Developer: Lead Character's Gender Should Be A "Choice"
Gender has become a big issue in the video game industry. We're not merely talking about female gamers, but about how female characters are portrayed in games.
Should we start seeing more female protagonists in the future? Well, according to developer Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone) speaking in a recent Polygon interview, it should be the choice of the creator. That being said, he added that gamers are getting tired of the same ol' lantern-jawed, muscle-bound hero:
"People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns. The thing that's interesting with gender, and is exciting, is that the conversation has gotten to a point where I'd even be asked 'Why male?'. That's a big deal, and speaks a lot to the awareness that's brewing in the industry about gender depictions, and frankly, the boringness of the standard chiseled beefcake with the big gun."
Bithell said he started developing his new game, Volume, with a female lead. But as time went on and the adventure began to take shape, he realized that he was telling a Robin Hood-type story. Hence, for it to really work, the lead character really needed to be male. However, that's the choice he made and as the creator, he's certainly entitled to make it:
"To play with that story, to look at and challenge that particular form of rich masculine heroism, I felt I had to have a male hero.
I [hope] that when people play the game, they'll realize why I chose to tell this story with a male protagonist. For me, that's the interesting shift in the thinking recently. Male heroes should no longer be the default; it's a choice, a choice that should be deployed when it works for the story being told."
Yes. Exactly correct. You don't create a story with the express purpose of putting in a female character (or a gay character, for that matter). Doing so means you're driven by political or sociological influences; the actual art form is coming second. We're doing that way too often these days. Just do what Bithell said: Whatever fits best, fits best. That is the only 100% fair approach.
2/21/2014 11:04:07 AM Ben Dutka