Dragon Age III’s Gaider On The Impracticality Of Sexism

By Nathan Grayson on March 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

All this talk of sexism isn’t going away, nor should it. The gaming industry’s sick, and the symptoms are plain as day. Mystifyingly often, however, the immediate reaction to even the faintest hint of that suggestion is “No, nuh-uh! You just want to censor expression! Give me one good reason we actually need to change.”* Well, if you really want to move beyond “Because jeez, it’s basic human decency to treat someone else the way you’d like to be treated,” Dragon Age III lead writer David Gaider’s got a laundry list of practical reasons for you. 14 years at one of the most influential studios out there, after all, will do that to you. Especially when it’s one that’s certainly not innocent of mistakes and missteps of its own. Prior to Gaider’s GDC talk on the very same subject, I caught up with him to discuss why sexism (and any sort of “-ism,” really) is bad for everyone: you, me, the industry, and of course, women or anyone else directly affected.

RPS: So what’s the basic thesis of your GDC talk? I know you’re discussing sex and sexism, but what conclusion are you ultimately trying to draw?

Gaider: Basically I’m saying that, from the perspective of a writer and a designer who’s had to deal with a lot of romance in games – romance and sex – which brings me directly into confrontation issues and sexism and sexuality… Until we had broached that topic, it was kind of a side issue. I guess back in the day, when we were first starting with it, it wasn’t something that the industry kept in mind at all. But the fact that we have charged directly into that field, that means… Sexism and sexuality issues are things that I end up having to deal with on a regular basis. I thought I could offer some feedback on that.

The fact that we’ve had to confront these issues has made us better developers.

Essentially I guess the thrust of what I’m talking about is, the fact that we’ve had to confront these issues has made us better developers and has made our games more inclusive. That’s a good thing. In the talk I’m discussing why the industry doesn’t often treat that as more important, and maybe what we as an industry should be considering moving forward.

RPS: Did you see the recent thing about Remember Me, and the fact that the developer had to shop it around a bunch simply because their main character was female?

Gaider: Yeah, I find it interesting. I call it “accepted industry wisdom.” The thing about accepted industry wisdom is that you can’t question it. Everyone just agrees. It’s weird. The things that the industry decides are treated as incontrovertibly true until someone else comes along and proves them definitively wrong in a way that we cannot ignore. Then, of course, everyone jumps on it.

It’s like back when EverQuest was at its height. I think it had about 800,000 subscribers. At the time, accepted industry wisdom said, “Okay, some other MMOs have tried to come out and jump on EverQuest’s bandwagon and couldn’t do it. Obviously 800,000 subscribers is the MMO market. That’s capped out.” It was accepted. You couldn’t get more than that. Those were the only people who were interested in playing MMOs. Then World of Warcraft came out and it was a game-changer. Everyone said, “Oh, I guess we were wrong.”

To say that about female protagonists – that they just don’t sell [is myopic]. Over the last 10 years, how many titles have had female protagonists? And we’re supposed to accept, from those particular titles, that a) that constitutes a pattern, and b) the only reason those games were unsuccessful is because they had female protagonists? That is a real leap of logic. What it is, it’s just that accepted industry wisdom is often deciding that the reasons these things happen are because we’ve already come to an assumption and we’re trying to justify that assumption. So yes, there is lots of that in the industry.

RPS: You used the phrase “definitively wrong.” Generally, in triple-A, the only way to make people feel that way is the bottom line. Money.

Gaider: Right. Ultimately that will always be the bottom line for the industry. Now, I think you would be wrong to characterize everyone in the industry as heartless and only driven by money. That’s not true. But ultimately the industry at large is only going to listen once money is involved. If you were to ask me, not that by any means I’m an authority on the subject… If you were to ask me what would make the industry change its mind about female protagonists, it would take some game coming out and being completely financially successful such that people in the industry couldn’t say, “Well, it was just because of this. Not because female protagonists are suddenly marketable.” It has to be something they couldn’t ignore. The only way the industry can’t ignore something is when money is involved.

RPS: The thing that throws me, though, is that it makes perfect monetary sense. It always has. Boring bald space commandos and city commandos and jungle commandos and shark commandos appeal to a pretty narrow group. Why do so many publishers refuse to see past them?

