow is vital to how a free market ought to function.

The disconnect that can and does occur is when a company or an industry gets blinkered about its market, and thinks that the consumers it has today are the only consumers it will ever have, so there's no point addressing or catering to a wider audience. The crux of the argument I was making in the article was that this behaviour risks causing serious damage to AAA down the line, as present budget inflation is unsustainable without significant audience growth.

Nick: I think one of the great strengths of Assassin's Creed is that it's a pretty great gateway to studying history for a lot of players. It plays fast and loose with the history but also introduces very important people as key characters and makes them interesting and vibrant. If some people have been introduced to Charlotte Corday (who was a phenomenal woman completely aside from her assassination naughtiness) through the present ruckus, then that's a pretty fine upshot.

Posted:6 months ago

#7

Ross Mansfield Freelance Artist

7 11 1.6
@Gareth Jones According to this research, the market isn't quite the male majority you might think (Which should be pretty obvious) - http://askagamedev.tumblr.com/post/88575965231/why-are-so-many-people-demanding-aaa-titles-to-be-all

Are you really saying women should be paying extra to be represented as equals because it's a bit more work once the men are done?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Ross Mansfield on 13th June 2014 11:17am

Posted:6 months ago

#8

Gareth Jones UI Engineer, Massive Interactive

49 118 2.4
Rob, I don't think anyone with any sense thinks that the market of today and of tomorrow are the same. Everyone knows that they will be different. But you expect companies to target tomorrow's market today, which is just financial suicide as the market research proves time and time again.

You said yourself in your sensationalist article that the people we have working in the industry today are very different from a few years ago, but even though you point out that fact you seem unable to make the natural assumption that they will be different again in another few years - that they will have adapted to the current market.

Evolution is a continuous process that takes time. You can't demand to be at some future ideal today just like neanderthals couldn't have demanded to be human.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by a moderator on 13th June 2014 3:04pm

Posted:6 months ago

#9

Ellliot Ward Studying Computer Games Programming, University of Derby

6 5 0.8
I feel a little let down by you games industry.biz, you normally present well formed, informative, and most of all fair news articles. This is just one writers hateful babble as he struggles to clamber aboard the band wagon. Yes misogyny, and racism, and any form of discrimination is wrong and something we should work against. But does a playable female assassin matter? AC has had female characters, both cardboard characters there for the story and females that are indeed assassins, that work along side other assassins without distinction. I think the original quote saying it most a commercial decision still stands, because it says men and women and wherever you fall within that can play the character and immerse themselves, lets focus on the setting and game play (the things AC is known for). Suggesting that they want to marginalise a demographic by not including a character model that fits their body. I'm a fat white guy, I can play and immerse myself playing a thin black lady, I assume the reverse is true. I dont think the industry is only focusing on under 35 men, there is a lot to be said for make what you know and at the moment the industry is a lot of under 35 guys. This is changing more women and people from other minorities are entering the industry, this is being reflected in the games that are coming out and I hope it continues and we do get to a place that has an even spread. I feel like people have seen a blade of grass move and now they are screaming that a tornado is coming.

Posted:6 months ago

#10

Andrew Watson Programmer

113 290 2.6
The problem is, right now I'm looking at a pretty huge tea-set, and every bloody cup seems to have a storm in it. AAA publishers and developers, with some notable and wonderful exceptions, are marching in lock-step to a tune that's not only morally wrong, but commercially short-sighted. We grow or we die; and cost-cutting by removing representation of your best hope for a growth market is a pretty big step down the path to "die".
I don't think adding different playable character genders is going to solve this at all. "Wow look now I can play as a woman too!" Okay, but the industry is still pumping out yet more tired old sequels of sequels, yet another shooting game, yet more brown 'n' bloom realistic graphics, etc.

Want a better way to include more people? Make games that cater to them. Funnily enough, different people have different tastes in genre, and I don't think giving a different gendered avatar is going to suddenly make loads of women interested in FPSes or murder simulators.

Look at what games have a much higher ratio of female players to males (like animal crossing or harvest moon, off the top of my head, or a large number of mobile games), look to see what they have in common. Maybe women don't really like violence as much as men do? Maybe they aren't attracted to competitiveness as much as men are?

Yes, we're both human, but we're different on a fundamental biological level and instead of trying to mush everyone together into one big generic blob, look at what makes people different and cater to their differences instead. Can you make games that appeal to both at once? Sure. Do that. I'd love to see more of them. But I think the way to do that is through gameplay and not through a single "are you a girl or boy" option.

Posted:6 months ago

#11

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

224 462 2.1
As an aside (and I really don't have a dog in this fight, so please don't take this as endorsement of any particular position), as Ross quotes above it's often claimed that women make up close to half the audience.

That link above is pretty vague, but what I'd be much more interested in is some hard data about the gender break down on AAA core titles like AC.My intuition would be that they still remain overwhelmingly male in terms of audience, despite what is happening in the wider industry. Am I wrong?

Again, this is not an argument against including female avatars. I'm just interested in the data, because it gets bandied around a *lot* in these discussions that we're near gender parity.

Posted:6 months ago

#12

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

224 462 2.1
Just as a wee follow up to the last post, I find it very hard to believe that Ubisoft and the other huge publishers are not driving their entire product strategy in the same way as the large movie studios, i.e. by heavy use of analytics, market demographics and market segmentation stategies.

The movie going audience is 52% female, according to the MPAA. That doesn't mean that Iron Man is given a female sidekick, or that the next Expendables has to swap Sigourney Weaver in for Sylvester Stallone (though for the record, that would be awesome). It means that the same studios produce different movies for different subsections of the movie going audience.

If I put my big-CEO-hat on, and I'm trying to address a female audience, Isn't that the more logical strategy?

(Postscript for the terminally offended; I am not saying we make pink games for girls).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 13th June 2014 11:33am

Posted:6 months ago

#13

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

209 1,139 5.4
@ Morville: I am not pointing to other media and saying that this is unjust. I am saying that no other media has this kind of backlash culture, where the consumers as well as other professionals demand a change of anything they don't like.

If a movie comes out and the end sucks, that's too bad. If a book comes out and it is controversial, then they may have a reason for that. But once a game does that, everybody feels empowered to demand a change.

Assassin's Creed is a male fantasy, aimed at a very specific audience. They are not sending a message. They are making a game. If AC:U sucks because there's no female lead, that's too bad for Ubisoft, but I see no reason why should anyone tell them to change it.

... meanwhile, while you are reading this and considering who is right, a woman in Africa died because of a perfectly curable disease, lack of drinkable water, or violence. And nobody gives a sh!t.

Posted:6 months ago

#14

Gary Riccio Socio-Technical R&D

10 9 0.9
@D_IGR New studios without any baggage would love to part of the solution by having a vision and mission for games that has appeal across gender, race, ethnicity, religion, location, and socioeconomic privilege. Articles and authors like this will help us get on the right track. Thank you. The number of articles on this issue in the last few days, and the comments on this article clearly indicates that there is a gap in an industry that has much to offer the world. http://bit.ly/IGR_inclusion

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gary Riccio on 13th June 2014 1:15pm

Posted:6 months ago

#15

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
People preach diversity. Far Cry 4 breaks ground with an Indo-Asian lead character (that isn't a computer nerd cliche). No one cares.

I guess people only care about diversity in the limited pool of blacks, women and gays. How "diverse" our concerns with diversity are.

Posted:6 months ago

#16

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz

263 466 1.8
@Gareth, the last line of your previous comment is not acceptable. I've deleted it. You shouldn't resort to telling people to chill the f*** out on GI.biz. We can all keep a higher level of discourse here. And for the hundredth time - and I've posted this in other threads - none of this coverage pertaining to gender issues has anything even remotely to do with boosting traffic. We post about issues that are important to the industry. Some of you may disagree with me our my staff about what's important, and that's ok, that's your right. But try to be more sensible in your disagreements.

Posted:6 months ago

#17

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
@ Jakub
But once a game does that, everybody feels empowered to demand a change.
So you're saying the campaign against ME3's truly juvenile ending has opened the floodgates to women and other people disaffected by the games industry, and that's why they're arguing for more representation? Humph.

The above quoted sentence, plus this one:
... meanwhile, while you are reading this and considering who is right, a woman in Africa died because of a perfectly curable disease, lack of drinkable water, or violence. And nobody gives a sh!t.
are a means to an end - two arguments that say that the issues raised here are non-issues, compared to "real world stuff". Two things:

1) This is guilt-tripping those who are discomforted and disaffected by their lack of representation. If you - I assume a white male - don't care about these issues, then fine. But don't try and force silence upon those who do care, by making their concerns worthless.

2) If you truly think these things, then why are you replying to these comments? In an amusing way, you just made yourself part of the problem.

@Shehzaan
I guess people only care about diversity in the limited pool of blacks, women and gays. How "diverse" our concerns with diversity are.
This isn't an either/or. You - and others - are happy that there's an Indo-Asian lead. This is good, I agree. But that doesn't mean people can't complain about other lack of representation. :)

Posted:6 months ago

#18

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

209 1,139 5.4
@ Morville: What I am saying is that the creators of games make them the way they feel they are best. We may agree with them, or we may disagree with them, but no other art form suffers from consumers who feel a moral ground to demand a change, once they don't like a product. And I am saying that phenomenon is a bad thing.

I am replying because that is the nature of debate.

Posted:6 months ago

#19

Tim Clark Editor in Chief, Future

3 9 3.0
@Gareth
"…trying to impose a strict 50:50 representation on a market"
Which isn't suggested anywhere in Rob's piece.
"If you feel so strongly about this, why not put your hand in your pocket and subsidise the financial losses that Ubisoft would incur here by doing what you suggest?"
Because people are allowed to have an opinion all sorts of things without having to personally finance the alternatives. I can think slave labour is bad without being able to personally put up the funds to build new sneaker factories too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Clark on 13th June 2014 4:36pm

Posted:6 months ago

#20

Debi Taylor

2 2 1.0
Who exactly is 'trying to impose a strict 50:50 representation'?

As you said, it is 'clearly dominated by (2%) more males than females, so I think most people would be satisfied with a strict 52:48 representation (http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2014.pdf), but clearly that's not happening... and despite what you assert, it's far from happening at a natural pace.

Posted:6 months ago

#21

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
@Morville:

My point is that for all the bluster people champion representation and the horrors of developer apathy on representation, they are guilty of the same apathy - as evidenced by the Far Cry example.

I'm working on a blog at the moment but here's a snippet:

"Game developers may well be guilty of not giving much thought to the diversity of their characters. After all, if you’re white, male, brown haired and happen to sound exactly like Troy Baker there’s no chance you’re going to feel strapped for games that represent you. For these developers it’s [defaulting to white/male characters] simply case of being apathetic to issues that don’t affect them.

But it’s not them I take issue with. It’s the videogame media that on the one hand whines incessantly about the lack of diversity in videogames, and on the other respond to the Ajay’s groundbreaking inclusion with a silence that speaks to the same apathy and not-giving-a-shit that they wantonly accuse developers of. Of course, for these games journalists it’s simply a case of being apathetic to issues that don’t affect them… like whether videogames include brown men or not."

For all those armchair critics and swivel chair hypocrites I ask you this: How can you attribute blame to game developers for being apathetic to racial diversity when it's abundantly clear you don't give (as much of a) toss as you claim to?

For the record, I've never taken issue with a developer not including Indo-Asian characters so this isn't a question I have to answer.

Posted:6 months ago

#22

Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments

312 412 1.3
"no other art form suffers from consumers who feel a moral ground to demand a change"

Firstly, this isn't true: literature most notably (female rewrite of the hobbit springs to mind), but also tv, comics, film... it's certainly not a criticism exclusive to games.

Secondly, it wouldn't matter even if it were - as long as the criticism is valid (which I believe this one very much is), then whether it's levelled at other art forms is moot - it needs addressing.

