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DONTNOD: Publishers Told Us "You Can't Have A Female Character In Games"

Matt Gardner
Capcom, DONTNOD Entertainment, Remember Me, Sexism

DONTNOD: Publishers Told Us "You Can't Have A Female Character In Games"

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.

Add a comment2 comments
Late  Mar. 19, 2013 at 16:45

... publishers told him outright that "you can't have a female character [protagonist] in games".

Proof or it didn't happen.

Sounds like he's just trying to drum up publicity by riding the coat tails of a few (quite ridiculous) recent articles and conferences about gender and sexuality.

Nobody cares one jot whether the main protagonist is male or female, Mr Moris.
Are you trying to distract us from the core gameplay? If so that's (a) rather blatant, and (b) very worrying.
Or are you just hung up on gender issues because you've got a girly name?

Why do I always follow up perfectly good points on sexism with a juvenile sexist joke? Perhaps it's me that has issues...[/introspective]

googleberry  Mar. 19, 2013 at 21:16

Sales data probably the determinant for the position taken by the publisher. I'd guess the argument goes: "it's not that you can't sell a game which has a female lead, but it's a damn sight less probable it will sell well, given the core demographic"

As a pure business decision, it probably makes some sense.

Let's assume the core game buying public maps quite well onto the core action movie audience (predominantly male, 15 - 35).
If we compare takings for such films with female leads vs. those with male leads, raw stats says go with a male lead. (see IMDB takings for reference data). Alas, you then get into unresolvable arguments about what drove the difference: was it causality or correlation etc.

So the safe option for the publisher (or film producer) is to stick with male leads.

Last edited by googleberry, Mar. 19, 2013 at 22:11

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