"Male heroes should no longer be the default," says dev

Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell says, "It's a choice, a choice that should be deployed when it works for the story being told."

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Independent developer Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone, has suggested that gamers are growing tired of the typical gun-toting male lead in video games and urged developers to consider breaking away from the notion that males should, by default, play the lead role.

"People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns," Bithell told Polygon in a new interview. "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 revealed that he began developing his upcoming game, Volume, with a female character in the lead role. But as the game began to take shape, and Bithell decided upon a Robin Hood-style story, he realized the lead character needed to be male.

"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," Bithell said.

"I [hope] that when people play the game, they'll realize why I chose to tell this story with a male protagonist," he added. "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."

Female avatars were recently added to the Call of Duty series through last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts and are also featured in Respawn Entertainment's much-hyped Xbox and PC shooter Titanfall. Speaking with The Guardian, Bithell pointed this out.

"I don't recall seeing anyone even mentioning that the Titanfall beta has female avatar options," Bithell said. "It has zero effect on the enjoyment of the game for players who don't care, and a massive effect for those who do. Everyone wins."

Discussion

355 comments
gatozombii
gatozombii

Yes please tell me one time ONE TIME where a woman led an entire army or led a squadron of trained solders into a battlefield. This may be very misogynistic but please do tell me one time where a woman took out 20 solders with a rifle or when she was the only one left of the battlefield only to save her comrades.  I will wait all day. 


Anyway I love Lara Croft but lets not make all games have lead females be the hero. Also if you want to add the few females in the UFC in the next UFC game by all means go for it, why? Because it fits! They're in the UFC and they're really good. But lets not make fantasy of reality. 


If you wanted to make Outlast have a female reporter that would have worked wonders. But lets just be realistic. Im not gonna go in with a fifty pound pack on my back with a 120 pound woman and take out a whole squad of aliens. 

den_svaravargen
den_svaravargen

It started so well, but then when he said this new game "needed" a male protagonist, he sort of lost me there. Or I should say it made me a bit wary of his intentions, but then I just feel that you should follow your admittedly well spoken argument with equally well thought actions. Making a game with a male protagonist after that argument doesn't seem coherent, but I'll hold judgment until I see the actual game.


What brings me down is the number of arguments saying "gender shouldn't matter, make a good game and no one will care". And yet people do care, and it does matter. A lot. More importantly, they 'should' care. Continuing to make male characters that all seem cut out of the same cardboard isn't doing anything to further develop gaming as an artform or a creative medium, and it certainly isn't doing anything to win more people over.


It isn't "PC gone mad" to want there to be more female characters out there, it should be common sense. The new Lara Croft is a good example. Even the female Commander Shepard, I'd say (hell, it only took them two successful games to decide to include the female protagonist in the trailers and posters). We 'need' more female protagonists, I can't stress this enough. Male heroics have been done, everyone's just trying to be Hercules in a different setting at this point. Female heroes can bring a new dimension to the story, or a new story altogether. That isn't to say that male protagonists can't do with a bit more work, but let's first focus on the 51% of the population that haven't been fairly represented in the medium first, eh?


I say, if it doesn't 'have to' be a male character, make her a woman. The story will benefit.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

As long as it is a realistic character, whatever genre fits better the character an the story is ok. If you remove any kind of prejudice in the end it will only be a matter of preference.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

If you expand the range of gameplay than you expand the range of protagonists. The grizzled male is just a result of action orientated nature of games in the past.



natevines
natevines

I agree. We need more games about cheerleading and make-up, games wherein a female protag would fit.


Otherwise, why do this except for political correctness?

k41m
k41m

Everybody lets thank Anita Sarkeesian for this!


Thank you Anita! Go jump off of a cliff now!

Pewbert
Pewbert

Maybe we should have disabled black people, mute muslims, amputee ginger haired people, deformed Asians and all sorts of people as lead characters. You know, since we are going full political correctness lately. We must include everybody or we are practically criminals.

