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In-Depth: No Female Heroes At Activision?
In-Depth: No Female Heroes At Activision?
August 4, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

August 4, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
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[Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander looks at the apparent recasting of a female protagonist to male in what would become Activision's True Crime 3, asking whether this is symptomatic of larger issues around focus testing and female character representation in the industry.]

Games with female leads don't sell. At least that's what Activision believes, looking at top software sellers in any given year for evidence and choosing only projects that go with the trend, sources claim.

In 2007, we're told the publisher even went so far as to change the protagonist in a new concept -- the project that would become True Crime 3 -- from a female to a male, on the rationale that the female wouldn't move software units.

Numerous former employees of the company's studios tell Gamasutra that Activision relies on focus tests to a contentious extent -- and the result is that according to our research, the only titles published by Activision since 2005 that feature female leads are licenses, like Barbie and Dora.

'Lose The Chick'?

When the third installment in Luxoflux's True Crime series was first conceived at Treyarch it wasn't intended to be part of that franchise at all.

Instead, it was first pitched as an entirely different project: 'Black Lotus', inspired by Hong Kong action-cinema and featuring an Asian female assassin as the player character (for evidence, check the LinkedIn profile of former EP Chris Archer, who lists "Black Lotus (Canceled - Reformed as True Crime: Hong Kong" among his professional credits).

One individual, a former employee, tells us that the original concept for Black Lotus' protagonist had been modeled on actress Lucy Liu, whose action-heroine roles in films like Charlie's Angels and Kill Bill formed the basic inspiration. "Black Lotus was a great project internally," says the source. "We were all very proud of what we were trying to make and the team was excited. We made great progress."

But 2007 was a year when the top sellers on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 included Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Assassin's Creed and Madden NFL -- and the conclusion Activision took from that was that there was no room on the market for games starring a female main character. Another former employee with knowledge of the situation explains: "We were all on board, and then Activision killed it, said they don't do female characters because they don't sell."

"Activision gave us specific direction to lose the chick," says the other source plainly.

The Focus-Test Trap

The project was ultimately resurrected as True Crime: Hong Kong, and found a home at United Front games. There, it has a far different shape; it might as well be a new project. But its past life as Treyarch's much-loved Black Lotus is an important example of how Activision's strong idea of a focus testing-driven "formula" for top-selling games frustrates its studios and hampers creativity, the sources say.

It's important to stress that many publishers use focus testing and market trends to try to predict what will sell, and to some extent the design follows.

However, our sources contend that Activision corporate routinely takes this methodology to extremes, making the pioneering of new ideas difficult -- and, some believe, at the expense of not only innovation, but overall quality, as developers get instructions to re-work projects mid-stream to keep pace with checklists of gameplay trends, even against the better judgment of the design teams.

We're told to credit Singularity's mixed critical reception in part to such challenges, for example. And when it comes to Black Lotus, the sources say the decision to re-brand the concept as the next True Crime franchise title was "pushed" on the team, which was not eager to follow up the unsuccessful True Crime: New York.

"Activision has no room for 'we are making an open-world game with a Hong Kong action movie feel with a female lead,' because that game doesn't exist right now," says one source. "What they do have room for is, 'we are making an open-world game with a gangster main character who can steal cars and shoot people, but it will be in Hong Kong instead of Liberty City. And then they go, 'Hey, GTA IV sold 10 million copies, so that's what we expect from you.'"

Look to that methodology to explain why all of Activision's flagship properties are male-led, says the source: "If Activision does not see a female lead in the top five games that year, they will not have a female lead," says the other source. "And the people that don't want a female lead will look at games like Wet and Bayonetta and use them as 'statistics' to 'prove' that female leads don't move mass units."

'Preconceived Notions'?

But aside from pragmatic if strict business logic, studio sources claim there's a culture of "preconceived notions" within Activision against which the design expertise of its leads can't make headway -- and that the focus testing is angled to support. "Most of the focus tests that I have seen run at Activision are very questionable," says one source, an assertion with which the other sources agreed. "If someone from publishing has a point to prove or can't get an idea in the game, the focus test questions are skewed, and the Activision feedback is skewed in their favor," he says.

"I have sat in a focus test that in the team's opinion went exceptionally well, but the feedback sent to the higher-ups from someone on the publishing side were skewed to be the exact opposite," he adds -- even in cases where according to the source "some of them stepped in our studio maybe twice in two years."

So, the sources say, even if there was evidence to support positive focus-test response to a female lead character, ultimately that might not convince the publisher -- unless there was an environment where a game led by a female heroine triumphed at retail.

Demand For Diversity

As the game industry goes mainstream and AAA console headlines gain more mass-media mindshare thanks to the big dollars it's able to pull down around launches like Modern Warfare 2, consumers and developers alike frequently question the dominance of masculine heroes and discuss the difficulty of attracting women to the medium both as players and designers.

At the Game Developers Conference earlier this year, designer Manveer Heir, researcher Mia Consalvo, and journalists Jamin Brophy-Warren and Leigh Alexander (the latter is the author of this article) hosted a panel on the importance of diversity in games. Heir is now a senior level designer at BioWare Montreal, but presented the panel as a lead designer at Raven Software, an Activision studio. He spoke to Gamasutra solely regarding his panel and declined any comment on his former employer or its process, but says he passionately believes that offering gamers alternatives to white, masculine protagonists is important to the industry.

As a designer, the current paradigm is "no longer interesting to me," he says. "In order for players to have new experiences in games we cannot rely purely on better graphics, better writing, and more cinematics. We need to be willing to thrust players into new and different situations, from a fragile boy searching for his sister in Limbo to an African-American man trying to prove his innocence during the Civil Rights movement."

"From there, we can derive new gameplay mechanics, new aesthetics for the audio and visuals, and more," adds Heir. "This is a clear way to start expanding our industry and letting players have new, unique experiences."

What Gamers Say

Characters like Tomb Raider's Lara Croft -- who's received modifications in recent years to show more spine than skin -- and Metroid's iconic Samus would seem to challenge the assertion that strong female heroes are not marketable. Audiences embraced Mirror's Edge tough-girl Faith, around whom EA's made no secret it plans to build a franchise, after the game's below-target sales numbers were chalked up to design issues and poor release timing, not the heroine.

And though Portal's first-person mechanics emphasize the game's interface and not its jumpsuited leading woman Chell, the Valve team went one step further with GLaDOS, the female-voiced AI whose villainy stemmed from maternal instincts gone twisted. Now GLaDOS is on the fast track to becoming one of gaming's most beloved characters, and the overwhelming reception for Portal's originality -- plus major anticipation for the sequel -- demonstrate that "females don't sell" could indeed be false logic.

"I want to write more female leads, I can tell you that," tweeted Tom Abernathy, who's been writing for games for a variety of companies, including Activision, since 1997.

And there's plenty of evidence to suggest that that's what gamers want, too. An informal poll of gamers on Twitter hardly showed a preference for male leads. While many said the gender of their hero doesn't matter "as long as it's a fit" for the game's story, or as long as the hero "is well characterized", more respondents actually expressed a preference for female leads (with one common caveat: "as long as it's a real woman and not a seventh-grader's fantasy") and complained about the lack of diversity in games -- suggesting at a glance, at least, that there's a market opportunity for a strong heroine, not a net negative.

"Any given action hero being male is okay, but 80 percent of them being male in aggregate is not," said one respondent. Said another: "In particular, I'd love to see Rockstar build a game around a female character, especially GTA."

Perhaps Rockstar will have to before Activision, at least, follows suit. After all, our sources claim True Crime: New York had a white male cop -- not a black male gangster -- in the lead role until the success of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas prompted another mid-stream switch-up.

Activision's Response

However, when contacted for comment on this article, Activision explicitly denied the assertions of the multiple sources cited on this piece. "Activision respects the creative vision of its development teams," said the company in a statement. "The company does not have a policy of telling its studios what game content they can develop, nor has the company told any of its studios that they cannot develop games with female lead characters."

The company also denies that developers received specific gender instructions related to True Crime: Hong Kong -- but did not note Treyarch or the original Black Lotus project. Nonetheless, it asserts its use of focus testing is within the natural parameters used elsewhere in the industry: "With respect to True Crime: Hong Kong, Activision did not mandate the gender of the lead character," it says. "Like all other game and media companies, Activision uses market research in order to better understand [what] gamers are looking for."


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Comments


Rayna Anderson
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I'm sad to say that I've encountered this before, activision isn't the only company. When I was lead designer/writer on a murder mystery game, I was forced to rewrite everything because the higher-ups didn't want a female to be the murderer. They said that people wouldn't believe that a female could overpower her male victim. Every game I've worked on, I've tried to include more female characters, but the higher-ups just keep cutting them. It's pretty discouraging to keep pitching those kinds of characters when you know they have no chance of surviving through the production phase.

gus one
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I don't see what the surprise is. Action movies with female leads don't appeal as much as those with male leads. Jim Raynor or Gemma Raynor? Batman or Batwoman? Arnie Schwartz or Brigett Neilson? Indiana Jones or India Jones? Snake Pliskin or Serena Pliskin? bloke from RDR or Bonnie? I don't think there is much point me going on.

Tim Carter
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Gus, what about Aliens? What about Terminator 2?



It's always about the invisible execution. Not the visible things.

Derek Hartin
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While I agree with the sentiment, isn't this reaching a little? I'm pretty sure Activision, like many big companies, tries to just go with what sells. I can readily imagine them changing the focus of a project based on focus-testing or marketing, but I struggle to think that this is some kind of inherent gender bias issue further than that.

Charles Stuard
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I think for me, personally, a lot of the problem with a female lead comes with the loss of romantic subplots. Or, at the very least, making said subplots far less interesting to the core market. In Uncharted 2, I found myself genuinely concerned for my female compatriots (although I must admit I preferred Chloe), whereas I think if I were cast as one of them, I might not care so much for Drake (at least not in the same way).



This is not to say we NEED romantic subplots... games like Mirror's Edge prove that. But usually you need a clever and compelling replacement, story wise.



