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Feature Article

It's Time For Video Game Stories About Kick-Ass Moms, Tomb Raider Writer Says

Video games are lagging behind TV and film in the stories they tell, Rhianna Pratchett says.

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Rhianna Pratchett is one of the most veteran and accomplished writers in games. Her most notable work is perhaps the acclaimed 2013 Tomb Raider reboot and its sequel, while she also worked on Mirror's Edge, Heavenly Sword, and the Overlord series. A lifelong gamer herself, Pratchett has seen the evolution of video games over the years. Her work on the new Tomb Raider games depicted what could be described as a more genuine take on the iconic female hero compared to her earlier, over-sexualised days. Video games have made strides in the stories they tell, but they still have some growing up to do, Pratchett tells GameSpot.

A recent trend in gaming, highlighted most recently with Sony's God of War, is what Pratchett calls the "dad-ification of games." That is, as male developers have grown up and had children of their own, they write stories about father-son relationships. These stories may be well-crafted and genuinely compelling, but Pratchett wants to see stories about mothers, too. In an earlier interview, she said it would be interesting to see a Tomb Raider game with Lara Croft as a mother. She told us more about that idea and why it's important to her.

"That was one I kind of threw out there as a thought exercise partly as a reaction to the fact that there are so many father stories being explored in games," she said. "As developers themselves become fathers, [they] start thinking perhaps a little bit more deeply about the world and their place in it. There are very few mother stories. Mothers--and this goes for film and TV as well as games--they often tend to be absent or dead or missing."

"I think we need more older female protagonists in games" -- Pratchett

"We've had a lot of what gets called the 'dad-ification' of games. You don't really see moms in games, especially not kick-ass moms in games. [Lara Croft as a mom is] one of the things that I thought could be one interesting avenue to explore," Pratchett explained. "I am not a mom and not likely to be a mom, but I have friends who are mothers and I obviously have a mother. I find it very interesting and powerful in itself. And I think the challenges of being a mother, while still being a superhero, are really interesting."

Pratchett said she received a lot of positive reactions from fans about a Tomb Raider story with Lara Croft as a mother, but others were less enthusiastic. She said some fans said "that's not my Lara" and said they believed Lara is too independent to ever have a child. Maybe so, but you can't always plan for what happens in life, and Pratchett thought this would be interesting to explore in the Tomb Raider universe.

"There's lot of reasons why someone between the ages of 21 and 35 might end up having a kid. You could start of being young and independent, but life happens," she said. "Things don't always go the way you planned and you have to roll with it. There are a lot of reasons why people become mothers, and they don't have to be naturally maternal to end up with a kid. I think that would be something interesting to explore."

In our interview, Pratchett also said she would like to see more game stories with older female heroes. She said it's not fair that male characters can age with grace while female ones often cannot.

"I think we need more older female protagonists in games. Often male protagonists are allowed to age in their games, thinking of Snake or Sam Fisher," she said. "They are allowed to get older and more grizzled. Whereas ladies aren't allowed to age that much. That would be nice to see, because Lara is one of the longest-running female-led franchises in history. It would be nice to see that evolution of her age and her experience as a kind of battle-worn tomb raider. I would like to see that. It would be interesting to see how a character would balance being a mother and a superhero. There are some interesting dynamics there. Lara being older and wiser and bitter and battle-hardened, that's very interesting to me."

Overall, Pratchett said there is "so much" that has gone unexplored in video game character writing compared to TV and movies. "We really are lagging behind everyone else," she said.

The "dad-ification" of games stories is "at least something" towards advancing the narrative ambitions of games beyond shooting people and killing aliens, Pratchett said. But it should go further.

"Don't get me wrong, I love aliens and Tarantino, but we were always pulling from the same entertainment wells," she said. "So we were always looking at Hollywood and movies for inspiration and now I think we are looking a little more inside ourselves as human beings for what we want to explore."

