Sections

Sony's Yoshida admits he was nervious about a female lead in Horizon

"We had a discussion. Is it risky to do a female character?"

For years, the AAA game space has seen mostly male protagonists in its top-selling games. As more and more women play games today and are involved in the industry making games, that's thankfully starting to change. From the publisher perspective, however, some companies still feel it can be a risk to put a female character front-and-center. In fact, while Killzone developer Guerilla Games' brand-new IP Horizon: Zero Dawn was one of the highlights of Sony's E3 press briefing, SCE Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida was brave enough to admit that Sony, too, had some trepidation about the game leading with a female character.

"I was nervous to see the reaction from people," he told Polygon. "She's a female lead character. That has always been the vision by the team, but we had a discussion. Is it risky to do a female character?"

He continued, "The concern came after the game was in development. We started to show it to many more people internally and they had questions about it. So we worked with our marketing groups to do this focus testing. We wanted to see how people would react to some of the things: open world RPG, the set up of machine versus primitive weapons and the female protagonist. All of those things. The focus testing reaction was positive and that made us feel good, but you know it's a limited number of people that we were able to test."

While Sony may have been nervous about it, Yoshida also noted that it is indeed becoming more common, with female protagonists in games like Mirror's Edge, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, and the option to play as a woman in Fallout 4. And it's the right thing for the industry to do, as well, Yoshida said.

"As an industry, I think we should continue to make efforts to have more females in studios on the development side and to get different perspectives. Games have become more and more popular in terms of who plays, especially in terms of mobile. We have a chance to further increase the reach, from a PlayStation standpoint, to a bigger more diverse audience. In order for us to do that, the games we create have to appeal to a broader audience," he stated.

More stories

Horizon Forbidden West | Critical Consensus

Guerilla Games delivers a visual masterpiece and a sequel of epic proportion, with some minor flaws

By Danielle Partis

New PlayStation update adds USB storage and cross-generation Share Play

PS5 owners will be able to save game data onto an external drive, but the games won't be playable from there

By Danielle Partis

Latest comments (20)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
If they feel it is such a risk, maybe they should have put it on Kickstarter first.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jim Webb on 18th June 2015 4:45pm

9Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
John Karageorgiou consultant 7 years ago
I am all for having female protagonists in games - they generate a truer sense of "fragility" and "realism" during the gameplay, especially on the emotional front, than stereotyped male characters. For games that allow the choice of selecting a male or female character, e.g., Bloodborne, I always choose the female option.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
One of the reasons I like seeing female protagonists over men is because they usually have much better hair. As in this case! This E3 has been pretty good for leading-lady games, although it would be great to see some more racial diversity as well.

Horizon: Zero Dawn looks great. If it wasn't a console exclusive I'd be all over it :(
5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (20)
James Coote Independent Game Developer 7 years ago
Whenever I watch a Mass Effect trailer I'm like "who the hell is this guy?" for a good minute or so before it clicks. Unless it's an online multiplayer with voice chat, whereupon I feel disingenuous playing a woman, I usually pick a female character in games. I feel like there's some deep seated psychology going on on an individual and games-wide level just below the surface with this issue, but I've never seen it properly explored or explained.
10Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Kevin Patterson musician 7 years ago
I can easily sympathize with James Coote who said he mostly chooses female characters if given a choice.

For me personally, I get tired of the overly macho male persona with it's associated voice acting. Mass effect is a great example of this, as I played a Femshep mainly because of Jennifer Hale's voice and acting. I felt her personality wasnt as dry or as "space marine" as the male style, and had more emotion to it. I played a male in Dragonage: Inquisition as the male voice option was pleasant, but usually play female for that reason. I found myself wishing I could have played more as Ciri in The Witcher:Wild Hunt though Geralt is a great voiced character.

I am glad that they decided to go with a female lead, it's great to have choices in games.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Liz Edwards 3D Character Artist, The Creative Assembly7 years ago
I can't wait to kick machine butt AND be a cool as hell woman. That's pretty much all I want from any game ever, really.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
I am all for female leads obviously. Though I am not sure why it's risky. I don't think I have ever met a gamer who said they where not going to play a game simply because it had a female lead.

I think the issue is, prior to all this feminism stuff, the industry was fairly male dominated, and still sort of is depending on the genre we are speaking about. Back then, it just wasn't thought about as much. I doubt the makers of Tomb Raider where wondering if it was risky to make a female lead. They just did it because they felt it fit.

I think developers should make female leads because they want to and because it fits their story, not because they feel pressured to do it by a third party.

Well regardless, female leads are awesome, I just hope everyone is doing it for the right reasons and not just because they are scared of Anita calling out their game like she does with every game that she does not like. XD
6Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
This E3 has been pretty good for leading-lady games
It was nice to see both Sony and Microsoft reveal new ip's featuring female leads(Horizon and Recore respectively). And as you mentioned there were others such as the 3DS Metroid game I'm looking forward too.
not just because they are scared of Anita calling out their game like she does with every game that she does not like. XD
I think Ms. Sarkeesian will be quite pleased with the abundance of female lead games announced at this year's E3 show.

