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Female Protagonists

Here we are with a new rant from Prophet. Many of you will by now be accustomed to my rambling about the videogames industry; for while I have wanted to try to write a serious article about a particular aspect of the world of videogames, and the multimillion-dollar industry that composes it.
Our favourite media is in fact suffering from a severe form of sexism, and this I do not say for one or another radical chic reasons or because I’m a feminist or because I like to mess around, but because this very unpleasant aspect of the industry limits the creativity of its employees, and the stories they can tell.
Because I like to look at things from different points of view, I started thinking about this topic after seeing this picture:

Now, I’m not a person who is easily shocked, and certainly can not be called a prude. I am an atheist and decidedly liberal. I am strongly convinced that the fewer restrictions imposed on us, the more we grow as individuals. One of my most deeply rooted beliefs is “Question everything”. And so I did. This very common fantasy / gaming image started to spin some wheels in my sexy little head .
Who was the last lead female role that I played? Lara Croft in Tomb Raider reboot. “Well, there will surely be some other important female character in the meantime” I thought. And yes, there were . Not as protagonists, but as the main support, 2013 has brought us female characters of undisputed importance; Ellie “Last of Us” and Elizabeth of “Bioshock : Infinite” immediately come to mind .
Ellie and Elizabeth . Two important characters for the purposes of their respective games . In both cases, these girls are the reason why the hero goes into action and defeats evil, they are the reason for our actions, they are … are … holy shit! They are Peach , they are Zelda, they are any of the dozens of princesses / sisters / lovers that we have saved over the years . And despite a strong characterisation and incredible importance in their games they are two characters strongly ostracized within the same industry that has given them birth. Let’s look together at the cover of “Bioshock: Infinite”

Elizabeth does not appear on it. Things improve with “The Last of Us”, where Ellie is on part of the cover. In a striking example of sexism however, Naughty Dog received a request, from “the powers that be”, to remove Ellie from the cover or at least move her from foreground to background compared with Joel, and a Swedish magazine has erased Ellie from their cover image dedicated to the game.
All this because, according to some studies carried out by publishers, games with a woman on the cover or with a female protagonist sell less.
This is not the first I am hearing of this, the discrete action / adventure game “Remember Me” has a female protagonist. An attractive (I also have a point about this) and heterosexual girl, as most of the girls are (luckily for me I would say, a little less for the homosexual girls who may happen to read this article, or even those that do not read it…), and as with most beautiful girls, she is in a heterosexual relationship with a man who she actually kisses. Do you realise what developers created? A woman as a protagonist, and even more audacious, she is kissing a man? But I am a male player. Does that mean that… I can already hear the famous internet seal: GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY

At this point, the wheels in my aforementioned sexy little head are still whirring furiously. Is it possible that the industry that I love so much, a format that has been around for 30 years, is still so unsure of it’s identity? Is it possible that male players are really so immature as to feel their own identity and sexual orientation questioned / insulted by a young woman kissing her man? Especially since the game is not representing a homosexual scene itself (and in theory this should put to rest all the fans of this or that religion), but a “normal” and socially accepted relationship.
Yet in the minds of the publisher that kiss is immediately associated with a male player being forced to kiss another male, and is therefore: GAAAAAYYYY.
I am deliberately not talking about a game where you can create your own avatar as any Saints Dragon Effect, but a game with a specific story that would not work if instead of Nilim there was Ernest the BitchSlapper. The industry publisher has actively tried to censor and alter the identity of a story because “average guys do not like to kiss other guys” and for that reason the game will not sell. Before you even think about the fact that the game could be wonderful, innovative or fun (which it wasn’t, it was just “not bad”), disaster is already announced. The game will not sell because the protagonist is a woman . Never mind however that the protagonist is young, beautiful, and dressed in a tight-fitting sci-fi suit. The eye candy is good, but only in secondary roles.
There are, of course, rare exceptions to this rule. Examples in which the eye candy are accepted in the main role as well, but only when they can possibly be sexualised and stereotyped. Some examples of this category are Bayonetta (from the game with the same name), Juliet (Lollipop Chainsaw) or Lara Croft (Tomb Raider, old and new).
Bayonetta and Juliet are two characters with a clearly sexually oriented design and it is pretty clear from the first look:

With Lara however we have witnessed a transformation. From hottie bombshell to a different kind of sexualisation of the character in the new edition of the game, due to the fact that Lara has been rejuvenated, made more realistic looking and emotionally fragile.