Viva Liberalism.

ddg4005
ddg4005

Great responses from everyone; thanks!  I just wanted to add that developers should really focus on making games worth playing instead of whether the main protagonist is male or female.  A game should allow players to choose which sex they play as but it's got to be good first and foremost.

woobiesftw
woobiesftw

Extremely true. If the creator feels the story demands a male lead during creation of the game, the protagonist will turn out to be a much better, much more solid male lead then the whole lot of unmemorable defaults currently we have. 

In this time and age, heading an RPG with a female lead (if gender isn't a choice) IS standing out because the sad truth is that it's rarity is FACT. So even if the female protagonist is not as well written as the average male protagonists (case in point FF13's Lightning), people will TAKE NOTE and remember her.

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

"it's a choice, a choice that should be deployed when it works for the story being told." 


Really glad he ended with that. Forcing female characters into something for the sake of being PC is doing it for the wrong reasons.

Colekern
Colekern

I agree, I think this is important. but then again, hasn't it been like this? I mean, if you're building a game about shooting bad guys with a bunch of dudes, shouldn't the protagonist be male? That's kind of how it is right now. Then again, maybe there is a bit too much male in protagonists.

sepir
sepir

I think the dev's should go with what the story requires. If it requires a female protaganist, go with female. If it requires a male protaganist, go with male. If doesn't matter give a choice.

arcaias
arcaias

yay.. more lollipop chainsaws? whatever...

guardianofhonor
guardianofhonor

Male heroes were never "default," guess he's never played Tomb Raider, FF, Resident Evil or any other of the various games with female heroes. What a load of rubbish and girls are not impressed by the white knight act.

Seriously what is it about women that make them feel so entitled to special treatment?

calvinsora
calvinsora

Rather obvious, personally. No character aspect should ever be relegated to default, that is severely limiting in terms of story and setting. In my opinion, I'm not a fan of being able to choose a gender either - it (usually) designates that my character will be as bland as cardboard except as defined by a series of narrative picks that I make myself. Makes for a rather cut-and-paste character for me. Honestly, don't see the problem with playing a gender that isn't yours. Not once during Metroid Prime did I utter "Man, this feels weird, I'm obviously not female in real life".

amaneuvering
amaneuvering

Yes they should.

Because in 99% of cases it just makes common sense if the hero is a male.

End of.

Korun4869
Korun4869

I love it when developers tell me what I'm tired of, what I love, what I hate, and what I'm looking forward to. O'please O'mighty Developerth! Telleth I, the path of light!

xtremeflem2day
xtremeflem2day

Take him seriously! Men and women are equal, and people shouldn't have to be offended by...pppppppfjadfjafd.... HAHAHA sorry I couldn't keep a straight face saying that. Your video game, you make it how you want. My money, I buy what I want. I don't like millions of people buying call of duty, but thats tough shit for me. Same goes for you with your cause.

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

Gender selection wouldn't hurt anyone, but may allow others to enjoy the games more if, when the gender isn't important, you could pick - Use a gender-neutral name for the main character (quite a lot of names are gender neutral too tbh) and you can even get away with no dialogue changes a lot of the time - it's just an alternative model..games have done this before in the past more than a few times, and unless the story requires a specific gender it doesn't hurt to give a choice - nothing wrong with having a muscle-bound female character or a girly-looking male character either if it fits the story tbh.


So long as it doesn't get in the way of the creative image, might as well - please more people and the game is that little bit more likely to sell well, regardless of how seemingly irrelevant that tweak is. Of course, going to far and expecting gender selection in every game, even those where it would get in the way of the storyline, would be bad - negatively impacting the storyline/character development for such a minor thing is an unreasonable expectation.

isshiah
isshiah

Exactly. Just write good characters. Don't be afraid to make females imperfect specimens, either.  That isn't sexist, it's reality. No one is above needing help etc.


Btw, if you do use a female character, don't put her on the cover ass first.