Pratchett, the daughter of acclaimed English fantasy author Terry Pratchett, will give the keynote address at PAX Australia in October. GameSpot also spoke with her about coming back to Australia for the first time since she was 16--you can read our interview here.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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khatibi22

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Huge TR fan here ( especially from Core Design times), although I am not sure about older protagonists in games. I once tried to be an older female in a quit popular action RPG game and I noticed that I am just playing and handeling the missions way more cautious and was less courageous facing the enemies and avoided dangerous encounters >_>

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solid_snake1461

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I find that this article is very discriminative. You said that gender doesn't matter, but from what I read on this one, only jealousy is obvious.

Now what? A game is doing a good job of "dadifying" a male character. That's a good improvement of gaming as whole. But rather than appriciating that fact, you immediately jump in and belittle it, demanding that game must also have a female counterpart that can achieve a same level of recognition.

You said that the writers (assuming males) have grown up and had kids, which plays a key role in their successful writing. Then, what about the female writers like you? You haven't grown up and don't have kids so you don't know how to act like a mother?

In short, it's not the matter of whether it is "dad-ification" or "mom-ification". The problem is that you people don't know how to write a compelling story. Don't go dumping your failures on lousy excuse.

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Undead_Ramen

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I loved Tomb Raider from it's first release. Finally, a game with a girl in the lead! As a grown woman, it was a new thing for me, and a huge thrill just from the novelty of it. However, the tone of this article just bugs me. It reeks of me too! Instead of, what if we wrote... There are no real suggestions, only WE WANT MOMS IN GAMES. Which of course would be cool, but...go write that game, instead of writing an article about the game idea.

Want a Tomb Raider mom game? Why not play as Lara Croft's mom? She was in Underworld and Legend, so why not create a game around her adventures once separated from her daughter? Better yet, before she had Lara? She's a mature, intelligent, protective, brave woman, why would you force Lara into an artificial mother role instead of using what's available? Imagine the adventures she would have had with her husband, or getting sucked into some unwanted peril with a toddler Lara in tow? The possibilities are virtually endless.

The appeal of Lara is that she is unencumbered and can travel to the ends of the earth at a moment's notice, and is not dependent on, or depended on by anyone. Add a kid to the mix, and it's over :( (not to mention it will be VERY forced and that kind of thing ruins a good game character!)

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wicked_laugh

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If folks are this upset about Pratchett wanting more moms in videogames, I'm surprised there hasn't been a collective nerdrage supernova over Death Stranding. Kojima has literally taken the biological aspect of motherhood and forced it onto a male protagonist!!!!! If that is pushing the SJW agenda of feminizing the industry, I don't know what is.

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ASnakeNeverDies

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Edited By ASnakeNeverDies

@wicked_laugh: Kojima's pushing no other agenda than his own. That's how badasses operate. Stop trying to drag him into our petty mortal squabbles.

3 • 
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Myron117

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Why do women have try try and ruin everything? Im serious, when men create things, women then want to be included (fair enough) and then, when they are, they demand it be changed to more suit them or what they want.

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sepir

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Don't care much for kids, so don't care if they are in games. Fallout 4 was a little hard to get into as I didn't care about the kid at all.

On the TV series side, I'd say it is the opposite to what Pratchett has said though. Quite a few things I have been watching lately have a mother in it.

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patsfan365

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"As developers themselves become fathers, [they] start thinking perhaps a little bit more deeply about the world and their place in it."

So developers grew up and started writing the stories that matter to and resonate with them, giving us video games with meaningful stories like The Last of Us and God of War. I'm not sure what the hell she's even asking for, but if she's asking for the same men to pen stories about being a mother instead of a father, she's insanely ignorant.

The reason those stories are so believable is because the people writing them can actually relate to them. And here we have a non-mother talking about writing a story she literally can't relate to, just because "women can be cool too".

Sure, it would be cool to see stories about grown up, more mature women. Now grow up and write one.

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dvldrvr31684

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I just can't find it in myself to care. The reason is because I want a good game no matter who the main or supporting character is.