All this is moot though if you're specifically NOT targeting the "core" market of males, though. I'm sure the female market wouldn't have any problem with the romantic subplots in that case.



Anyway, great reporting overall here. I'm only saddened by the fact this will never reach a "core" news outlet, and therefore will likely not put public pressure on Activision to change their ways.

Rafael Posnik
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I Think some problems with Gus said is, in a action movie people expect to see a badass character, when the main character is a female, they tend to put sexy looking girls or "fragile" ones (not that i don't like lol) so it does not transmit that badass feeling. Same on romantic movies, can you imagine arnold schwarzenegger doing one? i mean, a serious one?



So I think, when choosing a female protagonist, it should be thought on the world that she'll live in. Romantic? Action? Comic? to model the character in a way that fits all of this.



Lara Croft's a good exemple because she has been modified over the years but her personality still the same: She's tough.



Nariko from Heavenly Sword: she's always trying to prove she can handle herself and women and men can fight alike. She's not sex appealing and in the history, her personality makes sense.



Now, what happens in most of Jrpgs? fragile healing or archer girls that fight for justice and try to hold the main character's "to kill himself for other ones". In this case, I can easily call it a clichę...



So my point is, why not explore a mix of personality besides tough or naive and put the character in a series of events that challenge her personality? there are so many ways to make a very good female charater otherwise than "wow i can run 10000 miles while shooting dual wielding bazookas" or "please Edge Maverick, you don't need always to save [insert anything here].



People tend to forget awesome female characters like Cate Archer from No one lives forever or Joanna Dark from perfect dark.



I think female characters are as good as male characters BUT it needs to fit context, not force it.

Owain abArawn
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What? Are we now promoting quotas at Gamasutra? Get this politcally correct crap outa here. :(



If you want female heroes, by all means, create your own damn game. Let Activision mind their business, and you mind yours.

Gabriel May
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It depends on how you sell the female. If I can be convinced that the female has her place in the game and isn't just there because "oh we need a female because there are so many games with male leads" or for TnA purposes, then I am all for going for it. Better yet, if you can make it entertaining, I'll be happy to. Hell I was expecting to be dsiappointed by Final Fantasy X-2 and instead loved it.



It can be said that many series and franchises could have easily had a female lead instead of a male lead; Halo, Uncharted, Assassins Creed, etc. Sometimes it's better to have a male lead. God of War wouldn't have worked so well with a female lead because Kratos fits the "SPARTA!" sterotype. But it also works the other way round. Bayonetta...yeah imagine a female lead in that game *shudders*.



And as for games with female leads not selling well? The aforementioned Final Fantasy X-2 and Bayonetta, along with Tomb Raider series, Metroid series, Perfect Dark, Silent Hill 3 and Portal are examples of this not being true. And games such as Fallout and Oblivion allow you to choose to be female :D



It's a shame Activision have to act like this. They've already done enough damage to the image game industry (thanks to one particular person) and this is just another sad chapter.

Anthony Charles
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If you want to talk about what's bad for the industry, why not talk about how people in games press think business and making money are bad things. it's like we're hipsters screaming about how someone sold out. Activision is a billion dollar publicly traded company. in the same way that you dont look for innovation and experimentation in the top grossing movies and music, you shouldn't look to acti & EA.



Anyway, acti is right. All things being equal i'm sure having a female lead in a game would result in a not insignificant amount of lost sales. not to mention the best selling games are predominantly war games, which for practical reasons cannot star women.

Ujn Hunter
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To be honest... True Crime 3 seems like a hard sell... male or female lead.

Khadyna R
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Totally agree

Joe Rheaume
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Article: Activision says games with female leads don't sell, but here's a list of games with female leads that do sell.

Commenter: Why do you want Activision to lose money? Only men are good action stars.

Me: /rolleyes.

Other Commenter: Here's a list of Action movie heroines that made a lot of money and were awesome

Other other commenter: Oh no! Liberals! I am afraid of vaginas! Games must be sausagefests because they are now. Why do you hate capitalism?

Benjamin Marchand
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Oh indeed, women are not heroes to Kotick, but just tools :

http://kotaku.com/5602981/activision-boss-loses-legal-battle-over
-sex-discrimination-case



Seriously, why could it be so expected ...



/sarcasm

Jeff Murray
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Not only are there too many suits running this industry, there are too many assholes.

Franklin Brown
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I can't believe there are no female characters in Activision franchises! UGH! I'm so angry I think I'm going to to play my female night elf hunter while I wait for the Zerg expansion to SC2 that will include a single player campaign based around Kerrigan. I sure hope Jaina Proudmoore doesn't send me on another quest to confront Sylvanas Windrunner again.

Anthony Charles
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@ joe - don't distort the argument. no one thinks games with female leads don't sell, or can't sell. the question is do games with female leads sell less than games with male leads. the answer is yes. a female protagonist puts off far more people than it attracts.

Charles Stuard
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@ Anthony Charles



That just gave me an awesome idea. Remember a couple years back when Activision released two Transformer DS titles at the same time? One was Decepticon and the other was Autobot.... now imagine they do the same thing with another title, one with a Male lead, the other a Female lead. Now that would be a great litmus for this theory men sell more then women.



...just gotta make sure both are equally good. That in an of itself might be a challenge...

Alan Youngblood
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This can't possibly have anything to do with Kotick's recent lawsuit loss over sexual harassment and failure to pay original settlement charges, could it? Nah...it's not like womanizers would act chauvinistic for their whole company's policies.



FYI: I no longer buy Activision games, which hurts me because I'd like to have SC2 right now. What you buy = what they make. If they fix their company and make better games, I'll buy it. Only when the consumer changes buying habits will we see things like more diversity in game characters.

Chris Remo
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Owain,



So what you're saying is basically that you take issue with quotas--which, to my reading, are not advocated by this piece--when they might result in something other than what Activision is doing, but you're fine with quotas when they are apparently actually instituted in the real world right now, when Activision reportedly demands of its studios that 100% of non-licensed game protagonists be male?

Joe Rheaume
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@Anthony Charles [citation needed]

Owain abArawn
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Chris



I'm taking issue with someone telling someone else how to risk their money and their business. If activision wants to make games exclusively featuring white gorillas with a horn in the middle of their foreheads, that's their choice. If it sells, it will be a good choice on their part. If it doesn't, the market place will let them know they don't want any albino unicorn gorilla's, thank you.



The market place seems to support Activision's decision to mandate male figures in games. If you don't like that, don't buy their games. But spare me politically correct hand wringing.

Chris Remo
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Owain,



This article isn't demanding anything. Nobody is asking for a law to be passed here. I really don't see what you're concretely taking issue with.



Do you also have a problem with reviews that are critical of games for other reasons? Nobody is denying that Activision has a right within the market to do whatever it wishes. But if they choose to make particular choices, anyone has just as much a right to look into why Activision is making those decisions, on what basis they're being made, and whether they're the best decisions.

kevin wright
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I'm with Owain- get this Politically Correct crap outta here- this report has an undercurrent that implies without an equal amount of feminine (and political?)representation in gaming, we will never achieve the next level of consciousness! And Activision should be ashamed! Well, it shouldn't.



So Activision currently trends more towards male leads. So what? Why shouldn't they have the (right) to choose what goes in their game (which they pay for)? Or should we tell the Auto Industry what to engineer and how- or Pro Ballers when and what to swing at, or control what people buy and how? Yeah; thought not.



Now, trending to male leads isn't a concious effort to devalue or supress anyone. But if it offends you as a consumer- don't buy the game. If it offends you as a developer, go work somewhere else. Simple as that.

Eugene Conniff
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Did you even read it? Because if you did, then please tell me where it says "without an equal amount of feminine (and political?)representation in gaming, we will never achieve the next level of consciousness"



I mean, aside from out of your ass, rather. Which is apparently where you head is.

Chris Remo
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Kevin,



Nobody is talking about "rights," here. This article is about an allegation of a policy at a company. Do you really think that should be off-limits for reporting?



I'm really amazed that some people here are so defensive and protective of a major publisher's creative decisions in this way. Of course they have the legal right to do whatever they wish within the law. That doesn't mean those decisions aren't subject to reporting and discussion.



People seem to be equating the existence of this article to quotas and affirmative action. Do you think Gamasutra or the article's author are demanding legislation on this? There's a difference between "telling the auto industry what to engineer" through force of law, and publishing an article about whether the auto industry is basing decisions on poor judgment.



For that matter, do you hold up the auto industry as a sterling example of making wise broad-reaching decisions, either within a pure market context or otherwise? Maybe the auto industry could have done with listening to some other opinions.

Owain abArawn
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Chris, I think you are purposefully being obtuse. This whole article from start to finish is a screed lamenting the lack of female characters in Activision games. If you are criticizing a company for insufficient estrogen in their character lineup, that most certainly implies that you think the preferred solution is to bump the number of X chromosomes being represented. That may not be an overt demand for an increase female quota, it will do until an actual quota demand comes along, which will probably be any second now.



If Activision is missing out an a market opportunity, there should be no shortage of people in the industry just itching to plop their multi-millions in development dollars down to come up with more female centric titles.



Or maybe not.



My actual complaint is not so much regarding the male/female issue. But anytime I hear anything saying some company, any company, is not properly represented with the 'correct' number of *fill-in-the-blank* people, it hits a raw nerve with me.



Political Correctness is teh EVIL, and it deserves to be stomped on whenever it rears it's ugly head.

Justin Kwok
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I personally feel that female leads can often allow more exploration of emotions and subtext in situations. Unfortunately, I think that even the female leads in games (i.e. Tomb Raider) are feminine in appearance only. They act masculine in female bodies.



We need true female protagonists because they can believably explore topics that males don't normally express.



Two good examples are April Ryan (The Longest Journey) and Jade (Beyond Good and Evil).

G B
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Wait... People are angry because this article is arguing that games should be forced to switch the genders of their main characters, when the article is about a game that was forced to switch the gender of its main character?

