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Does Gaming Need to Cater More for Females?


Jul 15, 2009
I'm sorry if this has been brought up before, but I couldn't find a thread quite about this point... I'm not even sure if it belongs in this section... I contemplated MD, but I don't think it's serious enough for that :3 But anyway...

Now, I don't normally listen to the radio much, but I was on the road for a couple of hours last tuesday, so I thought why not. But what I heard is still bothering me. For those of you in the US who probably won't know, BBC Radio 1 have apparently been having a "Gaming Week", or something (Basically seeming to consist of "FPS FPS FPS FOOTBALL-SIM FPS FPS Oh hey, look rest-of-audience Mario's here too!!1!11! FPS FPS FPS", but I digress...), but one of the topics that kept coming up has kind of stuck in my brain: Namely saying that "The Video Game Industry Needs/Wants more female characters/female developers."

And it's odd, because in some areas I'm a feminist to the last... but I realised, this isn't one of them. I mean, surely it makes no difference who designs/makes the game... since it all depends on the target market... and if a game's aimed at guys (as most games tend to be), then regardless of whether the designer is female or not, it's always going to appeal to guys first and foremost. Thus, it makes no difference who's making them, only that they're skilled in doing so... and I'm fine with guys making the majority of games, they do a good job as it is. Sure, the industry could have a few more females here and there, but it wouldn't matter much. If it isn't broken, don't fix it... right?

Still, at the time I presumed that they were referring to the fact that the industry wants more females to help produce games specifically aimed at females, since guys aren't always the best at judging what a "typical" girl would want out of her games... and to, lets be honest, to help make more realistic female characters, rather than breasts-on-legs. (This point seems to be a little null and void to me though, since I know plenty of normal female characters in todays games and I think the supposed sexism is a bit over-exaggerated to be honest.).
Maybe I've misinterpreted it, but when I looked at the various articles on the BBC's site the broadcast suggested, it seems to indicating that more games should have a female character inserted into them to instantly make them more appealing to "girl gamers".

That's the impression I got, but regardless of whether that's what they're really getting at, that's the other thing I want to talk about... since I don't know about you, but I find a major issue with that logic. Inserting a playable female character into say, your typical FPS seems pretty pointless to me, since from what I've seen, the females who enjoy that genre don't usually feel the need for a female character, they're perfectly find playing as a dude (for various reasons, from not wanting to face the cry of T!TS OR GTFO, to just not being bothered about it). The girls who aren't okay with this, on the whole mind, tend to be the ones who wouldn't enjoy that genre anyway, the ones who'd be better suited to the more casual and gender-neutral games. And that leads me rather long-windedly to the main thing that's been bothering me: Do females really need female characters to enjoy 'hardcore' games to the full? Do things need to change?

Now, I'm hardly your 'typical' female, but I know what my answer to that is. Presumably the logic is based around females being able to connect better with female characters, and thus all the experience to be more immersive for us/them... but to be honest, the only times I've ever felt I couldn't properly connect with a male character is when they were engaging with female CPUs. More specifically, when they were flirting and then the things that follow etc... for obvious reasons. But even then, actions on the more loving/caring/romantic/fraternal end of the spectrum don't pull me out of the experience at all, things like that don't stop me from empathising with the male character. And then during fighting/battling... it's just a game, and I find the gender of the character matters little when you're beating the crap out of enemies... and when horde of them are coming at you I kind of have more important things to concentrate on than what equiptment the character has in their pants (to put it bluntly), you know, like not being killed by the enemies =D Besides, I'm a big believer in the fact that games great because they are windows to experiences you could never have in real life... and for females, when it actually comes up in gameplay, seeing the world through the eyes of a dude is one of them.

But as I said, that's just me, and I know I'm not the best person to use as an example. To make it clear though, I'm not on about actual sexism that spawns from gaming, for example male players being unfair to females while playing online, or the sometimes stereotypical portrayal of female characters. That's not the point this time around :3 And I'm not talking about in more 'casual' games either, I'm on about more 'hardcore' ones (urgh, I detest those labels, but anyway.)

So what do you guys think... does the industry need more female designers? Would it make a difference? Do games need a female option, and girls, is a female character necessary/would allow you to enjoy games more?

(Note: just, forget about M/AO games and the like for now that aren't rated thus for gore alone, for obvious reasons... a female option might help in some cases, in others, it would just make things disturbing o-o)


Mrs. Austin
Dec 6, 2009
Personally, I don't see what real difference more female game designers would have on the games themselves (ignoring entirely the potential debate on needing more women in the industry for the sake of gender equality, I'm talking strictly the effect on the game being produced). The portrayal of any of the characters in the game is still going to depend on the target audience. If the target audience is adolescent boys, then there are inevitably going to be some female characters that end up as "breasts-on-legs". That's a general principle of marketing, you sell what the people want.