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lokar82

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Being an old person, I am all for games with an older Lara Croft, but then why the reboot with a younger Lara Croft??? They had their chance to bring the series back with an older, jaded, and more experienced Lara Croft but did the opposite. Also I don't want kids in my video games, be it a dad or mom story. People want an escape from that stuff!

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horizonwriter

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I can certainly understand the backlash to having Croft become a mother. It's an established series and everyone knows what they expect to get out of it. Fatherhood isn't new to Kratos, it's just been brought to the forefront since, ya know, Spoilers: he wasn't tricked into killing his family this time around. It's not a stretch. Lara Croft getting pregnant, keeping a child knowing exactly what kind of a ridiculously dangerous world she lives in and raising it despite the much darker, somewhat murderous person that she's become feels really out of character and is a bit harder to accept, at least at this point in her life, especially since gamers have been acquainted with her for almost 22 years now and nothing like this has ever been mentioned or hinted at. This would be something better suited for a brand new IP, or at the least another character in the same universe. A game featuring Reyes from the first in the rebooted series and her daughter could be amazing.

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Redsyrup

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It's already been made and it's called Rumble Roses XX. J/k!

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lionheartssj1

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Just do it.

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Hengstkse

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Seems to me, she can lead by example. Nobody "needs" anything in the gaming space. If you see a gap that you feel needs to be represented, by all means, create that product to fill that gap. Of course I would argue that while gaming is slowly embracing women better, there are still few women of color, particularly black women represented as playable characters in games. I would think that inclusion would be better than worrying about moms. Besides isn't that then able-ist for women who either cannot have children? What about the disabled folks of the world who are at best NPS characters in games, when they exist. We could play the "what about X" game all day long.

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Pupchu

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Edited By Pupchu

Tack a zombie mode, and a "chick fight" multiplayer and im sold.

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chris230990

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Who's it appealing to, how would it be fun for the player?

My mother still plays Spyro and Crash on my PS1 (which somehow still works) to this day. Make fun games.

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kyacat

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@chris230990:

Does your mom play new remaster Crash?

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chris230990

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@kyacat: No just the old versions, i don't have a PS4.

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ThePlantain

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Then create a game then. If it’s fun and has a good story, it’ll work. If not, sucks for you.

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095610

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Inclusion for the sake of inclusion, instead of just writing a story and making it from the perspective of whatever gender that best drives the narrative? Why do that when we "NEED" female stories.

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jodudeit

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You want stories about incredible moms? Just look to The Secret of NIMH for inspiration. Mrs. Brisby is hardcore!

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Chillingnaire

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You are a mum in fallout 4 if you choose the female.

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Brandsome

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I just want games that are fun to play. That's the whole point, right?

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Pupchu

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@brandsome: You'd think so.

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GlaciusXL

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I thought these stories were about a parent caring for their child. But now I see that the relationship wasn't the point, it was the gender. We should also be concerned about whether it's a son or a daughter in the mom-ified storyline otherwise moms with a son may say "I don't' have daughter, what about strong moms raising sons!?" or vice versa. And daughters well say, "But I had a mother too!" Then once we've covered those, then twins, one son one daughter. Then the struggles of an interracial upbringing. A game about all possible variations in the millions of possible forms of motherhood. "It was a good story but as a mom who had to have a c section, I just couldn't relate to the natural birth story."

Thinking back, I don't know how I made it through some of my favorite games. Playing them now I think "But it's a girl, how can I relate to any human emotion, character arc or connect with this personality when it's NOT ME :'( " For every "Other M" has to be a "Ather F" or we just can't connect. It's the only way.

And I'm glad to see age brought up. Because the current elderly aren't speaking out about the outrageous injustice and lack of representation. It's going to take some some time for this generation to become older and carry the "but what about me" torch all the way baby! Because I've been thinking, you know, in the gaming industry and in action movies, there are too many people 20-40 year old, we need some 70-80 to make it equal. Because Youngsters are dominating the industry. There's an Age Inequality there. Too many Brunettes. Fat vs Skinny. Left Handed and Right. Not enough paraplegics, 50/50 down the middle in all aspects of life. It's the only way to truly connect with anything, the only way to reach equality and the only way to finally find happiness within ourselves through external representation.