Posted:6 months ago

#23

Julian Beck HR Consultant

39 45 1.2
and the bandwagon...and the bandwagon...
I love how the articles constantly flow in on the same topic again and again...
Same topic same opinion from me:
avatar like character design - both genders available
story tightened game - the one gender which fits best

Posted:6 months ago

#24

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
We may agree with them, or we may disagree with them, but no other art form suffers from consumers who feel a moral ground to demand a change, once they don't like a product. And I am saying that phenomenon is a bad thing.
If gaming is an art-form, then the industry needs to behave like it's an art-form. What other art-form would have professionals arguing against a fair and realistic representation of player and non-player characters because they're too expensive/too much work/not going to gain money/pointless because "it's a male fantasy"? It's art. Time and money shouldn't matter, right? You wouldn't have Banksy arguing any of those points, would you?

If gaming is entertainment, then consumers can complain about whoever and whatever they want. The dev/pub doesn't have to change anything, they just have to accept that money is potentially being lost. Do you really think EA couldn't have stood by their guns in the ME debacle? They did it because they chose to ignore their "artistic vision" in favour of money. That was their choice, as it was the consumers' choice to air their complaints.

Bringing this back around to representation - no-one is forcing devs/pubs to change anything. If they don't want to lose money, they'll eventually decide to add in women/LGBT/other ethnicities to their creative works. But in that case, they are changing their "art" for the sake of money, and I think that might be the difference between art and entertainment.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2014 5:00pm

Posted:6 months ago

#25

David Canela Game & Audio Designer

69 156 2.3
@Jakub
you see, the funny thing is: who actually demanded AC:U be changed? a lot of defensiveness in this debates stems from people reacting go what their afraid of, not to what is actually being said by the other side. Every article I read on AC:U used it as an opportunith to discuss I.dustry-wide issues and circular logic justifications.

One could also say that it is in the nature of cutural works like games, books and musi recordings that they're discussed and criticized...

Posted:6 months ago

#26

William Usher Assistant Editor, Cinema Blend

45 44 1.0
According to this research, the market isn't quite the male majority you might think (Which should be pretty obvious) -
Ross, let's not forget that men and women play very different games and have very different spending habits. Will women spend more money on mobile/casual/social games that suit their tastes than men? Yes. There are market reports that back that up. Will women spend just as much money on shoot-'em-up games as men? No. There are market reports that back that up.

The idea for most companies is that it's easier in the console space to cater to the people they know will spend the money than it is the people who won't. Just the same, you'll find that a lot of casual/social/mobile games for American consumers are aimed at female audiences because they make up the majority of that market. Corporations follow the data that leads them to the money. If the data doesn't represent the potential revenue stream that they're after, then they won't do it.

It's exactly why King doesn't cater Candy Crush Saga to the same group who will go see the Expendables 3, or why Zynga doesn't pepper Farmville with Gears of War style content.

The argument then becomes: can you market games like Candy Crush Saga and Farmville as $60 games that will make as much money on consoles as they do in the web space and on mobile devices? EA found a way to do with The Sims (sort of) but that's been years in the making.

Posted:6 months ago

#27

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
@David Most artistic works are discussed on their artistic merits, not how well they reflect the people interacting with them.

No one looks at the Mona Lisa and thinks "Well, it's nice but as a black lesbian midget I feel ostracized. Damn you Da Vinci! Robbed again!".

Also the demand for change is implied. No one says "Wow, I think this is really bad" as a way to imply "But I wouldn't have it any other way". Read between the lines.

More to the point. Unlike those other art forms videogames are much more in the public eye before release, subjecting them to deformative criticism rather than plain old retro-appreciative criticism. It's one of the few mediums where "seeing" isn't enough to appreciate the medium yet criticism is done on sight alone.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shehzaan Abdulla on 13th June 2014 5:31pm

Posted:6 months ago

#28

Gareth Jones UI Engineer, Massive Interactive

49 118 2.4
@James
Perhaps you're too busy deleting comments that you disagree with to have noticed, but this article is a 2,299-word opinion piece and as someone else has already pointed out, is the fourth such article on GI.biz in two days.

If repeatedly visiting a controversial topic with increasingly ridiculous perspectives doesn't qualify as traffic baiting to you, then perhaps you could explain what does. I for one would be very interested in observing how you would even attempt to separate the two.

Reading through the rest of the comments on here I think it's safe to say (thankfully) that common sense has prevailed - despite your best efforts - and this non-issue has been identified as such.

So perhaps now you can move on and find some news to post about. Isn't that a novel idea?

Posted:6 months ago

#29
"AAA has to grow to survive in any meaningful form, and that growth has to come, in part, from showing people who have traditionally dismissed games as "not for me" that this medium wants them to be involved."

That's fine and ultimately another reason why we get all these pro-female articles. As I have said before like Football, games have reached a saturation point where they can no longer grow without attracting customers from the opposite sex.

But could we do without the morality arguments. It's patronizing, often incredibly hypocritical and worse sometimes offensive.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Owens on 13th June 2014 5:55pm

Posted:6 months ago

#30

Ross Mansfield Freelance Artist

7 11 1.6
Ross, let's not forget that men and women play very different games
I'm not saying they don't...the point is diversity is never a bad thing, so all the commenters on here coming up with endless essays and excuses for developers as to why everything is fine as it is is a bit depressing. If seeing hundreds of comments from men in a couple of days discussing 'what's to be done about women in games' doesn't highlight the problem for you, probably nothing will.

Posted:6 months ago

#31

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz

263 466 1.8
@ Gareth, yes it's an opinion piece and labeled as such. That's what Rob does for us every Friday. And he does a damn fine job of it too. And thanks for telling me how to do my job. Don't you have better things to do at the BBC than comment here all day?

As I said in one of the other comment threads, it's people like you who keep insisting that this whole thing is a "non-issue" that are part of the problem.

EDIT: Also, we don't delete comments we disagree with, we delete comments that are offensive and unacceptable. And the next step is to suspend accounts that make those comments, so by all means, please keep it up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Brightman on 13th June 2014 6:16pm

Posted:6 months ago

#32

Gareth Jones UI Engineer, Massive Interactive

49 118 2.4
@James
I'm on leave this week, but your concern for my workload is duly noted and appreciated. For a website that relies on traffic from professionals who work for a living though, it seems quite daft for you to make public your assumption that those who post here during office hours have nothing better to do. I'll bet the majority on here work a lot harder than you!

I'm part of what problem exactly? The problem that the vast majority of people who have commented here disagree with you on? Are they part of the problem as well in that case? Or could it simply be that you are wrong to try to create a problem where there is none with sensationalist articles that laugh in the face of facts and figures?

I think you need to realise that the industry you supposedly work in exists to provide entertainment, and this entertainment is provided by companies that need to make a profit in order to exist. If they need to make games with mostly male protagonists in order to make that profit, then that's what they are going to do. If you want to subsidise a different approach and go against the grain of sales and market research, then please feel free to do so. Back here in reality I'll be watching with great interest, but I won't be investing.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Gareth Jones on 13th June 2014 6:39pm

Posted:6 months ago

#33

Kirsty Rigden Operations Director, FuturLab

15 45 3.0
Popular Comment
This is a fantastic article Rob! I think too many people are getting caught up in the ‘oooh it’s another feminist piece’ and missing the main point I believe you are making. The AAA market remains stagnant while the industry as a whole grows. Is everyone involved going to close their eyes and stick their fingers in their ears, or perhaps decide that it makes good business sense to take some steps to counter (or reverse) the slow down? One way (and there are many) is to broaden the idea of who AAA games appeal to. It’s a long term plan which I understand doesn’t make sense for short term profits, but as an industry we should collectively start that ball rolling.
On another note - there have been a seemingly overwhelming number of articles recently about the representation of women in games. I am bored/irritated by them, but I recognise the need. You need a lot of noise to make a difference. Having worked in the industry for 10 years I can honestly say that I don’t feel that my gender has ever been an issue – maybe I’m lucky or just oblivious (probably a bit of both). Saying that, I do recognise that there is a problem – I can clearly see this by the number of women I work with (none).
So all this annoying “we need more women” noise that’s been going on recently has finally gotten through and made me think about the problem and what I can do to help. So as a start, next month I’m off to a school to give a talk on a career in video games. I’m also giving a talk at Develop (and I really really hate public speaking) in a bid to normalise women in games. We need women in the industry to make themselves more visible, showcasing all the awesome knowledge they have and not even mentioning their gender. My point being all these articles and all this noise HAS made a difference, if only to make little ‘ol me try to do something positive :D

Posted:6 months ago

#34

Eddie Vertigo Freelancer: Cartoonist, Artist, Game Tester, etc.

1 1 1.0
For social change to occur, people have to actually act, not just talk. Game franchises like Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Grand Theft Auto used to be viewed heavily as games for teenage boys, but these days their online multiplayer avatar options allow for male and female avatars. Their respective companies were smart enough to realize that there are different kinds of people playing games, and the more people you appeal to, the more you increase your audience and profit in the long run. For a company to release a game without female avatars (thought of as a dismissible afterthought) is narrow-minded and stupid. Imagine if you could customize everything about your avatar except for their race (skin color)? How well would that go over today? As more and more games offer gender choices in their multiplayer experiences, those that don't are going to be viewed as being behind the times in more ways than one.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eddie Vertigo on 13th June 2014 7:15pm

Posted:6 months ago

#35

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,196 1,176 0.5
Hmm. I worked in game retail a long while back and recall when people bought games they liked and nobody really cared much who the heck bought what. Gals buying Goldeneye, Conker, Halo or Killzone for themselves? Yup. Guys buying Beyond Good and Evil, any Tomb Raider, our two copies of Barbie Horse Adventures, or even a Hello Kitty puzzle game for themselves? Yup. It wasn't a big deal, but seems to be these days as it's affecting how games are made (which isn't a good thing, I'm thinking).

Granted, there were (and will be) plenty of "guy" games out there and yeah, plenty of upset wives and girlfriends giving me the stink-eye when they were dragged in by their guys to buy games, but hell, it's that way on both sides of the fence. I'd often get asked by some ladies why games were so important and I'd ask them if they ever played any. Some did, but either back in the arcades or the preferred games their guy didn't like, so I'd usually ask the guy if he thought of buying his lady a game (her choice) just to get her to enjoy and appreciate the hobby more. I didn't know I was up-selling at that point - I just wanted that couple to play together or at least have both on the same page about gaming.

Anyway, sure, we can poke at sale figures garnered from wherever and gauge that somehow because women don't buy these big games in the same quantities as guys, they might not notice that they've been excluded from certain titles. But I'd bet that some gals (and guys) won't care either way because guess what? They like a series no matter who the lead character is and want to invest in the next chapter just to see where it all goes. I say let the game come out as is and user feedback guide the team as to what they do next. We were all ranting about Tomadachi Life, what, a month ago? The game is out and people are raving about how awesome it is and I haven't heard a peep about the issues that bugged so many other than some have found a way to make a sort of un-gendered character or something (which is cool).

I recall mentioning here a few years back that there were (and still ARE) guys who just don't like playing as female characters (and man, the reasons I heard from male customers were mighty damn baffling and/or annoying) and getting at least one response that said that wasn't true or something. Well, it's turning out that this is the sort of data that seems to be gathered up post release, shoved into a spreadsheet and shown to someone who says a variation on "Okay, cut out the playable ladies so we can move more units" and it's probably not just at Ubisoft.

Granted, we still have Lara, Bayonetta, Faith, whats-her-name from Velvet Assassin (and many more if you go back a few years), Shantae, whichever not-guy characters players by the millions will create in Dragon Age, whatever Bethsoft has cooking up on The Elder Scrolls front, any MMO or game with a character edit function, any Sims game and so forth and so on. Dozens of games, if not hundreds a year, indie to AAA. I'd say if we all want to really get irate, let's wait until Nintendo decides to add a guy to Metroid and bump off Samus to shake things up. I bet that would do a double piss-off job there (and it's not going to happen, of course). Then again, I remember people HATING Metroid Other M's story because they felt it weakened the character.

