There's always lot's of talk about the under-representation of women and female protagonists in gaming, but is it the main issue we should be discussing? APB's Sam argues otherwise.
Yep. I feel like we're paying too much attention to social stuff that often sparks debates and controversy. We need to judge whether or not said characters are a great addition to their games, whether or not they bring something dynamic or interesting. Not whether they are a specific race or gender.
static....well said. i feel the same way
To me, race or gender only matters if its story or setting specific or relevant. For example, GTA: San Andreas only works with a black male character because its story revolved around fictional black gangs in a west coast state. But, generally speaking, a good storyline can be catered to fit almost any race or gender.
I never even think about it to be honest. I don't understand why it matters.
"I don't understand why it matters." It doesn't matter until someone says it matters. As I've explained in the past, the people pointing it out are typically the sexist / racist / whatever people. Most people don't look at Mario and think he is saving Princess Peach by some ego driven conquest to reclaim his property because he is male and she is female, they look at it as a lazy justification to have a new adventure and fight bowser. The same is true for a lot of games, media and such. There isn't always negative connotations for why whatever thing happens. Sometimes XYZ feels for ABC reason (suited their story, matched their theme, plot demanded it) and these concepts never entered their mind. So bringing it up, doesn't always mean that there is something to bring up. Furthermore, what these people are fighting for isn't acceptance, but tolerance. You don't gain anything by forcing people to mimic Captain Planet (kids of different genders and races working together to save the world), because the world doesn't work that way. You shouldn't instantly accept an Asian Woman, simply because you don't have one, just like you shouldn't reject a White Male, because you got too many of them. It's all counter productive and these people could instead of looking for problems, simply search for solutions.
Isn't it better to not signify someone based on their gender? Isn't a good way to create equally respectful representations of protagonists in any medium to ignore those differences and judge them based on the quality of their personality and character instead?
Isn't it better to just enjoy the game and stop worrying about equality in a fictional world that doesn't apply to the real world?
I'm sorry, but judging from your comments on this issue, you seem to think that the world of media is completely separate from reality. That's not how art of any medium works. The things that people create in literature, paintings, sculptures, film, television, music and games are not made in a realm that is unconnected from reality. Picasso created Guernica to show the damage of war in protest. Paul Simon contributed to ending apartheid in South Africa with African-inspired music. Art has physical effects and it is linked to reality. Do I think gender representation in games is something that needs to be addressed like this? No, I already said that doesn't. But I do firmly believe that art in media has an effect on the real world.
The world of media IS separate from reality. A specific work may comment on reality, but it ISN'T reality. No game, no character in a game, and no representation of a gender has any impact on the real world or any person in the real world UNLESS THEY CHOOSE TO LET IT HAVE AN IMPACT. You seem to think that a game like Mario can make people actually think women are stupid and will never be able to take care of themselves if kidnapped. NO ONE THINKS THAT. Art doesn't have physical effects. It has the ability, if specifically designed to do so, to impact emotionally and that's all. Any physical effect comes from a choice made by the individual, not born from a game or a painting or a song. To say that art has an effect on the real world is to say that gaming can cause violence and school shootings. If you truly believe that, then wow...
So humans are strong enough to create something important through games, but (when applied to the examples I showed) they're weak enough to succumb to its influence? That means that the art is overpowering the creator AND its audience? That doesn't make any sense. And even under your logic, you still haven't disproven my point: that the art DID SOMETHING. It caused an emotional response which contributed to that physical effect. The fact that there was a physical and recordable effect means that these realms are not exclusionary. They are in fact connected. I'm just following your lead, man. I'm deriving this comment's content from what you yourself provided.
