Episode 17: Why The Lack Of Girls Heroes in Games?


Last time, I went on a rant about how guy gamers seem to let their machismo from letting girl gamers into their world. Well, I’m sorry. But I’m going on another rant again. Now I’m questioning why there are very few girls protagonists in video games.

I’m not saying there aren’t. There’s Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, Samus Aran from Metroid, Chell from the Portal games… you see, it’s kinda hard for me to think of more of the top of my head. There are more but, while I’m writing this, It’s difficult for me to just rattle off other names.

Oh, I’d like to consider the ladies of Resident Evil but it’s usually the guys that get all the glory. In Resident Evil 6, besides Ada Wong, the chapters are named after the males, not the females. I also wish I could include FemShep of Mass Effect (God knows I love my FemShep!) but you know what? Only 18% of gamers used FemShep!

Include me as one of the 18%

Include me as one of the 18%

I know there are some guys that make girl characters (for reasons I can only guess… which I actually did before!) but I assume they usually do this for their second run through the game. For their first time playing, they probably start out with a male character when given a choice.

I bet most of the other "girls" in Ragnarok are actually guys!

I bet most of the other “girls” in Ragnarok are actually guys!

Look, I’m not a radical feminist who is screaming for equal rights for female representation in video games. I’m not. I just don’t like the idea that games with girl characters don’t sell well. But a lot of people think so.

Apparently, even simply putting a girl on the cover can lead to poor sales. I remember the creative director of Ken Levine saying that they moved Elizabeth to the back of Bioshock Infinite’s cover was because they asked frat boys what they wanted to see… and apparently seeing girls on the front cover wasn’t one of them. So, even though Elizabeth (the girl in Bioshock Infinite) was one of the reasons the game was so good, she was relocated to the back while Booker DeWitt was the one prominently shown on the front.

Thankfully, there are alternate covers available now

Thankfully, there are alternate covers available now

It’s this kind of thinking that bothers me somewhat. I’m a girl and I’m not bothered by playing a male character; I just choose to play as a girl character as much as possible since there aren’t many females you can control in video games. I just like (and hope) to think that guys are not so immature to think that playing as a girl character makes them less of a man. It just means that you like to play a great game that just so happens to have a female as the main character.

Speaking of main characters, I often wonder what makes a good one. I’ll give you my thoughts on that next time!

Are there other games out there that have a female as the protagonist that I missed out? Do you think having a girl as the main character will make people not buy the game? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!


10 thoughts on “Episode 17: Why The Lack Of Girls Heroes in Games?

  1. As a male gamer, I don’t usually note gender of protagonists when buying games. If given a choice, I will likely identify with a Male character choice in games like Mass Effect and Skyrim, because, that’s kinda who I am. I find that gender plays no part in whether I like a character, its more in the character’s personality and design. For example if my character is pulling off stupid comments for the sake of making him/herself sound “cool”, I find my self disliking them regardless of whether they are male or female (The Prince from Prince of Persia the Forgotten Sands as one example from memory). In all, I think I more identify with the character regardless of gender, but it kinda helps for them to be the same gender as myself. Likeability of a character I don’t think should have much baring on gender at all. I’m still very much looking to play the reboot of Tomb Raider and it looks pretty stellar.

    As far as character designs go, I think Ada Wong from Resident Evil is really well executed in Resident Evil 6, and likely my favourite in this game simply because of the blending of subtlety, “badass-ness”, while still retaining an element of mystery. It actually kept me playing through each of the campaigns just so I could see what the bloody hell was going on with her, because the presented design was actually interesting. I wanted, as a player, to learn more about her backstory… and know whether I get to have a go of that marvellous Crossbow. I was hyped when I finally unlocked the Ada campaign basically.