Anyway, I was initially against AC Unity not including females (primarily because AC III Liberation starred one and was a great little game), but I also realize Ubisoft has other games that include them as more than background or main story NPCs. Child of Light, anyone? So I'm willing to let this one slide a little and at least play the game to enjoy the story (I'm not a MP guy, so I won't miss anything in terms of that).

I still think they should figure out how to get some un-rushed Unity DLC out post-release so the more angry ones out there (who will hopefully try the game out anyway) can at least play MP as whichever sex they choose. My guess is we'll end up seeing packs of lady assassins for a bit out of some sort of solidarity before the movement peters out (um, is that a pun? I'll take it) and we move on to the next storm...

Posted:6 months ago

#36

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
@Greg Wilcox - I put down 60$ on wayfowards Kickstarter for a new Shantae game... just saying because you mentioned it.Also bought child of light and no Im not that big on multiplayer either, big on 2d platformers like rayman... however Im looking foward to destiny...

@Kirsty Rigden - To all honesty I wish i can play games with more girls and that girls were more activly involved or interested in them. Those 10 years of expirience you have in the industry really shined in a how you phrased your post.... I gave you a star...

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 13th June 2014 8:27pm

Posted:6 months ago

#37

Jan Goh Programmer, Ubisoft Montreal

9 74 8.2
Popular Comment
You'll note that I'm an Ubisoft employee. I'm going to stay away from the specifics of the complaint against my company (for reasons that I hope are obvious) and speak about the condition in the industry more broadly.

The crux of it is this: representation matters. If you'd like to hear an amazing story about it, look up Whoopi Goldberg and Nichelle Nichols. When Whoopi saw Nichelle on Star Trek, she ran to her family to get them to come watch because there was a black woman on TV that wasn't a maid. I don't think it's such an unusual story, and I love hearing stories like that. I'd like to be the CAUSE of more stories like that; I think the whole industry should aspire to it.

As a guy, I've never had a problem with representation in any form of media at any time in my life ever, period. I can ALWAYS find some movie or book or comic where someone kind of like me is the main character. But honestly, I play games and read books and watch movies because I like seeing other perspectives. I like the other viewpoints. The story is richer. We're very good in the industry about making characters that DO things that we don't do--I never play a games programmer as a protagonist, staying late and eating dinner at my desk to meet a deadline, for instance--but we're a little less good about making characters that aren't just white guys (and the ones that are women are usually white women, though you may find the occasional non-white man as a protagonist in a non-condescending way).

There are exceptions, of course, but those exceptions don't make fan complaints about current games less real. And realistically, if people are complaining, it means that there's a niche to be filled and money to be made. In the long view, putting in female characters that are well written and not overly sexualised may be a good form of marketing. Have you seen how dedicated BioWare's fans are? It's not just because they write great female characters, but they capture a lot of good will on all sides. How much is that good will worth, monetarily? How many people just go and buy BioWare games, sight unseen? How many people give BioWare games a chance even if it's not in their preferred genre? I'm betting that it's not insignificant.

Anyway, I like that the discussion is visible and vocal. Once fans trust that we're making decisions that lead to the best games, they won't be as worried about the gender of the protagonist because they'll know that we've made those decisions for the right reasons.

Posted:6 months ago

#38

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz

263 466 1.8
Good points Jan, thanks for posting! Btw, we should have some more official Ubi response from Alain Corre shortly (typing that up now)

Posted:6 months ago

#39

Charles Herold Wii Games Guide, about.com

40 96 2.4
@ Morville: I am not pointing to other media and saying that this is unjust. I am saying that no other media has this kind of backlash culture, where the consumers as well as other professionals demand a change of anything they don't like.
That's true if you ignore all the cases where it's untrue. There have been many backlash moments in film, for example, most notably when a character of one race is cast with an actor of another (remember the outcry over The Last Airbender?) And there are constant protests about the lack of women film directors - even complaints about the dearth of women voiceovers for movie trailers. If you think only games get flack for a lack of inclusiveness, you just haven't been paying attention.

The difference is that in games, it is actually fixable. You cannot recast a completed movie. You can, on the other hand, take a guy in a bulky robe doing parkour, make him five inches shorter, offer a hint of breasts under the robe, give him slightly female features, and have women happy that they have a choice about whether to play as male or female.

People aren't demanding a female Link or a male Lara Croft, because those are characters in stories, and everyone is happy to play a character in a story, even if women might like a better representation of women in games. But we're not talking about fully fleshed out characters with a back story and a complete life, like the protagonists of the Three Musketeers. We're talking about generic avatars that allow players to run around in a game that's more about spectacle than character. There is no earthly reason not to allow players a choice about which sex to play in such a case.

Yes, you can say, well, women don't like these certain types of games, they'd rather play The Sims or Wii Sports. But could it be that women are actually simply drawn to games where they can play as women? Because in that case, as the author rightly points out, the game industry could attract a lot of new players to those games everyone is insisting are boys games.

Posted:6 months ago

#40

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
Still, that's not actually an excuse for dropping female models; it's just another way of saying "you were far, far less important than all this other stuff on the feature list", which is like telling your wife that it's not that you don't love her, it's just that you love all the other women you're sleeping with more. It sounds like a clever technicality to you; it's still grounds for divorce to her.
Look. Moving forward, this is one element of the discussion that REALLY needs to be dropped entirely, the idea that "YOU," the presumably female player, is somehow less important because they are not given everything they might possibly want. That's simply bull pucky. Ubisoft making the choice not to include female MP avatars does NOT mean that they value their female customers any less than their male ones. It just means that they already had the male models working, and adding the female ones would mean a lot of extra work. NO demographic was worth that extra work. Female players are perfectly welcome to play as the male avatars, as millions of female gamers do EVERY day, alongside the millions of male gamers that play some game using a female avatar EVERY day, also without complaint.

More customization options are always nice when you can get them, and I'm sure appreciated by players of both genders, but in cases where there is not the time or budget to implement them, that may be a disappointment, but it's not a travesty. You might decide to boycott the product yourself, but it's no cause to rally against. I would never tell you to "shut up and buy the game" if you don't like the choices the developers made, your own purchasing habits are your own business, I just find the volume and tone of the MEDIA reaction to this issue to be hyperbolically hyperbolic.

Posted:6 months ago

#41

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
For every book that has a male lead, there's a book that has a female lead. For (almost) every piece of porn that is marketed to men, there's a piece that's marketed to women (whether it be book or film). For every piece of art that features a man, there's at least one that features a woman.

Look at games. Can you - honestly - tell me that for every game that features a man, there's one that features a woman just as predominantly?
But that doesn't mean that any of the games that want to have male protagonists need to change, it just means that more people need to make games with female protagonists. This is not an issue to complain about in print complaining about existing games, it's an issue to be solve by people making more games, and more importantly by customers buying those games when they were available. I can guarantee you that if Tomb Raider had sold as well as Black Flag did, you can bet that companies would be scrambling to "me-to" it. A million additional sales means more to them than a billion articles and comments sections posts, and should do.
Because people are allowed to have an opinion all sorts of things without having to personally finance the alternatives. I can think slave labour is bad without being able to personally put up the funds to build new sneaker factories too.
Yes, the lack of female character models in Assassin's Creed Unity is exactly like slave labor. Same thing.
The difference is that in games, it is actually fixable. You cannot recast a completed movie. You can, on the other hand, take a guy in a bulky robe doing parkour, make him five inches shorter, offer a hint of breasts under the robe, give him slightly female features, and have women happy that they have a choice about whether to play as male or female.
You would of course also have to redo every animation the character has so that she isn't clipping through every surface and "climbing" into walls as opposed to over them. It's easier to swap models when a character just runs and jumps, but when they climb and interact intimately with the world around them it's much harder to be flexible with it.
Yes, you can say, well, women don't like these certain types of games, they'd rather play The Sims or Wii Sports. But could it be that women are actually simply drawn to games where they can play as women?
I don't know, could it? That's a very leading question without an answer. I see no evidence that this is the case, women play plenty of games with male protagonists, and men play plenty of games with female protagonists, and I've seen absolutely zero evidence that women as a group are less likely to play games without female avatar options, yet that idea is constantly raised as if it's common sense. If you believe it to be true, back it up with some actual facts.

Posted:6 months ago

#42

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
Here's an anecdote from my life. My wife, an avid RPG fan, was watching me play The Witcher 2. She loved the gameplay, and was really interested in playing it. She asked me why I picked the dude with white hair. I told her he was the main person; you don't get a choice. "Not even to make Geralt a girl?" "Nope."

She instantly decided that she'd rather play other RPGs. It's all a matter of the straw that broke the camel's back. She's tired of dealing with this BS. 20 years ago, we'd believe that females in games are just too hard. Now, I'll just promptly boycott any sexist games and buy from decent studios. Don't like it? Screw off.

@Gareth
Chauvinists like yourself are why this industry will always be a boys club. Plenty of people are voicing disagreement with Ubisoft. See anything interesting? How about how there are both men and women arguing that this industry is too slanted towards dude bros, but only white men are siding with Ubisoft?

On one of the these articles, a great metaphor was made. Us guys are sitting in a warm cabin by a fire, and the women are outside. But they have coats! So why should they complain?! *Resounding laughter* If you really think women don't care, then you're not looking out the window of the cabin.

But then again, you probably thought Duke Nukem was a pioneer of social equality.

@Shehzaan
You aren't seeing many articles about FC4's protagonist because you don't get a medal for being a decent person. You just get crap when you act like crap, as it should be.

Posted:6 months ago

#43

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
Here's an anecdote from my life. My wife, an avid RPG fan, was watching me play The Witcher 2. She loved the gameplay, and was really interested in playing it. She asked me why I picked the dude with white hair. I told her he was the main person; you don't get a choice. "Not even to make Geralt a girl?" "Nope."

She instantly decided that she'd rather play other RPGs. It's all a matter of the straw that broke the camel's back. She's tired of dealing with this BS. 20 years ago, we'd believe that females in games are just too hard. Now, I'll just promptly boycott any sexist games and buy from decent studios. Don't like it? Screw off.
This is an excellent argument for why the games industry should just not bother. I mean, the Witcher series is based on a novel, and anyone who's played the game for any length of time would recognize how unrealistic it would be to have character customization of any sort involved, and yet people will still just flip the table at the drop of a hat. Just make the games you want to make, let the customers come or not. Whatever. Make a good game and people will come, even if they have to play it as an Asian female.

Posted:6 months ago

#44

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
@Tim
You missed the point. I clearly stated that I'm playing Witcher 2, and that I boycott sexist games. QED The Witcher isn't sexist. It's a great game... that lost a sale because other developers that had a choice to make decided to not do so, and thus frustrated women like my wife to the point that they would rather pass on a good game than play as another scruffy, dark-haired, white, fit, male.

The industry can prevent this by expanding its demographic, as Rob points out. Or it can crash again. It's not my money being lost. *shrugs*

Posted:6 months ago

#45

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
This is not an issue to complain about in print complaining about existing games
I beg to differ. It's the most direct feedback from consumers (and fellow professionals) you can have. It's what drives creating better games in the future - complaining about existing games makes publishers aware of what people want to see in the future.
it's an issue to be solve by people making more games, and more importantly by customers buying those games when they were available.
It's a hard fact to swallow, but it has to be said:

Women and other under-represented groups shouldn't have to buy average games simply to support their representation. Remember Me is a great game brought down by bad combat mechanics. Mirror's Edge is great, up until the point where you have to actively avoid having to use a gun. Tomb Raider... Doesn't feature a lot of tombs, or raiding, and was good, for an Uncharted-esque adventure.