Aaron Casillas
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I prefer Political Politeness, it stirs of civility and civilization, something in my opinion that is being lost. I personally really enjoyed this article. Does ATVI and the EA's of the world have a some of legal responsibility to represent certain demographics, nope. However, being that games are very powerful medium and shape a culture or shape the users perception then it is a very interesting phenomena, mechanic and company policy to shape entertainment into a certain fashion. For example, are racist stereotypes appropriate in a children's game in an IP that effects children's perception of self and others?



This article is journalism 101 simple as that...

Owain abArawn
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Is anyone else confused by GB's comment. Maybe it's just me...

Justin Kwok
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Owain,



I don't think the issue is that females aren't getting enough representation in games. I think it's more that when the developers create a character who they envision as being female, Activision forces them to change the gender of that character even though the developers have reasons for them to be female.



For instance, I don't think that Eternal Darkness would've worked as well if Alexandra Roivas was a man. There are narrative reasons why a developer would choose to make a character female.

Owain abArawn
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So, Araron, are you of the opinion that male leads in games is equivalent to presenting racist stereotypes in a children's game?



Just asking...

Owain abArawn
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Justin,



In this case, the charge has been made (activision forces developers to switch genders on what would otherwise be female leads), but not necessarily proven. I'd have to see a lot more supporting evidence before I'll buy that.



And as far as Journalism 101, as declared by Aaron, I think not. Why? I got turned off by the 4th paragraph.



"Numerous former employees of the company's studios tell Gamasutra that Activision relies on focus tests to a contentious extent..."



Now what in the &$% is that supposed to mean. How is it contentious of Activision to rely on their market research. If their research tells them that their target market prefers male leads, what are they supposed to do? Say, "What the Hell, let's risk millions of dollars of investors money, and make something our customers are telling us they don't want."



I don't have to do a line by line fisking of this article to recognize a hit-piece by someone with an axe to grind. That is not what I come to Gamasutra to read. Leigh Alexander may just be stirring the pot here to generate some controversy, but if that the kind of 'Jounalism' I can expect from Gamasutra, they'll be getting fewer 'hits' from me.



Opinions vary. That's mine, for what it's worth.

Eric Kwan
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I think the main issue stems with the attitude with which female protagonists are approached. In my experience, what ends up happening in most games with female protagonists is that that fact ends up being the centerpiece of the title, and the game constantly reminds you that, hey, you're a chick!



For example, let's compare two extremes: Metroid and Bayonetta. Where Metroid goes out of the way to immerse the player in its world and mythos, Bayonetta continually brings to the player's attention that he is playing as a "sexy" chick. Eventually the latter becomes annoying.

Adam Bishop
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It's strange how harshly some people in this industry react to the idea of better representation of women in gaming. And while sexism obviously exists in pretty much every walk of life, it seems to be a pretty depressingly common problem in the video game industry. Worse than any other industry I've ever worked in by far. I've never understood the bizarrely hyperbolic reaction of some men to any mention of increased representation for women, like it's some kind of attack on them. But I think it's often (not always) indicative of broader views about the roles of men and women and the desire of some men to maintain positions of power.



Here's an example of an incident that I witnessed among some co-workers:

Two men and a woman were sitting around discussing Rock Band, and the woman said that she wished there were more songs sung by women in the game. As anyone who has ever played Rock Band with women would know, the reason for this is obvious - because it's often difficult for women to sing songs written for a male vocal range (and vice versa). But as soon as this woman said she wished there were more songs that women could sing in Rock Band, she was immediately met with cries of "Whoa! What the hell, are you some kind of feminist or something?" When she tried to explain exactly what I just said about vocal ranges, she was immediately cut-off and told that she should go make a sandwich.



Those two reactions are entirely related. The exaggerated response to the very idea that women might want to be more involved and the blatant sexism of cutting her off and telling her to go make a sandwich come very much from the same place. I really wish that I'd never seen another similar incident in this industry, but sadly I have. There are plenty of great people in this industry, but the depressing truth is that there's also a hell of a lot of sexism, and yes, it is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Justin Kwok
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Owain,



You are definitely entitled to it. And most definitely from a business standpoint.



I think of game developers as artists (I'm a developer myself). If you're investing in a developer to make a game, you are investing in their vision of the product that you're financing. To a certain degree, you have to trust them to make the right decision for their game and context. You're paying for their expertise. When you overly rely on marketing to design the game, you might as well just hire a production house to put it all together.



As far as journalism is concerned, it is definitely interesting and I think another chapter in how Activision likes to control it's properties. The one example that comes to mind is how they wanted Infinity Ward to make the game that would become Modern Warfare 1 another WWII game (because WWII games sell!) even though IW wanted to make a modern war game. Eventually, IW got their way and made one of the best selling games of all time. Imagine if IW had to do it Activision's way. Now extend that to the issue of female protagonists...

Jeffrey Fleming
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Beyond the gender politics, please take note of the distressing extent to which the Activision marketing machine (made up of people who I believe have no game design experience) has inserted itself into the game development process. Regardless whether you like boys or girls in your games, this can't be good.

ian christy
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While working on Scarface, Pete L. and I added a wealth of strong female characters to try to offset the macho overdose of Tony Montana. Bai Ling voiced one of them, for instance, and she was about as castratory as a female character could get. We had little illusions of making that product for female audiences, but did think the strong female characters both supported Tony's unwillingness to kill women, and bring a laugh for girlfriends and wives in earshot of the boys playing our game. I mention this because management from Vivendi, which later merged with Activision, kept asking for things that were outside both our rating and Tony's moral code. Peter Wallnutt (or something like that) asked for a micro-game where Tony hired a prostitute (feature chasing GTA), got locked into an interactive NIS, and held a gun to her head to force her to perform certain gratifications, toggle the analogue sticks to win, or Tony shoots her. We nodded politely and quickly backed out of the room. As accountable, sentient developers, we were not putting something that crass or macho-sadistic into the game, and we didn't. I'm not saying all management is evil, but I am saying the management at then Vivendi had a lot of boys club elements that seemed to have a real penchant for objectifying women as disposable chaff, and when so many impressionable young boys buy into that mentality, then of course that's where the money is, and lowest common denominator boys club product results.

Dan the gaming Guy
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Majority of gamers are male and therefore empathize with a male leads. Would barbie make the majority of its line with male dolls? No.



I personally really enjoy games which a written for both and allow you to choose your lead (mass effect 2 or wow for example). In these scenarios I usually prefer to play a female lead. However, I would never play call of duty with a female lead.

Simon Ludgate
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I think Activision already has experience that shows this 100% male hero stance is misguided:



Star Trek Elite Foce allowed the player to play as either a male or female lead character. Elite Force II only allowed the player to play as a male character. The result? Elite Force II had slightly lower metacritic ratings and sigificantly lower sales than the first Elite Force.



Proof* that female leads sell!



*(mildly specious)

Ofer Rubinstein
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If activion is making a lot of money the way they do it now? what incentive do they have to change their successful ways?

I don't tell anyone what games they should make, because I don't want people to tell me what games I should make.

Trent Polack
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God, so many of these comments completely depress me.

Meredith Katz
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@Trent



Me too. Seriously.

Bill Jones
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Females are inferior to males. It's got a long history in the world. Get over it.



Also, love how all your examples of "successful" female protags are actually all pretty much failures. Metroid is a game where being female has no real effect anyway, but it's still not a huge seller currently AFAIK. Tomb Raider is a pretty moribound, over the hill franchise that also doesn't sell well, and Mirrors Edge was pretty much a bomb. The only real success in the group is probably portal, but I actually had forgot that char was female till you mentioned it. It's that irrelevant to the game, you only see your reflection a couple times to know your gender thats it. There's no real story, you do not speak, etc. So I guess we can say female chars can succeed in the portal case, as long as theyre made irrelevant to the game?



Also love your whole "twitter survey" thing. What a joke.



Personally I dont care for playing female chars. Sorry that's not politically correct but it's true.



I believe in Halo Reach, you optionally can choose to play as a female. I certainly wont, though.



I could maybe, just maybe, see myself playing as a female, but only if her female weaknesses were emphasized, rather than the usual "shes a butt kicker every bit as good as the guys" nonsense. For example, it might be cool to play as a female that cant possibly win any physical fight in the game world, and even gets the crap kicked out of her, but must find other ways to win or survive. That type of thing might be intriguing. Never been tried though as far as I know.

Trent Polack
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I'm not sure "political correctness" means what you think it means.

Bill Jones
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Also, in Mirrors Edge case, a lot of the reason the game probably failed WAS the female lead. It was a critical darling and all, but it didn't sell. And it's pretty much the only major attempt at a big budget female lead game I can really think of in recent memory.



Mirrors edge looked, "interesting" from the previews, but in the end I didn't see enough to purchase it, bottom line.



Mirrors Edge 2 is confirmed, right? Well there's another chance. It's got to sell. My guess is it will sell even less and end the franchise.



I mean it's just fact hardy male steroid shooters sell. Just read a interview with EA CEO where he talked about how hard theyre going after FPS market share. I mean they have Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Crysis 2, Bulletstorm, and more lined up. That's what sells.

Meredith Katz
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Ah, yes, I almost forgot how it felt to come onto a site where I'm a member -- a female designer and female gamer -- and be reminded that the only stories worth telling are those of men, and if they're conceived to be stories worth telling that are of women they should be rewritten so they be those of men. I love how people are putting this down to an attempt to appeal to "political correctness" rather than, you know, an attempt to acknowledge that women can be the lead characters; that women can enact stories, that women can be forces of movement rather than forces of passivity. That women aren't just love interests and aren't just targets and aren't just motivation and aren't just, in other words, the 'driving forces' for male characters: that they're individuals with motivations and actions of their own, and that stories can and should be written to reflect this fact because these stories are out there, waiting to be told, instead of retelling the same things over and over with those "male steroid shooters".





@Bill



Shut up and get back in the kitchen.

Bill Jones
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Trent, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what it means.



