I can’t help but feel sometimes that we get trapped in a bubble of cynicism and negativity in this industry. As gamers, we’re often very quick to cast aspersions, to believe the worst, to criticise aggressively often for no other reason than a difference of opinion. There have been so many articles published over the last week lamenting the lack of female characters, of female presenters at E3 this year.
It’s not a surprise any more, and it’s certainly something that we should decry and continue to push for change, for greater representation of a demographic eager to be included, or even acknowledged. However, instead of banging on about that, instead of pillorying Ubisoft further for their stupidity and lack of foresight, I’d like to take this moment to celebrate a press conference (of sorts) that gave us plenty to cheer about on this subject.
Yes, Nintendo, I’m talking about you.
I was so glad when Ocarina of Time gave us badass Zelda. Although the ending is still pretty much Link the dude saving the girl, Zelda helps out, and her alter-ego Sheik is a wonderful twist on the usual princess stereotype. But with Hyrule Warriors we’re getting to fully become the princess, slaying beasts, defying convention, and mixing it up in the heat of battle alongside Link. Not only that, but we get to play as Impa and Midna too. Nintendo dropped it in there, smooth as you like, and I guarantee you that I’m not the only girl in the world who punched the air at that moment.
I’d love to see playable Zelda in the games to bear her name, to have the chance to be a hero in her own games, but this is a start.Click here to read more...
So there are to be no playable female models in Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Unity introduces co-op to the Assassin's Creed formula, allowing you to play with up three of your friends. In order to make this fit in with the story, each player will see themselves as Arno in their own games but be able to choose and customise their public appearance -- i.e. how they present themselves in the games of other. You'll still be able to customise your gear, and you'll have all of that with you when playing with others, you'll just appear as a different character to other players. And that character will have to be male.
It's annoying that were back here again with a company that's actually been fairly good at fostering inclusion of late. Assassin's Creed actually flipped the script in terms of delivering a protagonist that didn't fit the white, male stereotype when it came to Liberation, and did so in a way that was pretty relaxed given the scrutiny Avaline would come under. That's just the nature of things that deviate from established norms, even when those norms are somewhat lamentable. Anything different -- in this case to traditionally white, male protagonists with voices like a cement mixer -- will attract extra attention and pressure. But, to Ubisoft's credit, they let the game do the talking, and it was a cracking little game, with Aveline proving to be a wonderfully drawn character. Before that, we had female assassins in Brotherhood and Revelations, female avatars in the multiplayer components. There's precedent for this, and Ubisoft Montreal themselves set it!
So why not here, in Unity?
"It's unfortunate, but it's a reality of game development," said Ubisoft technical director James Therien, speaking to Videogamer. "It's not a question of philosophy or choice in this case at all.
"It was a question of focus and a question of production. Yes, we have tonnes of resources, but we're putting them into this game, and we have huge teams, nine studios working on this game and we need all of these people to make what we are doing here."Click here to read more...
We need more variety when it comes to gaming protagonists.
It seems like a no-brainer written down, after all everyone games these days, from toddlers to pensioners. Yet still there seems to be a prevailing idea of a majority market ruled over by a male, teenage demographic who demand the greatest attention.
It's getting better, of course. It takes less time to point to a game with a female protagonist, or at least the option for one, but we're still a long way off. There'll be those who scoff and argue that little needs to change, and I'd wager that the vast majority of those reactions will be from male gamers. I don't want to bash people over the head with talk of privilege, but it's important to take a walk in someone else's shoes from time to time.
As I explained in a vid on my personal channel over the weekend, I like playing female roles: I enjoyed Tomb Raider, No One Lives Forever is one of my favourite game series of all time, and I'll frequently take female characters for a spin in RPGs just to see how characters react differently to a protagonist of the opposite gender than to those when I'm role-playing as myself. But I also imagine what it might be like were the tables turned, with upwards of nine out of ten games released featuring female protagonists. I'd like to say that I'd be totally fine with that, but I'd be lying. Eventually I'd want to just be able to invest wholly in a character without compromise. It doesn't matter how well written the women in those imagined games might have been, at some point I'd want a character I could truly relate to. As a person. As a man.Click here to read more...
