EA, Ubisoft, Activision On Why There are So Few Female Video Game Protagonists

EA Studios boss Patrick Soderlund says, "My thesis is that it's a male-dominated business ... boys tend to design for boys and women for women."

More often than not, video game heroes are men. But why is that? An Associated Press story today features quotes from numerous industry executives speaking to why that might be the case. For EA Studios executive vice president Patrick Soderlund, it has something to do with the fact that video games are often designed with men in lead creative roles.

"My thesis is that it's a male-dominated business," Soderlund told the AP from E3 last week. "I'm not sure that flies, but I think it overall may have something to do with it--that boys tend to design for boys and women for women. I'm just happy that we have a game with a female heroine."

Soderlund is likely referring to the upcoming Mirror's Edge game for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, which features a woman--Faith--in the lead role. Leading development on that game at DICE is senior producer Sara Jansson.

"My thesis is that it's a male-dominated business" -- EA's Patrick Soderlund

It's unclear what percentage of the video game development workforce is female. The latest ESA data shows that 48 percent of all US gamers are female.

According to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, as more women play games, we'll start to see more female protagonists. "The more women we have playing games, the more we will be able to have a balance between women and men in the games," he said.

The lack of leading ladies in video games is not a new point of debate, but it's come to the fore of late following Ubisoft's controversial decision not to include playable female assassins in Assassin's Creed Unity or Far Cry 4. The company says technical limitations kept a female hero from appearing in Assassin's Creed Unity, a point that not everyone agrees with.

According to Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, "Any character you create requires extra resources, gender aside. Any character that has a different look, voice, mechanics or way of moving, requires more work. … But that's not a reason not to do something. We create lots of different characters with lots of different movements."

Hirshberg pointed out that this year's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will not only see female playable characters return from their first appearance in last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts, but also that the game's story mode will feature a "vital" female character.

Another high-profile upcoming game prominently featuring a female character is Ready at Dawn's PlayStation 4 title The Order: 1886. Creative director Ru Weerasuriya says female video game characters are often misrepresented, something he wanted to steer clear of when crafting the game's Isabeau character.

"Developers have a tendency to paint female characters in very specific, stereotypical lights," Weerasuriya said. "We wanted someone who was grounded in reality, but in actuality is sometimes a better knight than the others. There's no reason why that shouldn't be the case in games. That's the case in the real world, right?"

Female heroes weren't entirely absent from last week's E3, as Crystal Dynamics revealed a new Tomb Raider game and Sega showed off Alien: Isolation, which features Amanda Ripley in the lead role.

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
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301 comments
nachk
nachk

people angry about no female characters...
in other news team fortress is the most played free to play game

Tabarnaque
Tabarnaque

When will we be able to kill women as the faceless bad guys?


Did I say it right? Am I progressive enough for you guys?

nintendians
nintendians

maybe the early of days of gaming we usually see male as a main, now towards the 3d game era, we finally get to see female characters have a lead, Jill from Resident Evil, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and then Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark, that might be some that I missed or don't know about it and these game are made back in the mid '90s. I guess male is much easier to do than female in terms of making a compelling story, not just video games also in movies too.

Armin_Devil_PS3
Armin_Devil_PS3

Again & again this stupid subject. I think this 48% female gamers in the US includes Tablet and Cell phone players also. In my opinion a vast majority of AAA games gamers are male and they prefer to have a male hero in the game. So plz dont mix angry birds fans with GTA ones :D

gabyjamie
gabyjamie

Game developers know the truth. They know that the statistic that 48% of gamers are female is a bloated one, inflated by factoring tablet and mobile games (which have nothing to do with gender representation) into games.

coreycole792
coreycole792

@gabyjamie Nice guess, completely false. Game companies extensively survey their players to get accurate demographics. Back in the 1990's, over 40% of Sierra adventure game players were female. The only categories dominated by male players are sports and ultra-violent first-person shooters. In some categories, such as MMO's, adventure games, and puzzle games, there are more female than male players.


Incidentally, I'm male, but trend closer to the female demographic because I'm older and have little interest in running around shooting things - Those games literally make me seasick.

gabyjamie
gabyjamie

@coreycole792  Are you trying to imply that those statistics aren't bloated when an alleged combined total of 58% represents Casual/Social games and Puzzle, Board Game, Role-Playing Game Show, Trivia, Card Games? When 44% of gamers allegedly play on their smartphones? What do ANY of those have to do with gender representation? Do tell. 