I'm not supposed to say I prefer playing male chars, that's not politically correct. I'm supposed to be all open and progressive and spineless about it, and wax poetic about how society and big corporations are bad for rejecting strong women in games. But I didn't do that.

Trent Polack
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Sexism and chauvinism are generally negative traits that do or do not define you as a human being. Not being those things is not being "politically correct," it's just being decent.

Audrey Cox
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@Anthony Charles



A female protagonist might put you off.. but the idea that Young White Males are the only important demographic for games is growing more and more outdated. As is the inherantly sexist idea that a male player empathizing wtih a female protagonist is degrading/unappealing, but a female player isn't expected to have an issue with it when the situation's reversed. Wait, there aren't as many female players? Isn't that a problem in itself?



The 'hardcore' industry has created a problem for itself, singling out one small subset of humanity as its Target Demographic. Sure, casual games are big, and all that - but as big as the budgets of AAA games are getting, publishers should be thinking in the long term a little, looking past the market analysis, and trying to expand the audience for the next few cycles. Don't perpetuate that narrow little demographic - do some things to expand it. Maybe that means female protagonists who are designed to be good female characters, not designed just for male players (i.e. boobs) but for a wider audience. Maybe it means main characters of different races, or of different cultures that are treated honestly and interestingly, not exploitatively.



My point is, really, that targeting a specific group comes at the expense of all other potential customers, and in the long run it's not a good strategy.



Women of my generation grew up watching people play games that just SCREAMED 'No Girls Allowed'- with their advertising, their character design, color palette, a whole array of mysoginistic, 'you play like a girl' style insults coming from the main character. 30-something women who grew up playing games probably had to force themselves to ignore all these things (and shrug off taunts from male peers besides.) Who wants to bet that more women would be playing 'hardcore' games today if games hadn't been explicitly NOT aimed at them for so long?



Expanding the content of games to something more accepting of all players doesn't mean swinging all the way around to something pink and lacy and full of unicorns. Making a given Male-Targetted concept a little more gender neutral doesn't have to hurt gameplay at all - and honestly, it can only help the story, and the idea of games as art.

Adam Bishop
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There is no way that Bill Jones is anything but a troll. And it's generally best not to feed them.

Meredith Katz
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@Adam



But I wanted him to make me a sandwich.



:(

Bill Jones
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Meredith we're not really saying that. Fact is hardcore gaming is a mostly young, male, testosterone laden pursuit, and the games reflect it. That's just the way it is, no use writing liberal college essays crying about it.



Sure, women ARE weaker and inferior, but I wont be mean and continue shattering your dreams here by expounding on that LOL.

Bill Jones
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Oh and Meredith, you have a computer in your kitchen? Cool.



Nyuck Nyuck.

Ofer Rubinstein
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No need to be depressed guys.

The first problem with this kind of article and your comments is that you are trying to force your goals for games on others.

The second problem, is that not everyone try to achieve the same by making a game and I am not sure what you want games to achieve.

Big companies goal is mainly making money, there isn't much to do here. What you can do, is give reasons for big companies make different games, by convincing it's worthwhile.

But what if it's really not worthwhile?

Then what are you saying? You want big companies to make the games you like, to achieve what you had in mind and in addition to that they will lose a lot of money?



I am sure games with female in the lead role can make a lot of money, but that's not the point.

The point is, people make game for a lot of different reasons, and your reasons for making games are not the "one true reason" for making games.



If you want to convince the game industry to have more female lead roles in games, then good luck. And when and if there will be more games with female leads, you won't see me complain there are not enough games representing males.

But it will be easier for you to make a successful game with a female in lead, than to try to force others to do the games you want(Although it is also a possible way of action, but again, good luck with that).



Bottom line, I don't understand what is the problem with inequal representation of the population. Why does it offend you so much? There are other industries where white males have very little representation, it doesn't bother anyone.



I ask, what will make you happy?

Meredith Katz
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@Ofer



What offends me is invisibility. What offends me is being told, for years -- for centuries, on a general note, though obviously not me personally -- is that we don't matter; we aren't marketable; our stories, experiences, life through our eyes is not 'appealing' to the majority when the majority is unwilling to try because everyone 'knows' that it's unappealing because it's the majority, right? It's the assumption of, yes, here I go with one of those key words -- patriarchy. I live in a heteronormative, patriarchical world that gently tells me not to be offended about the media deciding not to reflect real life and socially publicize women as not mattering in any key event or story.



It's easy to have privilege and say "you won't see me complain there are not enough games representing males" because, of course, that's not a situation you ever expect to be in; not really, and it's not a situation you expect to have to project yourself into despite the fact that a large amount of the world -- the majority number-wise, at least -- is there.



Despite the fact that this is on an article about the fact that they tried to make a game about a woman and were forced to change this to get it published.



That makes me unhappy, yes. Is it really so hard to empathize enough to imagine why that might be? Every day, in every little way, the world offers you and people like you the lead role for no real reason other than the fact it always has and it 'knows' it works for a large number of people. Is that the limitation to art? Is that the limitation to imagination? Is privilege really the boundary line for what games are capable of and how they are capable of exploring events, stories, character, setting? Because that is incredibly depressing, if so.



Mass consumer society is incredibly heteronormative, incredibly patriarchical, and incredibly cisprivileged -- but it's that way because it continues to support itself that way and ignore the vast number of people who are always asked to put themselves into other people's shoes. Because it's unwilling to try to ask the 'standard', "normative" people to put themselves into anyone else's shoes for even a few minutes at a time.



This isn't about political correctness for those of us made invisible by it. It's real life.

DanielThomas MacInnes
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Who would have guessed that women aren't interested in bloodthirsty, violent videogame shoot-em-ups? I had no idea!



If only there was a games console that was popular with females...Maybe we could find the makers of said console and...I dunno...ask their opinion?

Anthony Charles
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It's very funny how we can talk supportively about the idea of making games for women, but have a bottomless well of venom for games made for families, moms, grandparents, etc. Ironically, the game for mom is gonna look a hell of a lot like the game for a woman.

Christian Nutt
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BLACK history month? How come there's no WHITE history month!?

Justin Kwok
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Ofer,



I think that's the point of the article. Activision tells people how to make their games. Granted, they have every right to because they're paying for it.



But like I said in an earlier post, if you're going to finance a developer, you have to have some trust that they're doing the right thing. And if developer feels that there's something fundamental to the game (i.e. protagonist gender, setting, etc) then perhaps trusting focus groups over your developer is not a good idea.



I think really the problem in this thread is that people don't see how it matters what the gender of the protagonist is. That it doesn't matter who the character is and what motivations and experience they have. Since the character is so devoid of any actual "character" let's just swap out the gender. And I think that is a very sad reflection on the state of games right now.



A protagonist's identity needs to be more than "the player," just as Rick Blaine is more than just "A guy that runs a bar in Casablanca."

Aaron Truehitt
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Well, I don't know if this is true about Activision or not. They have been the subject of hate lately, and maybe for good reason. From my stand point and what I've been listening to, they sound like a company that has a barbaric business attitude and only purpose is to make money by maximizing profits.



Remember back in the 80s where space games were making the most money? Then Nintendo comes along and makes Donkey Kong which shattered expectations? Same concept still applies here. It's not just about females here, its about them not wanting to stray from the path.



And that's perfectly fine that they want to do that. It's their business. I just think it's very weak and easy attempt at making money. I'm just glad we have other companies that stick out, that brought us Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Beyond Good and Evil, Monkey Island, Team Fortress 2, etc.

Justin Kwok
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Evan,



I don't think women necessarily like to objectify men as much as men like to objectify women. It's not something that's a 1:1 reversal.



Secondly, there are a lot of games where women are strong protagonists. But none of these games sell. A lot of these games end up on lists of Top Games No One Played though.



Two of my top 5 games of all time have female protagonists. Mainly because they're not all just blazing guns and boobs... they actually explore elements of the human condition. (btw, those games are The Longest Journey and Eternal Darkness).

Owain abArawn
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Empathy for the plight of women everywhere is irrelevant to the topic at hand. I'm a very empathetic guy, but empathy doesn't sell many units to the vast majority of gamers out there, and that is the market that Activision targets. It is entirely possible, that an independant developer could develop a niche title that could do reasonably well, and could even break out to be a much larger success in a wider market.



Based on market history, however, while possible, it is improbable, and Activision is betting on probabilities. It's their money they are risking. When it's your money, you can have a larger say.

Ian Bogost
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"Shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture."

—Salman Rushdie

Owain abArawn
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Aaron said, "(Activision) has a barbaric business attitude and only purpose is to make money by maximizing profits. "



I've read some silly things in this thread, but I think this wins the prize for being the silliest.



If you were an Activision investor, and it was YOUR money being risked, would you have the same attitude?

Adam Bishop
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Allowing players to play as women sure hasn't stopped World of Warcraft or Pokemon from becoming among the most successful games ever made.

Ofer Rubinstein
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@Meredith, it's not real life.



I agree with you that the media, especially commericials give a "perfect" unrealistic view of reality.

When I go to the theater, and there are commercials, I close my eyes and don't look at them, because the commercials are so ridicoulisly unrealistic and manipulative I don't want to watch them.

The ads and commercials are not only hard for women, they are also hard for men. Males also have body image issues because what they see in the media.



However, eventhough I am surrounded by all this, I know all this stuff in the commercials are not realistic. I know better, I am aware of this world. And a lot of other people are aware as well.

Perhaps most of the people are not aware of what the media and commercials are trying to do, and they really believe that only young, attractive and skinny people matter in this world.

I really don't know.

The point is, most big companies take part in presenting this false image of life, but I am not entirely sure most "normal" people believe that.



I am trying to say that for a lot of people there is a clear seperation between real life and what we see in those medias.



I think you are touching a subject that is much bigger than the gaming industry. I don't exactly know why many commercials have white families in a white room, all smiling and so happy talking on the cell phones.

And I am not sure if there is any other choice, or if this is so bad.

If you don't have answers to those questions, then your calims about the gaming industry are not any better than some shareholders trying to make a profit.

