Saturday, May 25, 2019
GamingPop Culture

E3 Coverage: Women Make Small Progress in Video Games

The post-GamerGate gaming community who actually gives a damn about women gamers waited with bated breath, as we watched this year’s E3. The call for the inclusion of women in gaming has been an imperative of many of us who have advocated for more diversity in games in the last several years. We had hoped the gaming industry listened and realized that women are a core audience of gamers. As a part of the gaming disability community, anytime another minority group makes traction, it gives our community hope that one day we will also be included.

It didn’t take very long for gamers to realize that women have made some strides forward. There was no large fanfare announcing the women that make up the protagonists in a handful of new games, but by quietly showing female characters that are not only powerful but also playable, these game developers did something that gamers have been waiting for, for quite some time.

The thing I like about these women is that not all of them fit the traditional, big breasted, sex pot stereotypes. I have to say that I was stunned by the inclusion in Dishonored 2, of Emily Kaldwin, as a playable character. She represents a subset of powerful women, who can best be described as boyish or perhaps even butch. Initial thoughts were she might even be a feminine boy character, but needless to say I was quite happy to discover it was Emily, all grown up. She was the first female presented at the conference, but definitely not the last. Here are some of the women that are appearing in games, as announced at E3 2015, many of whom I cannot wait to play.

Emily Kaldwin – Dishonored 2

Headshot of Emily from Dishonored 2

I have to say that I am in love with this character! As someone who never felt like they fit traditional gender roles growing up, I absolutely adore the fact that Emily is not the cookie-cutter vision of a woman. Maybe she is gay or maybe she is not. We don’t even know if her sexuality will play a role in the story, but seeing a woman that doesn’t have to be decked out in heels, wearing a kickass suit, was a thrilling experience! This, right here is progress, and Bethesda made no qualms about how excellent a character she is.

Sure, you can also play as Corvo Attano, a pretty awesome protagonist in his own right, but I have a feeling that gamers will embrace and relish the opportunity to also play as Emily. You will get an entirely different experience, because Emily has the mark of the Outsider, and is said to have her own unique power set. Truthfully, watching her zip along rooftops made me long for a female protagonist in my favorite game series, Assassin’s Creed. I hoped Ubisoft would not disappoint me at their press conference. I knew that even if they did, I would embrace the character of Emily, but luckily, she was just the start of the female protagonists offered in games presented this year.

The story for Dishonored 2 should be entertaining, given Emily’s back story, which we know from the first game. She is the rightful heir, and should be the Empress, so why does she possess the mark of the Outsider? Given her skill set, which we see in the trailer, whatever her story is beyond the kidnapping is bound to be captivating enough to keep us playing.

Female Protagonist – Fallout 4

Female Protagonist in Make Character Screen

I have to disagree with the thought that having a female protagonist in lieu of a male is problematic. The game will be as violent as it is regardless of whether you play as a male or a female. If a man can play the protagonist, why can’t a female? I also like the fact that you can decide your race/ethnicity giving a much wider opportunity for inclusion. I don’t know if you can determine your body size or type, but this is one of the most inclusive games available at E3 2015. There is nothing supremely fancy about the way the female protagonist looks. I would not say she is gorgeous, so she does not fit the stereotype of the female video game caricature, which is a huge plus.

You only get to see the walk-through as the male protagonist, but we are hoping that we will get to see more of her as gameplay and videos emerge of the game. I think it’s rather exciting that Bethesda didn’t make a big deal about this inclusion, and the female has exactly the same skill set as the male protagonist, at least to my knowledge. This is the epitome of inclusive gaming when it comes to gender. There is no muss, no fuss. I wish all games were this inclusive. I think that there is a lot of potential being lost due to the lack of inclusion.

Whether or not this game is violent or not, it looks fun as hell! Playing a female will just add to the enjoyment for many gamers. Hopefully, other game developers will take the cue from Bethesda, and start including the option to play a female, in all their games.

Evie Frye – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Evi in Stealth mode, sneaking up on a  guard

It was not too long ago that the powers that be at Ubisoft said that it was too difficult to make women in Assassin’s Creed video games. What a difference a year makes. I have to say that this made my heart sing. This has to be one of my favorite series’ of all time, and I haven’t really found a hero quite as good as Ezio, but I think that I may have have finally found an assassin I can get behind again!

She is being described as more brutal than her twin brother, the male protagonist gamers can play, Jacob, and the trailer certainly shows that Evie has the ability to kick some major ass. If you can play with the same type of moves as we see in the trailer, I can’t imagine any gamer, male or female, who won’t want to play Evie, at least once. I like the fact that she has been an alluring a sense of mystery in the same way that Ezio seemed to embody. She isn’t a caricature of a woman or an assassin. She is believable as a kick ass protagonist. I just can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I wasn’t sure Ubisoft would come around, but they have, and now they just need to keep moving forward when it comes to diversity.

I really cannot tell you how in love I am with the fact that Evie is the first female main character in an Assassin’s Creed video game. Like the others, this Victorian born character, while gorgeous, is not the typical vision of a female in a video game. We’re used to seeing women used as objects or throwaway characters, and this release adds a new tone for what is possible in gaming, when it comes to women. I’m going to play the shit out of this game, when I get it, and we all know which character I am going to play!