Gaider: They say this isn’t something guys want to do. It’s a strange bit of logic, to me anyway. It seems to say that maybe the people who are saying that, they wouldn’t like that idea, and they’re trying to justify it by projecting on that larger audience. I’m sure that if you talk to somebody who has experience in marketing, they would have lots of reasons or statistics to throw up as to why that would be the case. I’m not educated on it. This is coming from me with an outsider’s perspective. I just find some of the logic involved a little self-serving. It seems to justify what we want to do instead of looking at what it’s actually going to do.

RPS: But I would say you are in a position to really do something about it.

Gaider: Am I?

RPS: Well, you’re helping guide a gigantic franchise on the creative side. That’s a fair deal of power.

Gaider: I’m not in charge of anything. I’m a writer, which means that I have a lead designer, a project director, people higher up who provide me with parameters inside which I work. I can’t just say, “You know what? Dragon Age is going to have a female protagonist on the box.” That’s not my calling.

RPS: Nothing’s that easy, no. But you are in a place that affords you significant influence.

Gaider: I’m in a place to offer input, and I do that, yes. There are lots of people on the team and we’re all going to discuss it as a group. I think that the more discussion we have on issues like that, there will become a sense that [it's an issue]. I think what actually happens a lot in the industry is that some things are taken for granted. Nobody challenges them and talks about them. They’re just accepted as a given. The more discussion there is about those issues, the more we will stop accepting these little nuggets of accepted industry wisdom as beyond question.

RPS: For you personally, is that the next step: to discuss more and create awareness? I mean, clearly, that’s what your doing here.

Gaider: That’s something that we’ve always done, at least on the BioWare side. I don’t know that it’s an agenda of mine, per se. I have an actual game to write. That’s not my first concern. But it is a concern. If we’re talking about how we need our big-budget games to sell to more people and have a larger audience, to say that that larger audience should only be 18-25 males exclusively… So, what, we’re all going to fight over the same demographic? There are actual reasons why having diversity in your games and being inclusive of a larger audience has sound financial backing. If you’re talking about that, maybe that’s the only way the industry is going to listen. It takes somebody to do it and do it well and prove that this is something that makes financial sense before the industry will accept that maybe it’s a thing.

RPS: You noted that it doesn’t make sense to restrict audiences down to this tiny, largely young male demographic, and BioWare’s trying to avoid that where its characters and themes are concerned. What about subject matter, though? Sci-fi and fantasy carry fairly narrow connotations – regardless of gender associations or whatever – and even subversions only get so much attention. How much will expanding game stories to more diverse audiences require moving outside that range of subject matter? How badly do you want to see games venture to new places?

Gaider: Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting the young male demographic is tiny. All I’m suggesting is that games shouldn’t be limiting their audience right out of the gate. As you point out, things like choice of genre and mature content are already going to limit your audience to a degree… the answer isn’t to only make family-rated games or to only make games of the most popular genres – though I’m sure that would work for some – but rather to keep our games accessible to as large an audience as we can. Let’s experiment with difficult subjects and venture to new places, absolutely. Let’s just take as many people with us to those new places as we can.

RPS: There’s also the other side of it, in that there’s a subset of people who are openly hostile toward the idea. This interview’s going to get a string of incredibly negative comments. “Why would you talk about this? Why wouldn’t you talk about dragons and ages?”

Gaider: Well, it’s privilege, right? A lot of people treat that word with a very hostile attitude, because they feel like it’s an attack word. But it’s not. Privilege is just the assumption that something isn’t a problem because it’s not a problem for you personally. You’re in a group that’s normally being serviced, that’s part of the majority. You’re privileged because you’re accustomed to being in that group that gets all the content. You’re not necessarily interested in equality, because equality for you adds up to a lesser position – from your perspective – than you enjoyed before.

So yeah, there are definitely people who are going to be hostile to that idea. As nice as it is to be in the group that is being catered to exclusively, though… We’re talking about the industry at large needing to have broader appeal and a larger fanbase. Yeah, there are some people who don’t want that, because this is their playground. This is their treehouse, get out! But that’s where the industry is going.

RPS: Then there’s the other side of that particular coin. There was a thing on your Tumblr about it a while back, the stuff with the way that Isabela was dressed in Dragon Age II. There were a lot of people calling that out and saying, “Clearly, this is a very sexual depiction of a character.”

Gaider: Yeah. The thing I was discussing about that is, I understand why they would address it, because you have to look at Isabela in the context of the game she’s in. I think there was balance in her depiction versus the depiction of other female characters. There was a reason why she was sexualized. And she was sexualized – it was on purpose. The thing that would bother me more is having a character who was sexualized who has no reason to be sexualized. If Aveline had had her armor cut to show her cleavage and stuff, how bizarre would that be?