Meredith Katz
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@Owain:



"I have sat in a focus test that in the team's opinion went exceptionally well, but the feedback sent to the higher-ups from someone on the publishing side were skewed to be the exact opposite," he adds -- even in cases where according to the source "some of them stepped in our studio maybe twice in two years." So, the sources say, even if there was evidence to support positive focus-test response to a female lead character, ultimately that might not convince the publisher -- unless there was an environment where a game led by a female heroine triumphed at retail. "



That would be the culture of preconceived notions. And those preconceived notions? They come from the, as you put it, plight of women everywhere (in the media).



Focus tests imply these games, if they're good games (obviously) can convince the market. But nobody's willing to put them out -- not triple A games with a female hero. So they don't go to market. So there's no market proof. So -- etc.

Owain abArawn
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Meredith,



In that case, there is a vast untapped opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of. All it takes is an enterprising developer to take a risk. In all sincerity, I wish them luck.

Meredith Katz
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@Ofer



You're missing the point.



It's a real life experience that this media portrayal creates an ongoing invisibility for situations that shouldn't exist if it WERE matching real life.



It's the media that homosexuals aren't heroes though there's plenty otherwise; so, it's a real life experience that we are made invisible.



It's the media that transgender individuals aren't heroes though, again, I'm quite sure they exist in real life; so it's a real life experience that they are made invisible.



That is what I mean. We are not permitted to have a presence in the media as heroes. Our stories are not permitted to be 'important' compared to that of white straight males. We are individuals with interesting points of views and perspectives and the potential to drive stories and carry gameplay. However, we're still at the point where sign-ups to websites ask if you're male or female and don't give any other options than a binary; we're still at the point where if I'm assumed to be heterosexual until I say otherwise; we're still at the point where I enter a game shop with a friend and people ask the guy I'm with if there's anything they can help them find.



Invisibility as a media force is real life. We are not invisible IN real life -- just the media. Thus, the media should reflect our reality, our potential. The media should not be limited by privilege to the point of view of its heroes.



That is the point I am making.

Meredith Katz
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@Owain



Me too. I just hope the publisher doesn't insist on changing it for them. As above.



I think this is something worth speaking out against, the situation that was raised in this article.



I think it's something people SHOULD be speaking out against.

Malte Skarupke
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God the comments are appalling. But I'm fairly certain that at least some of the people here are trolls, and can not be taken seriously.



1. Nobody says that we should force people to make more games with female lead characters. We aren't talking about demanding a politically correct ratio of female lead characters. What we want is, that they don't have a policy against female lead characters. The article says that Activision haven't released a single game with a female lead character in five years. That is just sad. Especially, when their developers want to develop games with female lead characters.



2. When you point to the top five selling games each year, and there is not a single game with a female lead character, the most likely explanation for that is that there are few games made with female lead characters. Also because of the bias against female lead characters, games with female lead characters typically get less funding. The budgets of Bayonetta, Mirror's Edge or Tomb Raider are probably much lower than the budgets of Halo, Gears of War or GTA. So naturally they don't get into the top spots sales-wise.



3. Focus groups don't work for concepts that the audience isn't familiar with. If all they ever get to play are games with male leads, then naturally they are going to rate games with female leads badly. The RadioLab episode about Free Will had a good segment about focus groups and when they don't work, so that is a recommended listen from me.



4. Only making games with male lead characters is a bad decision financially. Sure, a game like Mirror's Edge sells less than a game like Modern Warfare. But a game like Mirror's Edge sells more than a game like Singularity. You bet that developing Mirror's Edge was a better decision financially than developing Singularity.



Sorry, the last one was a bullshit argument. But I just wanted to show you how easy it is to make them. But I can tell you one thing that does affect sales: If you force your developers to change the game they wanted to make into a game they don't want to make. That will probably lead to a lower quality title, and you bet that that will lead to lost sales.

Aaron Truehitt
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@Owain



I'm not an investor Owain, those are about making money. I'm into moving this industry forward rather than staying at the status quo. Many people have been deemed saying silly things but went on to do great things. Thanks Owain :)



Gotta have risk sometimes Owain. Can't just sit in say "Well its never been done that way before. It can't make money."

Dave Mark
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Wow.



That is all.

Justin Kwok
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I do actually hold stock in Activision and the truth is that I think they're very short sighted.



Look at what happened to Guitar Hero. They just keep pumping them out and their success has already peaked. There performance is below expectation all around the board. If you look at the history of the franchise, it wasn't until Rock Band came out that Activision did a me too and added more instruments. This allowed Rock Band to get significant market share that should have belonged to Guitar Hero (yes, I know Harmonix created both Rock Band and Guitar Hero).



So yes, I'm disappointed that Activision abhors innovation. In fact, I think I'm going to sell my stock...

Owain abArawn
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"It's the media that homosexual/transgender individuals aren't heroes though..."



What media would that be? The media I'M familiar with would stumble all over themselves with orgiastic joy as the prospect of hyping such a person.



By all means, develop a homosexual/transgender/multigender/whatever game. Let us know how that works out for you. Just so you know, your odds in the marketplace are not good. That's neither right nor wrong. It just is. It has nothing to do with the 'media', or whatever conspiracy theory boogie man you want to blame. The truth is that the overwhelmingly vast majorty of people willing to plunk money down aren't looking for products in that demographic.



It certainly isn't high on my shopping list. Sorry.

Meredith Katz
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@Owain



Really? Tell me all about these mainstream tv shows, popular books, comic books, and video games staring homosexuals or transgender folks as protagonists. I'd love to hear about them!





It isn't high on your shopping list - Why, though? Because the hypothetical game, about which you've heard nothing else, stars a minority? You know nothing about the hypothetical gameplay, story, budget, etc.



Are you just naturally resistant to the concept of playing a character who happens to be one of these things?







That is my "conspiracy theory boogie man", as you so open-mindedly called it. That the market is driven by this mainstream reluctance to step into the minority's shoes, even though we're always asked to step into the majority's.





And, yes, from the point of view of someone in this position? That is a problem. I am a homosexual woman (though I'm cisgender and white). I've seen it enough. It's a problem. Fact.

Meredith Katz
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@Christian Keichel



"it is completely useless to say you have to sell your games "to the vast majority of gamers out there, and that is the market that Activision targets" like you said earlier, cause the "vast majority of gamers out there" isn't the vast majority of people out there and if you want to be successful, you should try to reach them, instead building your home in the hardcore ghetto. "



Thank you, yes.

Owain abArawn
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@Christian "With your argumentation, that it isn't right to talk about content decisions, Activision is making, we can quit talking about culture at all."



I don't think you are addressing my arguments correctly. I have nothing against games with strong female leads. By all means, let them be developed. My argument is that if it's not your money being risked in development, you have no basis to tell Activision what they should or should not do. That has nothing to do with culture. It's a strictly economic argument.



Try to keep up.

Ofer Rubinstein
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@Malte

So you want to tell them which policies are right and which policies are wrong? You are forcing your standards on them.

Without answering the question why companies must have one female lead top seller game in 5 years, your argument sound like "It is wrong, that is why you must do as I say".



@Meredith

I understand your point, but I am not sure why you make it.

Sure, the media generate real life experiences that might be negative for you and others, from your perspective.

Well, life is tough. Not everything goes the way we want. Even though you don't like the messages the media has, I still don't find it justifiable to force your messages on the media. Or even if it's possible in a direct local manner.



I agree with you that those negative experiences exist in the media, for some people from their perspective.

But I don't agree that a local treatment of the media is the answer. The reasons why the media is like this, are much more complex. You are trying to change the symptom, while the "problem" if there really is a problem is much more bigger.



I guess some questions need to be answered is why the media works like this? Maybe it really is profitable to work like this? Is it all just random?

If your answer is that diversity is more profitable, then all you have to do is prove those companies it is more profitable.

If your answer is that diversity is not more profitable, then you have to explain why in a materialistic world, companies should adopt a less profitable policy.

Meredith Katz
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"My argument is that if it's not your money being risked in development, you have no basis to tell Activision what they should or should not do."



Which is exactly why we're all always told to sit on our hands on threads about Kotick insulting gamers generally, Guitar Hero development decisions, and other things where we all, you know, jump in to tell Activision what we think they should or should not do, as gamers and developers with an interest in where the industry is headed.



Yep.

Meredith Katz
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@Ofer



If you don't see why people might want characters who aren't in the "beefy white guy hero" range, or why we might want to talk about the cultural implications about this, or how the situation is to some extent self-fulfilling, then I suppose I have nothing more to add to the discussion.

Jeff Beaudoin
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Number one:

If you are looking to Activision to innovate in either gameplay or portrayal of non-standard roles of any type in games you will be disappointed. Innovation of any kind in our industry just doesn't come from companies like Activision. Maybe it should, but as Owain points out (in an unnecessarily confrontational manner) they really do only care about the bottom line and current industry trends. The target demographic is the 15 year old white male who is afraid of girls.



Number two:

Most games are just the interactive version of the action film genre. Most action films star males, because males are more likely to solve their problems by punching each other or driving a car into a helicopter. Do women feel underrepresented in action films? Do you want more representation as people who solve their problems like this? I obviously don't know first hand, but it seems to me that representation of this type isn't actually the goal -- it is more about representation in general.



The genres games use to tell stories need to have more diversity. That will drive the demand for a more diverse cast automatically.

Owain abArawn
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@Meridith



"Really? Tell me all about these mainstream tv shows, popular books, comic books, and video games staring homosexuals or transgender folks as protagonists. I'd love to hear about them!"



Well, it seems I have you at a distinct disadvantage, if only because I know how to use Google.



According to Wikipedia, here is a list of LGBT characters in film, radio, and TV fiction. Not all are main characters, to be sure, but the list runs for pages.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_homosexuals_and_bisexuals_in
_film,_radio,_and_TV_fiction



Run by me again how invisible LGBT folks are in the media. I don't think the word 'invisible' means what you think it means.

