Female Characters in Games and Beyond
- Updated: March 20, 2013
Female characters in games seem to be the topic du jour in the news this week. First, we had Dontnod’s CEO Jean-Max Moris telling Penny Arcade that people had strange justifications for not wanting a female lead in Remember Me:
“By the time Remember Me was shown to prospective publishers, it was too late to change Nilin from a woman to a man, and this was enough to cause potential backers to abstain from publishing the game. ‘We had some that said, “Well, we don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed. You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that,”‘ Morris [sic] told the Report.
Even if Morris had changed Nilin to be male, that solution produced its own drama. ‘We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin’s private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy,’ Morris said. ‘We had people tell us, “You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.”‘
Morris chuckled. ‘I’m like, “If you think like that, there’s no way the medium’s going to mature,”’ he said. ‘There’s a level of immersion that you need to be at, but it’s not like your sexual orientation is being questioned by playing a game. I don’t know, that’s extremely weird to me.’”
I very much admire Moris and the team for pushing ahead with Nilin anyway. Remember Me has some powerful messages to convey and it’s good to see that Capcom are giving them support they want.
Elsewhere, on EA’s site BioWare writer Ann Lemay discussed the thought process behind the lead characters of Mass Effect’s Omega DLC:
“In all of my years in the videogame industry, this request process was the simplest and smoothest I’d ever gone through, particularly for the creation of a significant female character. There had already been a great deal of foundation work done by a lot of people at BioWare beforehand, when it came to the creation of a female turian.
With the budget set aside for Nyreen, everyone involved in her creation, from character concept to modelizing her to bringing her to life in game, threw themselves into the work with great enthusiasm and dedication. In doing this, we ended up with a DLC that, should the player choose to play as the female Commander Shepard, features a triumvirate of interesting, diverse, and powerful female characters. And it was never an issue.”
While the Omega chapter has its own problems (that I’ll get into when I finish writing that review), it’s plain from the outset that a lot of work was put into the history between Nyreen and Aria. This is no lesbian relationship designed purely for titillation.
And then I saw this TEDx talk from 15-year old Tavi Gevinson in April of last year, which neatly encapsulates why these things are important (at least, until the talk devolves into a plug for her website).
“Women are complicated, women are multi-faceted. Not because women are crazy but because people are crazy and women happen to be people…
…I was trying to reconcile all these differences that you’re told you can’t be when you’re growing up as a girl. You can’t be smart and pretty. You can’t be a feminist who’s also interested in fashion. You can’t care about clothes if it’s not for the sake of what other people, usually men, will think of you.”
(via Corvus Elrod)
Have you ever lost interest in a game or film because the lead character was female? Do you know anyone who has?