The gaming world is changing. It no longer comprises of the stereotypical male nerds and single men. In fact, gaming has become a norm for those who are social and well-developed, and more importantly, it is not directed towards any specific gender.
Truth is, it never was. Games were almost always open, and save for some deliberately misogynistic titles like GTA V (which show society in its most flawed, corrupt state, hence emphasis on gender inequality), all modern games are striking a balanced.
Female characters have become quintessential in making fantastic games, and it is a notice being taken by every modern-day developer out there.
According to a study featured on Washington Post, women make up around 48% of the gaming population around the globe. That’s a number no one expected, especially since a large part of the games in the past were all directed towards one gender.
In addition, adult women also outnumber boys under eighteen, and the figures show that the number of women playing games is only going in an upward trend.
This has brought noticeable changes in the gaming development itself. We have titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 that will for the first time in the series offer a chance between male or female protagonists – both voiced, but having the exact same storyline.
Mojang added a female character called Alex in their famous sandbox title Minecraft, stating that Steve doesn’t represent the diversity of their fanbase. FIFA 16 is introducing women’s teams into its database as well.
However, I’m not just interested in what developers are doing to eliminate gender discrimination; I’m also interested in how having a female protagonist or key character in a game means.
Female are by nature more emotion-oriented (right-brained) than males, and female protagonists in games give a very unique style of narrative and plot development because of this reason. A great example of this is the Crystal Dynamic reboot of Tomb Raider.
The title showed a young and ambitious Lara Croft, who against all odds transformed from a keen archeologist into the battle-hardened woman she is. It showed the physical, mental, and most importantly emotional development of Lara from a perspective that focused on care for her companions and mentor, despite them doubting her for the larger part of the game.
Similarly, we have classic titles such as No One Lives Forever, with Cate Archer taking the lead role. The fuzzy slippers, the unique weapons, and the charm of the entire game is possible because of a female in hand, because this title was released in a time where first-person shooters were never truly known to have such a lively setting and plot.
BioWare has also always been commendable for eliminating the borders between genders and sexual preferences, and has managed to develop strong characters, with extremely important female individuals in its titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Playing as a female allows for an entirely different perspective to the games, with new romance options and changes in interaction with NPCs.
The gaming world is incomplete when titles are made without including the female perspective, not just because they attract a specific gender more than others, but because they limit the kind of way a world, a story, or a plot can be presented. This, in my opinion, is the real reason why female lead characters are extremely essential to games.