Casey Monroe
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I'm a little uncomfortable saying this, but:



"Because the hypothetical game, about which you've heard nothing else, stars a minority? You know nothing about the hypothetical gameplay, story, budget, etc.



Are you just naturally resistant to the concept of playing a character who happens to be one of these things?"



Yes, I am. I am a liberal democrat, who believes strongly in equal rights for all and who firmly feels that the game industry would be better served by featuring more women and minorities in games. But that having been said, I am also a 18-34 year old heterosexual white male, and I have more difficulty relating to a female, homosexual, or transgendered main character than I do relating to one who is also an 18-34 year old white male. I played Mass Effect with both a male and female main character, and I enjoyed the game more as a male character—the game felt more comfortable.

Owain abArawn
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@Meridith



"And, yes, from the point of view of someone in this position? That is a problem. I am a homosexual woman (though I'm cisgender and white). I've seen it enough. It's a problem. Fact."



As we used to say in the USAF (yes, I'm one of THOSE), "Sounds like a personal problem to me. Get over it."



I'm sure from your very narrow and parochial point of view, this is an overwhelming issue. Whiney, puny personal belly aches usually are. In the vast overarching scheme of things, not so much.



@Jeff



THAT was confrontational, just so you know, but not unnecessarily so, I'm thinking. Whiners are annoying, and need to be confronted.

Mark Morrison
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when was the last time a developer or publisher had a room full of girls focus testing non-licensed (such as Barbie/Dora) action/adventure games? there's probably more girls showing up to these focus tests nowadays, but they are most likely the minority of the participants. i don't really see boys suggesting that the action leads should be female. almost every successful publisher depends on concept/play and especially focus testing.



...now, who's going to be the 100th poster?

Ofer Rubinstein
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@Meredith



I see why you would want that. Your only realistic option is to educate people why it should be like that. Because educating is not forcing.

You can educate young gamers to boycott games or companies, you can educate them to demand more diversity from companies.

Don't be so certain you will be able to convince them though.



Regardless of that, the reason I say what you want is not necesseraly better, is because you can't practically represent all the diversity in the world without showing part of the population in good light, and cause negative experiences for other populations.



And let's say you can make everyone happy? How will you make it come true without education?



Here is an idea. You can create an indie organization. You will give an incentive for indie developers to join the organization. However, all the developer must listen to the organization's rules about which games to make.

"Hey, I want to make a rambo FPS where rambo fights the terminator!"

"Sorry, your game is too masculine, you must put a female lead instead of rambo to balance it"

"I want to make a game about a rich guy getting even richer with oil tycoons"

"Sorry, we have too many tycoon games, we suggest you will make a game about a cat that his owner abandond him. We don't have enough games about that. "

Owain abArawn
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Christian.



The market place rewards success and penalizes failure. Activision, by your own account, failed badly with Blur. I suspect they won't be developing any games along those line any time soon, but they took the chance. If someone develops a game with a strong female lead, and the market starts trending strongly in that direction, I'm sure Activision will lead the pack pursuing those dollars. It hasn't happened yet, but who knows what tomorrow holds?

Sheridan Thirsk
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It is very sad when a creative team comes up with an idea with a strong female lead, a la Samus, Kerrigan, Mirror's Faith, and then marketing decides it wont sell well. Why won't it sell well? Mirror's Edge is an 3d platforming game with clumsy action which is a hard sell to begin with. I think Bayonetta sold better than another DMC iteration would have. The women side characters were the most interesting part of Uncharted2. Zelda/Shiek has a lot of story telling possibility and I think could even star in her own game. Joanna Dark in the first PD was pretty cool, and the PDZ flop was because of the weird gameplay and the poor punk character design. NOLF starred an awesome Cate Archer spy and put Monolith on the map with game of year awards.



If a creative team comes up with a good idea with a female, using broken case studies to disprove their selling power is bad precedence. Do people look at a bunch of failed MMOs and decide that the genre is dead? Or a portable 3d device in the virtual boy flopped, therefore 3d is not the future. Many factors go into success of a game, and for many genres, I think having a female lead makes the game more interesting, not less.

Christian Nutt
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@Owain, You know, these false dichotomies don't really help much. Like how you just pointed out that you were in the military and assumed that somehow put you innately at odds with a lesbian commenter. Where's the logic in that?



The whole point of a discussion of a topic like this is that there are lots of different kinds of people out there. People will surprise you.

Malte Skarupke
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@Ofer: Oh come on, don't use rhetoric like that. I am trying to convince someone, and you call that "forcing my standards on them." If you want to phrase it like that, then you could colour all discussion about discrimination badly.



My post was addressed to those comments above who said that Activision has this policy because they need to make money and because games with female lead characters don't sell and focus groups agree.

These people aren't even defending the policy, they say that it is a necessary evil. So in a sense I wasn't even trying to convince them that the policy is bad, and I certainly wasn't "forcing my standards on them."

The people here in the comments already know that Activision's policy is bad, in fact even Activision themselves know it, as you can see by them denying having that policy. But while these people don't need convincing that the policy is bad, these people still need convincing that the policy is not necessary, and that is what I was trying to do.



@ Jeff Beaudoin:

The point about action heroes being mostly males because males are more likely to solve their problems violently is a good one. However upon further examination, it doesn't really hold up. Most men are very unlikely to solve their problems violently. I have just done a quick mental inventory of all my friends and family, and I can't come up with a single person that I know a situation of that he or she solved through violence. Most action heroes aren't your typical male. They are very atypical males.

Games and movies have never cared about how likely it is that someone got into this situation. That is not the explanation for the prevalence of male action heroes.

Owain abArawn
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Christian



"Where is the logic in that?"



It may not be logical, but based upon expererience, it is highly probable.



Let's have a snap quiz. Casey Monroe, c'mon down. As a self identified liberal Democrat, does the fact that I am a conservative Republican, and a former member of the United States Armed Forces (specifically, an F-4 fighter pilot), automatically make you more or less at odds with my views?



Surveys with a sample size of one aren't very accurate, so further input would be helpful.



Thanks. This should be interesting.

Benjamin Marchand
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Mirror's Edge was the perfect example for me of a very valuable female character.

We are Faith, that girl who got some temper and mad acrobatic skills, in an extreme atmosphere.



I'm actually very attached to identification in games (always play a male in RPGs), but this one really lifted me up. The game was so immersive that I felt compassion, adrenalin, frailty. All through the eyes of a woman, during a whole 6 hours.

And holy shit what a ride ! I wanted more of her life just minutes after beating the game.

I even felt sad for her when I heard her voice complaining after she was hit by an enemy ...

Yeah, a very strong experience.



This is a female character that would just by her "presence" convince me to buy a sequel.

Anthony Charles
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100 comments w00t! someone lock this thread before it gets out of hand.

Sean Kiley
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Justin is right, most women in games are what guys wish women were, not real women. Also, my wife likes playing guys in action games, not girls. Go figure.



Maybe if a woman character is driving, the car would be harder to drive?.... thats a joke..... sort of...

DanielThomas MacInnes
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If you want to appeal to the female gamer, then you need to make the kind of videogames they would like to play. It's as simple as that. "Hardcore" games that consist of steroid freaks with guns, playing out male power fantasies, will not sell to women. It has never happened anytime in the past 30 years, and it's not about to happen now. Girls were not interested in playing Defender or Robotron. They were interested in playing Pac-Man and Tetris.



Has nobody at Gamasutra noticed the new paradigm of Social Games? Heck, this movement is built upon feminine values. The major players are Nintendo, Facebook, Apple, the rise of smart phones, the rise of exercise games, the rise of motion-control dance games. The feminine values define this paradigm, not the masculine values of power and dominance and aggressive competition. Those tend to be the values of the old paradigm, the Cinematic Game.



The Social Game emphasizes the video game as play -- "We Play," get it? This paradigm is about teamwork, cooperation, bringing people together. It is the child of the Classic Arcade Game, much as the Cinematic Game is the child of the Home Computer Game. In a sense, we're really witnessing the next generation of the video and computer games of the 1980s.



I use "paradigm" in the Thomas Kuhn sense ("The Structure of Scientific Revolutions") because these really appear to be different worlds. The "hardcore" gamers who flock to Cinematic Games are baffled and frustrated by the Social Games, and all these strange, new "casual" gamers. And it's the same from the other side, especially the female gamers. It's almost a difference of language. These are two separate evolutionary lines from the same common birth.



Anyway, I don't mean to ramble. This is just my theory-in-progress. Feel free to drive it around the block if you wish.

Ofer Rubinstein
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@Malte

I don't agree their policy is evil and the fact activision hide their policy does not mean they think it's evil. You can't have a policy that will make everyone happy, in regards of the content people are showen. But let's say you can.

If you have a solid proof that games with female lead can be profitable as much as other games then you can be a very rich man. What better proof is than to make a game with a female lead that makes a lot of money?

All you have to do is take huge loans, or interest investors in your idea, because hey, you have a proof and surely you won't try to convince others to do something you are too unsure of the risk doing it yourself.

Owain abArawn
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@Malte

"Most action heroes aren't your typical male. They are very atypical males."



Heroes, by definition, are atypical, however. And historically speaking, most heroes have been men. Not exclusively, to be sure. Joan of Arc comes to mind, and I'm sure many others could be suggested, from Annie Oakely to Amelia Aerhart, but particulary if you are talking combat heroes, which are very well represented in gaming, that is very rare, mostly due to simple physical differences between men and women.



Interestingly enough, women are currently well represented in my particular area of interest, combat aviation, mostly because physical brawn is of little or no importance in the cockpit.



Since heroes are atypical, and people in general aspire to emulate those who are atypically successful, regardless of the area of achievement, it is not surprising than men in particular are attracted to the heroic figure, which typically has been a male.



That, I think, is more cultural than anything else, and games do tend to be a reflection of our culture, for good or bad.

Jeremy Reaban
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Besides missing out on Social games, Gamasutra has largely missed out on casual PC gaming (like Bigfishgames). Most of the protagonists of those games are female.