But they’re justified in challenging Isabela’s depiction. Aside from the context of Isabela in her game, there is Isabela in the industry at large, and because this sexualization of female characters is so pervasive in the industry, to expect that anybody could at a glance look at Isabela and know that she’s different is quite a leap. I mean, it’s arguable. I’m not gonna say she’s above reproach. In that context, maybe she’s okay. But that’s a big thing to expect. Of course there’s a lot of people who are up in arms. Why wouldn’t you be, because it seems like this is everywhere? At a glance, yes, you can look at Isabela and say, “Yes, that’s a great example of what I’m talking about.”

RPS: Do you think that’s an example of why, especially now, quality writing is becoming more important for games? In that context, Isabela could have been a very offensive character, had she not been an actual character, essentially.

Gaider: It’s a funny line to walk. When someone starts arguing about something like sexualization of female characters, the automatic argument that some people go to is that they think you’re arguing the exact opposite, that the only answer to having sexualized characters is to have every character be non-sexual completely. I don’t think that’s what anyone’s suggesting. That’s an extreme reaction to the problem, so I can see why some people might go that way – the answer is to cover everybody up with burqas or whatever.

These things do have to be individually challenged.

The difference between sexy and sexualized… Sexy is good, but I think that a lot of people, they have a sexualized character and they think, “That’s sexy. Everyone should think that’s sexy and think that’s a good thing to look at.” It becomes this pattern across the industry. That’s when it becomes an issue. So yeah, these things do have to be individually challenged. They do have to be supported by the writing. I don’t necessarily think it’s a reason why writing is more important. I just think that it’s a process you can’t just cut out. The idea that, “Okay, we’re going to have a female character. Let’s create her as a sexualized character without even considering her place in the game or the variety of depictions of female characters.”

Or people of color in games. Those are things you should at some point stop and think about. If we happen to make a game that has a lot of female characters and every single one of them is sexualized… Even then, let’s say the writing actually supported that and every one of those characters had a very valid reason to be sexualized. Well, maybe, at that point, you need to step back and say, “Why did we create a whole bunch of justifiably sexualized characters? What are we saying about those characters and about women that might end up being hostile to a female audience?”

It’s not that you have to make a game that says, “Hey, female audience! We’re here just for you!” No. It’s about making a game that isn’t telling the female audience, “You’re not who we want to play this game.” Just disinviting them. That’s something that the industry needs to get to. Not figuring out whether they should have pink boxes and unicorns because they think that would appeal to women. That’s not what anybody is talking about, at least that I’ve ever seen.

Check back tomorrow for part two, in which we discuss fan reaction to Dragon Age 2, why it maybe got a bit more appreciation than it got, themes Dragon Age 3 will explore, and fantasy’s ability to be more than simple wish fulfillment.

*This can also be translated as “I’m a blathering numbskull. Gobble gobble gobble ptttthrtppt” I’m sorry. I tried to be mature. Instead I just made you read more of the article.

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286 Comments »

  1. Yosharian says:

    Isn’t anyone else sickened to see a Bioware developer criticising other people for being driven by money?

    For example:
    http://www.nowgamer.com/news/919569/bioware_we_want_call_of_dutys_audience.html

    • Christo4 says:

      Hehe, nice find.

      EDIT: @VikingMaekel The thing is in every bussiness making money is the primary goal. Thing is, instead of making a good game, the article on nowgamer is a disclaimer to make games dumbed down to appeal to COD players. This is not just making money anymore, it’s about maximizing profits, loosing what’s important (making good games) on the way.

    • VikingMaekel says:

      Where? He doesn’t say ‘the other(s)’. He says ‘we’ and ‘the industry’. Which is kind of saying Bioware as well.

      Furthermore, it is still a company. Whatever it else might be, a company’s primary goal is to make money, so they all have and always will have money as a drive. How they do it and how they treat there customers is another question.

      • Yosharian says:

        Bioware’s initial goal as a company was to create good games. There is a good youtube video around somewhere which illustrates this perfectly. I’ll see if I can find it.

        Bottom line, there’s hypocrisy at work here.