That's right, it doesn't make sense, because that's not what I said. Look, I'm just going to break it down as simply as I can. The idea that art in media impacts reality is to make the claim that art, or in this case games, has the capacity to be the direct cause of violence, sexism, murder, etc... Studies have already proven that to be false. Your logic, funnily enough, is a better descriptor of that being "weak enough to succumb to it" problem than mine is. The idea that media impacts life is the idea that humanity has no control over their emotions, or their actions, when experiencing a form of art if we go by that logic. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. You will never find a person who plays a game with an allegedly poor representation of women who then mistreats women because of said game. You will never find a person who will shoot up some location filled with people because they were driven to do it by a video game. That's just science. Individuals who do these things have preexisting mental issues and would have committed these acts regardless. Emotional impacts resultant from media are purely transference and empathy.
Look, man, if you don't agree with me, that's fine. That's the point of a discussion, but when you start throwing out the insults, that's where the whole side of the argument starts to come apart. Please don't start name-calling just because you disagree with my views. If you really think that your view is 100% right all the time, fine, but at least have the courtesy to be respectful in a discussion. "Direct cause"? I did not say direct cause. Direct cause is a derived method of science, saying this causes this, which causes this. That's how scientific laws are developed; the result was common enough to be accepted as law. I did not say that art will always affect something the same way every time. I did say that media can do something in reality. If games didn't do something, whether it's significant or not, there would be no point in playing. Without the games, the empathy can't exist, since you aren't empathizing with anything; it's non-existent empty space. Once again, there's a connection with games. Enjoying a game is an effect. You are performing an action in response to the game's content. There's a connection between you and the game. If you could get the same personal reaction without the game, then why have the game at all? The point is that the game affects you. The game has meaning and agency. It did something. That's the point that I'm making: that games can do something.
Depends of the subject matter. Take games like Catherine. It would not have been possible if the protagonist was a woman. Slight spoilers: The pregnancy bomb. That part of the story can only really work with characters of specific genders. But for some games it's not important: Lara Croft or Nathan Drake are pretty much interchangeable if you ask me. Same for say, Lightning and Cloud, or Dante and Bayonetta. What I mean is: If the goal of you're game is a story in which gender plays a role, give some thought about how you represent those. If it's not important, go crazy and have fun.
Most if us aren't . Attention-seekers mention it all the time just to get article hits. The arrogance of people telling us that our opinion is wrong and we need to change is unbelievable. Those people need to get off their high horses and realise that more often than not, they're preaching to the choir. Generally, the demographic of the main protagonists will reflect te demographics of the user base, which is natural, given we generally all want to play someone who looks somewhat like ourselves. It's not sexist, but natural for this to happen (is it sexist that women like to read novels with female protagonists?). Anyway, I don't want to drag on and become a hypocrite, as I believe I've made my point. The fact most protagonists are male isn't sexist, but natural given the makeup of the player-base. Expect this to change if the number of female gamers playing "hardcore" games surges for whatever reason.
Wait, bit confused here. The article states it's against putting females as main protagonist for the sake of social justice - which I agree. However... You just made two critical contradictions in your statement. You say demographic reflect the main protagonist, but nearly half of gamers are women - which the article stated. Then why most protagonist are male, or are they? The other contradiction, you stated below, that characters should relate to the user base - which are white males - but the whole point of the article was to show that pulling a certain sex/race/nationality for the sake of whatever is a bad idea in general, that includes white males. We should base a character on whether it fits the role. What you're saying is that every character should be white American males because the main demographic (proven false) is white American males. Yes, you're a hypocrite.
Yes, half of gamers (roughly are women), but the vast majority of these play casual games. A more useful measure would be the demographics of how many women play console or PC games (excluding Nintendo Wii) and then also multiplying this by the average amount of money they spend (given we live in a fair, capitalist society - committed gamers spend more money on their games). Also, while I do accept the argument about "fitting the setting", this only really applies to games with a strong emphasis on story, and niches. If a setting has not been done much (Freedom Cry could only be done with Adewale) then yes, use a woman or minority for the story. Even then, people still relate more to a character of their gender (which is why, as I say on another post, most women prefer to read novels with a female protagonist). People like to imagine theirselves as the main character, and the more they look like the player, the greater this immersion is.
I think the media shines the spotlight on it too often. Gamers for the most part don't give a f***.