For the female playable character, well, I think it's a nice option. Firstly, a lot of games have already tried to bridge the gender gap. Pokemon is honestly the first game that comes to mind. The first games only had a male playable character, but they added a female option in the second gen, and then started placing women in more prominent CPU positions, like a female champion in gen 4 and a female professor in gen 5. It's not necessary, but it's certainly nice to add that touch, and it does please a lot of girl gamers who feel like the women always get the short end of the stick in games.

That is another point, the role of female CPUs (I'll get back to female protagonists later). I've noticed that there are a lot of games where the women play really small roles as CPUs, often acting as the damsel in distress or the main character's weakness, usually a burden. Like Zelda for example, who in the first few games has always just been a helpless maiden, but that's mostly a phenomenon of the past when gender stereotypes were more accepted. In recent games, women have already become more realistic and more helpful, which already placates a lot of displeased girl gamers.

As for female protagonists, it depends entirely on the genre. If it's an RPG, then yes, a female option would be essential for girl gamers to enjoying the game, especially since a lot of RPGs have more personal character interactions. For action games, does it really matter? Guys are biologically built better for fighting, so it makes sense that action game protagonists are male, and like North said, you don't really think about the character's gender when you're trying to kill an enemy. For female protagonists in such games, well a lot of those games are still slightly geared towards guys, hence the nice pretty curves you see on a lot of female fighter characters.

I also see it this way, guys seem more likely to not want to fight as a girl, whereas girls in general are more comfortable fighting as guys (idk how true it is, it's just something I noticed). Therefore, making the protagonist male is better for market sales.

Me personally, I couldn't care less about the gender of the protagonist. All I care about is that the female CPUs aren't useless, cumbersome, or ditzy; AKA as long as the female CPUs are realistic I'm happy. For games geared at guys, there's always going to be some "exaggerated" women CPUs, and maybe having more female game designers will increase the number of realistic women characters. I don't see it as a necessity though, since the general societal trend is moving away from gender stereotypes, and I think it's jut gonna happen naturally anyways.


Mother Hyrule
May 17, 2009
on a crumbling throne
I think it depends on the game, really. For games like Fallout, I will like for there to be a female option. Games that still hold onto the "you are the character" idea, it's much easier to relate if you can choose a character that is the same gender that you are. And that's not even always necessary. I mean, look at Zelda. We=Link, and Link is a male. Never bothered me.

But, for games where the character is their own person, it really doesn't make a difference, I don't think. Making Marcus or Dom from Gears of War female would not have changed how much I enjoy the games. And even some games have female leads... Look at Bayonetta for example. She was female, but it didn't help me enjoy the game at all.

And really, while I won't mind to see more female characters, I kind of dread it. Stereotypes are far from being overcome. With female characters come stereotypes, no matter how 'hardcore' the game or character is. Lara Croft is a gaming sex icon. Look at Bayonetta and Blood Rayne. Since they are female, they must must MUST make porn-star poses in-game. Or how about the most recent Metroid? Because Samus is female, she HAS to cry, she HAS to take orders from men, and she HAS to be maternal. If Samus was "Samuel", he wouldn't have cried, he wouldn't have acted paternal, and he wouldn't have been submissive. Why? Because male characters in games (for the most part) are straight gangsta and you don't mess with them, yo. Even male characters with heartbreaking backgrounds like Dom from GoW who had to kill his own wife because she becomes mentally broken by all the terror of the game. But they do not show him as emotionally fragile or broken. Because he is male, he becomes that gritty, battle-hardened character archetype. Samus? She's a woman, so she cries or faints.

But, to balance that, there would be female characters who are overly-masculine or something. Refusing help from ANY male, hating men, or being some sort of warrior that does the impossible. These are just as bad as the above. Just because a girl appears in a game, it doesn't mean they all have to be Xena Warrior Princess. Characters like Princess Peach are supposed to be frail and weak. It's nothing sexist, it's just part of the classic damsel-in-distress thing. Really, a princess in a poofy pink dress isn't going to be able to defend herself, and she shouldn't have to just to defy the world of female game characters.

Now, I know the point of the original post is not about portrayal of characters, but I'm trying to show how the portrayal, sexist or not, will end up making games cater to females. A game that empowers a female character will, in general, make female gamers more likely to play it. A game that holds females as objects will turn them away in many cases. So, creating games with a female protagonist to cater to female gamers can be tricky if it's a hardcore title and not something fruity. And, in many cases, catering to the women might turn away the male gamers, which would result in a much bigger financial loss.