        Also frankly I don’t think a company owned by EA can legitimately criticise anyone in the selling out department.

        edit: I’m having trouble finding the video but basically it illustrates that Bioware was originally created by two (apparently 4, but whatever) Doctors, using their own funds, in order to make great games. Making money was an important, but secondary concern – secondary to making really good games. Now it really seems that Bioware have money as a primary concern, what with the ‘diversification’ of titles like the Dragon Age series. (And I’m being kind saying ‘seems’, really it’s objectively bloody obvious)

        edit#2: thanks to RandomEsa, this is the video I was referring to:

        It is absolute genius. Don’t read what I wrote – go watch this video instead.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          Can’t quite remember numbers, but Bioware was actually created by 4 doctors, but 2 of them left relatively early on.

          • Yosharian says:

            Ok. Doesn’t change the point. I was speaking from memory of the video anyway. Which, for some reason, has vanished from my youtube history.

        • Lycan says:

          Agreed. Or, to put it another way, I’d prefer to give (what modest amounts of money I can spend on games) to people who make (or will make) the kinds of games I like – with that itself (the game making bit) being their primary intention and the money being simply a means to that end. In other words, they aim to put out a good product, and significant profitability is a pleasant side effect. Rather than the cringeworthy (to me) principle of making a god product *only* because it makes good business sense. That kind of approach makes me uncomfortable – somehow I am okay with it in movies (ironically) but not in games and music. I’m weird like that, probably.

          I think that saying “every company’s primary goal is to make money” is a bit disingenuous and if a game radiates an aura that smacks of that attitude, then I would prefer to ignore that company’s games every time. I used to be significantly more cynical about this, but the rise of indies recently – with the power of digital distribution and social media – made me sit up and take notice (with hope). The recent Kickstarter projects by inXile and Obsidian have made me positively excited again :D

          Disclaimer: I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition of DA:O and had tons of fun with it, over 250 hours probably (including 2 playthroughs of the main game and 1 of the expansion). In good faith, I pre-ordered DA2 as well (sodding @#$@$# PC Gamer and it’s 94 score) but was disappointed. I’m not saying it’s a terrible game – I played it through completely once – but it was *not* worth $50+ to me and 1 playthrough was plenty. And it was not a 94 by any stretch, please. I mean, for sanity’s sake…

          • Yosharian says:

            I have played it twice ^_^

            It is pitifully bad in certain respects, but it still has some enjoyable aspects. When comparing it to DA:O, however, it is clear that the game is a huge step backwards.

            And let’s not even make the comparison between DA2 and earlier RPGs like BG2 because that will not end well.

          • Yosharian says:

            God bless you my man. I was looking for that for ages.

            edit: oh god I am watching this video for the second time and it is so fucking good. I love you for finding this.

        • shutter says:

          No, their original goal was to make money by making good games. You want to know how I know? Because they’re a company. If all they wanted to do was make good games they’d be a non-profit (or more likely, a charity case).

          • Gentlemoth says:

            That’s just pure bollocks. You don’t make a good game without making money, and you don’t continue making good games without having the revenue to pay for staff, tools, and expanding your trade, at least not if you plan on being anything else but a mod for another game.

            There is a scale where you balance the need to make money with your other priorities. Since you so aptly pointed out they are a company, so they will always weigh the scale to make enough money to get by, preferably to grow. The other side of the scale is to follow their passion, see their thing grow, be admired by the fans, and make good games that will live down in history or at the very least be thought of fondly for many many years to come.

            Bioware is one of the biggest examples of a company going from having a great deal on weight on the passion side of the scale to swapping that over to caring almost only about profits.

          • Yosharian says:

            I pretty much didn’t need to respond to this comment, but thanks Gentlemoth for saving me the bother anyway =)

    • Hoaxfish says:

      No worse than when Gaider said he didn’t like romance in games, when it’s pretty much the sole thing that props up Bioware games.

      • Kamos says:

        He did, eh? Well, I respect him a bit more, then. He should push harder to convince the bossman @ Bioware to stop making every Bioware game a date sim. It is silly how pretty much every character is trying to get into your pants despite the fact that you’re trying to save the world / universe.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          Guess I shoulda linked in the first place:

          http://dgaider.tumblr.com/post/40361886357/on-romances-in-games

          1.Romances are a side show, not the main game.
          2. I dislike the idea of every character being sexually available to the player.

          • mouton says:

            Romances are, in fact, entirely optional in Bioware games. There are tons of wonderful characters who are great even if you don’t romance them.

            The fact that fanbase feels strongly about them is another matter.

            P.S. I wholeheartedly agree that making everyone accessible to the protagonist is horrible. Bioware kind of caved in ME2 when suddenly you could hump a bunch of different spiecies. Still, there are many attractive characters in most Bioware games who remain unreachable.

