I was at work, doing worky things and my ex-intern, but still my minion, shares with me a link for the Kickstarter of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. He knows I am a gamer, as is he.
I scroll through to see if it is something that I’d enjoy playing or not, and find one of the stretch goals – at raising $600K, the developers will add a “Playable female character”. This, I should add, is the fourth stretch goal, and the character developed is not the main character, but is a character you can play as part of a memory, or prequel who helps the actual main character, a bloke, end up where he is when the story of the game begins.
Wow, I thought to myself, me and people like me are optional extras for game developers, and that’s when I decided – I will no longer play games where there are only dudes present as options, or where the developers think that playable female characters are only worthy of a stretch goal.
The developers of Kingdom Come: Deliverance were criticised by players and others for their lack of playable female characters, and they fell back on “this is a period game set in Europe in the 15th century, women weren’t heroes” (not an exact quote).
Anyone who knows anything about history knows that women fought. Joan d’Arc was alive and well in the 15th century, and she fought. Saint Geneveive didn’t fight, but she certainly was active in the fields of war, negotiation, and keeping shit real in Paris in the 5th century. Then you know there is a proud history of women pirates.
There was nothing stopping the developers saying, “right, the main character is either man or a woman (your choice), but the female character will have to disguise herself as a boy/man because of the environment/culture/time period that this game is set, and may have extra levels of difficulty because of that”, because I’m certain that women often did that, as they do today in places where appearing as a girl or woman can be risky.
But back to my pledge. I will no longer play a game if the only character options are men, or male anthropomorphised creatures. From now on, I will only play games that allow the selection of men/women/neuter characters, where the main character is a women, or where the player is effectively an ungendered god (ie myself). This means that there are plenty of new games that will come highly rated and recommended that I will not play. I was looking forward to Watch Dogs, but as the only protag in the game is yet another dude, I’m not going to play it.
As it turns out, looking at all the games in my play list, and on the shelf, the ones I’m most likely to play are those with options for different gendered characters, so it’s not like my pledge is going to be hard personally – but imagine if lots of people made this pledge. Imagine if we as consumers forced gaming companies to actually portray women and girls as active story-tellers in their own lives? Imagine if women and girls were not sexualised objects, or Ms Men, or motivations for male characters to do other things – how much richer stories would be told then?