DONTNOD's creative director Jean-Maxime Moris has told of the problems his company have faced in trying to develop a game - Remember Me - with a female protagonist, saying that publishers told him outright that "you can't have a female character [protagonist] in games".
Apparently instead of getting the marketing department to do their job, it's far easier to push a sexist agenda down from the top and force people to massively compromise their work.
“We had some [publishers] that said, 'Well, we don't want to publish it because that's not going to succeed. You can't have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that,'” Moris told the PAR.
Leaving aside Lara Croft and Samus Aran and Cate Archer and Joanna Dark and Bayonetta and Lightning and Chell for a moment, Moris noted that even if DONTNOD had just changed Nilin to being a male character, there still would have been some issues with the existing script.
“We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin's private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy,” he said. “We had people tell us, 'You can't make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that's going to feel awkward.'
“I'm like, 'If you think like that, there's no way the medium's going to mature.' There's a level of immersion that you need to be at, but it's not like your sexual orientation is being questioned by playing a game. I don't know, that's extremely weird to me.”
He noted the disparity with other storytelling mediums too, and castigated the cowardice of publishing naysayers hiding behind "core target" documents and selling their audiences - that's you and I - short.
“You can identify with people of the other gender in movies, why could you not in games? The fact that our core target is males 15-25 is not an excuse. We need to be able to create, and respect the audience enough to believe that they can be smart enough to identify with that type of character.”
We couldn't agree more. One might even suggest that if the industries marketers can only sell one kind of game, surely they're stunting the industry's growth with their incompetence. It shouldn't matter what gender your central protagonist is, and developers should absolutely be able to tell the stories they want to tell and make the games they want to make without such fundamental compromise as this. With so many routes to market opening up, there's simply no excuse for publishers, and kudos to Moris for sticking to his guns.