It is reported that female 'gamers' have increased by 32% from 2012 to 2013 and you're telling me about how they made up over 40% of Sierra players in the 90s? Those are just more of the agenda-driven ESA stats I have put forward and used against you.


Furthermore, these statistics only include the U.S. There's a bigger world outside and I assure you that people's gaming interests differ, especially females.


If you can not see that these stats have been inflated to put forward a "stronger" field to use as leverage when arguing about AAA games in which gender representation of protagonists is a main issue, then I have nothing else to say to you.

lionheart051
lionheart051

Affirmative action in video games? Lol Associated Propaganda (AP) is a joke. Sorry I don't need to see two guys making out and having sex (vomits) in my video games. And I don't need to see some 115lbs chick body slamming 250+ dudes because it's not realistic.

Obama stay out of my videos games. Go spend some more time with your best friend Larry Sinclair.

Btw just for the record, I'm black.

Anterline
Anterline

I don't see why we don't have the choice between picking male or female in most of these games. Mass Effect did it right so why can’t other games? It just lazy design.

nigelholden
nigelholden

It's not lazy design. Maine games lend themselves to a more customizable character. Some don't. It depends what type of story the writers and devs want to tell. What type of game experience they want to deliver. And that's what it all comes down to, the type of games the creators want to make.

ArchoNils2
ArchoNils2

we want to give females more freedom but we ignore the huge part of female gamers. When will the indusstry finally understand that there are much more females around than 15 years ago?

Also that aside, I as a straight white male LOVE it to play someone different. I actually enjoy to play some quircky female in a JRPG to get away from pretty much the same guy all the time. (same goes for ethnics, sexual orientation etc. of course)

musalala
musalala

:( can have more diversity that doesn't end with more females in gaming, what about more ethnic minorities or more g.y characters


REALLY GAMESPOT THE WORD G*Y IS OFFENSIVE NOW!!!!

Alpaq
Alpaq

When you read the comments, it is obvious that game developers are actually quite progressive in comparison to the gaming community. Although it is indeed a male-dominated industry, there has been progress in terms of representations of women. However, the gaming community is as stupid as ever and remains firmly closed to change, which is in no different than any other male-dominated group/community fearing to lose their undeserved entitlement.

Guest1001
Guest1001

Ugh, Gamespot mods, you really need to fix this "Pending" problem. Either have someone committed to actually confirming them all or just ditch the system entirely. It's incredibly flawed.

musalala
musalala

@Guest1001 Seconded.....it getting ridiculous, the word G*y is offensive now

cynicritic
cynicritic

Because Women are good for only one thing...




Loving and respecting as powerful and intelligent beings, worthy of equal treatment... LOL jokes.

Imagine if James Bond or the Doctor were women...? It just doesn't work in most things.

Picture it, instead of killing people and performing daring stunts you'd be having meetings and discussing Politics or scouring the open World for lost Puppies and make up.

Tomb Raider is an exception but that is so unrealistic... A woman doing half of that stuff would be a crippled, panda eyed mess in the first 2 minutes. 


MrTakeda
MrTakeda

@cynicritic Most men would be crippled by half the things tomb raider throws at you.

wallacom
wallacom

Woot? 48% Are female gamers in the US. Wow that's very impressive, considering that there are no girls on the internet....


On a more serious note. What do they consider as a gamer? If my wife plays Peggle 2, Rayman Legends, and some other small nice games, is she a gamer? or do they have to play heavy AAA games and multiplayer?

bdl1980
bdl1980

@wallacom Hours per week playing a game, broken down by different titles. So 3 diffrent games a week about 15-20 hours free time put into them. 

gabyjamie
gabyjamie

@wallacom They include casual games. I looked up the statistics and mobiles and phones are put into consideration. Look: Call yourself a gamer if that's all you ever play on but it becomes so annoying when they use that inflated statistic to argue concerning representation in games.

lithus
lithus

Whether it's video games, sports or anything else for that matter, there's always some left wing group there to complain about it.

If it isn't a 100% diverse and segregates in any way (even if it's a long standing tradition), they want to change it.

Women treat gender equality like food buffets. They'll pick and choose what they want to be equal.

In a lady's voice: "Okay, I want equal pay for all jobs...but let's keep fires and hostage situations with women and children 1st...and lets see...we want more girls in video games but they can leave guys to change our flat tires... And let's keep guys paying for dinner and movies. See! Equality!"

ano1batman
ano1batman

Honestly, it is better that there are more male characters. And before the "I AM WOMNIN HERE MI ROER!" people attack me. Its stated right in the tagline, the games are made by males predominantly. A male working on a male character will seem more realistic than if a male were to work on female and vice versa. It makes for much better story telling and immersion. 