    It is incredibly common for female characters in games to play a much more secondary role of like, a love interest, or a “damsel in distress” kinda role (Thinking of Princess Peach in the Mario games – the sole purpose of her character being to be rescued). I mean, I think if it fits to the story well, great, but sometimes it borders on cliché. It must be quite easy for character designers to design a character that caters to these features – especially if they are missing or require rescuing for most of the games duration. There’s also the issue with character design of just making a character of a… hyper-sexuallised design. In my honest opinion, I think it just looks stupid, takes me out of the game almost completely. This seems to be very common in fighting games (looking at you Mortal Kombat, DoA). While there is aesthetically pleasing from a heterosexual male gamer’s perspective, there is definitely a limit… it also borders on cliché when the DLC costume packs come rolling in. (Especially you Dead or Alive)

    With Samus in the Metroid series aswell, they kinda gave her character development and turned the design somewhat on it’s head in the latest game toward a very emotional protagonist rather than the stone-faced bounty hunter of previous games. I don’t mind it quite so much as I used to, but admittedly it was a strange move. They didn’t entirely abandon the character, but they invented a lot of “new character elements” for Samus that previously either didn’t exist, or could be scraped together using dialogue from Metroid Fusion on GBA. I still respect it thoroughly though, a design choice such as that takes guts, especially with someone so iconic.

    I find it pretty surprising how they decided to place Elizabeth of Bioshock Infinite on the back-cover because “of reasons”. The fact that her character development and design plays so core in the story of the game puts her as a character that should be nowhere BUT the front cover! Seems odd from a sales choice to do this, but I guess if they did the market research and that’s what the gamer wants then… I guess. I wouldn’t have done it myself, but hey: subjectivity.

    I realise I’m probably moving into the next topic a little there – but they are very closely entwined.
    Anyway, I’ll stop typing now… xD Great Read by the way – looking forward to the next one. 🙂

    • Actually, I do agree with you with some of your points, especially about the likeability of the character. It wouldn’t matter if the person is a male of female if he or she doesn’t… meet my expectations, I guess.

      About the hyper-sexualized thing, I oddly enough don’t have a big problem with it. Girls can have big breasts or be dressed next to nothing and I don’t have a issue. But, and there’s a big but (pun intended), she shouldn’t mind wearing the outfit. I mean, if she owns the look, then I’m fine with it. If she complains about the way she’s dressed or she’s forced to wear it and she doesn’t like it, it’s okay in my book!

      • Yeah, agreed – the whole hyper-sexualisation of characters shouldn’t really be an issue for me if the character herself identifies with it. If it embraces the character in personality, I think it can work really well (Juri’s Alternate costumes in Street Fighter 4). I guess it is more if it looks out of place with the character personality than whether or not she is showing off “too much”.

        Ha, It’s also pretty weird to try and explain to non-gamers and such that I’m playing as Cammy because I like her character design and the way she plays in game – rather than solely for “that ass”.

      • Well, I hate to say it but I want to learn how to use Cammy. The thing is I can’t since I don’t know how to do circle motions. 😦

      • They do require a fair bit of practice, especially those pesky “Shoryuken” motions. It’s a shame that limitations through control will stop some characters from being accessible for some players. Interestingly, I had difficulty with the charge characters first off. When I was first starting, I wanted to play Vega actually – but when faced with the requirement for his Ultra 1 “Bloody High Claw”, it became apparent that I was out of my depth. Then I settled with Ryu for about 2 years. Ha.

        Best I can suggest is practice for circular inputs. It’ll take time, but familiarity with an input and committing it to muscle memory is the best way. What type of controller do you use out of curiosity? Or are you playing on Keyboard?

      • I wish I could get a joystick for the game but I’m stuck with the normal controller. Unlike most people, I use the analog stick to move around. It’s difficult to pull off Ultra 1 with the pad but it’s startlingly easy to do it with the stick.

      • Ha, we’re in a similar boat it seems. I play this game on a standard Xbox360 controller, but I cannot play this game at all on the directional pad, I find all the motions are just counter-productive to try and perform with it.

