Guillaume de Fondaumiere, co-CEO of French-based developer Quantic Dream, tells Gamasutra in a new feature interview that Heavy Rain's female lead Madison has "quite a nice role" despite drawing some flack for being depicted as a stereotypical woman in peril.
"She's a strong character, to me. The very first scene, she's fighting against, I think, three guys, if I remember well -- it's in her nightmare, of course. She's quite clever. She is athletic. I think it's quite a nice role," says de Fondaumiere, when questioned about the portrayal of Madison Paige, the female lead of Heavy Rain.
Though the game features four different lead characters, Madison is the only woman of the group, and is at times depicted naked, or in her underwear (another main character, Ethan Mars, gets the same treatment). She is also frequently attacked by NPCs -- including in her introduction, in which she fights off several assailants in her underwear.
In another scene, after altering her attire to appear more sexy, she was first propositioned and then threatened with a gun by a club owner. The scene is disturbing, says de Fondaumiere, "because we want the player to feel uncomfortable -- and if you feel uncomfortable, it means that you're a normal person. You see what I mean?"
"But is there something shocking in this scene at the end? I'm sorry, no, there's nothing shocking," says de Fondaumiere.
He does agree that the depiction of sexual violence against women is a delicate topic. "Totally. But we're absolutely not endorsing it in any way. Or it's not an invitation to do that. On the contrary, it ends badly for Paco [the club owner], and at the end you felt proud of Madison, the girl."
That said, none of the other characters are pursued in their underwear. "That's true. But there is a reason why she's in her underwear in that apartment. She can't find sleep. She was basically in bed -- you understanding me? She was basically in bed. We didn't want to show in a particular sexist way, just for the sake of showing a butt, or a breast. For instance, when she goes into the shower, there's also a reason for that."
"We wanted to show, at the same time, that the character was strong but also fragile. Not because she's a woman, but that's the characterization of her. And I think she's a central character. If I compare it to other games, I think it's an interesting role for a female character."
The full interview, in which de Fondaumiere speaks extensively about censorship affecting the game's PEGI rating, and his overall views on censorship and ratings systems, is live now on Gamasutra.