TitanPolaris
TitanPolaris

Big deal, so what if it has a female character for the lead role. I for one played a lot of JRPGS, and other genre older 8-bit/16-bit era games that had a female lead role in those game like FFVI and, Phantasy Star I and IV, and Metroid 1 and 3 which a would say are some of my all time favorites. If the story is good and gameplay is good I will buy it no matter the lead character's gender.

divinejester
divinejester

They should just make every character in a game a rainbow colored hermaphrodite and be done with it.

bluefox755
bluefox755

Apparently it's more important now to check all the boxes and make every group of people happy than it is to make a quality game. If we're gonna do this, why not go all out? If you let people choose between male and female, you're leaving out the transgenders and the rest of the LGBTQIA spectrum. Who cares if it fits into the narrative? At least no one feels left out right?

CaptainHerlock
CaptainHerlock

If you create interesting characters, then yeah people will enjoy playing as them. It doesn't matter if it's male, female, dog, cat, or whatever.

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

Why is this guy talking? He's not saying anything interesting. Developers should just do what they want. Some of my favorite games have had male leads and some have had female leads. There is nothing new or interesting about whatever "conversation" he's talking about. I was a little kid when I first played Tomb Raider and I loved it. 

den_svaravargen
den_svaravargen

@gatozombii I shouldn't dignify this with a response, but here goes:

In no particular order: Archidamia of Sparta, Isabella of France, Joan of Arc, Rani Lakshmibai, Princess Zhao of Pingyang, Anne Bonny of pirate fame. All accomplished military leaders.

Or, if you want something more modern, Captain Lisa Jane Head, British Army, Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Hell, any woman in the IDF. And, if you must know, Roza Shanina was credited with fifty-nine confirmed kills during WWII. 

So... yeah. Sorry you had to wait so long for the response.

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

@Tremblay343  

PC, is essentially what it boils down to. Otherwise, there's no reason to bring it up.

RobDev
RobDev

@guardianofhonor  look at 9 out of 10 games released, they have male protagonists. It's pretty much the default.

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

@guardianofhonor  

I wouldn't say no women are impressed by chivalry as much as feminism teaches women to take advantage of male generosity in the name of self entitlement by virtue of their anatomy. Women are often bigots, who are delusional,  think their crap doesn't stink, speak for the love of hearing themselves talk, feel they always have to have options, and do whatever gets them their way, irregardless of any other factors. The only reason it's an issue in games is some whipped individual who hasn't realized females get off on having their egos stroked. 

Colekern
Colekern

@guardianofhonor  Yes, because every woman demands special treatment above males. Seriously, use your brain before you comment, you have it for a reason.

arcaias
arcaias

@guardianofhonor Yeah I remember playing as the princess in the American version of SMB2 on NES some time ago. Gauntlet had female chars throughout the series. IDK where these guys have been...

Zloth2
Zloth2

@robbristow Well, there IS a cost you know.  If there's voice acting, it's a pretty big cost.  Even if it's a silent protagonist, though, the game will still need to do all the protagonist animations and whatnot for a whole new skeleton.  Money spent there is money not spent somewhere else.

divinejester
divinejester

@TitanPolaris Only one of the those games you mentioned combines jrpg and female lead. FF 6 was a ensemble game, but Locke was generally the closet thing to a main character. Same thing with Phantasy Star IV, main character is Chaz. Metroid on the other hand is not a jrpg nor an rpg for that matter. 

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@divinejester  Incidentally, in the vast majority of games, it wouldn't make even the tiniest difference either unless particular attention was brought to it either.

hystavito
hystavito

@DaCriLL  But then he explained that he did it for the right reasons, so it's all good :).

MattPeters
MattPeters

@DaCriLL Hah! OMG! I saw his picture before and I had the same reaction. 

I also don't believe we are tired of being gun toting males in a video game. This isn't real life. I'd love to see them get the back of person who went on a real life shooting spree who mentioned he played violent video games and said those were to blame. It sort of is what they are doing though... Getting rid of all that "machismo" so we can have non-violent, non-competitive kid games. I'm not totally serious but you get my point. We do have fun talking about it though.

guardianofhonor
guardianofhonor

@Colekern

Is sarcasm and calling people dumb using your brain? Seriously try not to sound like a dolt when telling somebody to "use your brain."