I think people should just play rpg's games. They get a choice of a male/female protagonist.
Not in most of them. You're thinking the more open WRPGs.
Oblivian, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Dragon Dogma, Kingdom of Amular Reckoning etc
1 out of those 5 is a Japanese made rpg, the rest are WRPGs. You're using the kind of game I'm talking about. How many FF games let you have the choice hmm?
Yes, we are paying too much attention to gender. Gender is completely irrelevant on a base level when it comes to games. The only time gender matters is when it's strictly dependent on the story being told. That's it. If people NEED to play as a female character in order to feel good about themselves, or represented, then they have their own personal issues to deal with. If people NEED to harp on HOW a particular gender is represented in fictional worlds, then they aren't playing the games for the right reasons and also have personal issues to deal with. How people can get so invested in how a particular gender is represented in fiction is just beyond me. Since when do pixels being shown on a screen impact reality unless you let them?
"Since when do pixels being shown on a screen impact reality unless you let them?" But what about the script, the dialogue, the narrative? These are all things created by REAL people, and they all in their own way express a central theme or two. Most narratives are a meditation on life itself, how could they not be? All narratives take baggage from reality, and they certainly reproduce many things from that reality regardless of how alien those narratives might seem. The pixels take on a far greater influential power when combined with these other elements. There are certainly traces of reality in a game - if there weren't we wouldn't even understand the games; we'd have no frame of reference. The so-called reality you inhabit owes a lot of its existence to fiction. The very notion that sexism and racism are non-issues is perhaps one of these fictions. There is an objective reality beyond all this, but the one we currently live in is comprised of perhaps too much fiction for it to pass as such a thing. What games and a lot of other stuff need to do is to, in their own way, set us on the right course rather than re-asserting and reinforcing the same fantastical assumptions and preconceptions we've grown far too accustomed to. There can still be silly games concurrent to this, but right now, there needs to be a more concerted effort toward cultural responsibility and toward positive subversion. We've gotten too damn dumb and closed-minded.
There are waayy too many SJWs trying to perpetuate controversy where there is none.
Yeah I don't agree that we are paying too much attention to it seeing that no one seems to be rectifying the situation or really listening to what people are saying.It's the same thing about racial situations where people always complain that people bring race into things and think about race too much and yet the the things they complain about don't change in the least.It's the same as saying shut up just because you want the people who actually care just because you don't want to hear what they are saying or change the status quo. We constantly hear 'Race and gender DOESN'T matter' and yet no one makes any big changes to prove otherwise.It's like saying 'It doesn't matter what size of cake you eat and yet you keep grabbing the biggest piece.If it so doesn't matter then give me the biggest piece too? But everything remains the same and the people who actually want things to be different get shouted down by 'Stop talking about race and gender because it doesn't matter' and yet when we mention a female role in GTA people find a million excuses why not to do it many of them that make no sense or are stupid.and if you get to harsh about it people jump behind Samus and Lara Croft or the one or two minorities that played a minor role or a character in a game that wasn't really that relevant.You keep saying it doesn't matter but if you are not changing it or start complaining if anyone leans in that direction then it does matter.If it didn't then we should have minorities and women 50% or more of the time as main protagonists
Because it doesn't matter, that's why you keep hearing it. WHY do we need more [insert here] main characters? What intrinsic value does it have? I'd rather have a standard, boring looking brodude shooter that has a personality and actual character than a bland female one made just to please people that want one. If I was gay/female/whatever and a dev made the main character what I was because they felt like I needed it to relate or they didn't want to 'shun' a group I'd be offended at THAT, not at the MC being different from me. Making a black/female/gay character just for the sake of having one is, ironically, insensitive. A character's gender, race, or sexuality should not be the main 'selling point' of a character.
