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Want interesting women in video games? There are binders full of them

Want interesting women in video games? There are binders full of them
November 6, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

November 6, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
More: Console/PC, Design, GDC Next

Jill Murray, narrative designer at Ubisoft Quebec, says there is very little excuse for the dearth of smartly-written women characters in games.

The Assassin's Creed: Liberation and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag writer took to the podium at GDC Next yesterday afternoon not to argue why diverse representation in games was important, but to illustrate how easily this could be achieved.

In a talk titled "Binders Full of Women: Diversifying Feminine Archetypes in Games," Murray listed off examples of women from history, current events and her own life, ranging from women Soviet pilots in World War II to Chinese empresses; Ethiopian entrepreneurs to Syrian snipers.

"Often in history you'll see women leaders and generals erased from the record, [but not all of them]," said Murray. "There is a simple trick to finding examples of awesome women: you type anything into Google and then add 'women' after it."

While Murray criticized the extent to which 'woman' is still used as a discrete category for characterization, she did note its effectiveness for research purposes. All of the women she profiled in her half-hour talk were the result of less than 60 seconds searching online.

"Imagine how much more you could find, with more time than I used," she suggested.

The point, Murray said, was not to provide her GDC Next audience with a cursory look at women in the armed forces, positions of government, or business. The point was that this was easy -- and so defending the scarcity of women protagonists on the premise of realism or lack of ready-to-hand examples through research only betrayed a certain laziness.

"This talk is less of a call to action and more of a look to the future," said Murray, "of a time when we will move beyond common archetypes and find new inspiration for a greater variety of games."

Further, Murray added: "Not only can we fix this oversight, but when we do it, it will be fun."

Murray has received accolades for her writing on Assassin's Creed: Liberation, which features as its protagonist the French Creole woman Aveline de Grandpre. Her most recently launched title is Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. She is reachable on Twitter at @codejill.

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