And beyond that, in the adventure game genre, look at how female orientated games have dominated - something like 30 Nancy Drew games compared to I think 2-3 Hardy Boys games.



I think this article has a point, but it's focusing too narrowly on one aspect of the industry (blockbuster console games) rather than as a whole.

First Last
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This is what's exactly the problem. Precisely because we're differentiating between men and women. If it didn't matter to the player(choosing male or female character), and just playing the game, with the same outcome regardless of male or female choice, who cares? You'll just pick whoever you like the looks of better, or identify more with, and just play.



Think about why WoW is so successful with the ladies. Maybe exactly for the reasons stated above?

Jeff Beaudoin
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@Malte

That is a good point, about action stars being atypical males, thanks for bringing it up. I think every character in media is atypical in some way, otherwise it wouldn't be entertaining. But, even so, action stars usually embody male traits taken to their extremes. Most men I know don't solve their problems with violence, but they are much more confrontational, in general, than women.



My main point is that the portrayal of men in action films is the "classic" or "ideal" man. Which I doubt is the goal of most women who want more representation. It holds for action games as well. Are there any women who want to be Marcia Phoenix or Collette Train? Probably very few. Are there women who want to be like Jade from Beyond Good and Evil or IDon'tRememberHerName from Eternal Darkness? Surely. The latter two games stray farther from the pure action genre than Gears of War, for instance, and I don't think it is a coincidence.

kantu barr
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at the end of the day Activision provides a service to a consumer. It's that simple they make games. If you don't like the games, don't buy them. If you don't like how the games are made, don't buy them. However if you don't like how the games are made or the content of the games should you say something about it? i think yes. While not including females as a lead roles in their games may rub someone the wrong way, or the reason why they don't might rub someone the wrong way and may not be the smoking gun of a story as some other company using sweatshops to get work done, it is still someones job to report on what the company is doing and allowing all the consumers the opportunity to make a educated decision before they decide to buy the products.

Ara Shirinian
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The irony of all of this is that nobody has the means to honestly show that the presence of a male lead character vs. a female does in fact appreciably impact sales in general. This is a bit like attributing rising climate temperatures to the decrease of pirates at sea.



I'm sure these types of decisions are made in good faith, insofar as they really do believe they are doing their best to maximize their profits. In the absence of really understanding what could be compelling about a game, they are resigned to mimic their personal favorite features of other bestselling games.



Let's make money. I love making money. Why did we choose _this_ business to make money in? Why am I here doing this instead of manufacturing toilet paper or hula hoops?



At some point one has to ask and answer, when is a design decision worthwhile enough to be driven by some value besides the prospect of making more money?

Bart Stewart
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I didn't think I was going to post on a hot button subject where most folks already have their minds firmly made up, thank you. But there's a perspective I haven't seen mentioned which might be worth including in this conversation.



Leigh's article initially struck me as being good investigative journalism. Her disclosure of having been on a GDC panel on "the importance of diversity in games" rang a warning bell, though. I thought the disclosure was appropriate when the subject was perceived group-identity underrepresentation in games -- but what did that subject have to do with the story of Activision suits interfering with creative decision-making?



The "alternatives to white, masculine protagonists" comment was what disappointed me most. At that point the story veered from straight reporting on Activision's business practices into political advocacy. This called the whole piece into question. Was this a story that was covered by the writer just like any other story on how games really get made? Or was there something personal about it? Why wasn't this story focused on the larger and arguably more important issue of executives using their power to dictate creative choices instead of letting actual game designers do their job?



This wasn't a bad story. Allegations that some Activision suits appeared sexist would be worth a brief report. I'd also enjoy reading a clearly identified *opinion* piece on sexual/racial representations in games.



The problem (as I see it) is that these opinions weren't presented separately from the facts. The personal "should" of some developers and journalists ("there should be more female protagonists") was allowed to be hitched to the factual "is" of the real story, leading people to miss that story behind the more contentious political editorializing.



I believe this piece would have been much more powerful had an editor asked for a version with less sexual-political opinion (which would be appropriate as a separate piece) and more effort exposing the bigger factual story of the frequency and degree to which executives meddle in game design.

Christopher Enderle
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Full disclosure: I'm invested in ATVI too.

It's really frustrating to hear how poorly they're running their focus tests. It's good to focus test, to focust test often, and to focus test various people, but if the tests aren't carried out properly, or if they draw the wrong conclusions from those tests ("Well, only 2 out of 10 liked the game, but those two were the only guys, so 100% of guys liked our game! Ship it!") then there's a big problem.



Thank god Blizzard's designers don't have to follow this type of idiotic management.



Also N'thing Trent's first comment.

David Baker
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@Meredith Thanks so much for the thought and energy you put into this thread. You made the comments worth reading, which is REALLY saying something.

Alvaro Gonzalez
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Reading all this post make my Milanesa (food) get stuck on my throat!

The only important thing I could say about this article is: Please folks, we have to pull out some cash from our "game industry" pockets and pay to the "Source guy" a bodyguard asap.

Rebecca Richards
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There's something delightfully amusing to me, as a female gamer, to see how many men come storming into articles like this that question the lack of diversity in gaming protagonists. They will inevitably berate the author and any others who might also have the same questions for trying to "impose our views" or "get political", then claim the protagonist's gender "shouldn't matter".



Well then geniuses, if it doesn't matter so much, why do you get so defensive every time the subject comes up?



Here's another good question - how come when games with white guys don't sell, nobody ever goes "Well duh, it's because it's a white guy. We need to diversify!"? But if a game with a minority lead fails, the first thought is "Duh, it's because we should have put a white guy in it!"?



Think hard about these questions. The industry is never going to lose it's "boys club" rep as long as it sticks with its current status quo.

agostino priarolo
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mmm. some random examples of cool women in action that I have in mind:



Angelina Jolie in Wanted (and in general).

Sigourney Weaver (as already said) in Alien films.

Greek goddesses as you can read on all sorts of Greek tragedies.

Elektra (comics)

Mara Jade and Leila Organa (Star Wars)

Bayonetta (videogames)

Appleseed - Deunan Knute (Anime)

Hitchcock's films: 'The Birds', 'Psycho', 'Spellbound', 'Shadow of a Doubt', 'Marnie'

Notable female characters in Shakespeare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Shakespeare



I think the problem lies just in the people unable to write cool stories with cool ladies. Maybe the reason is that they just like (and love) men more than women, maybe.



There's no problem in watching women in action since they CAN be cool in just every aspect.

Benjamin Marchand
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Jeez, the jerk revelation seems to keep coming :



kotaku.com/5604926/how-activision-pissed-off-pro-paintballer-greg-hastings

Ernest Adams
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"Females are inferior to males"? Gosh, I think the last time I heard someone assert something so idiotic was in elementary school. Some fungi have 13 sexes. When you find out which one is inferior, do let us know.



Oh, and being an F4 fighter pilot with, doubtless, an enormous weenie qualifies you to discuss video game marketing and culture exactly how?



Attention dinosaurs: your day is done. Video games are expanding beyond anything your avian brains can encompass. Leigh Alexander is right on all counts and the companies that understand this will thrive, while those that don't will stagnate or go to the wall. Get used to it or get out.

Daniel Kaplan
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And just to let you know, our next game has a female in it and she is the main character! Ludosity's Mama & Son: Clean House http://ludosity.com/2010/08/mama-son-clean-house/

Charles Stuard
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@Daniel



While I think the concept is interesting, the lack of Niecy Nash, clutter, and overall foolishness made me a little sad.

Heitor Paola
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Great read, and I do hope that this is something that is more and more taken into account. I feel that we've been stuck into "videogame adolescence" for too long, the changes that everyone expected should already be here - and some of them would involve more diversity in characters, while also being mature.



Something that I'm curios is, for women, which female game characters would they consider to be like real women. Beucase most of the time, they end up just being men with breasts or, like it was pointed in the text, "a seventh-grader's fantasy". Still, this will never change if developers can't even create games with female leads.

Jonathan Gilmore
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@Bart

All of your points are well taken. This piece combined a few different angles and facts that were thinly sourced (and probably weren't able to be fleshed out into a single more coherent article) into an editorial. It's impossible to know how seriously to take any of it, and I was genuinely surprised that Activision responded at all.



Especially in light of the insane amount of knee jerk, glib and heated responses it seems more like it was intended to stir the pot rather than shed any real light about what is going on at big, bad Activision.

Brandon Shorter
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Well gonna comment here , I do research into story telling and gender across culture and primarily anthropology study of society where male and female power was more balance(Yeah they do exist not ever culture in the world is partiarchy that's a myth same with the idea of the Cave man and evolutionary biology wiring males to dominate females ) . I was reading something that came across as rel event to this discussion . It was in a book comparing Anglo-Saxon Fairy Tales and Modern day Anglo Saxon mythology to the Aborginess tribes of the Central Western Desert who have maintained independent myths and system even after contact with Colonalist . http://www.amazon.com/Narrative-Social-Practice-Anglo-western-Aus
tralian/dp/3110181371 . I Glanced at some preview pages of the book on Google . Essentially if what I read is correct Protagonist in Western Story telling is a Task oriented individual who goes out and conquer the world through individual achievement((The concept of a protagonist is not universal ,it's what we consider a good story in America or Upper Europe) . This is signified as a Male Gender Role in Western Culture , and a Female Role are depicted quite opposite even by woman creating stories . In The Western gender role woman to be described powerless without the help of the community .



This is not about which role is Superior or inferior or what leads to gender oppression . It depends on the social value of the society . In Culture that value the community the Western female role might be consider far more valuable than the Western gender male role . But in the West we stress individuality and surviving on your own which defaults to male , and most games particular blockbuster narratives are always center on a person going out and conquering the world through individual achievement .



