A Rant on Female Leads in Games

January 27, 2011 -

The Border House, a site dedicated to bringing equality to gaming for the disenfranchised and marginalized, reports on some interesting comments from Microsoft Game Studios' Tom Abernathy. In a recent rant, Abernathy laments the lack of female protagonists in games and says that by not serving female gamers companies are only serving half of their audiences. Abernathy worked on Halo: Reach, Destroy All Humans!, and The Saboteur.

Abernathy's rant on the subject:

"I’m tired of those of us who care in the game industry complaining that there aren’t enough female protagonists while those of them who make the money decisions keep responding, “Gee, we’d love to, but the market data is clear. They just won’t buy it.” I hear that from WOMEN in those money/marketing positions, too. And they say it while agreeing with the principle of the thing. Since when did it become okay to NOT do something we know is in best interests of our kids, just because our profits won’t be as obscene? I am all for obscene profits, but I want my daughter to see and play characters she can relate to. SHE wants that; nobody put it in her head.

I’ll freely admit, as sensitive a dude as I am, this didn’t become a concrete issue for me until I started seeing how much more excited my kid got when there was a girl onscreen she could identify with. She asks for “girl songs,” “girl movies” and “girl games.” Why shouldn’t she have that? I had that as a kid. She’s a consumer. We’ll buy it. I’ll MAKE it. We can’t be the only ones. I know we’re not. As I told @leighalexander for her article, I’m DYING to write more female protagonists. I do everything I can to make that happen.

I am less than successful. This angers me and, when I look at my little girl, breaks my heart. It’s not right. Forget the data. Scale down the budget accordingly if needed. We are not serving half our audience in the manner they want and deserve. Not good enough, gamemakers, dammit. Not good enough. Here endeth the lesson."

The Border House adds that game companies need to stop using excuses when it comes to strong female leads such as "it's too expensive," "it's too risky," or "it doesn't make good business sense."

Source: The Border House


Comments

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

 I highly doubt female protagonists will simply sell more to women.. sounds like a very short cited argument. A sample size of "her daughter" also isn't going to produce results which accurately measure consumer behaviour.

Besides, many AAA titles out there now let you choose your sex when playing, and I have not noticed or seen any results which show some substantial change in market behaviour for that.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

I think the complaint is mainly the lack of women in the development end of things, which isn't too suprising when you consider it is a math heavy field and women don't tend to gravitate toward math heavy fields on the whole, same with engineers and the like. If there are women who can do the work and enjoy it, then hardly anything is stopping them, but work as a code monkey is almost required to get a foot in the door in the industry unless you just make your own game with a small team and it catches on first.

"

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

I play games where the main character is some grotesquely muscled caricature of beefcake masculinity.  Doesn't bother me.  I play games where I am a squat, tubby little mustachioed man.  Doesn't bother me.  I play games where the main character is a woman.  Doesn't bother me.  These things don't bother me because they don't really matter.

So, keep on bitching about this if you want, ladies, but it's falling on deaf ears. Take games as they are, make games the way you want them to be, or quit.  I could respect any of those 3 choices, but not this self-entitled complaining.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

What "ladies" are you referring to? The complaining here is being done by Tom Abernathy, a man. The only "lady" complaining is his daughter, but hey, if you wanna talk smack about a little girl just because she'd like to see more girls in games, knock yourself out.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

When I said "ladies", I did so because I was addressing this whole tired argument, and the (mostly) women who make it, in general.  I guess I counted on people being able to put two and two together and realize "ladies" didn't refer to the specific man who wrote this particular article.  My bad?

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

by not serving female gamers companies are only serving half of their audiences.

Yeah...I'm pretty sure the genders for gamers aren't split 50-50.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

They're split 60/40. I'd say that's close enough to half.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

Ugh. I wish these people would stop trying to speak out for female gamers. As a female gamer myself, I don't want token women appearing in games when they add nothing to plot or gameplay.

Are they completely missing the plethora of games with powerful female characters, or if that doesn't satisfy, those where you can completely customise everything about your character and make your own choice? They are becoming more and more common and are pretty damn successful to boot. I've been playing games for a long time and I personally think the games industry has progressed and is progressing much more quickly on gender issues than many other mediums.

When female leads are made, the feminists just scream that they're oversexualised and horrible anyway. Make anything too girly and you're 'stereotyping'. It's small wonder the industry don't make any moves when they may be damned if they do, damnded if they don't.

