If the act of improving diversity in video games needs a motto, how about this: “I just don’t think that women should fight in bras on the battlefield.”
Paul Wedgwood, chief executive of games studio Splash Damage, was highlighting what he sees as absurd: women are sometimes portrayed in games ludicrously and inappropriately dressed for the situation they are in.
“We must not forget that we are entertainment,” he added.
“There’s nothing wrong with sexualising men or women, because that is called for in certain narratives and with certain casts.
“Just rarely is it necessary when someone is holding an AK-47.” ‘Splash Damage’ is an independent games studio that has traditionally worked on what are generally considered ‘masculine’ titles. Games like Doom, Wolfenstein and Gears of War.The studio were at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) to promote Dirty Bomb, a first-person shooter in which you take control of a large cast of mercenaries deployed to a London ravaged by severe radiation.It’s a game that is being complimented on its portrayal of women.
They’re strong. They’re fearsome. They’re diverse. And they’re dressed… here’s the breakthrough… like soldiers.
Two years ago at this event, there was considerable uproar when it was revealed that the new Assassin’s Creed title would feature four playable male characters. Developer Ubisoft didn’t help the matter by saying that plans for a female character were shelved as developers would have to “re-do a lot of animation”.
From a purely numbers perspective, there are less playable female characters within games at this years E3. From a slightly different perspective though, more of Sony’s and Microsoft’s headline games feature female characters.Recore (Xbox One) features a heroine who calls upon several robotic sidekicks – named Mack, Seth and Duncan to explore a mysterious, isolated world.In Horizon: New Dawn (PlayStation 4), you play Aloy. She finds herself up against dinosaur-like robots with not much more than a bow, arrow and knife.
And Mass Effect: Andromeda (cross platform) appears to have a female character as the default, though you can play as a male if you wish. This is a little different from the others, as you have always had the option to play as a female in the franchise, but the male option has always appeared in the marketing activity whereas the female has not appeared in any. But do people careI have always had an opinion when I am playing a game, that I am not that immersed within the character. A great story can be told by being able to relate to the character. I don’t have to agree with the choices that they make, or being able to have their life choices aligned directly with my own.
What I am suggesting is that when I play Uncharted 4, I am not relating to an international treasure seeker in his 40, with a wife. I am none of those things. No-one is tricking my brain into believing that I could free climb like him, or that I would be as proficient with any gun I would happen to stumble upon.
The nature of the character does not really concern the average player. The thought that I may be playing as a female is not even a thing on my mind. I, like many others, will adopt the beliefs and skills of whomever they play.
This leads me to my conclusion. Strong characters are the future of story. You may as well flip a coin if it is not relevant to the story. Anything that takes me out of the game is going to be a negative. If I have started to think “why is she in tiny clothes” then you have taken me out of the game, and failed to achieve what you are attempting to do.
There is nothing worse than being reminded you are playing a game, or watching the a film when you are enjoying it. The game itself is the last thing that should be doing that to you in my opinion.