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

This is stupid.

If we have more playable girl characters, more girls will be wanting to play that game. It's the same concept of custom characters appealing so well to everyone because they can more easily put themselves in that role.

As far as it being dominated by boys... If we get more girls in the industry that just means less prejudice from women, who have no reason not to play games anyway.

Seriously, anyone who tells me they don't play games my reaction is "Do you not watch movies? Do you even read books?"

Because it's past the point of this being a toy for small boys. So we need to start acting like it with the game design as well.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@legendofzub @VenkmanPHD Duh of course no one states that. this is a subconscious principal. You subconciously relate to individuals of your own gender much more than those of the opposite sex. This is simple psychology.


As for the Tomb Raider statement, of course that's not true. For 2 reasons.

1.) We aren't trying to bring in males to this medium, we don't NEED to appeal to our tastes.
and 2.) Lara Croft was purposefully made the way she was for so long BECAUSE it appealed to Male gamers.

That's why you have all these little weirdo perverts who were obsessed with her for mos their adolescence/teenage years.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

And none of you can tell me you didn't wish your girlfriend would play more video games with you. Those women are seen as the golden tickets.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@legendofzub @VenkmanPHD Really?

You don't think having a female playable character in assassin's creed would pullin more of a female audience?

As for the ESA data, the gender role includes things like casual games market and the crapfest on mobile apps which skews the data away from what we are talking about, mainstream games.

legendofzub
legendofzub

@VenkmanPHD @legendofzub Don't get me wrong, I think there should be more playable female characters, but I've never talked to a girl whose reasoning for not playing a game is that she can't play as a girl.  Do you not play Tomb Raider because you can't play as a guy?  Why do you expect the opposite to be the case?

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@bdl1980 @VenkmanPHD I never said it was more important. Yes those games were fun and that was the selling point.

But if you think that ridiculous character didn't HELP appeal to them, then you are an imbecile because it's blatantly obvious as it was a constant comment whenever anyone played it back on PSX.


If that's somehow STILL not enough just look to the sales of Lara Croft figures, it's ridiculous.

bdl1980
bdl1980

@VenkmanPHD So all those 1000s of female playable characters that have been around since NES days working off the concept and theory you are pushing here. Why are there already not more women playing games then we have now? If that was all it took. If  Female playable characters was all it took we should have already be knee deep in female gamers in late 90s. Yeah its just not adding up. Even in the last gen there were tons of female protagonists and main character options.

VicariousViking
VicariousViking

@VenkmanPHD  


I don't wish I could play as a guy in Tomb Raider. I don't wish I could play as a guy in Mirror's Edge. I don't wish I could play as a guy in Heavenly Sword. I don't wish I could play as a guy in Transister, Child of Light, Our Darker Purpose, The Walking Dead Season 2, Heroine's Quest, ANY fucking Metroid game, Beyond: 2 Souls, Remember me ETFUCKINGCETERA!


If my girlfriend won't play Uncharted because she can't play as a girl she's a fucking retard and won't be my girlfriend very long...she probably never would have made it to be my girlfriend in the first place.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@bdl1980 @VenkmanPHD 

Do me a favor and use your whack logic to explain to me how my previous response didn't make any sense?

I directly responded to your misguided comment regarding "Boobs" being the target point of this conversation.

black_nirvana_
black_nirvana_

@VenkmanPHD I wish she would leave me alone, so I can visit whorehouses in The Witcher in peace lol jk jk

bdl1980
bdl1980

@VenkmanPHD if you think boys really cared that much about Lara crofts boobs over the fact that the games were fun you dont talk to enough male gamers about what draws them into playing a game. Your outlook on BOOBS are enough to make a man play a game does not reflect in the fact that games that have tried to be about BOOBS to hide bad gameplay usually do terribly. 

black_nirvana_
black_nirvana_

***Read below at your own risk. This comments sections is full of "pregnant female fetus antagonist", "lesbian protagonist", "Animal Crossing", "Bisexual Protagonist" and even the mention of "The alien gaming community". Smh Read at your own risk*** (of wasting your time)

hystavito
hystavito

 "The latest ESA data shows that 48 percent of all US gamers are female."

Dropping stats like this doesn't help much without a detailed breakdown.  If you go onto a mobile app store and look around you will see loads of games where the player plays as a girl, especially a young or teen girl.  I would guess that mostly young and teen girls are playing those games, yes?


