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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

GR Showdown: Should Grand Theft Auto Have A Female Lead Protagonist?

Posted on Tuesday, September 17 @ 12:40:00 Eastern by GR_Staff

GR Showdown pits the Game Revolution staff against each other in a passionate debate on a particular hot-button gaming topic. Our self-imposed rules? There is no middle groundall must take a side. All debates will have an equal number of representative on both sides: either 1-on-1 or 2-on-2. And all our arguments must be made in 350 words or fewer; 500 or fewer, if it's 1-on-1. Which side are YOU on?
This Week's Topic: Should Grand Theft Auto Have A Female Lead Protagonist?

Nick Tan - YES: I imagine that the brunt of the charge against this call for a female lead protagonist in gaming, not only Grand Theft Auto V, is that it would be forced. It's the same viewpoint those hold against affirmative action in university acceptance policy, because it tarnishes meritocracy for the sake of diversity. Some would also say it's just the nature of the beast, given that game designers and market researchers understand that the majority of gamers are predominantly male. There is an inherent self-perpetuating cycle of female exclusion, in part due to the video game space being perceived as a generally masculine pursuit.

That's the argument presented by the developers of Grand Theft Auto V in a recent comment by Rockstar's Dan Houser that "being masculine was so key to the story." But this is an overly simple view: That man is masculine and woman is feminine, and that's the end of it. I would argue that a man acting "like a man" is not as masculine as a woman acting "like a man," because if a woman is to lead a gang typically comprised of men, she must show more grit and violent behavior as to eliminate the presumptions about her gender being weaker and less capable of leadership.

In this role, a woman would express masculine traits with more intensity, thereby highlighting what those masculine traits are. In other words, a male being masculine is by default, but a woman being masculine is by choice, and choices speak loudest when they are against the status quo. Casting a woman would also have more potential for drama and complexity, particularly for situations where she must be both a woman and a man in separate yet sometimes similar roles.

Now, it's understood that the main reason there are few female leads in gaming is due to businessmen peering through the data and concluding that female leads generally don't garner money. But the Grand Theft Auto series is grand and prolific enough that having a female protagonist wouldn't diminish its sales much so long as the gameplay and story remain solid. And for Grand Theft Auto V, which touts its cast of three protagonists, would seem to have been the best opportunity to do so. Alas, it's not to be, but that doesn't mean Grand Theft Auto VI couldn't, and casting a female lead in such a series would be a courageous statement (hopefully one that doesn't come with too many jiggling beasts and ass cheeks).

Anthony Severino - NO: Let me preface by saying that I have absolutely nothing against a female main protagonist in a video game. If anything, I’d like to see a lot more females in strong lead roles, rather than being cast as a side-kick, supporting a male lead who must protect her with his life. But when it comes to Grand Theft Auto V, there is no place for a female lead and that’s due to one thing: testosterone.

Rockstar Games is painting a certain picture with GTAV—one filled with risk, vulgarity, crime, and ruthless killing. That’s not to say women are not capable of such things, but men are far more likely thanks to the testosterone coursing through our veins.

Men, thanks to the male sex hormone, generally take more risks, commit more crimes, are much more aggressive, and are more likely to commit murder. This isn’t just an assumption—it’s a fact. Multiple published studies have found that higher testosterone levels were found in those who commit violent crimes versus those that commit non-violent crimes. And the proof can be found in this country’s prison system, where nine times as many men have faced hard time in State or Federal prison. Males have committed 90% of homicide cases in the United States—91% of which are gun-related homicides. On the flipside, proving that men engage in riskier situations, men are three times more likely to be murder victims, and more likely to be victims of drug- and gun-related homicides.

Despite how much the story and characters of Grand Theft Auto V have been over-dramatized, they fit a specific description and pattern found in men, not women. When you’re a publisher like Rockstar Games and you’re looking to create the crowning achievement of an entire video game generation, believability needs to be at its core, even if it is indeed a fantasy situation. And even though there are ruthless women who have committed crimes deadlier and more atrocious than many men, it’s nowhere near as common or believable, and just wouldn’t fit the world Rockstar Games has created—a world and game named after a felony crime.
Related Games:   Grand Theft Auto V

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