What else is there, that people could buy to "show support"? Bayonetta, if you buy into the "She's a feminist" argument. Hmmm... What else? Anything?

There's only so much you can blame the consumer for not buying. After a point, it's the fact that the games aren't produced, so no matter how inclined the consumer may be to swallow rubbish for the greater good, it just doesn't exist.
I can guarantee you that if Tomb Raider had sold as well as Black Flag did, you can bet that companies would be scrambling to "me-to" it.
Tomd Raider sold... What, 5m? 6m? How many copies does a game have to be sold before it signifies there's a market? 10m? 20m? 30m? The only reason TR is perceived to have performed badly was due to an over-extended budget and over-optimistic projections.

Edit:
On 6 March 2014, Gallagher predicted that the game will surpass 6 million units by the end of the month
Tomb Raider sales, from the Wiki page. I guess 6 million units (unsure if counting digital sales) isn't enough to convince publishers there's a market there. Huh.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2014 10:46pm

Posted:6 months ago

#46

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

224 462 2.1
@Nick

Surely there are alternative strategies to expanding the audience demographic than to attempt to appeal to all constituencies with all products? Why not do what the movie industry does, which successfully addresses a very diverse audience, by providing a diverse array of products?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 13th June 2014 10:48pm

Posted:6 months ago

#47

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
You missed the point. I clearly stated that I'm playing Witcher 2, and that I boycott sexist games. QED The Witcher isn't sexist. It's a great game... that lost a sale because other developers that had a choice to make decided to not do so, and thus frustrated women like my wife to the point that they would rather pass on a good game than play as another scruffy, dark-haired, white, fit, male.
I'm lost. So you're saying that you blame the makers of, say, Uncharted for your wife not playing Witcher 2, because she would have played it if the other games she'd played had featured female characters? That seems a very convoluted argument, and really wouldn't represent an added sale anyways, since presumably she'd just be playing your copy, which you already own.

In any case, plenty of women do play games featuring "scruffy, dark-haired, white, fit, male" characters without complaint. It's not that I love that type of character myself, but I get why it's done. If developers want to have more variety then they can, if they don't then I see no reason to bully them over it.
Women and other under-represented groups shouldn't have to buy average games simply to support their representation. Remember Me is a great game brought down by bad combat mechanics. Mirror's Edge is great, up until the point where you have to actively avoid having to use a gun. Tomb Raider... Doesn't feature a lot of tombs, or raiding, and was good, for an Uncharted-esque adventure.
And plenty of the games featuring male leads are mediocre too, but still tend to outsell the mediocre female led ones, for whatever that might be worth. You only raised the games with female-only leads though, remember that this discussion was about the inclusion of BOTH genders in the game, and there are plenty of games that feature gender selection, such as Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Saints Row, etc. These games tend to do well, but not that much better than similar games that don't offer the same options. If the argument is that game developers are leaving massive piles of money on the table by not offering these options, then the evidence would be in the games that do offer those options selling significantly better than those without. Even when they do offer them, like in Mass Effect, only 18% of their total players chose that option, even though it was unarguably the superior way to play the game, and I imagine that a large number of those players were men themselves, so the idea that female gamers are this potentially huge and untapped market for AAA games rings a bit hollow.

Women exist, women play games, women play some types of games in large numbers, some women play AAA games, these are all facts, but I see no evidence whatsoever that adding gender options will lead to a statistically significant increase in the number of women actually playing those games. My feeling,until I see evidence proving otherwise, is that roughly the exact number of women who have any interest in playing AAA games are currently playing and enjoying AAA games, even those that only offer a male avatar. They are playing that male avatar and have no more problem doing so than I do playing as a female avatar in Tomb Raider, GW2, ESO, Mass Effect, DCUO, CO, TOR, SR4, or the many other games I've played female avatars in. If more games featured female avatars, then some of those female gamers would switch over to using them, and some male gamers would as well, but I highly doubt that the sales would rise in any significant amount, I highly doubt that a significant amount of women that do not currently play AAA games would begin playing them.

Again, more options is better, I never turn away more options when they're offered, but more options also have definite, factual costs involved, and I don't see the point in second guessing the developers about whether those costs are worth it.
Tomd Raider sold... What, 5m? 6m? How many copies does a game have to be sold before it signifies there's a market? 10m? 20m? 30m? The only reason TR is perceived to have performed badly was due to an over-extended budget and over-optimistic projections.
It took something like 6-9 months before it eventually turned a profit, which is not terrible, but is not spectacular in this day when the bigger games turn a profit in the first week. It did "well enough," but it did not do "spectacular" numbers that would cause any sort of change in the status quo.

Posted:6 months ago

#48
"Women and other under-represented groups shouldn't have to buy average games simply to support their representation."

But game developers should have to make games or features that aren't financially viable for something that no-one has successfully argued would be of any benefit to them. I like reading your comments Morville but sometimes I have a hard time understanding your logic.

Posted:6 months ago

#49

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
But game developers should have to make games or features that aren't financially viable for something that no-one has successfully argued would be of any benefit to them.
I presume you mean 'shouldn't', there? :) In which case, I mostly agree with you. But there's an argument that goes around which is, if women care so much about games with women as lead characters, why don't they buy them? My point is that, maybe they don't buy them because they're not great games. Arguing that Remember Me (as a random example) sold poorly, and therefore people don't want games with female leads is flawed logic.

(If that makes sense? My mind is woozy from binge-watching The Good Wife. :p )

Posted:6 months ago

#50

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
"Women aren't featured in games because it doesn't sell to the women that we already scared off."

This industry, man. Let AAA crash, for all I care. At this point, the business logic has been so thrown by the wayside that I don't know if the company CEO's can tell the difference between the sun and their buttholes.

@Tim
Yes, this is an industry wide problem. Flood a market, and watch the sales fall. Well now we've got a flooded market, and women commenting that they don't like it, and that they'd be more inclined to buy into the hobby if they didn't feel left out, and what's this industry's response?

"I don't feel bad, so why do you? Stop your bitching."

My university recently dealt with a similar issue. A racist incident on campus led to a lot of black people saying that they felt uncomfortable on campus. The response from the groups who were responsible for the racist incident? "Most students don't feel that way, so stop complaining."

No duh. Most students aren't in the crosshairs. It's the same here. Women aren't a part of this industry (AAA gaming), and they've got several good reasons. The industry has a chance here to address one of the many. Ubisoft failed. Like I said earlier, let software sales continue to fall. Let them go out of business. If this industry falls, I'll still have a job somewhere else. They won't.

Posted:6 months ago

#51
Nick - It's not the same at all. If someone is racist against someone then they've actively perpetrated an offence on that person. Not doing something that someone wants you to do is nothing of the sort. In fact it is just that "Nothing".

If the business case had been made then no-one would be arguing. In fact these articles wouldn't even need to be written as the game would already have a female avatar.

Finally I'm not saying that people shouldn't complain or don't have the right to. However they don't have the right to start accusing people of sexism etc

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Owens on 14th June 2014 12:37am

Posted:6 months ago

#52

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
Exactly. The problem isn't that people are complaining for the things they want. I mean, personally the co-op mode of the game does not hugely appeal to me because I'm unlikely to be playing at the same time as my friends, and I very much hope they restore the AI brotherhood options that I feel Brotherhood did best of the series. That issue is quite important to me, but I have no expectations that other people who don't care about that feature should be equally as invested in it as I am.

The problem is that people are trying to elevate the scale of this issue to a Problem, something universal that people should be bothered by even if it wouldn't bother them were they the only person on Earth. Like if you want female avatars in the game because you want to play one, that's fair, be upset, push for it. If you want them in the game because you assume other people want them, let those other people handle that, let Ubisoft handle that, it's their job to make as many players happy as possible, so if the market is there, they will find it and cater to it. This is not sexism, this is not discrimination, this is just a lack of a feature that some people want to see. It is not objectively any more important than any of a dozen other issues the game might have.

Posted:6 months ago

#53

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
@ Nick
You aren't seeing many articles about FC4's protagonist because you don't get a medal for being a decent person. You just get crap when you act like crap, as it should be.
This highlights two major problems I think need talking about. We spent so much time attacking the videogame industry that we rarely reflect on those reporting about it. Okay:

i) Keep in mind this is the same game that attracted a huge racial controversy just days before it was revealed that the protagonist was Indo-Asian.

If these people are really about diversity they should be the first people coming forward and pointing out they screwed up. But they don't because they want clicks for being angry rather than for being humble. But more worryingly they don't because their criticism is destructive:

ii) This highlights a worrying trend of destructive criticism in the games industry. Notice how whenever complaints about the lack of diversity are made the people complaining tend to fail to actually articulate what it is they want? They'll rant for hours and hours about everything they don't though.

This is the equivalent of tasking someone with doing your groceries, by giving them a mile-long papyrus scroll listing everything you don’t want – inefficient to say the least and a poor form of communication.

The difference with the groceries example is that if you fail to buy the right stuff you don't get called racist, sexist, chauvinist or what have you. Probably because the person who wrote the list realises how silly their approach is.

Posted:6 months ago

#54

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,255 421 0.3
I can't help thinking that the main reason for the Assassin's Creed controversy is not just because they left out female characters. Clearly they would be good to have, it's a shame they weren't there, and because people are used to it, it would be business as usual, maybe a few sighs.

But then some bright spark in an interview points out they seriously thought about putting one in, but didn't because it was deemed not worth the resource. Now making this assessment privately would be little more than a shame. Then making a statement about nearly doing it is akin to dangling a carrot, then smacking you round the head with it once you say you like carrots. Clearly Ubisoft know that better gender representation is something people would like, so why make a comment about how they are not bothering.

And yes, they are reusing one model. That would have been obvious when you were playing and the customizations were akin to pallets swaps and accessories, just like in Halo (although in Halo the person under the helmet looks however you choose to envision them I guess). Unfortunately this didn't come across in a comment, regarding a game not many people have played, but all know now considered putting a female in but decided it wasn't worth it.

Then they decided to follow that by saying in FC4 they were even closer, but pulled it eleventh hour. It seems like rubbing in the face just a little.

Posted:6 months ago

#55

David Canela Game & Audio Designer

69 156 2.3
The amazing thing is how so many people keep willfuly ignoring that the uproar was mainly caused by rather dubious explanations from Ubisoft that were stereotypical of a industry-wide-spread self-deluding way of thinking ("no, it wasn't a choice, you see, it's just that we had to do it this way because resources, focus."), and thus resonated very strongly with many people.

All the defenses about how this really just is entitled "SJW"s demanding that a game be tailored to their very specific tastes are thus quite beside the point and misleading. Those are two very different things.

I agree that every individual game creator should be allowed to make whatever game they please (within obvious limits), I'm just baffled that many people think this also means those games may never be criticized or used by journalists as an example for whatever they think is an (AAA) industry-wide bias.

Posted:6 months ago

#56

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
But then some bright spark in an interview points out they seriously thought about putting one in, but didn't because it was deemed not worth the resource. Now making this assessment privately would be little more than a shame. Then making a statement about nearly doing it is akin to dangling a carrot, then smacking you round the head with it once you say you like carrots. Clearly Ubisoft know that better gender representation is something people would like, so why make a comment about how they are not bothering.
But companies do this ALL THE TIME! Without one ####-storm resulting. "Oh, we were planning on adding multiplayer, but we just couldn't fit it in." "Oh, we wanted to add a co-op campaign, but it just didn't work out." "Oh, we were going to add this whole side mission in Uraguay in the middle, but had to cut it for length." These sorts of decisions are made in EVERY AAA game, and are mentioned during interviews most of the time, and the reaction is just "ok, you gotta cut what you gotta cut, maybe next time." This decision was in no way different, and yet because they commented on it, the gaming media lost their collective minds. I feel sorry for the Ubisoft guy who made the comment, there's no way he could have guessed it would result in all of this, but at least they've learned their lesson, "when asked about any issues of race or gender in your game, say 'no comment,' and then disengage from the interview as quickly as possible. It's a trap."
And yes, they are reusing one model. That would have been obvious when you were playing and the customizations were akin to pallets swaps and accessories, just like in Halo (although in Halo the person under the helmet looks however you choose to envision them I guess). Unfortunately this didn't come across in a comment, regarding a game not many people have played, but all know now considered putting a female in but decided it wasn't worth it.
I can understand how an average person on the street might have been confused by the quote, but I cannot believe for a second that anyone claiming to be a professional gaming journalist could have missed that very clear point. They should have taken it upon themselves to make it more clear to their readers, that's their job, to educate and inform.