You see? That is exactly what I am talking about.you and everyone else are STILL talking about people as if you are doing it for the sake of it.That is the problem right there.you don't have different genders or races JUST for the sake it.That should not be your thinking.It should be natural to include these type of people in games without having to think about it too hard.No one except extremists should be bothered or insulted because the main character is gay or a woman or black.It's not insensitive.What is insensitive is the people who announce that fact as if it is part of a circus act or something.'The next character I have will be openly gay' as if that is some feat that you just accomplished or people like you who keep saying it doesn't matter and yet still are making excuses when ever people suggest we go in that direction. You should have no problem relating to another gender or race in this day and age.NO ONE has a problem relating to Lara Croft and yet people are always harping on about relating to a character.It should be natural by now to accept whatever gender or race in a game but it's not.People keep pretending that it is but it isn't and don't want to talk about it too much because they find it bothersome.It doesn't matter you keep saying but somehow the conversation always leans towards leaving them out or not being able to relate to them.So how does it not matter if people protest the moment you mention it or try to head in that direction.It was on N4G that just about everyone i talked to about GTA having a female protagonist jumped down my throat and made a million excuses why not to do it.Of course it doesn't matter and yet you refuse to let it change.That means it does matter or people wouldn't get so much up in arms about it every time you try to via for a different way of doing things.
Maybe because people don't want things to change. I certainly don't - I think the current situation is quite fair. And no you're very wrong here, and provide no basis for your answer. Everyone wants to play a game with a character they can relate to, ideally the same gender, nationality, race, hair colour etc. No, this isn't hateful, but just a simple psychological trait we hold. Women want to play as women, as they relate better, and men want to play men for the same reason. The main character in games is always going to be an avatar of sorts, and avatars only really work when they are similar in nature to their user. The method, therefore, for how to choose gender (among other details) of the main character is as follows (for "hardcore" games only): cash spent by demographic X/ total cash spent on "hardcore" games. Now this is fair, and also a rational method of doing things for devs. Your arbitrary figure of 50% has no logical value.
Yeah just because you don't want it to change doesn't mean the people who do should shut up about it.As a person you should have no problem relating with another PERSON.You are still talking ancient thinking.People relate to Lara Croft just fine.Her situation on the island was no different that how anyone else would feel in her situation.so that should be the norm but it isn't.People lie.It does matter.Or else you wouldn't be so reluctant to let it change.If it REALLY didn't matter then you guys wouldn't be here agreeing that it should stay the way it is and protest about people complaining that it should change.And why not 50%? Why not make it fair if it doesn't matter so much? It amazes me how people always do that.Say it doesn't matter what we do and yet want to still dictate what should be done without looking at the opposite views of other people.So if it doesn't matter so much then what was all that protesting about a female protagonist in GTA 5? Is that your concrete proof how gamers have evolved beyond caring about the differences?
Why not 70%? 90%? 100%? Look, I've given you a rational formula founded on logic for calculating how this should work. It is not "ancient thinking" to want to play someone like yourself but a natural emotion. I mean what next, are you going to say sex is "ancient thinking" and these days we should all abstain? I mean it is, but it is also part of our human nature. I'd actually say the real problem is vocal minorities like yourself punching above your weight. 95% of us clearly agree we pay too much attention to gender and just want a nauptural system where games which make right choices succeed and wrong fail. The problem for us is when that 5% badger on and companies for some ridiculous reason actually care, and change their ways at the expense of the 95%. You're not engaging with my argument here so I don't even know why I bothered to write this.
