Rambilicious 100% Ramble-y Goodness

18Dec/150

Call of Duty doesn’t need female characters, we need more diverse games in general

Much has been made of the relative lack of females in the "triple-A blockbuster" field, but it is unfair to focus on particular titles or developers. This is an issue the industry - and consumers - must face as a whole for progress to be made.

With another season of tentpole releases on their way to consumers we're presented with another mountain of man meat in title roles. Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider is the only notable exception, though some games like Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Fallout 4 offer playable female characters as an option. When offered a similar choice in Mass Effect players were overwhelmingly creating male Shepards, so realistically that "option" is somewhat of an empty gesture.

It's fair to say that options are limited in this regard, but it is quite unfair to criticise specific titles or developers for their individual choices. Creators should be free, and feel free, to tell the stories they want to tell. And as businesses, often directly employing hundreds of people, they have to make some decisions that ensure they can keep the lights on. Internet brownie points don't pay a coder's rent.

That's why, when examining an individual game like Call of Duty, it is unfair to criticise them for a lack of female roles. They obviously like to tell stories involving badass military men tackling dangerous situations with a lot of things exploding along the way. And years of variations on that theme have proven it's a formula that results in huge profits, year after year. It would be fiscally irresponsible to jeopardise the success of the series in an attempt to cater to an audience that might not even turn up.

Where our attention should be focused is on the lack of any real competitors to this male-centric model of game development. There are no big name, female-led Call of Duty style games people can look to as an alternative - there aren't even any mid-tier ones. Even the Borderlands series, which does have some strong female characters, has more playable men than women. The only real exception to the rule is Uncharted, where Nathan Drake is as much a male Lara Croft as anything. Yet even in that nebulous genre the norm is more for men like Kratos in God of War, not women like Nariko in Heavenly Sword.

Luckily the industry has taken note of the increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo and we are starting to see a few more games being developed with women in the lead roles. Horizon: Zero Dawn and ReCore were both announced at this year's E3 to a very positive reception from fans and critics alike, so it's clear that gamers are open to the idea of increasing the number of women in leading roles. And maybe even seeing more than a token woman or two in Call of Duty.

But they're not terrible people for choosing to stick to what works for them. It's not sexist, nor is it discriminatory, or any of the other accusations tossed their way.

They're not revolutionaries. It shouldn't be put on them or any other single developer to "fix" the industry. It's up to developers to give us more than just "gruff beardy man" stories. It's up to us, as consumers, to make it clear we are looking for more than just "gruff beardy man" saving the day. Sometimes it would be nice to have a gruff beardy lady saving us instead.

Or is that just me?

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