EDIT: Just found out that Samus won't be the star of the new Metroid game for some reason.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 18th June 2015 10:40pm

2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Coote Independent Game Developer 7 years ago
What exactly is a "wrong" reason anyway? Tbh it's got nothing to do with hair or voice acting for me

At one level, I like to think I'm deeply empathetic. Or perhaps a bit of a rebel or devil's advocate. I pick characters and factions that don't exactly line up with my own perspective, because it's interesting too see the world through a different pair of eyes, from a different point of view.

But on another level, having picked femshep, I can't help but notice a large percent of pixels are dedicated to her ass (especially on my wide-screen monitor). That I'm stuck with that for the next upteen hours of gameplay is not something I'm unhappy with.

And at another level, I'm attracted to powerful women, so power-fantasies where I can play as a woman tick certain boxes for me.

Another reason for a company to pick a female lead may be to appeal to a certain demographic. Is it wrong to say "No, this game is designed just for these people, whom we'll appeal to through reinforcing already held views"? Versus trying to appeal to a new audience in a (cynical?) attempt to expand audiences or find new markets.

Or could be a positive discrimination thing (perhaps in part motivated by the above desire to make more money). Given the history of games and the wider imbalances in society, there's zero chance of going too far. If we assume games writers aren't such hacks as to just create men-with-boobs characters, I can't see any issue. (If you want a real debate on positive discrimination, go live in Malaysia for a few months and when you come back, we can have a proper conversation about it).

Also I'd rather live in a world where occasionally feminists or other activists go a bit overboard than an unequal one where criticism is not allowed.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100... just very few of the recent examples. it is the trendy thing to do - people who consume media (TV or movies) are already used to do the idea...
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 7 years ago
@John:
they generate a truer sense of "fragility" and "realism" during the gameplay, especially on the emotional front, than stereotyped male characters.
Adding to this, it would be nice to see more of a variety of male characters as well besides the stereotypical macho soldier guy. Men can be emotional too!

@Paul:
I think Ms. Sarkeesian will be quite pleased with the abundance of female lead games announced at this year's E3 show.
Nah she's too busy getting mad at doom 4 for being violent. (I wish I was joking; check her twitter)
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios7 years ago
it would be nice to see more of a variety of male characters
Nah she's too busy getting mad at doom 4 for being violent. (I wish I was joking; check her twitter)
Criticism of status quo...dig at someone for criticising status quo.

Why is her opinion less valid than yours?
5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee7 years ago
One day we won't be so 'nervous' about having women in games.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jordan Lund Columnist 7 years ago
Jeeze Louize... didn't anyone learn from Jill Valentine and Resident Evil. Tomb Raider? Hello? A female lead is NOT a risky proposition.

The only thing risky would be having a female lead with a bow and arrow (AGAIN) drawing comparisons to Tomb Raider and Hunger Games.

The other risky part is that it looks like Horizon and Recore are going to be competing for the Enslaved market which raises the question "There was an Enslaved market?" Nothing against the game, it was a lot of fun to play, but it did not do well at retail.

p.s. It had a male lead.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up7 years ago
Made 2 games back in 2003/4 with female characters with equal or lead roles. State of Emergency 2 and Powerpuff Girls. Not the highlights of my career thankfully, but a good place to start. The matrix was another game around that time with Trinity as a main character for a lot of the game. It wasn't a big or even a small deal then, but oddly, it seems to be some new phenomenon that's a spin off from the explosion in unaccountable online communication. I find it weird that it would make some one nervous.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
@Chris
Criticism is fine. But it doesn't mean we have to like her criticism especially since her criticism has no merit. I really don't know what she is expecting from a Doom game. Did she expect tea parties? Flowers? Sophisticated conversations? With demons?

Clearly she doesn't understand why doom is fun for some people.

Rather than criticizing the status quo, maybe she should learn that she simply doesn't like violence and she should probably stay away from games that have violence. It's ok to not like violent videos games. The simple answer is don't play them.

Edit: Also her opinion is most certainly valid. However, so is everyone else's, and we all have a right to criticize her opinion. Just because we criticize her does not mean we are saying her opinions are less valid. Where you got that from is beyond me.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 20th June 2015 4:33am

3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
Having an opinion is fine. Not wanting to learn enough about something one has a negative opinion on and constantly being wrong or just argumentative about one's ignorance is what leads to stupid endless debates on the same old stuff. See any online forum where no one knows what the hell they're talking about and only the loudest and most annoyingly stubborn typist "wins" almost all the time.

An old clothing shop motto here went: "An educated consumer is our best customer" and that should apply to those who overuse their opinions without wanting to fine out more have their minds changed for the better or otherwise engage in a healthy discussion.

I tend to step away from any topic when I find I'm talking to a know-nothing who refuses to be even the slightest bit educated on the subject they're ranting about. It turns into a big waste of time trying to speak sense to someone who wants to have their way with the conversation just so that can say the same old stuff that has others not want to speak with them because they know what's coming.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
@greg
A little confused if you are talking about me or if you are talking about someone else.

If you are talking about me, I suggest you take your own advice. There are many people in this world who think they know what they are talking about, and think they are educated in the matter but actually have been fed incorrect information.