Posted:6 months ago

#57

Susan Mortimer Studying Computer Games Art, Anglia Ruskin

1 12 12.0
I love the assassin's creed series, as do many of my female friends across the world, and I thoroughly enjoy the games. The reason that myself and others have reacted so strongly to Ubisoft's insistence that a female playable character was just not possible because of resources is because it is such a lack-lustre excuse - they've already made a game with a female playable assassin, which didn't perform well because it was originally a PS Vita exclusive title, (and no one is realistically going to buy a console to play one game) and when it was moved to steam, there was next to no advertisement. In fact, until friends on tumblr brought up the game's existence on steam as a reaction to this uproar, I didn't even know it was there. The point being, they've already got a female assassin model with it's accompanying animations, and with nine studios working on this game it really doesn't seem like too much extra cost and work to update that data for a new playable female character.

As a girl who plays computer games, and as a consumer who puts money into this industry, is it really honestly too much to ask that, in a game with ever changing protagonists and time periods, one could be a woman?

Ubisoft's answers are like a punch to the gut - a company who's works I really enjoy, in whom I've invested a lot of my sparse disposable income has basically told me, and other women like me, that we don't matter enough to be considered at all.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Susan Mortimer on 14th June 2014 12:17pm

Posted:6 months ago

#58

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
The reason that myself and others have reacted so strongly to Ubisoft's insistence that a female playable character was just not possible because of resources is because it is such a lack-lustre excuse - they've already made a game with a female playable assassin,
Do you believe that they were lying?

I don't. I believe they were being honest. Yes, they had a game with a female avatar. Nobody is questioning that they are capable of making female avatars. But that was a different game. Assassin's Creed Unity involves a ton of animations that Aveline did not have, you can tell that from what little we've already seen in the footage. They've noted that Anton, the game's sole hero, had 8000 different animations they would need to replicate on a different skeletal structure. This would be a lot of work, not to mention the other work involved like added voice acting (even just grunts and groans), customization options, etc.

There is also a serious technical jump involved in the rest of the engine, with higher quality graphics across the board. I imagine that when they started this game, they might have planned it to be PS3/360 compatible too, and at some point decided to focus on next-gen, making it truly next-0gen worthy, rather than just an upscaled previous-gen game, so that likely required even more schedule changes.

It's not like they ruled out ever having another female protagonist, they just noted, honestly I believe, the technical hurdles involved in adding female multiplayer avatars to this game in the series, and that they decided that the features the game will launch with, they judged to be more important. Would you rather than they did lie about it? Is there a response they could have given that would have been satisfactory? They couldn't do it while also delivering a game of the quality that everyone expected of them, why is that not a good enough answer?
The point being, they've already got a female assassin model with it's accompanying animations, and with nine studios working on this game it really doesn't seem like too much extra cost and work to update that data for a new playable female character.
I'm boggled. Do you really think it would be as simple as just directly porting a Vita character over to a PS4/XBone game?
As a girl who plays computer games, and as a consumer who puts money into this industry, is it really honestly too much to ask that, in a game with ever changing protagonists and time periods, one could be a woman?
One was, Aveline. There will likely be a second and a third at some point, just not right now. Do AC's female gamers deserve more than that? Maybe, but I've seen no evidence of that. They've had five, now six primary protagonists in the series, and only one of those was a woman, 16% of the total characters. Is AC's audience more than 16-32% female? I don't know, if so then they should probably do another female character in the near future to balance things out, two in eight, maybe even three in nine if enough women play. Other than that, their female players aren't really "owed" anything, beyond that Ubi continues to put out good games that everyone can enjoy playing, even if they use a male avatar while doing so.

It's worth noting that a full Aveline-level female protagonist was never even a twinkle in their eye on this one. They never intended (or at least never publicly hinted at) a full "choose your own ancestor" option for this particular game, and really that would be unwieldy anyways. Maybe they will do that at some point, but it'd be a bit of a mess, because unlike a game like Mass Effect in which you create your own character, Assassin's Creed games place you firmly into your ancestor's character.

The only way they could do a "choose your own gender" game would be if both your parents in that generation were assassins, and then you could pick which one to follow, each of which would have a completely different story, crossing paths with the other parent and eventually conceiving your next ancestor. I mean, that sounds pretty cool, I hope they do that eventually, but it sounds like a lot of work, since it would essentially be like one and three quarters of a normal game, and even then you'd have to play through both characters to get the full story. Even then though, you'd be stuck with the ancestor you picked, they might not be "you." Even if you are a woman and she's a woman, the might be taller or shorter, stockier or slimmer, darker of hair or skin or eyes, etc. If you can't immerse yourself in an avatar that happens to be male, then why would you be immersed in a female character that looks entirely different from you?

It's also worth noting that your avatar in the game is never intended to be "you" in the first place. You aren't actually playing "Ezio" in AC2, you're playing Desmond Miles, while he is the one playing Ezio. You're not playing Edward Kenway in AC4, you're playing the faceless, voiceless, nameless "Protagonist" who is playing as Edward. Mine happened to be male, but if you were playing AC4 then the protagonist could have been female, or male, whatever floats your boat, the choice is left entirely up to you. From the right perspective, AC4 was an entirely female character game.
Ubisoft's answers are like a punch to the gut - a company who's works I really enjoy, in whom I've invested a lot of my sparse disposable income has basically told me, and other women like me, that we don't matter enough to be considered at all.
Not even remotely close to anything that could possibly resembled the truth when viewed from a specific angle and at a very long distance away from it. They said nothing that could even be confused for that by someone who had spun around the end of a wiffle bat a dozen times before taking a look at it.

Posted:6 months ago

#59

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
The reason that myself and others have reacted so strongly to Ubisoft's insistence that a female playable character was just not possible because of resources is because it is such a lack-lustre excuse - they've already made a game with a female playable assassin
Surely the fact that Ubisoft are diverse actually lends credibility to their argument rather than diminishes it? After all, it's already demonstrated that they have no vested interest in sticking to games with white males for some ulterior motive. Unless you count "sales" as an ulterior motive.

Posted:6 months ago

#60

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
The great irony I find here is that we have a number of people saying, "It was just a decision that Ubisoft had a right to make, and you shouldn't complain about what they're doing." And then they go on to complain about the editors of this site publishing a number of articles about this.

If creators have a right to do what they want without others criticising it, why don't you start by not criticising GI.biz for the decisions they make about what articles to publish?

Posted:6 months ago

#61

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
@Curt

Articles on GI.biz have no artistic or creative value that can be stifled by having their content dictated or altered by pressure.

Moreover, even if these articles did have that kind of value, they're criticised post-upload, not whilst they are still being written up.

In other words, destructive criticism can't harm the integrity of what the author is trying to say here because by the time it's available for criticism they've already said it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shehzaan Abdulla on 14th June 2014 7:53pm

Posted:6 months ago

#62

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
If creators have a right to do what they want without others criticising it, why don't you start by not criticising GI.biz for the decisions they make about what articles to publish?
Nobody is saying that there is no right to complain about things that bother you. If you, as a private citizen, are bothered by this issue for some reason, then are free to approach Ubisoft as a private citizen and present your concerns. Shoot them an email, post on their official forums or Facebook or Twitter, whatever. Nobody is saying you can't express your personal opinion.

When it comes to gaming journalists though, they are given a public soapbox, one which is significantly larger than just a private citizens' voice, and they need to use it responsibly. They shouldn't use it for hyperbolic stories that distort and confuse their audience as this one clearly has. They can say whatever they like on their own time, off this site, but when posting on this site they should have more integrity than they've displayed over the past week.

Posted:6 months ago

#63

Bonnie Patterson Freelance Narrative Designer

196 545 2.8
The stuff about "If games with female characters on the cover don't sell" has been studied pretty thoroughly.

Games tend to sell in proportion to their marketing budget. Publishers allocate roughly half or a third as much marketing money to games with female or male and female protagonists that they give to games that are "all man."

And yet those games that have included women - such as Skyrim, which not only has selectable genders but also armour that protects your boobs, or Tomb Raider - have done amazingly well, even with the weight of promotion against them.

It might be time to retire the belief that the audience is predominantly male and start believing the figures that have been showing a steadily growing, significant female audience for any game that doesn't tell them to go **** themselves.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 15th June 2014 12:04am

Posted:6 months ago

#64

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
And yet those games that have included women - such as Skyrim, which not only has selectable genders but also armour that protects your boobs, or Tomb Raider - have done amazingly well, even with the weight of promotion against them.
Yeah, and thus the lesson in all of this, "make good games." They don't have to have the option of female leads, they are not objectively worse for not having them (or at least not any more objectively worse than if they were lacking any other game feature). It's nice to have multiple gender options, and I'm sure some people care more than others, but this is not an issue that should bother anyone that it doesn't personally bother. Personal outrage on this issue is perfectly acceptable, if a bit hyperbolic. Callsfor outrage in others is not, it's not justified by the facts.
It might be time to retire the belief that the audience is predominantly male and start believing the figures that have been showing a steadily growing, significant female audience for any game that doesn't tell them to go **** themselves.
Name one game that tells the female audience to go **** themselves. If you're listing a game just because it doesn't have playable female avatars available then you've missed.

Posted:6 months ago

#65

Bonnie Patterson Freelance Narrative Designer

196 545 2.8
Name one game that tells the female audience to go **** themselves.
Every single one that turns every female character into fapfodder, like Warface et al.

And I'm curious. Why isn't including female characters a "go *** yourself". "Sorry, you're too much trouble to include." "You're not a significant demographic " when 48% of gamers are women. Yes, that's a huge "*** you.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 15th June 2014 10:59am

Posted:6 months ago

#66

David Canela Game & Audio Designer

69 156 2.3
@Shehzaan
So you are worried AC:U is going to get changed and ruined artistically because some press articles mentioned the explanations given for its choice of multiplayer characters were questionable?

sorry, but in my humble opinion, that is an irrational fear. Has that ever happened before? Even If you do believe believe Ubi will suddenly change their game (let's faceIit, even the demands for that are imaginary, it's not like gi.biz&co. were launching a petition), have you considered it might be actually a change for the better?
with all due respect, the notion that criticism of unequal gender representation is threatening creative expression in the AAA sector is, frankly, absurd.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Canela on 15th June 2014 1:22pm

Posted:6 months ago

#67

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Tim,
When it comes to gaming journalists though, they are given a public soapbox, one which is significantly larger than just a private citizens' voice, and they need to use it responsibly
So a niche website with an audience of a few thousand people has this great responsibility to do things the way you want them done, and yet a company producing narrative with an audience of millions doesn't?