I think the majority of gamers would choose a female protagonist rather than a male. Agree=Female Male=Disagree
There might come a day when we can justify characters based on the demands of the narrative, but not yet. Too many narratives are comfort-zones for creators and writers. These are comfort-zone narratives that certainly contribute to a grander culture, and in turn to people's understandings of a whole range of things. When things begin to congeal as stereotypes and dogmas, subversion must occur. There are too many ingrained ideas in people's heads about race and gender that need to be shaken up. It's ignorant to think that no problems exist. Be it far-reaching assumptions about what's "natural" to a person of a certain gender or "race," or be it language that assumes there's something wrong with a term or word and therefore as suitable to be used as an expletive (gay, bastard etc. these things are pervasive across culture and need to be disturbed. Humans aren't nearly as different as our confused cultural discourses make us believe, but very few people actually know it. It's therefore imperative that our cultural output reflect this reality. Art and creative work doesn't necessarily have an obligation to reflect reality, but we're living in a time when so many people ARE so very divorced from reality - living in assumptions originating centuries ago. So it's important that people are prevented from becoming too complacent in those beliefs. Items of culture, like it or not, inform how we understand reality a great deal. Every little popular thing enters a general discourse, and when enough people like a thing, that thing acquires a kind of truth-value, even if it isn't true. These things don't just affect us on a surface level, they also reach us on a more sublimnal level in how they portray structural relationships that underpin most things - be they interpersonal relationships, gender roles, racial propensities, morality and so on so forth. The goal here is not racial or gendered supremacy or essentialism - none of this is about reversing a relationship of dominant and subjected. All it's about is restoring the humanity to the historically marginalized - it's about fostering an appreciation for the depth and variety of humanity that these people so obviously possess beyond the social roles and stereotypes imposed upon them by what is a history pretty much controlled by white males. The goal is not to establish a paradigm for women or a paradigm for black people etc. It's about exploding racial and gendered stereotypes. Culture and art are not somehow frivolous in this regard. Fiction has an enormous impact on reality, and the reality that so many people currently champion isn't exactly any different in that regard - it is in fact a great example of a reality that is more fiction than real.
To answer the question: No, we're not paying too much attention to gender. It might seem forced at first, but this is only because of the complacencies that have congealed within us. The first step is realizing how wrong we've been. The rest will come naturally. The goal is real human solidarity as well as promoting an understanding of the radically open nature of huamn beings. Right now this is kind of the duty of art. Only when people truly understand and internalize this fact can narrative demand justify any and all creative choices in a game. At such a point, narratives would naturally be more varied anyhow, and any instance of a character which might previously have been understood as racist, would be understood merely as another expression of life, rather than in terms of an ignorant stereotype. In other words, the player could look at such a character without thinking "derp this is what all black people are like and this game confirms my belief." Games and other cultural products cannot afford to be ignorant in this day and age. The comfort-zones that game narratives continually fall back on are becoming far too comfortable for all involved, which wouldn't be a problem were they not so ridiculously and suspiciously biased.
Hey brotherjackdude, if Master Chief got into a fight with sarah palmer who would win? The chief would. Because he's a man. All hail man. The Master Chief.
im tired of all this bullshit about gender issue in the gaming industry. The only reason why there is an issue is because of bloggers like patricia hernandez on kotaku and arthur gies on polygon run on a feminist agenda.
I dunno about "we," but some people are. Some people who have entirely too much influence for all the wrong reasons. Doesn't matter what gender any character in a game is, so long as the character works in the game. For some games, a male is the only thing that works in the sense of the story(See GTA, or try making Drake female, and watch how much of the game needs to be changed in order to make it work). For some games, a female character is the only thing that makes sense. And for some games, it doesn't matter. But there's this asinine push to include more female protagonists simply because there aren't enough(for some), rather than having a female lead when it fits the game. And that's not gonna get us anywhere.
