Game Characters: Female

February 5, 2011

A few days ago, I made the mistake of asking people on twitter what their opinion was of girl gamers. Mostly because I witnessed an onslaught of upset gamers who were strongly for the equality of gamers. This is a good thing because it means change in our community, but this would only be progress if it meant a switch from slutty/dependent female characters to strong willed/respectable ones. Whether they’re dressed in a sexual way, or they’re simply just a princess trapped in a castle, I would identify these as wimpettes. Now, this doesn’t represent every female in every game, but it does mean a good portion of it. Here are some examples of wimpettes:

(Above: Wet Girl, Ivy, Peach, Tomb Raider, Dead or Alive Girls)

I could probably find plenty of other characters that fit the description above, but you get the idea. What I find interesting is the demographics of both console and computers games from 2010. Last year, the “Entertainment Software Association“released the “2010 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry“. Inside, they state that “Females take up %40 of Game Players”, and that “Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33%) than boys age 17 or younger (20%)”.

This leads me to wonder why female characters aren’t developing enough. I don’t know what the gender ratio in game studios are, but it should be increasing like their consumers. If they want to please a greater market, then they should consider what female gamers enjoy. Just like other forms of entertainment, woman enjoy action movies, heavy metal music, or american football. Deciding on what they like based on certain norms in society just make them ignorant. They can mean more to the player, and not just as an object to look at. Even when female gamers go online, they are even harassed by mostly male gamers. Male characters can go the same way by showing off extreme manliness. This isn’t just a one gender battle.

The deeper question is how far characters in general can go with video games?*

Let me know what you think in the comment section below, give me some examples of female characters that show great depth!

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One Response to “Game Characters: Female”

  1. Those of us going into the industry just need to be smarter in general in relation to our characters, especially our female ones.

    I find this is a good exercise: if you’re creating a character and find that it is male by default, just go ahead and make it female. Keep the clothing style essentially the same, and for good measure, try to match the body type of the male version (not to look manly, but that, for example, if your character was stocky, keep it that way). By making male or female no big deal, I think we can come to stop over-sexualizing our characters. The same could generally be said for characters and ethnicity too: if you find you are making a character caucasian by default, go ahead and change that without changing who the character is.

    We need more diversity in games, and more importantly, we need diverse characters that are not defined solely by what makes them “diverse”. The character should not be a “female character”, for example, but a “character who happens to be female”.

    Of course things change if, in your game, sexuality is important, but that is kind of a different topic.

    Examples of good female game characters I’ve encountered:
    > Jade (Beyond Good & Evil)
    > Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2)
    > Samus (Metroid series, but not including Metroid: Other M)
    > Kid (Chrono Cross) (her clothing may be somewhat skimpier than ideal, but her character is a great one)
    > The Boss (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
    > Faith (Mirror’s Edge) (Not really in terms of her character itself, but her design is a good one)
    > Chell (Portal) (Doesn’t really have a personality since she is the silent protagonist, but her design is also a good one)
    > Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series) (The female version, of course. An improvement over the male version, in my opinion)

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