While the male Commander Shepard has the chiseled good looks of real-life Dutch model, Mark Vanderloo, his female counterpart players could opt for sort of resembled a genetic experiment gone awry. Tinkering with the facial sliders helped, but it still resulted in a fair few painful cringes when they popped up in dialogue close-ups. That's all about to change now, however, as Bioware is hosting a competition wherein you vote for six pre-designed Femsheps, with the winning candidate making it into the game proper.Click here for more
After teasing and trailering the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum at last year's VGAs, WB dropped us a line to inform us that Arkham City is on course for an autumn 2011 release date. Featuring an sprawling hostile Gotham City district, an entirely new storyline and some classic villains (including Two Face, Mr. Freeze and Talia al Ghul), we couldn't be more excited. Here's the press release for your delectation:
Developed by Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham City builds upon the intense, atmospheric foundation of Batman: Arkham Asylum, sending players soaring into Arkham City, the new maximum security “home” for all of Gotham City’s thugs, gangsters and insane criminal masterminds. Set inside the heavily fortified walls of a sprawling district in the heart of Gotham City, this highly anticipated sequel introduces a brand-new story that draws together a new all-star cast of classic characters and murderous villains from the Batman universe, as well as a vast range of new and enhanced gameplay features to deliver the ultimate experience as the Dark Knight.
I'm so ready for this. Check out the official site and our news updates for the latest!
Good old Peter Molyneux's been acting as unofficial spokesman for Kinect, defending the peripheral from all comers while describing Fable III's motion control functionality as "wonderfully additive." Unfortunately, he's now revealed that Fable III won't support Kinect at launch during an interview on the Engadget Show. No touchy-feely stuff, I'm afraid.
Some sort of aftermarket patch might well add Kinect functionality at a later date... but this will require Fable III to be finished with room to activate/add the code later on since Microsoft has previously stated that retroactively adding Kinect support to older titles is impossible. [The Engadget Show]
Wonder why there aren't more female lead characters in videogames these days? According to leaked comments from former Activision employees, it's because they simply don't sell. Apparently, Activision execs may have called for culling of female leads from upcoming projects (including a nifty spy thriller starring a Lucy Liu-wannabe that's transmogrified into True Crime: Hong Kong) just because they didn't test well in focus groups. In fact, they were "given specific direction to lose the chick."
Ouch. These comments form part of a larger Gamasutra report that's lengthy but well worth a read. Activision almost certainly isn't the only company guilty of sidelining female protagonists... but it's certainly another piece of bad publicity that makes them resemble a Saturday morning cartoon supervillain even more than they do already. [Gamasutra via 1UP]
Update: Activision has refuted these allegations, stating that "[they respect] the creative vision of its development teams. The company does not have a policy of telling its studios what game content they can develop, nor has the company told any of its studios that they cannot develop games with female lead characters." Make your minds up, folks.
We'd love to get your thoughts on this one. Are you insulted by the current lack of female game protagonists... or do you feel that this is a storm in a teacup? Want to get stuck into yet another rant about Activision? Have your say in the comments!
For a story-driven experience, Bioshock 2 has received some truly shocking DLC. The first multiplayer content pack added an incremental upgrade that was actually included on the disc in the first place, and the recently-released Protector Trials pack adds an inexplicable challenge mode to the proceedings.
Luckily, 2K President Christoph Hartmann has announced a new DLC offering that will expand upon Bioshock's epic story and setting. Entitled Minerva's Den, it'll feature a new player character, new environments and some backstory centred around Tenenbaum's struggle for survival.
"Minerva's Den is a substantial addition that will give players more of what they're looking for: more story, more narrative, more gameplay and more of Rapture.Minerva's Den will be a fitting conclusion to the BioShock 2 saga."
About time too.
Nippon Ichi. The developers behind the wonderfully deep and anarchic Disgaea series seem to have gone of the rails in the aftermath of woeful 2009 profits. Their current project, known simply as Criminal Girls, is described as "the role-playing game where you punish young girls."
Yep, that's exactly how it sounds. Using a combination of healing massage and sadistic spanking, you'll need to erotically convince seven sinful buxom wenches to...
... I can't do this anymore. Criminal Girls will probably never reach British shores, though if you make enough noise you might just get your wish (you sick puppy). Whilst I can see this PSP title selling well in Japan (with no sweeping generalisation intended), I genuinely despair for Nippon Ichi- and hope that another Disgaea game may also be in the works. [Kotaku]