        I’d definitely stick to the analog stick when playing this game, ESPECIALLY characters that require more arc-ing, circular motions.The analog stick makes the circular motions a ton easier, and to be honest had stopped me investing in a full joystick for a good few years now. There are other benefits to investing in a full Arcade styled stick, but I think the cost kind of outweighs the benefit at my current level of play.

        It’s literally a cliché “Practice makes perfect” approach, but it isn’t much more true than in these situations. Smoother, clean but moderately paced inputs usually do it for me – you don’t wanna rush it too much. The speed will come with time spent and as you become more familiar with a character. Practice just cycling through her command list until you can perform each without much in the way of hesitation. Trials are a decent place to start if you haven’t attempted them already.

        You definitely seem like you know what you’re talking about and the last thing I’d wanna be coming across as patronising, but I’d thought I’d list a few pointers here just incase your interested. Hope it helps anyways.

      • Oh, the trials I can do! Well, I can do around 75% of them. It’s during the heat of battle where I just crumble and I just can’t seem to do the motions! It’s definitely easier for me just to push the stick up or forward instead of doing a circle motion. If I have trouble with one quarter-circle motion during a fight, imagine the headache it is for me to do TWO of them quickly! 😀

      • Definitely, I know that feeling. Performing them in a game situation is much different than in a controlled environment. And needing to do them consistently and quickly can easily result in a frustrating experience. Good to hear the success in trials btw, means the entire thing is far from a lost cause 🙂 Stick at it though and it’ll come quite naturally. Fighting the Versus mode AI or going through Arcade mode and solely trying to perform these moves turned out to be my greatest tool when I was learning. Cancelling from other normal moves (such as Down+MK with Cammy) can sometimes make it a little easier to ensure the special move happens.

        My brother has been, albeit half heartedly, trying to pick-up a number of characters based on those he liked. A great start and he settled on a few different ones. He quite liked Zangief but he struggles with the 360 and 720 rotation motions required of Zangief to perform his primary moves – the Spinning Pile Driver and his Super and Ultras. He was immediately put off the character, and it was perfectly understandable. He didn’t really have motivations for the game anyway, but it seems a shame that control was the limitation for him to stop considering the game. I mean, it’s not great for motivating yourself if you appear to be struggling with what’s listed as their “basic moveset”. Its good that at least you had characters like Vega and Chun-Li that captured your interest too, and that alternate control styles are in place.

        It’d be interesting to see other characters have almost an optional change of control setting so you could make characters such as Cammy work on an “Alternate input” basis to their moves would operate with different controls and stuff like that – e.g. Cannon Spike on (Down to Up + Kick) and Spiral Arrow on (Back to Forward + K)?

        It’d be different, sure, and likely far from recommended, but it’d be another way for new-comers and the slightly more serious players to immediately jump-in and start playing their desired character based on aesthetics and whether they liked them or not – rather than funnelled into particular archetypes because of specific character limitations.

        I think they implemented something like that in Street Fighter X Tekken as “Easy Inputs” and “Super Easy Inputs”, and Injustice: Gods Among Us as “Alternate Controls”. Its an interesting idea and I’d like to see it more – it’d help people approach fighting games slightly more readily, getting more people involved. It’d also stop the frustrating experience of abandoning the character you WANT to play as because they quite simply don’t control in the way the player wants.

        For me it’s always been Juri to be honest. I’ve been wanting to play as her since her release on consoles, but I was never really good enough at the game to make her in anyway effective until recently. Handling the sheer amount of Charging by holding different buttons down, then releasing the buttons to get certain actions just turns into a mess on an Xbox 360 controller – her design was clearly to be execution heavy on a joystick. Fortunately, I’m working with ways to work past it by adjusting hand-posture (Index finger over the (Y) button while I hold (A) with my Thumb). It’s been difficult, but I hope to get much better with her. She’s complex but we’ll get by through perseverance.

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