Remember Me's gender politics "a subconscious militant act"

Dontnod creative director on equality and lead character Nilin

Dontnod's Jean-Maxime Moris has revealed the thought that went into making sure the hero of its upcoming title Remember me wasn't just a sex bomb, and how the world reflects the studio's take on gender equality.

"We didn't think of gender equality being a major theme in the game, but thinking back on the world we designed, it is true that women have key positions in its governance," the creative director told Shacknews.

"In 2013, we have a long way to go in terms of gender equality, so take this as a subconscious militant act."

"If you respect your public, then you refuse to dumb your work down"

He added that creating a rounded, strong female character was a matter of respecting in your audience, and in the long run would actually help a game stand out from its competitors.

"You have to avoid the pitfalls of making her just a damsel in distress or a sex bomb, because this is what you think would appeal most to the hordes of men that constitute your fan base," he said.

"But if you respect your public, then you refuse to dumb your work down, and eventually it pays back because what you do is different. But I'm not saying we're the only ones. I'm quite happy to see that more and more games feature female protagonists."

The words touch on a hot topic in the industry, as it struggles to be more inclusive in both the real world and the virtual. Naughty Dog recently explained how it had fought to keep its hero, Ellie, on the front of the packaging for The Last Of Us, and had to specially request female focus testers for the game.

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Latest comments (16)

Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions4 years ago
This is hardly a new thing though, Valve in particular are very successful with their female characters.
Its not like every female character until now has been a damsel or a personality-lacking sex doll. Male and females generally suffer from the same archetypes in games so its not even a gender issue so much as a personality diversity issue.

I got accused of making one of my characters "too sexy" because she had large breasts and there was a knockback from people about her design. As a girl with large breasts i was very irritated by this. We need to stop acting like theres a "right or wrong" situation going on here and just choose the suitable archetype for our games because for the past 5 or so years we've seen far more diversity in female characters than in males.

Equality is when theres room for damsels, sex bombs and whatever else we can throw in the pot.
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Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions4 years ago
Actually all men who couldnt explain why they saw large breasts as an issue. Its almost as if all these gender-talks recently are bringing out white knights who argue a cause they dont understand.
I went into more detail about it on twitter.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
Hasn't Freud been debunked on just about everything?
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Show all comments (16)
Adrian Herber4 years ago
I went into more detail about it on twitter.
Sorry, this made me laugh! More detail in 140 characters? Have you considered a blog to elaborate your thoughts in? :)
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Tim Ogul Illustrator 4 years ago
I think this is probably the biggest obstacle towards normalizing women in games, that every time a developer chooses to have a female lead in their games these days, the media clamors to build it into some political stand. Until we can get past that, we can't reach the point where it's no more heady a decision than a coin flip.
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Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions4 years ago
It was several tweets during a discussion on the topic.
I considered posting about it on my blog but never seem to find the time to eloquently write up my thoughts. Plus my opinion on gender in games and games development generally contradicts that of the typical outspoken female dev so I generally dont see the point.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers4 years ago
As I like to put it (and this applies to all mediums, not just games) you should create a character that just happens to be female, not a female character. The distinction is that the former has many aspects that define her, the female aspects being just one of them; the latter defines her from the start.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
Part of the problem is that a great many complaints from women about female depictions in games have been passed along with certain details lost.

For example, a few years back, a very well expressed piece was put together by a woman who objected to the options she had in character creation for a female character in most games of the time. There was no choice but to be a large-breasted, pert-bottomed, long-legged pouty beauty in lingerie.

This immediately got taken as a statement that she wanted no sexy characters in games, (and that all men are bad and should put their penises in meat grinders, apparently, if you read some of the reactions at the time). But this wasn't remotely the case.

What she was asking for was for there to be a choice: for not every female character to be a sex bomb. For there to be an option sometimes to play a character that was fat, flat, short, tall, athletic, scrawny, etc. And for the chance to put on pants, or a coat. Sensible shoes.

She never asked for something to be taken away, simply for developers to be aware that many women would like to play something other the standard.