          • Phantoon says:

            They may be entirely optional, but I’d hazard a guess to say the game would be a lot shorter if you ignored all of it.

      • montorsi says:

        Romances are optional. If you don’t want a dating sim, stop hitting on your party. It seems pretty simple to me, as someone who rarely explores those options in Bioware games.

        • The Random One says:

          But my party keeps hitting on ME!

          Go away Kaidan, you’re drunk boring

    • stormhit says:

      Yeah, wanting your work to be played and enjoyed by more people is just the worst thing ever. What jerks.

    • Shooop says:

      Bit too strong an adjective. But at this point I’m not shocked in the least by anything any studio does anymore because they all seem to be having a race to the bottom so my perspective may be warped.

    • noodlecake says:

      Not remotely. Companies are made of human’s with their own views and opinions. If I had some kind of talents to lend to a company, I would totally work for Bioware. Despite what most people who post on RPS seem to think, I like most Bioware games that I have played. I’m very left wing, I’m an artist, I’m a feminist and I’m generally anti corporate. If I worked their my views probably wouldn’t reflect those of the company but I would feel good knowing that I’m part of a company that made great games like the Mass Effect Series, Dragon Age: Origins and the incredibly flawed but still pretty good Dragon Age 2.

      So yeah. I don’t agree with you at all. I think it’s fine for people who work for bioware to express whatever opinions on women in games they want. I don’t see hypocrisy there.

    • Continuum says:

      He’s not a “Bioware developer.” He’s a lead writer for Bioware. He doesn’t get to make the decisions on what gets developed, what content gets included, how it’s marketed, etc., he just does his best to write plot and dialogue for the games.

      Surely you’ve worked a job where the decisions made by the company you worked for did not reflect your personal opinions or how you might like to see things done.

      • Yosharian says:

        Perhaps I should have used the word ‘employee’. It hardly matters.

    • Canisa says:

      Way to make an Ad Hominem attack and completely dodge around actually engaging with the point at hand.

      • Phantoon says:

        That’s no ad hominem. Ad hominem would be me calling him an idiot for his godawful toupee.

        Calling someone a hypocrite, then explaining why they are a hypocrite, is different territory. Calling someone a liar when they lie isn’t ad hominem because it’s central to the argument- that the person is a liar. Your teeth, hair, appearance, etc have no bearing on any such argument.

        For instance, here I can call you uneducated because I think you’re using that phrase without knowing what it means because I have no evidence to support the idea that you actually know what it means. But saying you’re fat would be out of line- it has nothing to do with my point, and I have no idea if you’re overweight anyways. I’m sure you’re fine.

        • retoriplastique says:

          Canisa’s only mistake was to call it an “attack”, but it could qualify as ad hominem. Only in its most basic form, the ad hominem fallacy is a direct insult, or related to a physical defect; but it also has other forms. To point out an hypocrisy, despite how obvious and shameless, IS an ad hominem fallacy (quoque). It’s not central to any argument. Calling someone a liar because they lied at some point, has no implications in a current discussion. Yosharian didn’t contribute anything, while pointing out some off-topic article about the developer in hand. And neither have we.

          But please, don’t correct other people on a concept you don’t have a full grasp of.

  2. Tuimic says:

    Those quote boxes are absolutely horrible. I hate them on every other site and would rather not have them worm into RPS.

    Other than that an interesting article.

    • Christo4 says:

      I concur. That is all.

    • Premium User Badge

      BubuIIC says:

      Oh, I have already forgotten, that these are there… You can add this to your Adblock Plus Filters:
      rockpapershotgun.com##div.simplePullQuote

      (And of course you may want to re-enable the ads on RPS to support it.)

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        Oh wow, thank you; I wasn’t aware I could do HTML searches like that. I know I’ll be using the same feature on some other sites in the future.

        (spoken as an RPS Subscriber, which I think gives me the moral privilege to disable the other ads too) :)

        • Premium User Badge

          li says:

          RPS subscribers are allowed to block ads?

          On another note, I think pull quotes are good, they prettify the article, and if I go through a long article being half willing to read it, that might attract my glance to a specific paragraph.

          Reading everything I want to read on RPS is unfortunately beyond my reach, so all guidances are good.

          • Premium User Badge

            LTK says:

            Everyone is allowed to block ads anywhere. Subscribing just lets you not feel bad about doing so on RPS.