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@Zloth2 @robbristow  Only if you use 2 different voices - it is possible to use a single voice for both genders and have it not seem abnormal (at least when only hearing it from one of the 2 models)...similarly the model structures don't need to be completely different, and typically there are male+female characters in games anyway - so an appropriate model and many of the animations get made regardless..and re-texturing isn't nearly as long a process as making the model and animations work.


I can see what you mean though - if it means making a whole new model and getting a bunch of new voice-acting lines then it's a significant expense that can ultimately detract from the rest of the game and probably isn't worth doing (but then there's still the choice of male vs female character if it doesn't make a difference to the creative image). Ultimately I suspect that is one of the reason why a lot of developers don't bother making both available too - instead just picking one of the 2 and going with that.


In 1st person games with silent protagonists on the other hand it's pretty darn cheap to do provided the models don't use a vast amount of animations (and they rarely do in FP games tbh)

TitanPolaris
TitanPolaris

@divinejester Yes, Metroid is not a JRPG but I said other genres of 8-bit/16-bit era games which includes Metroid and Tomb Raider was not around back then for the PC. On FFVI is Locke considered the main person in the FFVI bible? If so why does the WOB and WOR worlds start with the two Terra and Celes for one? I thought that the first world evolved around Terra and the Empire's war of genocide on draining the Magical powers from the Espers to crush anyone who stood in their way for world domination? Then the second world was Celes gathering all the party members to fight Kefka which I will give you the ensemble part of that world. Overall I thought FFVI was really two stories in one sort of like FFXIII and FFXIII-2. As for PS IV I will give you that game my bad I just thought that PS I and PS IV were somehow connected in the PS bible sort of like Xenosaga III and Xenogears.

diego-hoz
diego-hoz

@robbristow @divinejesterAre you kidding me rob? i would get in to a fist fight with an hermaphorodite before i go exchanging punches with jorge foreman or any other giant dude.
But hey...suit yourself.


robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@MattPeters @DaCriLL  Tbh, I'm getting pretty tired of gun-toting heavy games in general - the vast majority being male doesn't make it any better nor worse for me though, the gender of the characters you play as makes no difference in the vast majority of cases.

RobDev
RobDev

@Pewbert @RobDev  you are obviously an idiot so i'll spell it out for you. It's not including "everybody", it;s including the majority of people. 

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@diego-hoz @robbristow @divinejester  even if said hermaphrodite was huge/muscle-bound and it wasn't even immediately obvious they were a hermaphrodite? Gender doesn't restrict build much at all in the end..especially in video games.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a couple such cases in reality, so seeing such a thing in a video-game wouldn't be particularly weird.

Rainbow coloured is probably going a bit far - in that it's likely to in itself draw attention, but I suspect that was merely an exaggeration for impact/to make a point (presumably along the lines of that we shouldn't be paying so much attention to such things to begin with) anyway.


PS: It's George, not Jorge, for that particular person's name.

MarioFanaticXV
MarioFanaticXV

@bluefox755 @hystavitoAs someone who is asexual, I'd appreciate it if you left us out of that list. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see asexuals going around demanding that they be given special treatment and acting like our choices make us somehow superior to heterosexuals.

MattPeters
MattPeters

@robbristow @MattPeters@DaCriLL Well, it's a great thing there are many different kinds of games. Shooters are just popular. I don't even play a shooter at the moment so I guess I'm tired of it as well but I wouldn't rob satisfaction from those who aren't burnt out on it yet.

Gender matters to one person only, the developer. I don't think people default male protagonists in order to sell more copies as much they do it for the story and original vision. 

GS backed up ME:3's sloppy ending, hmm I wonder why? Maybe because ME can be played as a female protagonist. You just do not see the other side on here, this is why GS has manage to piss off a lot of gamers. It's just something to think about. GS backed up ME:3's ending that received a ridiculous amount of backlash from diehard fans and went on to talk about protecting the artistic vision of the developer... My eyes can't stop spinning, they've completely rolled off the axis.


Anyways, I hear ya. It would be cool for more gamers to have a specific game from them, just don't expect Master Chief to be married in his next game and ride shotgun in his Warthog while she drives. Make a new original game instead, if it's good, people will buy it.