Lara Croft – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara is covered in snow in Rise of the  Tomb Raider

It was Lara Croft who really broke the mold for the modern female game character. While some may say that she fits the traditional “hot” female action character, she really has toned down her look. I think she is more proportional and even a bit athletic looking in the previous title, which rebooted the series. I really enjoyed playing the character of Lara, as I thought it was one of the most terrific games. It had a lot of action, great weapons, a great storyline, and I never felt like the role of Lara was diminished because she was a female.

I have to say that I don’t understand why men are so hell-bent on not wanting to play female characters. I, personally, have no problem with it, because it’s just a game. Women have been playing male characters for as long as games have been made. I mean, you can plan Donkey Kong, but that doesn’t make you a gorilla. I just think the entire thing is ridiculous, so seeing how well the game did just shows that it doesn’t matter what your gender is. You can play as a female, still enjoy the game, and still have an enriching experience.

I have to say that I am really happy that Rise of the Tomb Raider seems to embrace the feel, look, and appeal of Tomb Raider. I truly felt that through the gameplay demo of the game, which premiered at the Xbox press conference, this title clearly is a continuation of the previous title. This game looks like high action, with a high level of stress, which was part of the enjoyment of the last title. I am also supremely glad I am an Xbox gamer, because I don’t know what I would do if I could not own this game.

Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloy  is aiming  her bow  in Horizon Zero Dawn

This has to be the biggest surprise of E3. Not only does this prominently feature a female protagonist, but this is a whole game, in a whole new game concept. Considering that E3 was a conference filled with sequels and there was not a huge amount of original titles from the big publishers, this game was a breath of fresh air. If you don’t already own a PlayStation 4, I highly suggest you consider getting one, just so that can play the game.

Horizon Zero Dawn is not only beautiful, but having a female protagonist adds so much value to it. Aloy actually reminds me quite a bit of Kaniehtiio Horn from Hemlock Grove. I actually wondered if she was the actress who was the model for the character. Set in an apocalyptic world, unlike the other games mentioned above, it looks like the only option you have is to play as Aloy. I don’t know why anyone would not want to, anyway. She has the coolest weapon, and she can clearly kick apocalyptic robot monster butt, as anyone can see from the trailer.

This is the kind of game that would make me convert to a Sony fan. Sony games have a way of being stunningly beautiful, and given that I felt that Microsoft was rather disappointing in the game arena this year, seeing this as the very first offering by Sony was a reminder why Sony tends to win the game competition, at least in sales.

Overall, there was a definite push to include more female characters in gaming, which certainly is not a bad trend. Characters like these just prove that women have a place in video games. We saw it with Lara Croft in the reboot of Tomb Raider, which was a tremendous success, and from that success other game developers have finally started listening to its female audience. However, that being said, there is still a long way to go. For war games, is is almost exclusively a man’s world. The Division appeared to have a female team member, but it is unclear whether she is a playable character, or who she is exactly. Most of the games involving soldiers feature all men, and there are not even women NPCs present. The vast majority of games shown at E3 still featured male protagonists (Sony, what were you thinking after showing someone as powerful as Aloy? Should she fill the entire void on her own?) This needs to change.

HONORABLE MENTION

I wanted to throw in an honorable mention to a character that is not only a woman, she is the likeness of Angela Bassett. White characters still overwhelm gaming significantly. So even though she does not appear to be a playable character, the addition of a character like Six is a welcome inclusion in games, and is a step in the right direction.

Six – Rainbow Six Siege

Headshot of Six in Rainbow Six Siege

Six is in charge of the Rainbow Six operation. She is the director who has the important role of dictating what the characters do. It is nice to see a woman in a position of power, at this level within a video game. Six is about as high as it gets. Aisha Tyler joked with Angela Bassett about how her character in Watchdogs had an untimely death, which is a common occurrence for female characters in video games. This does not appear to be the trajectory for Six, so let’s hope it remains that way.

Having seen all of the options for female characters in games, which game are you most excited for, and what character are you looking the most forward to playing? Leave a message with your thoughts in the comment section.

UPDATE: We left out the protagonist of the new Mirror’s Edge game, who looks to be female, and may be Faith. However, as one gamer pointed out, Sony debuted 22 new games. Only TWO featured female protagonists. Not very good odds.

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3 Comments

  1. Nice article. Women are slowly getting more recognition in games. With a market dominated by men and boys, the call for a female lead character is not really met. I know I’d much rather play a game as a male instead of a female. Why? Because, when you play, you want to feel as though you really are the character you are playing. This couldn’t happen if the main character was female. That’s just my opinion. Great post!

  2. Actually, men gamers dominate the video game world ONLY by a very slim margin. Men = 52% and women = 48%!

    And interestingly enough, the average video gamer age is 31. Also, there are more gamers over the age of 36 than between the ages of 18 – 35 OR under the age of 18.

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Dominick
Dominick is a director/filmmaker, activist, writer, advocate, FTM transman from the Midwest who lives in New York. Follow his film career and join his weekly Twitter chat on film and disability by following #FilmDis. He received his BFA in Film Production in 2014.