The Secret World, for example, has done very well in this regard - many of my friends have rejoiced at the inclusion of women's jeans and Velma jumpers, but there are also mini skirts, bikini tops and a very sultry Egyptian outfit. You can't change breast size or amount of body fat, but there's the scope to present your avatar as you wish to see it.

It's like those "Which is more beautiful?" memes going around showing Kate Moss being skinny, and Marilyn Monroe being curvy, proclaiming curves were better. A great many women told those posting them that they'd missed the point - that the idea was to stop telling people how their bodies should look, no matter what shape they were.

tl;dr? There should still be room for sexy portrayals of women in games, it just needs to not be the only portrayal of women in games. Or everywhere else, for that matter.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
Dragon's Dogma has a REALLY nice character edit function (including a bunch of scalable body parts and more realistic body types for a fantasy-themed RPG). It's actually pretty awesome because you can control so much of how you look that if you wanted to play as a completely unattractive hero or heroine, you can do so.
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Eric Leisy VR Production Designer, Nike4 years ago
I have such a hard time taking the female empowerment angle for Remember Me, when it's attached to the cover art that is paraded around for the game. I'm looking forward to this game, and have been following it for a while - but I just couldn't help but FACEPALM when I saw the cover art.
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve4 years ago
@ Eric
My thoughts exactly, if they're trying to take gender equality seriously in the game, the marketing team certainly isn't aware of it. The cover art and the trailer seem more concerned about her posterior than what's going on in her head and around her.
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Kevin Danaher Associate Producer, EA Mobile4 years ago
@ Jade
I just took a look at your artwork and (apart from being pretty awesome by the way) it's pretty well balanced. I see large breasted curvy women and slim athletic women. I also see men with arms of an average (gym capable) size, rather than obscenely huge linebacker on steroids sized. Which, to back up Bonnies point, always frustrates me because as a man I do like to play as a badass unstoppable space marine sometimes but it's rare to see normal male characters as an option to me in most games... I just want the option. I think regardless of gender there's a lot of stereotyping in our industry and when something comes along the doesn't follow this trend it's much more relatable.
Some example I suppose are:
The Left 4 Dead 1&2 cast of ordinary folks
David Cage's various characters
Ragnar Tornquist's various characters (the Longest Journey Definitely)
The Naughty Dog Uncharted Cast
These all allow a far greater connection with the user simply by being much more believable human beings.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kevin Danaher on 17th April 2013 3:58pm

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Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions4 years ago
@Kevin Thanks
Its all down to the game of course but like i said in my first post, male characters end up using similar extreme archetypes as females. I'd like more diversity sure, but Im still not adverse to have a spectrum of extremities for characters to sit in. We need to the extremes.. and everything in between, but as an artist I could never argue one is better than the other.

We need to stop making a big hoohah about how great we think our female characters are for being "diffrent", when a lot of these characters already exist. Its perpetuating the idea there is a bigger problem with this than there is.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago

I don't care if a game has female characters with small breasts or female characters with large breasts. (Although I prefer large) The only thing that would put me off a game I'd have bought otherwise, is if it has slogans like "gender politics" attached to it. I just wanna blow shit up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 18th April 2013 8:19am

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Kevin Danaher Associate Producer, EA Mobile4 years ago
Yes, 1000x this... Gender issues in games seem to be put under the microscope so often lately. More so than in any other kind of media.
I want us to be able to get to the point where we say "that's a cool character" not "that's a cool character but it's a man/woman so there are these certain implications we must place on it".
Narrow mindedness has no place in a creative industry in my opinion. The consumers may be a mixture of mindsets; broad/narrow and everything in between but as the ones creating the content we have a responsibility to broaden people's horizons, not trap them within base stereotypes.
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Carlo N. Diaz Professional Secondary Teacher 4 years ago
I am looking forward for this game. True, it is difficult to make an appealing female protagonist in games. It's either a hit or miss. But looking at the videos of Remember Me, I think the lead character is well balanced, has a sense of vulnerability but progresses along the way creating a unique story that can be related in real life situations.
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