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Games likely to follow Pentagon on women in combat

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

The previous installment in the successful "Call of Duty" franchise, "Black Ops II," featured a female president, fighter pilot and a playable character named Chloe "Karma" Lynch, who served a brief but pivotal role in the single-player campaign. It's unclear if Activision will take a cue from the Pentagon for the next "Call of Duty." (Activision-Blizzard Inc. declined to comment for this story.)

Sande Chen, a game writer and author of "Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform," said that implementing female characters in military shooters, especially in their intricate online multiplayer modes, could be a complex and expensive proposition for developers. Another gender requires new art assets, animations and sound effects, essentially doubling the work required of game makers.

Adding the fairer sex could also make a game, well, not fair.

"It makes a game more complicated because there are differences between men and women in battlefield situations," noted Chen. "Women walk differently and their frames are usually smaller and more difficult to hit. Usually, game developers don't want to give too much advantage to one character choice over another character choice. It would be interesting, but it might need to be more cosmetic in a shooter."

Could such a change also affect the audience playing these games? If developers deploy female characters to digital front lines, would even more women be inspired to play male-dominated military shooters? Not necessarily. Timothy J. Welsh, a media professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, doesn't believe simply drafting new female characters into realistic shooters will inspire more women to enlist in these games.

"People who like to play games are going to play games, and people who don't, won't," said Welsh, who contributed to the book "Guns, Grenades, and Grunts: First-Person Shooter Games." ''Right now, more than twice the number of women over 18 play games than boys under 17. Obviously, having to play as Nathan Drake in every game hasn't deterred the women who make up 47 percent of the gaming population."

Brenda Romero, who recently worked on the Facebook strategy game "Ghost Recon Commander" — based on the Ubisoft Entertainment tactical shooter franchise "Ghost Recon," which has featured women characters — is hopeful that if military shooter developers do include a female combat soldier in future editions, the squad mate with double X chromosomes doesn't amount to just another video game vixen.

"The only way I could see this becoming controversial is if the character is over sexualized," said Romero. "I would hope that she's treated realistically, especially in how she's visualized. I think a female character in a combat role should have the physique of an Olympian — not a Playboy centerfold — and for the love of God, she better not be wearing a camouflage thong on the battlefield."


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