Seriously though, make whatever stories you want. When Claire in RE2 cared about Sherry's safety... a child who wasn't even hers but she expressed that level of care, I got it. When Jade in Beyond Good in Evil was there to protect the children, I got it. At no point did I think "What are they trying to say, that a MAN wouldn't care?!!" But it's really pathetic to suggest that "Because it's not my gender, I can't relate." You're trying so hard to say GIRLS TOO and I'm over here seeing people as PEOPLE in games. Enjoying games REGARDLESS of that aspect, but that's all you can ever focus on. I play male or female characters. YOU pick up Street Fighter II and pick Chun Li... BECAUSE she's a girl. Guys are supposed to accept everyone, girls only play the girls... and want more girls. I don't know, I see a different problem there.

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ThePlantain

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Edited By ThePlantain

@GlaciusXL: I like how when someone asked Cory Barlog about why they didn’t give Kratos a daughter in the new game, and he replied something like “Because I had just had my son and it was more relatable”

They need to let art be art, and not try to force stuff for an agenda

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Hengstkse

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@ThePlantain: That was actually the perfect answer for him to that question.

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uninspiredcup

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Edited By uninspiredcup

"She said some fans said "that's not my Lara"

They're right. The original 1/4 Lara Croft was a globe trotting James Bond/Indiana Jones hybrid. Confident and eager kick butt.

Now she's whiny and miserable in what is largely doom and gloom torture porn.

Not just the character, the sense of mystery and danger from the originals, or puzzle solving is largely non existent. But this happened before the reboot after Angel Of Darkness, so, nothing new there.

But yea, definitely not a fan of reinterpreted character, nor it's gameplay. Take Tomb Raider 1/2 janky, tank controls and all, over it any day. Those were actually engaging.

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OldDadGamer

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Too independent for children? Nonsense! Children don't STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER impede your independence YOU'RE GONNA SPILL THAT in any SERIOUSLY way. You can totally SURE, YOU CAN USE THE TV do whatever you want NO, DEAR, DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO MAKE THE COFFEE whenever...hang on.....***ten minutes later*** where was I? I forget.

I'll think of what I was saying after I get the kids dressed and to the bus. Enjoy the comments.

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93ChevyNut

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@olddadgamer: Solid gold!

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bruta

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this would increase Lara's bust size, so I fully support this

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Goku_Black96666

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Edited By Goku_Black96666

@bruta: upvote for you my friend

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Chillingnaire

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@bruta: bewbs :)

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Arkhalipso

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@bruta: Finally someone who talks sense.

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Moonco

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'Mommie Dearest 2: Revenge of Christina Crawford' - gameplay is like Tecmo Deception series where the kids turn the tables on their mother using wired coat hangers and starvation

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OldDadGamer

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@moonco: Don't make jokes that complicated before I've had coffee.

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fishnpeas1

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Edited By fishnpeas1

Normally the father/son stories normally revolve around the father taking their child into ridiculously dangerous situations, would a mum be that irresponsible? Not in my experience, but then does that mean Lara would leave her child in England while globetrotting and getting into shit? Not sure.

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MondasM

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i do agree that we need much more diverse stories, but i do not think that male directors / writers can take on the lead in "mother-child" stories, as their experience is not sufficient for that...

i do like rhianna pratchett's work, except mirror's edge, which i have not played, however i reckon what we need is more female directors and writers in gaming, otherwise we'll end up with male-centric female stories that do not click, since the experiences and emotions would be just second hand ones and not direct ones...

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dacontag

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Edited By dacontag

@MondasM: I disagree with the idea that only women writers could properly write about female characters. directors like Neil druckman have proven that they can write a story with female characters that isn’t male-centric. Just like how there are women writers who have written stories about men that aren’t female-centric

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MondasM

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@dacontag: of course there are such occurrences, but I don’t think that as a man I could tell a mother’s story through her eyes and experiences as well as a person with such an experience... in naughty dog’s case, although it was a very good game, it’s pratoganists could be replaced by other male characters and I wouldn’t have felt differently, if you mean the latest uncharted chapter... again, imho...