Now of course you can say, well most women aren't playing AAA "serious" games because they don't appeal to them, and if they had more female protagonists maybe they would.  That might be true, but again, it would be nice to see some studies showing substantial numbers of women saying they would play or even just might be more interested in those games if they had female protagonists.  One could also argue that if women are not playing these games at all and showing no interest, they wouldn't suddenly become interested just because of a female protagonist, and I think that's a reasonable argument.


You see a lot of comments from men that simply state from their own personal experiences, women they have known, the vast majority have no interest in games, at least not AAA games like we are discussing.  That has been my experience and I don't see it changing regardless of games having female protagonists or not.  Girls and boys, children, are quite into games, but in my own experiences girls stop almost entirely as they enter their teen years.


I think we need to face the fact that there are fundamental differences in the nature of males and females.  This has been studied and discussed and gone over for ages, long before any video game existed.  These differences manifest themselves in various ways and become applied to various new things that we as humans do, gaming or otherwise.


I think gaming, especially the games I play, is fun and interesting and I would like to see everyone enjoy it, but if people don't want to play those games then they won't, and I don't believe throwing a female protagonist in is not going to make a big impact.

bdl1980
bdl1980

@hystavito Dont hold your breath, there has always been a ton of games with Female characters or just plain neutral characters that women could play since the NES days. Just making a character Female does not automatically mean you get more female gamers. There is actually no shortage of female characters in most games other then say COD franchise that is based on actual combat as its known today and women are still not front line troops. Thats all that there is to that. Its just a myth that there are no female protaganists. 

musalala
musalala

@hystavito I would really love a breakdown as far as what Kind of games, hours spent on said games, money spent on games etc. This would gave a much better picture.

bdl1980
bdl1980

@musalala @hystavito other studies have shown that its male gamers that spend money on games. The industry is moved by a target demo of 30-40% of the male audience with another 3.5-5% of that audiecne being big spending WHALES. In contrast, women spend very little on games. 

hystavito
hystavito

@bdl1980 @musalala @hystavito I didn't even think of breakdowns by spending, that's a great way to show that most games are probably just going where the money is.  But still people can make arguments like chicken/egg, or also the notion that someone should be brave and make those steps towards including more women etc.

BenderUnit22
BenderUnit22

I'm all for female protagonists in games, when given a choice, I often go for a female hero (FemShep all the way), but forcing developers to include a female just for the sake of political correctness is beyond stupid. I don't see anyone pressuring Nintendo into adding a male character into Metroid or a petition to change Lara Croft into a burly Indiana Jones. The games are the games and seeing the collective gaming press shitting on what otherwise seem to be exciting new games simply based on whether you can play as a girl or not shows what a sorry state critics are in these days.

veryDERPY
veryDERPY

because male characters are always grounded in reality and the main character isn't a better knight than everyone else...cmon

cynicritic
cynicritic

Political correctness is a disease used to distract the World from real issues.


In all honesty I want to relate to the character I am playing as. This is why I never played Tomb Raider.
I am male and I will only play as males. I also wont play short, ugly or fat characters which is why GTA V isn't high on my priority list. They're all middle aged and unfit. 

I do believe all games should adopt the RPG character creation concept. Saints Row: The Third managed all dialogue for both sexes and still provided a story. So it can be done. But players do need the choice. If devs start making games with only female characters to get the politically corrected of their backs then gaming will suffer. So will I. And that is unacceptable. 

It's a Man's World, no matter how hard Women try to rise up. They will always be behind. Nothing sexist about nature. Sexual dimorphism is simple fact in Humans. When a Lass can take me in a fist fight and do the things I can do then I'll view them as equal.

Alpaq
Alpaq

@cynicritic Obviously, pretty much any woman could take you in a brain fight and win hands down. If you think fist fight is the way to determine equality, you have a serious problem.

Baconelite
Baconelite

I don't care at all about this topic. I think it's great as it is.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

Games are ultimately creative endeavors so it comes down to the driving force behind the games. Take GTA 5 for example. They went with three protagonists which were male because they were telling a masculine story. A number of people suggested one of the characters should have been female, but that would have completely changed the dynamics of the story. 


I think we should focus less on trying to shoe horn diversity into games and let it be a natural creative process. Gender shouldn't be just a palette swap. I loved the most recent Tomb Raider reboot because of how they did the character. 


Lets get behind games like Mirrors Edge and Beyond Good and Evil and worry less about female Assassins in Assassins Creed.

bdl1980
bdl1980

@AyatollaofRnR fun factoid, it was male gamers that popularized Mirrors edge and Beyond good an evil.