Through many, many posts you've made it very clear that you're extremely uncomfortable with the fact that others don't think like you and don't unquestioningly accept many of your assumptions about the way the world is and should be. You can either keep holding your hands over your ears and chanting, "there isn't a problem, and the people who say there is are just trying to get something over on me," or you can face reality, admit the truth that there are a lot of people out there who feel differently than you do about these things, and try to learn about why they might feel this way.
They shouldn't use it for hyperbolic stories that distort and confuse their audience as this one clearly has.
Your definition of a "confused" person as "someone who doesn't agree with me" is not going to enable you to do the above.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 15th June 2014 12:38pm

Posted:6 months ago

#68

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
Every single one that turns every female character into fapfodder, like Warface et al.
No, women play those games too. Maybe not women that hold the same opinions that you do on the matter, but other women. I just got done reading a female comic creators panel, in which one of the topics to come up was Red Sonja, and how much they loved working with the character. They understood the exploitative and completely impractical nature of her costume (a coin-male bikini, if you're unfamiliar with the character), but they still loved working with her. I'm not defending those sorts of costumes, at least not when they're applied unevenly between genders, I'm just pointing out that they don't intentionally alienate women, they probably turn away more than they attract, but plenty of women still enjoy those products, and they are designed to attract male customers, not to push away female ones.

It's also worth noting that we're currently discussing a game that doesn't have those elements. It's a game series that has featured one female lead so far (which I hear was well received), and all the female supporting characters are at least reasonably well dressed (although they often enough display Ren-Faire level cleavage, they're rarely seen in less than that). I can't imagine you actually played the previous Assassin's Creed games based on your responses, but I think if you had you'd recognize that they are remarkably progressive towards women, at least given the time periods they are dealing with.
And I'm curious. Why isn't including female characters a "go *** yourself". "Sorry, you're too much trouble to include." "You're not a significant demographic " when 48% of gamers are women. Yes, that's a huge "*** you.
I still think you can only reach this conclusion by misunderstanding the situation. Here are a few points that I believe you must understand and accept to be true if you are to have any sort of informed position on this topic. To do otherwise is you just attack a strawman that does not actually exist here:

1. Assassin's Creed games are about traveling back in time and inhabiting an ancestor. This is not a "choose your own" type character, it is a very specific character with a rich backstory. This role cannot be subject to player manipulation, so it's impossible to offer a Commander Shepard choice in the matter, they can either offer you a male lead, or they can offer you a female lead. In this game, they chose a male lead named Anton, this does not mean that they thought women inferior or anything about women specifically, just that this is the choice they made for this character.

2. The available multiplayer characters in this game are all "swaps" of Anton. They have the exact same animations, likely the same clothing customization options, and at most a few face swaps. In "creating" these characters, they only needed to apply probably 5% of the work of creating a completely new character, if that. They essentially come "free of charge" along with just making their main character.

3. According to one of their current team, Anton has 8000 animations that would need to be translated to a female model, not to mention having to translate all the clothing customization options, recording extra audio, etc., and that would ONLY be for a multiplayer option that many players would not use extensively. This represents a LOT of work, it could not be done without cost, that cost would have to come from somewhere.

Now, with those three facts in mind, what did Ubisoft do? They chose not to invest the resources needed into making those female avatars. Was this a slap in the face to women? Of course not. They know that women played AC1 as Altair, AC2 as Ezio, AC3 as Ratonhnhaké:ton, Liberation as Aveline, and AC4 as Edward (and Adéwalé in DLC), and they know that most women will enjoy playing as Anton in Unity. This was in no way making a trivial decision that they could "easily add female characters, but why bother," this was them taking note of the effort necessary and deciding that it would not attract enough additional players to justify it. Most of their female customers have absolutely no problem playing as a male avatar, and those that weren't likely weren't buying AC games in the first place (since only one of the games in the middle of the series had previously given the opportunity).

Now, if they had added a second male model for co-op, one that would require as much additional work as adding a female model, then that would have been a slap in the face to women, no question, but to choose that this added feature was not worth the unavoidable costs to the other aspects of the game was not a sexist move on their part, it was not any sort of attack against women as a gender, intended or otherwise, it was just a design decision.

Also, do not push around that "48% of gamers are women" statistic so much. That includes a lot of games that have nothing to do with Assassin's Creed. I know many women who do play action and adventure games, certainly enough that they matter and should matter to game companies, but they by no means represent 48% of the AAA action game's market, and no choices made by those game companies would bring them along. There are games that attract more male players, and games that attract more female players, and games that attract both evenly, and it does game companies no good to target every game at all players.

Posted:6 months ago

#69

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
So a niche website with an audience of a few thousand people has this great responsibility to do things the way you want them done, and yet a company producing narrative with an audience of millions doesn't?
I should think that a niche market would have more responsibility to any single voice than a mass market company. I mean, I represent probably 0.5% or more of this site's daily traffic, while I represent only about 0.0000001% of Ubisoft's customer base. Not that I expect either company to do what I say because I say so, I expect them to do what is right.
Your definition of a "confused" person as "someone who doesn't agree with me" is not going to enable you to do the above.
No, I mean it as "confused people, as I noted in the post above this one, there seems to be a core misunderstanding about the nature of this story that few news sites go out of their way to correct. Anyone who feels that Ubisoft's decision is a "slap in the face" to women is entitled to their reaction to what they believe happened, but what they believed happened cannot possibly be the facts of the matter for them to hold that impression of it. It's like one of those old vaudeville bits where some guys are at a bar, and one of the guys bumps the bigger guy, who then turns around and believe that a third man was the one who bumped him, so he takes a swing and hilarity ensues. The big man is entitled to feel upset about being bumped, but it wasn't the man he targeted that actually did it, his reaction was honest, but still misguided.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Ogul on 15th June 2014 12:48pm

Posted:6 months ago

#70

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Actually, Tim, as I mentioned just now in the comments on the "Inclusivity always seems to end up on the cutting board" article, you've put your own spin on what happened, one acceptable to you, and you don't appear to be able to accept that what really happened in fact is reasonably interpreted as a slap in the face to women. Again, we've got you with your hands over your ears insisting that there cannot be any problem here.

Why don't you take some responsibility for at least admitting that viewpoints other than your own might be correct?

Posted:6 months ago

#71

Bonnie Patterson Freelance Narrative Designer

196 545 2.8
@Tim

The fact that the sexism is subconscious does not make it not sexism. When games like CounterStrike can rack up a 30% or so female playerbase, you have to be repelling your female audience to get down to numbers like 3%. Not intentional? Maybe not, but it ought to be very very obvious that that's what would happen. After all, I don't see many straight guys buying "Playguy" and "Men".

Also, you're speaking for women there again. I thought you weren't allowed to do that?

And of course not all women are bothered by it - that's a rather obvious thing to say, and not actually relevant to the point. That people ignore a "Fuck you" still doesn't make it not a "fuck you."

And yes, I have played the Assassin's Creed series. I always make a point of getting familiar with everything I can out there because knowing what's been done is kind of an important part of my job.

And again, the issue not that this particular game is not offering female models. It's that YET ANOTHER GAME has forgotten women. I say again, the world is filled with men AND women. Blacks, whites, asians, native americans, arabs and hebrews. Gay and straight and bi and pan and asexual and all the sexualities of the rainbow. Cis and trans. These people are around us every single day - they might not be majorities but they still exist and we see them, so why is every game a photo from the Ford Picnic?

You say women don't play action adventure games, but the figures show that yes, they do. They play all the ones that, as I said earlier, don't tell them to fuck off.

We should not be viewing it as "costing more" to give people a fair representation. They're saving money by cutting out one gender, because that representation should have been there in the first place. Those crying that it is so grossly unfair to ask are basically yearning for the mancave, the days when the internet and gaming were the last safe place for a man to kick back and be... sexist, racist, rapey, homophobic and so forth. As if that's what all men want, but are just "White knighting" and pretending they don't to get laid. I've actually heard that used as an argument, and frankly a lot of the "OMG stop reporting on this stuff" sounds like it.

If you want to be a decent human being, you spend the money and stop making it so damn easy for people to dehumanise women, gay folks, other races, other lifestyles. We suck it up and do it right and give people the crash course in the rest of humanity that they're denying themselves if they don't put down the controller on occasion. It's that simple.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 15th June 2014 8:42pm

Posted:6 months ago

#72

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,185 1,272 1.1
We should all take a step back, look at a game in which we and our friends pretend to be future assassins mixed up in a global conspiracy about reliving genetic memories set in the 18th century and ask ourselves if the lack of tasteful female killer assassins is really the thing which is the problem here.

I also suppose it is pointless to ask for a series of articles in which Rebecca Walker reviews the computer games brought up in discussions such as this one.

Posted:6 months ago

#73

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
The fact that the sexism is subconscious does not make it not sexism. When games like CounterStrike can rack up a 30% or so female playerbase, you have to be repelling your female audience to get down to numbers like 3%.
One, which game are you talking about that has only a 3% female playerbase? Assassin's Creed? I rather doubt that. Second, you wouldn't have to be deliberately repelling female players to have a low female player uptake, some types of games just might not happen to appeal to a lot of players that happen to be female. Women can choose to play or not play whatever games they want, just as much as men do, and sometimes that means that less of them choose to play certain games. That doesn't necessarily mean that those games are doing anything "wrong," it just means that what they're selling, it turns out women aren't buying, and that's ok. There are plenty of other games that are purchased in far greater numbers by women than by men, and that's ok too. Make good games, and let the audience fall out where it may, whether that means 50/50, 30/70, 70/30, 5/95, or 95/5, whatever, so long as people are enjoying it.
Also, you're speaking for women there again. I thought you weren't allowed to do that?
I'm not speaking for anyone other than myself, I am no trying to explain why they enjoy the game, but i am pointing out the fact that many do enjoy the games in their current form.
And again, the issue not that this particular game is not offering female models. It's that YET ANOTHER GAME has forgotten women.
But they didn't forget women. They remembered women, they considered women, they weighed the option of adding female avatars, and they decided in the end that other features of the game took priority. That does not mean that they cast off the game's female audience, as they're aware that many women already play the previous games that did not feature female avatars, it just indicates that they believe that even their female gamers would appreciate those other features more than they would appreciate having female multiplayer models. I bet they were right, but there's no real way to know until we have the game's full feature list and know what the game would have been like had they insisted on those female avatars.
You say women don't play action adventure games, but the figures show that yes, they do. They play all the ones that, as I said earlier, don't tell them to fuck off.
No, if you'd been paying attention you'd know that I said the exact opposite, that I do know women play action games, and know plenty of them myself, but I also know that they make up less than that 48% figure you use, probably more like 20-30% of the action game market while they take up a more than 50% share in puzzle and lifestyle games, and again, I don't see how anyone could rationally believe that this specific issue is a case of Ubisoft telling ANY group to "F off."
We should not be viewing it as "costing more" to give people a fair representation. They're saving money by cutting out one gender, because that representation should have been there in the first place.
No, it shouldn't have. Players of ACU are no more entitled to being able to play as a female character than players of Tomb Raider were entitled to play through it as a male character, or viewers of The Hunger Games were entitled to be able to watch the move with a male Katniss. It's art, the developers are entitled to decide for themselves who the characters will be, and it is not an insult against women if they choose that the main character will be male. If that bothers you, then you don't have to buy their product, that is all you are entitled to.

Posted:6 months ago

#74

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Tim,
I'm not speaking for anyone other than myself
Then when you complain that GI.biz has too much coverage of this issue, you should also clearly state that, though you don't read all these articles, you do not feel that they should cover it any less. Otherwise it does sound as if you're trying to speak for the entire audience of readers.

Except, wait, you do read all the articles, and comment on them extensively. Somehow it seems that you are part of the audience for these.

Posted:6 months ago

#75

Tim Ogul Illustrator

335 467 1.4
Then when you complain that GI.biz has too much coverage of this issue, you should also clearly state that, though you don't read all these articles, you do not feel that they should cover it any less. Otherwise it does sound as if you're trying to speak for the entire audience of readers.
I'm not saying "All GI readers want them to stop these articles." I'm not saying "All Men want them to stop these articles." I'm certainly not saying "All Women want them to stop these articles," of course. But I am saying that I would like them to stop these articles, or at least do a better job keeping them in context, moderation, and not over sensationalizing them. I don't claim to have the support in this position of anyone other than myself, and tentatively the handful of people that tend to star some of my posts, but I think it's fair for me to let them know what I want.