I don't know. I certainly don't have anything against female leads (obviously) and if they're well-written instead of being a walking pair of breasts, even better. But maybe I'm not girly-girl enough to understand why a game isn't acceptable enough for a girl to play unless the lead character is also a girl. *shrug* True gender blindness is not paying attention to the genitalia of the character on your screen.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

Personally, I find it more than slightly insulting to see guys with huge muscles and huger guns adorning the box art of the titles in my game store, and knowing that some money guy at some publisher, somewhere, decided that I'm knuckleheaded enough that that must be what I actually want.

Maybe I'm an exception. But I doubt it. Even if I am, I don't think this minority is all that slender.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

Why Reach? The player can choose for Noble 6 to be female. If the argument against reach is "no female protagonists", why is Cat there? Or Halsey?

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

Reach has nothing to do with this other than the fact that the author worked on it.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

This is one of the reasons I'm excited for the forthcoming HD remake of Beyond Good & Evil.  Aside from it being a great game that was overlooked when it was released and deserving of a second chance.

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

Amen!

Re: A Rant on Female Leads in Games

It also shows short term thinking on the part of the executives..... 'the current market wants X, making Y wouldn't appeal to our X buyers and Y are not buying right now so why should we make stuff for them?'.  Very circular and short sighted.

 
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NeenekoAh, that old straw man. That is one of the ironies about the discussion, the whole point is showing how good people can still have problems with sexism and not realize it.09/17/2014 - 9:11pm
Andrew EisenYes, there have been a handful of op-eds suggesting that the term “gamer” has become tainted (two that I know of) but that’s the opinion of only a few. I've seen an equal number from those who disagree.09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenExcept, you haven't provided a single example of a site that’s actually calling gamers a "collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling Manchildren."09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
TechnogeekIf you want to make the stereotype of gamers less painful, try calling people out when they do bad shit rather than handwave it away as "not all gamers". Even if it is a few bad apples, that'll still more than enough to spoil the barrel.09/17/2014 - 8:53pm
quiknkoldI'm not going to Sell Gamergate anymore. It can sell itself. But I will sell the integrity of the Gamer. That we are still good people, who create and donate to charitys, Who engage with those around us and just want to have a good time.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldpeople should not be harrassed and punished for the actions of a few. I've always welcomed and accepted everybody who wanted to join in. Who wanted to make them, or play them. I love good strong female protagonists, and want more.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldOne of the tennants of Gamergate is to stand up against Harrassment. That Gamers arent like those assholes. We can argue for days if the Sexism or Antifeminism or corruption is there or not, But the one thing I believe in and wear on my sleave is that09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldBut there were these websites, attacking me and people like me, for the actions of a few. and then others joined in on Twitter and other places. there was a hashtag that said "explain in 4 words a gamer" and it made me sick.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldManchildren who are awful people and that the Identity of the Gamer should die. This hurt me personally. I've always identified as a Gamer. Even in my childhood years, I was a Gamer. All my friends are Gamers. Its one of the core parts of my identity.09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldUltimately, With the whole Gamergate thing, I jumped on it due to the harassment. A small number of assholes harrass Anita and Zoe, and then all the publications lumped together Gamers as this collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldEZacharyKnight : Lemme ask you a question. We have people who cling to walls, people who fire lasers from their eyes, people who can shapeshift....and yet fabric needs to be upheld to RL physics?09/17/2014 - 6:54pm
james_fudgebody paint?09/17/2014 - 5:33pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I stand corrected on the buttcrack thing. Still, I know of no fabric that actually does that.09/17/2014 - 5:05pm
Andrew EisenSo... it's unethical to discuss the ethics surrounding public interest vs. personal privacy?09/17/2014 - 4:45pm
prh99The source for the game was just released not long ago, it's at https://github.com/keendreams/keen09/17/2014 - 4:43pm
prh99An Indiegogo champagin bought the rights to the early 90's game Keen Dreams to make it open source and release it on GOG etc. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-get-keen-dreams-re-released-legally09/17/2014 - 4:42pm
james_fudgeAlso http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/09/17/Exposed-the-secret-mailing-list-of-the-gaming-journalism-elite09/17/2014 - 4:29pm
Andrew EisenI read the Kotaku story. Nowhere does it say anything close to "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers." It's commenting specifically on the crap being slung at people discussing gender issues in games. So, what's the problem?09/17/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenYeah, I can imagine Spiderwoman posed like in your second link.09/17/2014 - 4:00pm
Andrew EisenThat's not the same pose. Spiderman (who is wearing an actual outfit rather than body paint) is crouched low to the ground. Kinda like a spider! Spiderwoman has her butt up in the air like she's waiting to be mounted.09/17/2014 - 3:59pm
 

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