A lack of leading ladies haunts game industry

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm •  Published: June 19, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Where the ladies at?

At last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo, video game developers hyped upcoming titles featuring super-soldiers, assassins, bank robbers and secret agents. They all had one thing in common: They're men. The continued lack of female protagonists in games shown off at E3 highlighted an issue that continues to loom over the video game industry. Why is it still such a dude fest?

"It's boring that we're continuing to have this conversation," said Belinda Van Sickle, president and CEO of the advocacy group Women in Games International. "I started in the industry 17 years ago and it seems like we're having the same conversation with the same responses from industry insiders, gamers and the media. It needs to be more substantive."

While there were a few notable exceptions at this year's E3 — like thrill seeker Lara Croft in "Rise of the Tomb Raider" and sci-fi survivor Amanda Ripley in "Alien: Isolation" — male characters still far outnumber female protagonists in video games.

Everyone has a different answer as to why the issue persists.

"The more women we have playing games, the more we will be able to have a balance between women and men in the games," said Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft.

Ubisoft came under the most fire at E3 after revealing that the playable characters in the co-op modes of both its historical adventure "Assassin's Creed: Unity" and shoot-'em-up "Far Cry 4" would all be men. Despite the fact previous installments of those series featured female avatars, the developers cited technical limitations for the lack of girl power.

"Any character you create requires extra resources, gender aside," explained Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. "Any character that has a different look, voice, mechanics or way of moving, requires more work. ... "But that's not a reason not to do something. We create lots of different characters with lots of different movements."

He noted Activision's "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare," the latest installment in the military shooter franchise, will feature a vital female character in the single-player campaign, as well as the return of playable female avatars in the multiplayer mode.

In addition to technical issues, the reasons given for gender imbalance in the game world can include psychology, financial justifications and perhaps sexism. Yet such excuses don't seem to be holding up anymore when one considers the state of the industry: audiences for games are changing; the latest generation of consoles is more powerful than before; games have ballooned into a behemoth $21 billion business.