Likewise, as I've noted time and time again, I have no problem if women like Bonnie want to tell Ubisoft "I do not like this feature decision." She's of course perfectly entitled to her own opinion. I don't have any problem with her saying that six thousand other women have expressed similar views, I trust that she's being honest in those figures, so that's straight reporting of facts. What I do object to, is anyone, male or female, claiming to know how ALL women feel on this issue, to speak for a single woman who has not spoken for herself.

I have little doubt that most women would have preferred the game include female avatars as an option (as would many men, myself included). I am not, however, so condescending about women that I would assume that it was their number 1 priority in the development of the game. If every female gamer bought every game that had a female avatar option, regardless of quality, and avoided every game without one, regardless of quality, then you can rest assured that every game on the market would include a female avatar.

Given how many games out there include female avatars but do not automatically do gangbuster sales, or that lack a female avatar but sell quite well to women regardless, I don't think it's unfair to believe that female gamers, on average, care about elements of the game other then their avatar's gender. Given that data, I think it's fair to claim that while this might be an issue for many, perhaps even most women, it does not appear to be a "voting issue" for many of them, one on which they would decide to make their purchase.

If you asked a hundred serious female AC players "would you like to see female avatar options in co-op?" I would wager that 90%+ of them would answer yes. If you were to ask them "would you like to see female avatar options in co-op if it mean cutting certain core features of the game?" Then I would wager, although I can't know for sure, that a great many of them would shift into the "no" column, perhaps even the majority. The only way to know for sure would be an unbiased scientific poll of the issue, although that would be difficult to set up.

My belief, although again this is purely supposition, is that more AC players want the game as a whole to be the best that it can be, rather than for it to be diminished in some way to include a purely cosmetic gender option for co-op mode. And don't even try to perpetuate the notion that there is no cost involved in implementing this feature, that is just magical thinking.

Posted:6 months ago

#76

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

846 732 0.9
@Elliot: "This is just one writers hateful babble"

It's called "Opinion", he is entitled to his and he doesn't deserve to have it ridiculed because you disagree with it. gamesindustry.biz has always been about both news and articles. Also about respect. If you can't cover this last point I suggest you got to gamespot or kotaku where they are more tolerant with this kind of attitudes.

As for a particular point you menction:

"I'm a fat white guy, I can play and immerse myself playing a thin black lady, I assume the reverse is true. "

Imagine now that you are all the time forced to immerse yourself into females, all the time year after year in every single game. Wouldn't you get tired at some point? For some people that reality got annoying time ago.

Posted:6 months ago

#77

Shehzaan Abdulla Translator

124 246 2.0
With all due respect, the notion that criticism of unequal gender representation is threatening creative expression in the AAA sector is, frankly, absurd.
Here's the problem:

It's rarely "there aren't enough female characters" and more often "Look only a male character!'. This is a negative, destructive form of criticism that fails to even articulate what it wants (more female characters).

The end result is we see no shortage of articles on the internet blasting games (and the hardworking people who create them) for, in essence, creating games fronted by male characters. Something which shouldn't a problem., And as if that isn't enough the people who just want to make a cool white male character end up being accused of all sorts. That's ludicrous and unfair.

When did a protagonist being white male become the barometer for a wider problem? That's stupid criteria.

So if you really want to celebrate diversity next time you see a white male character that should be a-okay and just as good as a black female character. That's my view. Whatever the developer/artist wants to make is a-okay with me as long is it isn't intended as hurtful.

Next time people want to complain, how about complaining in terms of the lack of female characters rather than the exclusivity of male ones? Because despite being two sides of the same coin, one of these is a problem, the other is not.
Even If you do believe believe Ubi will suddenly change their game (let's face it, even the demands for that are imaginary,
it's not like gi.biz&co. were launching a petition), have you considered it might be actually a change for the better?
A change that veers away from artistic integrity is not a change for the better.

In AC:U's case however we can agree it would be a change for the better to include female playable characters because Ubisoft made it clear it wasn't an artistic choice to limit themselves to male characters, but a development consideration.
So you are worried AC:U is going to get changed and ruined artistically because some press articles mentioned the explanations given for its choice of multiplayer characters were questionable?
See above. Not in the case of AC:U.

This extends beyond AC:U to games and artistic visions in general and the fact that it isn't "some press articles" reporting this. It's the collective weight of videogame journalism, the blogosphere, social media and more. Do you think those don't have any coercive influence? Of course they do.

The position that these articles have no impact is kind of self-defeating don't you think? If they have no impact then doesn't it make it pointless to talk about these issues or write these articles in the first place? Presumably we're here because there's a common understanding that they do have an impact.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shehzaan Abdulla on 16th June 2014 4:48pm

Posted:6 months ago

#78

David Canela Game & Audio Designer

69 156 2.3
When did a protagonist being white male become the barometer for a wider problem? That's stupid criteria.
You keep arguing against imaginary arguments that you allege people are making, a popular technique in any kind of discussion, but ultimately not constructive. I know it when I see it, cause unfortunately I sometimes can't resist the temptation of doing that myself ;)
The position that these articles have no impact is kind of self-defeating don't you think? If they have no impact then doesn't it make it pointless to talk about these issues or write these articles in the first place? Presumably we're here because there's a common understanding that they do have an impact.
You're doing it again...congratulations on disproving a claim nobody ever made, I guess. But to answer your questions: yes, that would indeed be self-defeating. We finally agree on something. Where I disagree is that the impact of such articles is to stifle creative expression und bully developers into compromising their artistic vision. Instead, I think the impact is that awareness of grossly unequal gender representation is raised, as well s awareness of subconcious sexism with male defaulting and self-deluding rationalizations ("it wasn't a choice, the budget made me do it! Oh, here, let me me pad the game with 500 more collectibles...."). That raised awareness might inspire developers to make new, more inclusive games and more conscious decisions about their games. Which does not equal being bullied by the PC police.

Time will tell, I guess. I'm confident the future will bring more inclusiveness-aware developers who still enjoy their creative freedom.

Posted:6 months ago

#79
@David Canela

What if their artistic vision is to have 500 more collectables instead of a female avatar?

I'm surprised a game designer thinks that none of this necessary and they're just doing it because it's so fun to create 500 more collectables.

Also what exactly do you mean by un-equal. If you have 1 million male gamers and 1 female gamer would you expect 50% of the games made to have a female lead if both wasn't possible? What about 0 female gamers?

I'm just curious.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Owens on 17th June 2014 11:21am

Posted:6 months ago

#80

David Canela Game & Audio Designer

69 156 2.3
@John Owens:
What if their artistic vision is to have 500 more collectables instead of a female avatar?

I'm surprised a game designer thinks that none of this necessary and they're just doing it because it's so fun to create 500 more collectables.
Then by all means, they should go crazy with the collectables. I'm not sure from which statement of mine you deduce that I think people do 500 more collectables just for fun and none of this is necessary. My actual point is that Ubisoft makes some of the most unfocused games ever, with some of the largest budgets in games. Meanwhile this whole thing started with some comment on how a female multiplayer character was ommited not out of choice, but because of focus and production constrains, which in the context of AC just is a bit silly. And I'm sure that wasn't evil game developers lying, but instead a more subtle subconscious bias when they actually did make the decision what to cut and what to keep.

My hope is that developers in the future will make more conscious decisions and question their defaults, and I'm well aware Ubisoft actually tends to be one of the better publishers at that. It was never about AC that specifically, or shaming Ubisoft or any of that stuff, if one actually bothers to read the majority of articles on the subject. instead, AC:U was simply and quite respectfully used as an example to criticize some common decision processes.

As for your hypothetical million to one example...I don't really know what to say, since this is so far removed from the statistical reality of gaming population, let alone the potential gaming population...I don't doubt that not all genres attract equal numbers of men and women, but there's also a very short-sighted self-fulfilling propechy thing going on if we make games for men because it's mostly men that play the games that we make for men. Again, it's not about forcing a specific developer to make a game for a specific audience, it's about raising awareness of some of these gender dynamics.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Canela on 17th June 2014 12:08pm

Posted:6 months ago

#81
("it wasn't a choice, the budget made me do it! Oh, here, let me me pad the game with 500 more collectibles....").

Sounded to me that you think they're un-necessary unless that's an actual quote?

See this is the issue.

They didn't think it wasn't a high enough priority because of some subconscious sexist bias. They thought it wasn't necessary because the character's gender is irrelevant to the gameplay. It's a bit like playing a racing game licensed by Ferrari instead of Porche - Unless you are talking a high-end simulator it will mostly be the same game, it doesn't really matter and shouldn't really matter. Ultimately it's the gameplay that counts which is the reason those 500 collectables is actually more important.

You don't think so and that's ok. You obviously play games for different reasons than gameplay. I'm at a loss to know what they are but I respect that you have different priorities. Can you not do the same?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Owens on 17th June 2014 12:59pm

Posted:6 months ago

#82

Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media

68 131 1.9
I wish I could take a side in what I see a very complicated push and pull between creative freedom and social responsibility, or industry and art, or entertainment and education, but the truth is I'd rather not choose between any of those and try to find ways to achieve some kind of balance and have them all. Not even sure if that is possible.

Posted:6 months ago

#83

David Canela Game & Audio Designer

69 156 2.3
("it wasn't a choice, the budget made me do it! Oh, here, let me me pad the game with 500 more collectibles....").

Sounded to me that you think they're un-necessary unless that's an actual quote?
No. What I'm arguing here that going for inclusiveness or adding more collectables (as an example of non-core mechanic content) is very much a choice and not a force of nature beyond the devs' control. Choose what you will, but it is a choice, and as such it's open to legitimate criticism, like so many other design choices in games.

Comparing people's sexes with car brands is not helping your argument, because we're talking about story-heavy game universes with human characters. As such, the impact of the choices of whom to include is different.

Finally, I play games for a variety of reasons, such as gameplay, story, a sense of place and exploration. One of the crucial reasons why this is such a tedious discussion is that little twist you do at the end: the whole point is not that I can't accept that some people don't care about anything but "gameplay" (so narrowly defined that it only involves mechanics). The whole point is that some people can't accept that for many other players, the option to identify with a protagonist actually does matter. When this latter group of players voice their opinion, the former immediately feel threatened and take to the comment sections to tell them they're not allowed to write such articles, or please not more than x times/ month.

People overreacting to legitimate criticism and discussion out of an irrational fear of political correctness crushing creativity.
This is the real issue.

Posted:6 months ago

#84

Mikko Heikkilä Game Artist / 3D modeler

12 20 1.7
I wish I could take a side in what I see a very complicated push and pull between creative freedom and social responsibility, or industry and art, or entertainment and education, but the truth is I'd rather not choose between any of those and try to find ways to achieve some kind of balance and have them all. Not even sure if that is possible.
I know how you feel, I've tried to stay out of the social justice side of the debate because it is so laden with value arguments. Basically, people demand X because it is good, and because not doing X is an insult to group Y. No mention of who is going to foot the bill. It is not much different from current politics, really.

Personally, I'd be more interested in discussing how companies could offer more diversity in AAA games and also benefit from it economically. And achieve some kind of balance, as you said. That is why games like Mirror's Edge and Tomb Raider are so interesting because they're genuinely trying to offer something different, and closer to what women seem to want, but haven't quite hit the revenue jackpot. Tomb Raider ended up selling well (6m+ units to date), but also cost around $100m to make and took a year to break even, if I recall correctly.