The reason for this change is easily understood. The original model of Lara is a child of the 90s. The time in which the sexy icons were the provocative lifeguards of Baywatch; the decade brought before us a model of beauty that consists of wide hips, full breasts and a tiny waist. Everyone remembers the Pamela Anderson of the 90s. Right now the reference model to categorize sexy has changed. Now the sexy icons are Emma Watson, Scarlet Johansson and Emma Stone (among the other pretty girls flapping around Hollywood). All young girls, minute and rather slenderly built. As the new Lara is. The clothing is carefully modelled on what can be considered sexy, without being openly placed before our eyes. The tight-fitting pants, tank top revealing her bra, and especially the incredible abundance of boob shots and ass shots during cut scenes. Over and over again, the camera work is just enough to give you an idea of ​​the stunning digital body lurking beneath those digital clothes. It does not matter if the game tries to pass off the story of Lara as a story of lost innocence and survival. If indeed the intent was to make a realistic Lara, she would have thought of getting one of the hundreds of wind jackets worn by the huge amount of enemies you mow down with your bow, shotgun and pistol. Instead she crawls half-naked in the snow, shivering and complaining about the cold.
All that has been said about the above characters focused the consumer on an incredibly important factor; aesthetics.
Think about it. Excluding again the games where you can customise your avatar, when was the last time you saw a female character objectively ugly? And what is the role relegated to this character? Rarely, are they more than quest givers, insignificant blips on the radar of the player. For a male hero or character it is not always necessary to be attractive but the same can not be said of a woman. The best example of this is Gears of War.

The men of the franchise are allowed to be concentrated muscle mountains whose faces have been redesigned by a close encounter with a moving train, but the female characters are not. Sexy and perfect hair even after slaughtering 60 locusts, they are the most attractive thing in the whole devastated world.
It does not matter how much strength and might a female character shows. Cammy in Street Fighter can easily lift thugs with the strength of her legs, and it still appears as a cover model instead of showing a body like this:

This is a realistic female fighter physique, and this is how our female heroes would need to appear, in my opinion, to be taken seriously.
Sure, there are exceptions to this rule. One is reminded of Jade, Beyond Good and Evil and Faith, Mirror’s Edge. But to think of it, these are two rather old games, both the brands are owned by publishers who make the sequel their daily bread (EA and Ubisoft), yet only now is there talk of a sequel for these two great games, and only because of pressure from the fans.
What is causing this behaviour then? Why have publishers ostracised so much realistic female leads? Do games with female protagonists sell less? The Metroid saga seems to disagree.
I believe that this sexism has become deeply rooted in the psychology of the big production houses. Never change a winning team. Publishers are so anchored to their ideas of traditionalism, their sequels, their stagnant immobility that all that is different is a risk and therefore something to stay away from. Innovation is evil, and it is for this reason that the indie market is growing exponentially, with dizzying speeds. People like to try new things.
Princesses have been in another castle for 30 years now, perhaps it is time that they (in any shape or form) were allowed to get their rifle and kick ass.
I’m sure they have a craving for it




3 risposte a “Female Protagonists”

  1. Adam Frisk ha detto:

    Brilliant article. Thank you.

    • Luca Zanella ha detto:

      Thanks for taking the time to read it. I am happy you liked it. I wanted to write a piece like this for a long time and I am glad that someone out of Italy is getting to read it. We will start publishing more and more in English, so if you like our style please stick around, and I promise you won’t be disappointed :)

    • Adam Frisk ha detto:

      I will. From Russia with love. o/

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