You're absolutely right, it doesn't matter what gender a character is, or at least, it shouldn't matter. However, we're living in a time when it DOES matter, and it's very important that we address it. We're living in a time were so much media has a gender bias, such that it reinforces stereotypes and gendered roles. The more common a thing is across culture, the more its assumed to be true. If we don't encourage developers, they WILL keep creating narratives with a largely white male focus. That is complacency, it's not some sort of radical artistic statement. People need to go out of their way to be more inclusive in their narratives only because certain false assumptions will and have become naturalized in culture BECAUSE of the cultural artifacts within it. If we let people make creative decisions in this day and age based purely on the demands of the narrative, because of current historical conditions, we'll only sink further and further into stereotypes and ignorance. These are historically acquired comfort-zones that need to be destabilized. What's more important? Some bloke's little videogame project, or the wellbeing of humanity? It's importnat that those who have been historically marginalized be given a full, human voice. It's naive to think they already have. Like I said in a comment above, when true equality is actually achieved, justifying creative choices by narrative demand will be acceptable. In such a condition, there is no danger of stereotyping because the full depth and variety of humanity is undertand, not to mention it's solidarity as a species. Until these social conditions exist, it's just lazy and regressive to say "but it made sense fot the narrative." Most of the narratives that most people have grown accustomed to creating and consuming in this culture are of a dangerously limited range, and because they are accustomed to them, they will continue to produce them, getting us nowhere, and giving little to no voice to those who deserve a voice. These things need to be destabilized, and the whole range of possibilities needs to be highlighted. There are other factors in a social order which produce equality and inclusivity, but culture is among the most potent of them, and certainly isn't as inconsequential as you seem to think. Culture is kind of how we connect with others across the globe who we may never meet. If anything has the power to unite the human race, it's probably our creations which we enter in to culture. Artistic creations are centres of intense personal meaning for an artist or artists in ways that a shared currency or a trade agreement is not. And why would artists fall into stereotypical narratives if we allowed narrative demand justify all creative choices? Because of REAL and current inequalities and false assumptions, as well as ignorance and historical contingencies which have produced this society. These need to be addressed as much as possible. If you get bitter about it, the result will be negative, but if you recognize its necessity and how positive it all is, it'll all work out. Your negativity contributes to how you see these works that are making the effort to be more socially conscious. Try to see the positive side to it and have a little empathy for the historically marginalized.
"Try to see the positive side to it and have a little empathy for the historically marginalized." Try to understand you're talking to a young black male from the inner city whose seen and been a victim to marginalization all his life. And what negativity do you speak of? There's a difference between being negative and being critical of weak argumentative positions. Or should, say, white people complain about how there aren't enough white rappers and R&B artists, rather than understand that the makeup of the genres is reflective of the market to whom the music is catered? Do I get mad that there aren't more black people in sci-fi shows? I get the feeling half your comments were written to someone else entirely, because they have so little to do with what I said at all. Of course, it doesn't help that you've made assumptions about me based on your own preconceived notions. Assumptions which have led you to make some rather odd claims, and read rather interesting interpretations of what I said. Try going back and understanding you're speaking to a 29 year old black male in the South who's been accosted for fitting descriptions he didn't fit, and accused of things he's never even thought of doing. Who's seen the same things happen to family and friends regularly. Not trying to guilt trip you or anything, but you should do a bit better job of knowing your audience.
Those “radical” artists you seem to implicitly worship are largely people trapped in a very narrow and particular conception of the world. Without addressing quite clear narrative trends and biases across games and indeed other mediums, we run the risk of games being much the same as they have been (predominantly) for years: white male hero-protagonists / butchers given maximum relief by those narratives. This narrative preponderance is actually one proof among many that we haven’t even tried to engage with the marginalized people in society. If we actually knew them personally and were aware of their experiences, we’d realize they’re just as human as the rest of us, and just as worthy of getting a spotlight in a game. I can ask: “Why are heroes predominantly white?” and you can respond with “because the narrative demanded it.” But WHAT ARE these strange narratives we’re writing that constantly demand a white male protagonist? Why do these narratives we dream so seldom demand non-white or female heroes? Gay heroes, transsexual heroes? Why are white males seemingly our go to guys? Is that artistic? I don’t think it is. It reeks of creative stagnation and ambient, ignorant cultural preconceptions. What’s so special about the white male that we’re so inclined to exalt him so often in our narratives? Why do our narratives never “demand” other kinds of people? It’s quite clearly a cultural comfort-zone informed by a latent (or explicit) racism and sexism rather than some kind of radical artistic freedom of expression. You can’t fall back on the narrative demands as an excuse anymore, because it too reveals obvious problems.
Gamers are not, but developers are. And wrongly so.
N4G is a community of gamers posting and discussing the latest game news. It’s part of NewsBoiler, a network of social news sites covering today’s pop culture.