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horizonwriter

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@MondasM: Yep, this. The reason God of War is so good is because of Cory Barlog's own experiences in fatherhood that he put into the story. To get the purest sentiment on a mother's story we need the entire project crafted with mothers in the most important positions, or at the very least be extremely influential collaborators with those in the most important positions.

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wicked_laugh

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Geez, lots of folks don't seem to like this idea and are already calling it some SJW agenda. I wonder if the same people thought the same thing in Fallout 4? The female protag is a mom.... gasp!

There are more female gamers now than ever, so it's only logical that some of those are moms, or will be moms and the demand for additional mom or just mature female protags is increasing. I realize it's hard for an some folks who have mostly only played as one type of character (male) their entire life to be asked to choose to play as another they aren't used to (or one that doesn't look like them), but that doesn't mean it is an attack on them. Quit over nerd raging, it's as annoying as all of the forced SJW ____.

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horizonwriter

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@wicked_laugh: I believe some of the rage is a reaction to the way the original gripe was stated. It's one thing to say that a good mother-child story is overdue in gaming. It's another to cast a shadow over other games because of what you want or your agenda, whether that was the intent or not. Anytime you come up with some buzzy term like "dad-ification" it comes with a bit of negative connotation. As for the trend that was spoken of, for 5 years in the AAA space of mainstream gaming we've had God of War, The Last of Us, and maybe The Witcher 3, even though that last one is a little bit of a stretch. That's not a trend. Those are just three highly acclaimed games with father figures as main characters. MOBA's, battle royales, roguelikes - things like those that flood the market in a short amount of time are real trends. Let's not overstate or get it twisted.

I'm all for a good mother story. I'm all for any good story, but if someone feels this strongly about it, especially if that someone is a well-known and respected writer in the industry, then write a truly compelling script, get that game developed and let it speak for itself. Great games leave indelible marks, much more so than squeaky wheels. Not so surprisingly, they can also start trends...

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wicked_laugh

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Edited By wicked_laugh

@horizonwriter: telltale's Walking Dead, Dishonored 2, Bioshock Infinity, Death Stranding just to name a couple more off the top of my head. There have always been dads or father figures in videogames, but it's only more recently where we've had so many games in which develoers have been trying to tie gameplay elements to fatherhood or emphasize on what fatherhood means to protags. Compared to 10 years ago, I would def say that a 'trend' has started and is continuing on strong.

The 'buzzword' has been around for since at least 2013 and I get it, calling out some of the most beloved protags as simply following a trend is an insult to some fans, but it shouldn't be. Yes, it's a marketing tactic, a gimmick if you will, but it's also a natural progression. We can't always play as late-teen and young adult bachelors. Sometimes some of us want someone we can relate to, fatherhood or adulthood.

Yes, a good Mom video game should happen organically, but even if it does, it is always going to be viewed as an 'agenda gimmick' by (a disappointing number of) angry video game nerds.

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horizonwriter

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@wicked_laugh: Even with those games listed that's still only seven games in the last eight years of gaming. I say seven because I'm not listing Death Stranding given the fact that we have very little to no idea what that game will wind up being about. That's a ridiculously slow trend. What we're really seeing is the fleshing out of some male protagonists. Some devs are trying to move past the more one or two dimensional characters and are creating heroes that feel a bit more "real". Given the metric f*** ton of male protagonists there are, these dad stories make up a ridiculously small percentage and I think that's the real issue that needs to be addressed. There simply aren't that many female characters to actually have much diversity in storytelling. It's a numbers game. Pratchett herself has written for a few games featuring female protagonists but none of them were mothers, so she sounds a tad hypocritical. I get it. Mildly attack or point out something in the lime light in hopes of gaining attention towards something your championing but you have to know the root cause of the issue. Not only does there need to be more female protagonists, the games that feature them need to be exceptional. They need to reach the bar set by Tomb Raider. Heavenly Sword and Mirror's Edge were good games but they didn't exactly set the world on fire. Square-Enix botched their chance at having a beloved female lead in Lightning. Final Fantasy XIII maybe somewhat well received in Japan but outside that island the reception is very hit-or-miss. I think your next truly massive female driven game is going to be The Last of Us Part II, but again, that's one game. We need more.