Blockbuster Core games are described both in there structure and how there marketed as individuals going out into combat , Hence the publisher defaults to a male . I am gonna guess given the Japanese lack of value on individuality or different value for individuality there gender system is very different .Hence the overlap of a protagonist supporting the group and being weaken without the support of the group or why japanese heroes are gender (Female or esmasculate in comparison to the heroes such as Master chief )



Compared to Mass Effect where I can get my entire squad killed and still make it till the next game by the strength of the individual alone .Which granted is fun as hell for me , but get gender "Male " hence people default to male characters .Bio ware guilty of that to , even though you can make a female character , look at the box there a crew cut bald space marine



Think these gender structure play a crucial role both in the reasoning behind casting female characters and why gaming is always labeled "Male" in contrast to "Female" Same deal with movies though .

Brandon Shorter
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http://www.amazon.com/Narrative-Social-Practice-Anglo-western-Aus
tralian/dp/3110

181371

Brandon Shorter
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In light of that you can't completely blame the company it not a simple matter of marketing and the media being evil . If Protagonist is default label male . There little gaming company or video game developer can do to change that perspective pretty sure some progressive folks can try ,but it an uphill battle for sure , same with other controversial thing such as Race or trying to make American stop overacting to any site of sexuality or cleavage.



. Same way we get the social divide between chick flick and action flicks (Recently saw an article about how Angelina jolie crossed the gender line and woman viewer can't imagine her playing romance comedy it to unbelievable ,She is defined by the masculine Action heroine. ) .. This all runs deep deep into the subconscious of the culture of both man and woman . Think Leigh demonstrated in her other article on kotaku on how she felt compelled to pick female choices and make the character conform to the idealized Anglo-Saxon female roles , even with full freedom to develop her character personality. Pretty sure that plays a lot into are stereotypes and drive business marketing logic . How The Wii Is more "Feminine " and the Xbox and PS3 are more "Masculine" the symbols and culture and gender roles associated with the systems . Task oriented technological individualist PS3 and Xbox , vs inferior social networking community friendly female wii for my girlfriend.

Isaiah Taylor
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@Owain



"Heroes, by definition, are atypical, however. And historically speaking, most heroes have been men. Not exclusively, to be sure. Joan of Arc comes to mind, and I'm sure many others could be suggested, from Annie Oakely to Amelia Aerhart, but particulary if you are talking combat heroes, which are very well represented in gaming, that is very rare, mostly due to simple physical differences between men and women."



-It also helps that the 'heroes' were spawned out of organizations that traditionally only accepted men. Its unfortunate that an educated man, such as yourself, has hindered primitive thinking.



-It also unfortunate that because of primitive thinking practices that I'm assuming Activision engages in, will prevent the company from being taken seriously as game makers as oppose to its business savvy. Speaking of that, can we have the Bobs come in and tell them how these next Guitar Heroes are going to sell?

Raymond Arnold
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Wow, this thread is depressing.



Dudes, if the world (and the individual companies comprising it) sn't making the games you want them to make... what recourse do you possibly have other that to TELL THEM TO MAKE THE KINDS OF GAMES YOU WANT?



I am a white heterosexual male. I want more games with female and minority characters. I talk about this as often as I can because most people don't even think about it.



I am not trying to "force" Activision to do anything. I'm not trying to impose a quota. I (and this article, and Meredith, and many others) write these things because if we didn't, the companies of the world would never stop to question their assumptions. By contrast, the whole point of the article is that Activision IS imposing a quota on their developers (forcing them to change characters to male).

J Benjamin Hollman
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Would all men in the thread please step back for a second and notice that in an article about the gender imbalance in games, in a thread of 130+ comments, there are only what, five women who have contributed to the discussion? And you're trying to argue that the gender divide in games is doing just dandy? Get your fucking heads out of the sand. Better yet, keep them down there so we don't have to listen to you.



And trying to put down gender equality discussion using non-sexist rationalizations ("I'm just being realistic", "Gender doesn't matter to me" "You shouldn't tell a company what to do") does not mean you are not a sexist. End of story. Try to take your little theories and philosophies and discuss them face-to-face with a real life woman, and see if she doesn't laugh in your face and punch you in the cock.



Hats off to Meredith for fighting the good fight.



And Ernest, you are my favorite.

Hanneke Debie
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My problem with the decision is not that the woman has been cut for marketing reasons. My problem is that the marketing reason is most likely an excuse, and a bad excuse too.



I have seen some bits of how the game industry works, and I know that the decision for a male or female lead is not always a rational one. There are a lot of 'frat boys' in the lead, who won't even entertain the idea of a woman as lead. It is too alien for them. They don't know how to handle or implement it. And i have the feeling that this is just one of those badly made decisions.



Luckily, there is something simple we can do to send out the message that this is not ok; not buy the game.

Chris OKeefe
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There have been a number of alarming comments left in this article, after skimming through. It boils down to those comfortable with a status quo, defensively trying to maintain it.



I'm a male who prefers to play female leads in games - given the opportunity, I always choose the female role. In part this is simply wishful thinking; in movies and books with female leads, the parts are written with a female point of view, and the result is often thoughtful and intriguing and it helps to break down gender roles and gender barriers because it offers a glimpse across the divide.



However in games, women are typically, almost universally(almost), portrayed from a male perspective. They're objects of fantasy, rather than real characters. Or alternatively, they're the optional 'secondary' lead for a part written primarily for a male(as in games like Mass Effect). The intent by developers when providing gender choices is often to attempt gender neutrality, but male bias is typically transparent and ingrained in the writing.



This is in part a problem across all games, regardless of the gender of the lead; the industry has a fixation on stereotypes in a way that compares better with comic strips than movies or books. The storytelling and gameplay in games is so rooted in male gender stereotyping that characters come off two dimensional. Men are portrayed unrealistically as well, but in such a way that it feeds into the egos of male gamers. Women are portrayed as sex objects and as victims to be saved for the same reason; to feed into the egos of male gamers.



I don't think this mindset is healthy for men, and if it's not healthy for men it's doubly unhealthy for women, who are continuously pigeonholed into stereotypes because many men, such as Bill Jones up there, are no longer capable of separating truth from reality when it comes to gender differences, thanks to the deluge of gender stereotyping that consumers are bombarded with on a daily basis.



In any case, I think there is a flaw in some of the reasoning regarding men and their dislike of games with female leads. I sizable majority of my male friends prefer playing female leads, even if they all have different reasons(some playing into the ego-feeding mechanism), and some because they have the intellectual capacity to enjoy empathizing with the opposite gender.

Katrina Johnson
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Hmm, over-muscled lacking in any personality 'male' leads sell action games; at what point during the game play is their being male even a point that's brought up? I've seen a number of these mainstream games and the fact is that there's either the fully-covering power armor which the player could be either and no one would know or care because their personality NEVER comes up or there's the fact that the apparently male lead could just as easily be a clone with the anatomical correctness of a Ken doll, seeing as how they don't ever do anything that suggests they're more than a machine designed to kill things. Sure, there's the occasional character vomiting up sexist dialogue... yippee, we get to play as a pre-pubescent child, that'll make for a regretable gaming experience (as if having to play alongside them in Xbox live isn't bad enough, even the offline play can make players hate that mentality).



But I've heard plenty of men and women complain about playing the stereotypes of male and female characters as well as not caring when the primary goal of a game is just to kill things indiscriminantly and no story is ever in the game.



Now, when it comes to a game where there is a story and the personality of a character actually makes a difference not only to the story's progression but also to the player's enjoyment of exploring the character's depths, that's when gender actually makes a difference in who or what the character is. Still, there've been a majority of complaints about having to play the stereotypes. Few people can relate to these psychotic retches that mainstream gaming companies spew upon the market. Yes, a lot of us (not just women gamers) have developed a habit of ignoring the characters just to see the mechanics, story, or other parts of game play that would still be around had we been playing with ambiguous stick figures.



I once rented a Tomb Raider game, coming to the realization that I couldn't stand that annoying bimbo, but I thoroughly enjoyed a demo for the fact that I could have "her" swan dive into concrete. If the character's gender is a point of focus in a game in any way, they'd better be believable, relatable, and interesting story as to why it's a focus, otherwise it defeats the point of interactive media. Just go rent/buy a movie, you'd be getting more out of staring at the character than purchasing a game and system just to stare at the characters.



Now, as far as Activision and it's practices, we'd have to have more details on exactly whom is being interviewed for their market research (as well as how) to be able to judge whether the bias is coincidental or being manipulated. The whole trend of 'everything pink' in games for girls puts off more than it seems to attract, if the shelves of completely untouched 'girls' games around here are any indication. Plus, laziness in design and production isn't just in the gaming industry, it's been abundant in all industries; so it's no surprise that there would be developers who would rather ride the masses of work done before and just try to keep the kill bots up and running, barely bothering to slap a different hairdo on the body-builder physique or tone it down a few kilos for a less gun and run title.

L A
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@Owain: "According to Wikipedia, here is a list of LGBT characters in film, radio, and TV fiction."



Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a list of straight characters, though. Maybe that is because it would be unimaginably long? Or maybe it's because heterosexuality is unmarked* in most (all?) of the cultures that have produced film, radio, and TV fiction.



*http://dglenn.dreamwidth.org/1588929.html

D Ortu
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As a female gamer myself I can only say one thing: women gamers should decide with their wallets and bring the cash elsewhere...maybe the industry would notice...

Khadyna R
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Amen!

Khadyna R
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Interesting that they mention "Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Assassin's Creed" in this article, for some of the reason they don't want a chick to be a lead. Yes they don't have a chick as the lead, but yes Halo at least acknowledge their female fan base, that believed or not, is growing and you can choose to be a girl. And Assassin Creed is announcing their new female character, that I totally love it. I like Assassin but for some reason, didn't feel into playing it as I was expecting, I think I know now why. Modern Warfare, should actually start adding female character choices at least, War is not anymore about big guys on the lose, it should reflect this generation that have female soldiers on the front too. And last not least, my favorite game of all so far, Borderlands... finally a pretty chick that does everything without having her bubs bounce in my screen, sexy, dangerous and cool. True Game! never listen that game before today..lolo.. and so far.. will not played it. I will post this in the gamerchick website too.


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