When you compare these numbers to "girl games" like The Sims 3 selling over 10m, and Candy Crush Saga basically printing money, things look even worse. Doesn't look like a situation where you would want to take a large financial risk to try break the mold.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Mikko Heikkilä on 17th June 2014 6:17pm

Posted:6 months ago

#85

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
Tomb Raider ended up selling well (6m+ units to date), but also cost around $100m to make and took a year to break even, if I recall correctly.
The elephant in the room is, of course, AAA budgets. $100m, 1 year to break even, 6m+ sales (not including digital?). And it isn't good enough to convince publishers that women play core games? If the bar is placed so high, then there's no hope. But why is the bar so high? 6m+ is good numbers, considering how badly the TR name was tarnished with previous efforts. No, the bar is high because the budget ran away, and it was a relative flop because of it.

As an academic exercise, let's flip it around:

A game takes 5 years from announcement to release. A reported 10 months are spent on a press demo. Changes are made to the basic formula of the franchise which leads reviewers and fans to dismiss the game. Four months after release, the title sits at £19.99, and recently had a 50% discount off that price on Steam. Its relative failure is implied to be the cause of job losses, and the budget spent on man-hours alone must be astronomical. It also featured a male protagonist.

Who or what do we blame for its poor sales and limp revenue intake? And does the industry stop producing and experimenting with male-protagonist games?

(Also, try and guess the game.)

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 17th June 2014 8:37pm

Posted:6 months ago

#86
Without wanting to go over old ground I think you've hit the nail on the head David. Some people think that the character and the story are the main parts of a game and therefore judge games based on the same criteria as movies while some people think its more a mechanic to give the gameplay context.

Is mario really sexist because you have to save a princess or is it just a case of a simple throwaway story to give the game a goal.

This is the reason why you get so many poorly developed characters who are wafer thin stereotypes which include amongst others stereotyped female characters that rely on their sexual attractiveness.

I think games are addressing this and getting better but there's still a place for those that aren't because their focus is different. I don't think this applies to assassins creed, I think we all agree that this game wasn't the best target for this critism given the roles females have had in the series and applying this logic to multiplayer games which don't rely on a story or character development isn't really appropriate.

I'm also not disputing its a real issue but its important to understand what that issue actually is because I don't think merely implementing a token female skin will do much good. It's a deeper issue than that.

Personally I think to attract more females those games have to move away from simply killing people and blowing stuff up as ultimately it won't matter if its a female or a male character doing that, because that mechanic just doesn't interest females.

Whatever the truth I do know labeling developers as sexist doesn't help and just serves to stop any constructive dialog.

Posted:6 months ago

#87

Jessica Hyland Character Artist

368 1,598 4.3
Feeeeeemales...
(Sorry, abuse of that word just bugs the hell out of me. Is it so hard to say 'women'?)

Anecdotally, I know plenty of women who like killing and exploding games, and I know plenty of men who don't. I would tread carefully when it comes to ascribing people's taste in games to their gender before all other factors. Surely it's pretty clear from how vocal so many women have been about this particular game declining to include a playable female character - whatever the reasoning - that there is a not-insignificant market for stabby-murder games amongst women.

Posted:6 months ago

#88
Because games are played by girls and women and I didn't want to cause offense by calling women girls and I didn't think women was appropriate when a large percentage of the audience aren't adults.

But as always it shows there's no pleasing some people.

I'm sure you do but you aren't going to make a lot of money targeting such a small market given the costs of making a AAA game.

I think I'm the one with a headache - to use one of your lines.

Posted:6 months ago

#89

Jessica Hyland Character Artist

368 1,598 4.3
You can say 'women and girls', you know. This isn't Twitter, you have loads and loads of characters to say what you mean, and/or to make more condescending comments at me! :)

Posted:6 months ago

#90
I'm writing on a phone so I didn't want to bother with the extra words although believe me I'm regretting that decision.

The condescending words where more than worth it. :-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Owens on 18th June 2014 1:07am

Posted:6 months ago

#91

Mikko Heikkilä Game Artist / 3D modeler

12 20 1.7
(Also, try and guess the game.)
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the first title that comes to mind, even though it was released in late 2013.
Who or what do we blame for its poor sales and limp revenue intake? And does the industry stop producing and experimenting with male-protagonist games?
I haven't actually played the game, but I guess it just wasn't a very good one. Plus changing the formula too much probably alienated many fans of the series.

Also, I believe Tomb Raider sold well mainly because it was a great game and reviewed well, not because it was appealing to women, although women definitely were a factor. S-E probably has some very nice internal data but all we can do is guess. Mirror's Edge was a new IP and wasn't half as polished as a game which was also reflected in the sales.

The new Tomb Raider was a lot more combat-heavy than the originals, though, which I assumed was to retain more mainstream appeal. I guess that's also one reason they pretty much dropped a gun in your lap at the start of every engagement in Mirror's Edge. Can't sell a game without guns, I suppose ;). But we'll probably see about that when the sequels hit the market.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Mikko Heikkilä on 18th June 2014 2:53am

Posted:6 months ago

#92

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the first title that comes to mind, even though it was released in late 2013.
Nope. The Thief reboot. :)

Posted:6 months ago

#93

Mikko Heikkilä Game Artist / 3D modeler

12 20 1.7
Nope. The Thief reboot. :)
Ah darn, should've gone for the S-E title. Hitman: Absolution also flopped, even though it has probably sold almost 4m retail alone, failing publisher sales projections. Talk about unrealistic expectations.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mikko Heikkilä on 18th June 2014 9:32am

Posted:6 months ago

#94

Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer

52 136 2.6
I'm not sure if anyone suggested it already (apologizes if it was), but here's a little homework for anyone who believes that the audience would oppose so much to playing a female character:

Play some MMOs. No matter if successful or not, just pick those that allow enough customization to choose between a male and a female avatar and then run a census of how many player characters of each gender you meet.
Guess what? In most games the male/female ratio is not that far off from 50/50.
Personally I think to attract more females those games have to move away from simply killing people and blowing stuff up as ultimately it won't matter if its a female or a male character doing that, because that mechanic just doesn't interest females.
I'm afraid that this point is also outdated. This is some leftover from those days in which parents would give the "it's not appropriate for a young lady" speech to their daughter if she was found playing with toy guns.
Society is becoming more and more free of gender roles, the average gamers today are 20+ and perfectly aware of that. Free of parental restrictions and risk of social stigma, girls are enjoying blowing stuff up just as much as guys.
In this regard, it's the age range that you really want to keep an eye out for, not the gender: with a more mature audience games need to offer more substance. Random acts of violence will get boring fast.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 18th June 2014 2:01pm

Posted:6 months ago

#95

Bonnie Patterson Freelance Narrative Designer

196 545 2.8
@John Owens - You are forgetting two very important words.

"Frag Dolls".

As I said elsewhere, CounterStrike actually has a very chunky feeeeeeemale playerbase. The concept that girls don't like war games is just plain outmoded - you know there are women in the actual army now?

Also, most feeeeeeeeeemale gamers are adults, aged from 18-30. Most women seem to pick up the keyboard once out from the peer and parental pressures experienced while in school.

All a game has to do to attract women is stop pushing them away.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 18th June 2014 1:27pm

Posted:6 months ago

#96

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9

Posted:6 months ago

#97

Bonnie Patterson Freelance Narrative Designer

196 545 2.8
#98

Bonnie Patterson Freelance Narrative Designer

196 545 2.8
@Morville Oh my god, I want one! It'll add a splash of colour to the sword collection :)

Posted:6 months ago

#99

Mikko Heikkilä Game Artist / 3D modeler

12 20 1.7
I'm not sure if anyone suggested it already (apologizes if it was), but here's a little homework for anyone who believes that the audience would oppose so much to playing a female character:
I don't think many people here believe that, guys have always been rolling female avatars for various reasons and I assume the opposite is also true. Character customization has been a staple feature of RPGs and MMOs from the very beginning because the ability to be whoever you want is a core feature of those games. Other genres have been lagging behind a bit but they are getting there. For example 20% of CoD player base is female according to Activision, so it's no surprise they added an option to create female multiplayer toons in CoD: Ghosts. And I'm sure it's not just women who are going to use that particular feature.

I think story games are kind of a grey area, though. I mean games that are written from the perspective of a predefined character where simply adding another playable character isn't always trivial. Yes, there are RPGish games like Skyrim or Mass Effect but that requires writing the game in a gender neutral fashion and/or creating a lot of additional dialogue. However, I think developers should be allowed to create stories from exclusively male or female viewpoints as they see fit.
Society is becoming more and more free of gender roles, the average gamers today are 25+ and perfectly aware of that. Free of parental restrictions and risk of social stigma, girls are enjoying blowing stuff up just as much as guys.
In this regard, it's the age range that you really want to keep an eye out for, not the gender: with a more mature audience games need to offer more substance. Random acts of violence will get boring fast.
Yes, I also believe that girls also enjoy playing violent games and statistics agree. 38% of Xbox audience is female according to Microsoft while 30% of women play violent games according to EEDAR. Can't draw any direct conclusions from these numbers, as I don't know what kind of control group EEDAR had, but I think the numbers support an assumption that you can expect to have an around 15-20% female audience for action games and probably higher for titles like Tomb Raider (could be even 40-50% if forum membership is of any clue). Couldn't dig up any numbers for Tomb Raider, but if anyone has any data I'd be curious to know.

I recall reading an argument that female-fronted games don't do as well as male-fronted ones because they get less support. This would mean that people calling the shots know or assume that the male market is much larger and people strongly prefer to play a character of their own gender. I can't really evaluate whether this assumption is sound or not, but I would honestly like to believe gender is not that big of an issue to most gamers - especially as the player base matures, like you said.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Mikko Heikkilä on 18th June 2014 3:35pm

Posted:6 months ago

#100

Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer

52 136 2.6
I think story games are kind of a grey area, though. I mean games that are written from the perspective of a predefined character where simply adding another playable character isn't always trivial. Yes, there are RPGish games like Skyrim or Mass Effect but that requires writing the game in a gender neutral fashion and/or creating a lot of additional dialogue. However, I think developers should be allowed to create stories from exclusively male or female viewpoints as they see fit.
Not putting this into question. A story character is specifically designed to cover a role within the story. Therefore, appearance, personality and other traits are defined to fit the narrative and atmosphere of the game.

Imagine swapping Nathan Drake and Lara Croft: playing Uncharted and Tomb Raider would feel like having ice-cream with ketchup and an hamburger with chocolate syrup.

What i want to point out by directing the attention to the MMO population is that (despite the claims of some) most gamers are not actually uncomfortable with the idea of playing a female character. Even if that doesn't reflect their real life gender.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 18th June 2014 3:59pm

Posted:6 months ago

#101

Mikko Heikkilä Game Artist / 3D modeler

12 20 1.7
What i want to point out by directing the attention to the MMO population is that (despite the claims of some) most gamers are not actually uncomfortable with the idea of playing a female character. Even if that doesn't reflect their real life gender.
I agree. However, such assumptions can be risky because MMO players aren't necessarily representative of (male) gamers in general. And even within the MMO population you can only be sure of the guys who play a female toon. I tried to dig up data on what percentage of players use a female toon in CoD: Ghosts multiplayer but came up empty-handed as usual.

Posted:6 months ago

#102
I'm on a computer so I can use "women and girls" and not sound like a Ferrangi.

I had never heard the term "Frag Doll" although it sounded very derogatory although surprise surprise it actually was a group of women and girls employed by Unisoft to promote women and girls playing games. Not sure what that proves exactly but there you go.

Also I played in a clan on Counterstrike quite seriously actually and when I played I never met one woman or girl so I'll have to take your word for it.

Although I think the "Frag Dolls" are a good idea and I hope they are successful but frankly I think the games industry should be focusing on aiming to make sure they don't loose the young girls that are playing Nintendo devices of which there is a close to 50:50 split instead of getting people into gaming later. I can't even get male friends of mine to play who aren't gamers.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Owens on 19th June 2014 1:30pm

Posted:6 months ago

#103

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