I know dad-ification has been around for awhile and that it probably shouldn't offend. I myself am not offended by it, I just said I understand how some are. It's not really a big deal to me.

Yes, you're right. A good Mom video game will be viewed as an "agenda gimmick" by some angry video game nerds and you'll likely find no end to hateful rants in comment sections. And...? There were some very outspoken racists that came out when Black Panther was released and that movie went on to become one of the most beloved superhero movies to date, setting a new bar in writing and character portrayal in superhero films, and broke records in such a way that it takes a movie on the scale of Infinity War to stand a chance against it. Will & Grace caused no end of uproar but went on for 8 continuous seasons, then had a revival eleven years later. Rhonda Rousey blazed a trail in mainstream for female competitive fighters like no other before her or since, despite being a bit of an asshat herself, and she most certainly had a ton of detractors. You can't let the angry mob or trolls get under your skin or you will stall out and stagnate in a meaningless, endless battle against those whose main goal is to keep you locked in a cycle of anger and frustration, sometimes just for their own amusement. If we ever get a truly great "mom" game, then enjoy it, support it, and let everything else roll off.

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wicked_laugh

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Edited By wicked_laugh

@horizonwriter: Those were just off the top of my head. Digging a bit deeper into my memory bank, you've got: Fallout 4, Assassin's Creed Origins, Yakuza 6, sillent hill, Heavy Rain, OctoDad, GTA 5, Resident Evil 7 and Revelations 2, Prototype 2, Asura's Wrath. Aside from OctoDad, that's not even including indies amd I'm sure these aren't all of them either. They are a drop in the bucket compared to how many games are released every year, but I can't recall another period in gaming where there have been so many playable dads.

You are correct that this is a numbers game, the lack of variety in women characters is evidence of that, but the numbers are changing. Whether the trolls like it or not, there are more women in gaming than ever. The industry will continue to change to reflect that. Will some of it be driven by this PC SJW agenda? Sure, but the demand for change based on the audience will drive it more than anything else.

These trolls don't really get under my skin, but they do need to be addressed and called out. Have you read some of the reasons why moms won't work as playable characters? 'We don't want to see moms in dangerous situations.' 'Moms would never place their own children in dangerous situations.' 'It's just gender swapping!' 'It's unrealistic!' 'It's just more PC SJW being force fed to us!' Literally every excuse other than just simply, 'I don't want to play as a mom character.' These are the same folks who argue against representation, but complain when their own likeness isn't abundantly present in a videogame. People like this, who hide behind shallow reasons for dissing diversity in gaming are also the people who helped fuel gamergate. They're really the ones holding the industry back from evolving in certain ways.

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horizonwriter

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@wicked_laugh: I totally agree that there are more and more female characters but we're talking about a trickle when we need a flood. I don't think the general audience of gamers will ever flat out demand it without a few exceptional games to make them take notice, mainly because gaming isn't hurting right now without those kinds of games.

Honestly, the only real way to call out trolls in this case is with a highly rated and beloved game with killer sales numbers and even then, as the saying goes, haters gonna hate. If the issue is the influence of negative gamers, then what you'd really have to go after are risk-aversed publishers because they'd be the ones not green-lighting the production of a game based off of perceived reception, unless you can find a dev studio that's wealthy enough to self-publish and isn't under contract. Naughty Dog had to fight hard for Ellie, and then fight harder to have her prominently displayed on the box art, so even highly prestigious studios have to shove back for their ideas sometimes. Once one studio does it though it begins to get easier for others to follow, and it's probably a much easier sell on the Sony side than Microsoft if we're talking exclusives since Sony seems to be much more open-minded and flexible about these things.

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