I think companies are looking at catering to women (in hardcore games) the wrong way. They don't necessarily need to mess with the portrayal of the female characters, but maybe make some things more interesting for women. Scantily clad women are always appealing to men, so it's not a bad idea to give the female gamers eye candy as well. Often, a male will wear average clothes or have an average appearance. If they cater to men by making women physically perfect, they could do the same to male characters. It's a shallow thought, yes, but it'd both make money and bring around more female characters. They can also focus more on character relationships. Best friends, parents, siblings, spouses, etc. Gaming has come a long way and many games feature a character that has a close bond with somebody, but these bonds are not often detailed. Females in general like emotion, and developing something like this would help to cater to females.

But is any of this necessary? My mind says no, but game developers want money. Of course, they will try to grab people from every audience, and this includes catering to females. I think the best solution for good hardcore titles that cater to women would be to employ women who already play 'hardcore' games. They know what makes a good game. This way, it can give companies some insight into ways to cater to women without risking losing their (currently) bigger male gaming audience.


didn't build that
Western RPGs have long allowed you to choose a male or female avatar for your character: the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Knights of the Old Republic games come to mind. One of the first JRPGs, Phantasy Star, was supervised by a female game developer and featured a strong female character who, at her core, simply exemplified human traits (that is to say, she managed to be strong without being a feminist cliche).

With more female game developers, you will have more female protagonists. It is that simple. The same is true when race, etc. is brought up. People like to construct protagonists they can relate to, and so long as the industry is male-dominated, you will see more male protagonists. That's just how it is, and I don't particularly mind. But then, I'm male.

Concerning the nature of female characters, there are certain roles that will frequently be associated with females. I don't think this is necessarily terrible, but I don't mind developers mixing things up either. Even JRPGs are a good example of this--you do have your demure, magic-casting females, but you also have female warriors with strong personalities (and in Tales games, it's often the magic casters who have the strong personalities!). Developers shouldn't over-restrict themselves either way. It's okay that Peach gets captured by Bowser constantly. It's also just fine that Alis in the original Phantasy Star valiantly undertakes a quest to avenge her brother's death and save the Algol system.

Concerning Zeruda's point above, I generally find scantily-clad women to be slutty and unattractive in any venue when they're designed/dressed for sex appeal. I hope developers, rather than doing the equivalent for men, simply cut back on all of it. It can get rather annoying.

February Eve

ZD District Attorney
Mar 21, 2010
So what do you guys think... does the industry need more female designers?

My answer is more of a "mature discussion" answer, but I do think it ties into the discussion - when I read this question I thought less about how it would affect the target demographic and more about equal opportunity in hiring. In the sense that women shouldn't be dissuaded from following a possible dream of being a video game designer by the idea of it being a male dominated field - yes, we should encourage more women to become game designers. People should not feel excluded from something because of their gender, and while I think that wouldn't be most people's intent (as always, there will be some unfortunate exceptions), it can be an accidental side effect, so it never hurts to know you have support. At the same time, the playing field needs to be based on talent and qualifications, not resemble a battle of the sexes. Balance is key.

As for how it would affect that game design and if the target audience would be any different...it really depends. I think there are plenty of women who enjoy the games "for men" who could be part of the developing team without the player even noticing that much of a difference. As for trying to develop more games "for women" - that could be interesting or that could be scary. After all, some people think the Twilight series is what all women want, and I would not enjoy the video game equivalent of that. *sigh* Done right, though - just from a business perspective, it could be very smart to aim for an untapped audience - or one that is known to exist but not catered to yet. That's what Nintendo did with the Wii, and its success speaks for itself.


GoodNight SunShine!
Mar 7, 2009
Gran Pulse
NorthApple said:
Do females really need female characters to enjoy 'hardcore' games to the full? Do things need to change?
I don't think females need female characters to enjoy "hardcore" games to the fullest. Like everyone said, it depends on the game. When I played RE5 for the first time, my youngest sister decided to choose Chris while of course I was playing as Sheva. She didn't mind playing him because she likes the male characters lol. They're more appealing to her, I guess. But, for me....usually I don't mind playing as a male in some games, but like RE5 for instance; I like playing as Jill or Sheva not because their women, but because they're easier to use and are a lot faster than if I were playing as Chris or Wesker. Plus, both of them kick *** lmbo =D. The same goes with Final Fantasy XIII. Even though Snow's strength is better than Lightning's. I tend to use her a lot because of her magic & healing skills. Anyway, I don't think things need to change. I really don't care when it comes to the gender of the character. As long as the story is somewhat interesting, I'm good to go.

I would welcome female developers with no problems. The video game industry should be open to both genders when it comes to developing video games.

NorthApple said:
Do games need a female option, and girls, is a female character necessary/would allow you to enjoy games more?
Most games have a female option though (FFXIII, Street Fighter IV???). I guess it would be good to satisfy both sides, but like you said females are "perfectly find playing as a dude". I don't think a female character would allow me to enjoy games more. Playing a female character would give me the same experience as playing as a male. Just my opinion. Now, when your playing co-op with other people....I think playing as a woman would allow me to enjoy it more lol:P.

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