Why Aren’t There More Lead Female Characters?

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By Jason Williams – 24th July 2014
Why Aren’t There More Lead Female Characters?

Why aren’t there more female Protagonists in video games? As our society becomes more and more aware of sexism and the need for its destruction this question becomes more and more prevalent in the video game industry. Statistics show that a whopping 48% of video game players are women. That’s almost half! Yet, as of this January only about 4% of video games have a woman as the main character. That is about as disproportionate as it gets.

The entertainment industry continues to show its lack of progressive and forward thinking when it comes to sexism. Along with video games, feature films also have a disproportionate amount of male leading characters as opposed to female. Even though it has been proven that strong female characters are good for business, video games and feature films continue to their Boy-and-Girl-Playingmisogynistic ways, and not create complex, strong, main female characters.

These sexist actions can be seen in major companies, such as Ubisoft. Ubisoft failed to create playable female characters for both Assassins Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4. Ubisoft developers sited,” It takes a long time to develop a female character.” Does it not also take a long time to develop a male character? It sounds like Ubisoft is just making up excuses for accidentally enraging 48% of their sales demographic.

In a patriarchal world that is slowly trying accommodate equality, one would think that female characters would be a more integral part of the video game industry. Why is it then that they are not? Is it because women inherently have less stories to tell? Or that women are just bad video game material? Perhaps it is just unrealistic for women to be thought of as the hero of the story, that their physical and mental abilities just couldn’t handle the worlds that video game companies create.

Of course, none of that is true. The reason that there aren’t more female protagonists in the video game industry is due to the pressures of the entertainment world. Traditionally men have played a certain role in stories, typically the hero, the strongman, the powerful destroyer of worlds. Women have been either romantic interests, villains or sidekicks. Historically that has been the way, for the most part. The video game industry has shown a reluctance to break the status quo and move away from only 4% of video games having strong female characters.

In an interview with computerandvidoegames.com Creative Director of Remember Me, the memory themed game set in Paris in Remember-Me-how-to-fix-errorsthe year 2084, Jean-Maxime Moris was asked what he would like the game to be remembered as. The response was, “You know, I’d like it to be remembered as a game that said ‘you can have a strong female lead in a sci-fi action adventure game, and it be successful’. I’d really love to see that, because you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been told that it isn’t possible!”

Look at those words… “I’ve been told that it isn’t possible!” People literally told Moris that it wasn’t possible to have a strong female lead in a sci-fi action adventure game. The belief that a female character can’t be the lead in a sci-fi action adventure video game is sexist, and it is that thought that is keeping women out of playing the protagonists.

This is an ignorant and offensive view. Women are not inherently unable to be the leads in anything, video game, tv show, novel or film. Video game companies, and the industry as a whole, need to take a look at their output and change their view on female lead characters. If they don’t, we might be looking back on this time period for the video game industry  15 years down the road as a sexist industry. Female characters deserve to be created and in more video games than they are now.

  • Matthew Lane

    “Ubisoft failed to create playable female characters for both Assassins Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4.”

    Oh you mean like developers have failed to make a male protagonist in a Tomb Raider game for decades? Oh right they didn’t FAIL to make a male character as much as they CHOSE not to make a male character, which is there right to do so.