Recently over a Skype call, some of the staff and I discussed the role of female protagonists in games. This subject is always a touchy one, so with me not being a female I will tread lightly and be as respectful as possible. This piece is simply my professional opinion on what needs to happen to see a larger population of female protagonists. Currently we are seeing a slight increase in the number of pivotal females roles in our games, but do any of these characters set themselves apart in the big picture? Personally I would argue that female supporting characters have been coming further along more so than the star characters. There are a few reasons this could be happening so allow me to speculate. The stereotypical female portrayal in society is that they are the companions. Often times this translates to scenarios like Sheva Alomar in Resident Evil 5. Lets not forget that Sheva’s character was that of a leeching girlfriend who distracted attention from Chris. Maybe I’m the only one who saw her in that light, but I digress.
Next topic on the subject is clichés. Nine times out of ten when the protagonist is female they are written into a predictable, cliché role. The most recent example of this is the newer Tomb Raider. While I respect the efforts made by the writers to give her more empowerment, I just think the attempt fell flat. In essence the new Lara Croft is nothing more than Far Cry 3’s Jason Brody with different genitals. They both start off vulnerable and naïve, then situations occur that harden them, and that cycle continues until the game ends. If you haven’t discovered the problem here, it is the fact that game writers aren’t doing much to separate female protagonist from their male counterparts. Developers and writers will only please the core “girl-gamer” crowd (pardon the box I just created and put you in ladies) if they, not only create powerful female characters, but give them stories and backgrounds that are unlike the norm the men are use to. A similar comparison that can be made is Samus and Master Chief (bare with me people). If not for the reveal of Samus’ gender would many gamers assume she was indeed a she? The same applies to Master Chief. The developers and writers took away the mystery and told the gamers Samus is a chick and Master Chief is a dude. Had they not done that the gamer would have been left with the choice of establishing their identity. It’s safe to assume that females would have identified them both as a female, and vice versa for the guys.
So the protagonist thing is a problem, but one that should sort itself out in due time. What I feel needs to be done is to not all of a sudden over crowd the industry with female protagonists, but instead flood it with well developed female antagonists. That is the perfect place to start. What great hero doesn’t have an equally epic villain? There is a level of complexity that can be given to a female antagonist, which can pave the way to applying the same character development to the heroine. I’m not sure if the majority of you would agree with this approach, just think it over though. Like in real life, we all apply judgment to demographics this goes for games too. When one female protagonist is executed wrong by the game makers, it makes it harder for future ones to be embraced with open minds. I guess the blame falls more on the lack of creativity in the writing not so much the rest of the game surrounding the character. We as gamers are also responsible, men and women. Ladies I can sympathize with you all in this situation to an extent. There will come a time where the tables will turn; so I say to my fellows that we should prepare ourselves because things will get interesting when the ladies have a greater influence on this industry. What are your thoughts on what needs to happen to see equality for female protagonists?by