Remember Me and the Female Touch
Posted on Friday, March 22 2013 @ 10:23:04 Eastern
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Why are there no female leads in gaming?
A strange question to ask after recently reviewing Tomb Raider, but it is a fair question considering that there are few female leads in gaming today. In fact, according to a report from Penny Arcade by Ben Kuchera back in November, only twenty-four.
Twenty-Four. These are games with a female-only protagonist, no choice in gender allowed here. Of course we can add Tomb Raider to the mix now, but that is still a small sample size considering the sample size of 699 games taken by Kuchera and Geoffery Zatkin, the Chief Operating Officer of EEDAR. EEDAR, by the way, is the data collection arm of the gaming industry, so they would know their stuff.
The results weren't pretty, with the two discovering the small number of games with female leads. What's worse, the data found correlates to another issue barely touched: the financial budgets of these games. According to Zatkin, "Games with a female-only protagonist, got half the spending of female optional, and only 40 percent of the marketing budget of male-led games. Less than that, actually." This is a major disadvantage for female lead video games, considering they tend to sell less than male-lead games, a differentiation of roughly 75%.
“I think that there is general feeling from marketing that it’s hard to sell a mass-market game that’s a female-only protagonist,” said Zatkin. "This may be changing greatly with mobile and social, where you’re expanding the audience, but in core console land, there’s a lot of marketing thought that it’s hard to sell a game with a female-only protagonist in a core genre. The question is, is this something that really doesn’t happen, or do marketing budgets get gimped?”
This may explain the story making the rounds today, regarding Capcom's new adventure title Remember Me. Starring the character Nilin and set in a dystopian future, creative director Jean-Alex Morris of Dontnod Entertainment discussed the problems they had securing a publisher for the cyberpunk title because of the gender of their protagonist. “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,'” said Morris.
But such a change in gender was just not feasible at this stage of the development. “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. I'm like, 'If you think like that, there's no way the medium's going to mature.'”
It is hopeful that Remember Me is just not another statistic in Kuchera's experiment, but the ball is now in Capcom's court regarding their budget and exposure of the title. Perhaps the trend is changing, after all the latest Tomb Raider was heavily marketed by Square Enix, but the star power of Lara Croft may have carried her a bit there. With such a small sample size of now twenty-five games with a female lead, it is still murky to say if their lack of success is self-fulfilling due to their marketing budgets though. But to actually start facilitating a change, perhaps the best course of action is to take a chance and, with the right amount of push, see what happens.
The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly Vox Pop competition. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick
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