The only way you can truly say someone is uneducated is if you have proof to support that. Just saying they are uneducated without actually having any supportive evidence and is nonconstructive criticism.

Also having a differing opinion doesn't make someone uneducated, as opinion have no right or wrong answers.

Such as what we are talking about with Anita and her opinion is she believes there is to much violence. However, that can't be discussed in a manner like you are trying to imply. There is nothing to learn because there is no line anywhere. How do you know what is to much violence? Everyone has differing ideas of how much violence is to much. It's why it's called an opinion.

The issue I find with her opinion is she paints it as if her opinion is the higher moral ground. As if there shouldn't be that much violence at all. AKA .. she wants censorship. She believes no games should have that kind of violence.

Anyway .. if you are not talking to me, I apologize.

But honestly .. it doesn't matter who you are talking to. Don't think you are exempt from what you just said here, and realize what you are accusing others of very well could be you and not them. You think you are right and so does everyone else. You can't separate yourself because it very well could be you who is wrong.

There are even people who are well educated on the same manner that may have differing views on what they have learned.

You know who ends up being right? The person with the most supportive evidence. It's really that simple.

So don't come here making claims on who is, and who is not educated, in what ever matter it is you are speaking of. Certainly not without at least providing some sort of evidence for why you think that is. It just makes you look silly. Heck even if you are talking about Anita, she has only stated her opinion. The only thing to learn here at this point is whether or not violence in video games causes any issues in real life. The answer to that based on many studies is no. There is no link.

Thus her opinion is simply an opinion, and my opinion differs because I don't see it causing any issues and thus there should be no reason why violent video games shouldn't be done. It would be censorship for pretty much no reason at all.

Maybe you are talking to many here? Don't know .. don't care ... not unless you actually explain yourself better and provide some sort of evidence for why.

Edit:Again, I just want to apologize in case I am simply misunderstanding you here. The issue is I don't really understand what you are on about or what made you post such a thing. XD Maybe you are simply speaking about the article itself, but it doesn't sound like it to me.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 20th June 2015 10:42am

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
Broooook. I wasn't talking about you at all nor was I calling people uneducated like you think I was.

I find out stuff about people by asking if they know what they're ranting about. I often get "No, but my friend said..." or "Well, so-and so on the news said...", which isn't education at all in this day and age if you only single-source yourself on everything. Facts are easy to find, but a lot of people are too wrapped up in wanting to argue a point and NOT FIND OUT A THING about what they're taking about.

I'm sure you've sat in a spot and had to defend videogames or listen to someone rant about how they're the cause of every ill in society. it happens here in the US almost every time there's a mass killing. Me, I don't stand for that crap at all. I ask where that info comes from (bad reporting, mostly) and also ask if the person has ever played a game in their life. If it's a "no, but..." that's the point at where I don't need to press anything forward other than to recommend they do a bit of research before they rant.

In terms of violence in videogames... it's not real and people who despise it need to know it's not going to turn anyone into a killer unless that person is already bit disturbed and needs an easy scapegoat. DOOM is stupidly violent and even comically so (at least to me). Like the folks cheering in the audience at E3, I found that footage more amusing than disgusting (thanks to id basically copying and updating some of the AI to do the same stuff it did in the original game). But I guess that makes me the perfect player for that goofy reboot.

As for real life violence, well... that's a different story altogether. Having seen enough of it over the year, I can say I'm not a fan of that at all. If you're dealing with people who can't separate the two it becomes problematic whether it's a player who can't tell what's on screen from reality or someone arguing that gory games and movies make people violent in a Reefer Madness manner.

I dislike boxing and contact sports where real people get injured as part of the game. But it's a funny thing to have someone go off on videogames as being too violent only to find out they've got tickets to a sporting event where the goal is for someone to bash someone's head in in a "scientific" manner that leaves one standing and the other not (usually) and both will be suffering the effects of their chosen career paths in the future.

Of course, that's my opinion which has changed over time. I used to be big into fights of all types and most sports until I saw how years of getting knocked about takes a huge toll on one's body and mind. It's not going to stop anytime soon and I'm resigned to the fact that people will choose to do all that stuff because they want to or they feel it's a way to make something of themselves. That said, given that these days you see plenty of articles about and by old sports players wishing they knew then what would happen, it seems as if lessons get learned a few ways after the fact.

Anyway, sir. war over, I hope.

Er, not that there was one in the first place.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
@Greg
Ok so I did misunderstand you. XD Sorry. I understand what you mean.

It's why I apologized in my post, I kinda had a feeling I wasn't really getting what you where saying. To be fair ... this sentence is what through me off the most. But rereading it now I seem to have misread it.

"Having an opinion is fine. Not wanting to learn enough about something one has a negative opinion on and constantly being wrong or just argumentative about one's ignorance is what leads to stupid endless debates on the same old stuff."

The bold area makes me think someone has a negative opinion (Anita) and another person disagrees (myself) with that negative opinion and should educate themselves.

But I see I read it wrong. It's saying The person who has the negative opinion is the one who should be educating themselves on that negative opinion.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.