The role of women in games--and in the industry itself--has been a hot topic of late. Talking about what it means for a company like Ubisoft to not include female playable characters in its major games is a positive discussion to have, according to Fredrik Wester, CEO of Magicka and Hearts of Iron publisher Paradox Interactive. Wester says he would have never expected the industry to be talking about this a decade ago.
"It has matured a lot," Wester said about how he feels the industry has changed in the last decade since Paradox was founded in 2004. "We now discuss things that we've never discussed in the past. Like female characters now with Ubisoft. I think that's a good discussion to have. I would have never expected that ten years ago."
When Wester first came to E3 in 2004, the show was dominated by violence and sexual themes ("and a lot of booth babes," he says). While violence and sexuality are still found at E3 and within the industry at large, Wester says he's encouraged by how far video games have come.
"We now discuss things that we've never discussed in the past. Like female characters now with Ubisoft. I think that's a good discussion to have. I would have never expected that ten years ago" -- Fredrik Wester
"It hasn't all changed, but it's changing in a direction that I actually like," Wester said. "We're a billion-dollar industry now. 15 years ago it was a bit shaky to work in the games industry; not anymore. Now it's a hot-shot business and everyone wants to be in gaming."
Asked what his take is on the current discussion about women in games, Wester said Paradox always tries to "mix a lot of different things" in its projects. He acknowledged that you don't see many women in Paradox titles because the studio has a big focus on historical games (Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis are two) and men often dominated the history books.
At the end of the day, Wester said he'd like to see more women play games overall because that will not only allow developers like Paradox to make more money, but communities will be more well-rounded and better off for it.
"We want to want to attract more women into the games industry as well," Wester said. "There are still women who are on the fence to play hardcore console and PC titles. If we can get them in as well, we can have a better community, sell more games, and we can make even better games going forward."
How do you go about getting more women to play games? Wester pointed out that in Sweden, the percent of female developers is only 11 percent (globally it's around 22 percent). If more women get into development, you'll likely see more women start playing, too. "I don't think you need to force things into games that will come naturally if you have a good mix [of men and women making games]," he said.
This matches up with what EA boss Patrick Soderlund said last month, when he claimed that there are probably so few female video game protagonists because "boys tend to design for boys and women for women."
Paradox currently has a number of projects in the works, including Hearts of Iron IV, Magicka 2, and Runemaster. Magicka 2 was announced at E3 during Sony's press conference. However, Paradox has signed only a timed-exclusive deal with Sony for the game, so it's possible it could come to other platforms later.
|Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch|
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