Over the years the video game industry has developed into becoming one of the top profitable forms of entertainment beating streaming services, the music industry and the box office. From their realistic and life like graphics to its ground breaking storytelling, it’s no secret that the video game industry has come a long way from the classical 80’s type of games. Take the gaming company Rockstar’s newest installment Red Dead Redemption 2 for example. This highly anticipated western sequel went on to make over $725 million in its first three days of being released, thus making it the largest opening weekend in the HISTORY of entertainment. That’s just one example that shows the success the gaming industry has. However, while these games do make a profit and are enjoyable to play, they are missing a vital role. I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to video games in the public eye, it can be seen as being a more male dominated culture. Because of this, we see a lack of female leads for big video game blockbuster hits. This is a problem the gaming industry has faced for years and continues to face in the present day. However, with the rise of national movements such as #MeToo, we might be able to see a significant change in the gaming industry that will lead to an equal representation of both male and female leads.
In the past, it was almost unusual if a female were to admit she played video games. But now a days, I feel we’re finally growing out of that perception as video games have slowly become more mainstreamed in our culture. If we look at the charts below, you can actually see throughout the years how male and female gamers almost stayed equal with one another as users.
So, with these new found statistics, why is it that video game characters/stories still don’t seem to have a sort of inclusion with female leads? Well one answer to look at, is the marketing side. There seems to be this myth that still holds up today that games with female heroes won’t sell. The reality of the situation is that games with a female lead hero does not have a strong enough marketing budget due to its lack of female lead games that are avaliable. “Games with exclusively male heroes sold around 75 percent better than games with only female heroes.” (Becky Chambers). Male lead games do take over the majority of gaming so it’s no wonder their games get an increase in the marketing budget. It seems to me that this problem has a Sisyphus effect. Because of its lack of female leads in games, the marketing will always stay down and won’t be able to change unless the games change. Until then, we’re going to continue to go in circles.
https://youtu.be/t60azfi_tzEThis is the trailer to the game Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 from 2011. You can imagine the production value is rather high and the commercial follows two male leads.
https://youtu.be/ZfZGhHXwPGEHere’s another live action trailer for Call of Duty Black Ops 2 from 2012. In it, you get to see a little bit of diversity and even a few females kicking some ass. Progress?
Now, it’s not to say that there are no female lead video game characters because there are. In fact, there are some great female leads with a fully developed three dimensional characteristic compared to those that are more two dimensional (Princess Peach in the early years who always seems to be the damsel in distress). However that being said, these lead female characters tend to be more sexualized for the game. Lara Croft in Tomb Raider is a prime example of this. While she’s going around the jungle fighting bad guys and collecting artifacts, she’s doing it dressed in not exactly the attaire you would think.
While the game remains to be a fun action-packed adventure, it almost seems as though the story and the marketing relied on a more sexualized Lara Croft rather than a character driven Lara Croft. This has actually since changed in the newer developments of the Tomb Raider games.
https://youtu.be/QT3kfwrkbvIThis is another excellent example of how female lead games are often sexualized, thus getting the male demographic more interested.
While the gaming industry has tried and failed with female representation, I do believe they are slowly on their way to achieving their goal. There are games that represent a female lead based off of her character and not their sexualization. Games such as the new Gears of War 5, Uncharted Lost Legacy, Mirrors Edge, and Metroid Prime just to name a few. One quick game I really want to focus on is Naughty Dogs ground breaking The Last Of Us, which went on to win over 48 awards including a BAFTA games award for the female lead performer. The Last Of Us is a survival horror game that features a duo narrative starring the lead Joel and the other lead, a young girl named Ellie. Both of these characters are well developed and given very strong realistic personality’s. My hope for the future, is the sequel to the game that is to be released in 2020. This time, we seem to follow an older version of Ellie as more of the lead and a possible represent of the LGBTQ community. You can see from the gameplay trailer below.
While we are still a very long way away to getting equal representation of female leads in video games, one can see how far we’ve truly come in developing these characters and also, can see what the future holds. While there still isn’t nearly as many titled female games as there is male, I strongly believe that the gaming industry will fully turn around. I also believe that the release of the highly anticipated The Last Of Us Part II will play a big role for the future. Unfortunately, it all seems to come down to being a money issue. In order to change this, we need to break the wheel that is the marketing side of the gaming industry and give equal publicity, marketing value, and production value to games for both male and female leads.