      • Premium User Badge

        LTK says:

        I have done exactly that as well. It’s as easy as clicking on an element on a webpage, in this case, the pullquote, and it lets you block that specific element. It also works for Facebook plugins, comment sections, or even for blocking someone’s avatar if you don’t like the look of it. It’s great!

      • Premium User Badge

        Martel says:

        Thanks for the tip

    • InternetBatman says:

      Yep. They’re even a little worse on RPS because it’s in bright red text.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I actually think I agree with you. Thinking on it, it makes it too easy to just skip reading the actual article/blog post. Encouraging people to skip reading articles is probably not the best way to promote gamer awareness.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that Jim is aware of the general feeling about the pullquotes and is planning to do something about them at some point (note that these two things may not be directly related!)

    • Curly says:

      Absolutely correct. Callouts are for attracting the reader’s attention to a printed page. They make no sense in a medium that has to be scrolled to be viewed. By the time we see the stupid things, we’ve already decided whether or not we’re reading the article. Leave them in print where they belong.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        Scroll to view, flip the page… no difference. In both cases pull quotes make exactly as much sense.

        People, you really need to get a life instead of bashing every tiny thing with this whole pointless critic attitude.

    • Alec Meer says:

      We will be tweaking them, but we don’t have dedicated tech staff so these things take time. They’re not going away, but they will be improved.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Don’t have dedicated tech staff, maybe you need to tell them to up their game in the yearly review. Shirkers and malingerers these techies!

      • Premium User Badge

        LTK says:

        Thanks for letting us know, but I find it a bit strange that this is the first bit of info I’ve actually heard from you guys. The RPS feedback thread would be a good place to leave this comment, since I’ve actually asked there whether the pullquotes were here to stay regardless of what we think about them.

      • mispelledyouth says:

        Alec – I’d be willing to bet my hind legs on there being some competent and capable WordPress and HTML/CSS developers here and on the forums. Perhaps you would consider crowdsourcing some technical assistance?

        I’m interested in how they are going to get better. Functionality or just styling?

      • Solbard says:

        Here, have some CSS. I haven’t bombproofed it, and you could probably get rid of those “!important”-things if you actually implemented it properly, but this thing can be thrown directly onto the bottom of the existing CSS, and voila – annoying people with gradients instead of drop shadows!


        div.simplePullQuote {
        font-style: italic;
        background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(bottom, #fff, #f3f3f3) !important;
        background-image: -o-linear-gradient(bottom, #fff, #f3f3f3) !important;
        background-image: -moz-linear-gradient(bottom, #fff, #f3f3f3) !important;
        background-image: -ms-linear-gradient(bottom, #fff, #f3f3f3) !important;
        background-image: linear-gradient(bottom, #fff, #f3f3f3) !important;
        box-shadow: none;
        -webkit-border-radius: 10px;
        -moz-border-radius: 10px;
        border-radius: 10px;
        padding-top: 10px !important;
        margin-left: 10px !important;
        }

        Pastebin just in case comment system kills the CSS:
        http://pastebin.com/cWiHScQL

        Edit:

        Of course you could just keep it simple and not annoy people with gradients either:

        div.simplePullQuote {
        font-style: italic;
        box-shadow: none;
        padding-top: 10px !important;
        }

        • Premium User Badge

          BubuIIC says:

          Mmh, still don’t like them, too big, too red. But I guess that is somehow the point of these things ;-).

          (To the people wondering, you can try these things out in firebug or other web development tools/addons)

        • Premium User Badge

          darkChozo says:

          Honestly, it looks a lot better if you just get rid of the drop shadow, justify the main text, and adjust the padding a bit so it’s a bit more right-aligned. Not posting CSS because I was lazy and did it in Chrome developer tools, but it’s significantly less of an eyesore.

      • mickygor says:

        What’s the arguement for keeping them? I understand they serve a purpose with regards to SEO, but the ones on this page are so vague they’re not gonna contribute to ranking at all.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        I dislike them so much that I have installed a browser plugin just to be able to hide them.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        They should go away.

        The only reason I can still read your articles is because I turned them off.

        I don’t subscribe but I periodically pay youz lump sums. 20 bucks. 40 bucks. It was “about that time” when you started the pull quotes. I’m gonna hold onto my money until you wise up there.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Pullquotes are basically the same ballgame as scored reviews.

      Why read the words when I can just pick choice quotes and pretend I did (and for why that goes wrong, see that PC Gamer Garriot interview)

      If we simply must have them, it might be nice if you could click them and be taken to where the quote appears in the main text-body.

    • kalirion says:

      You mean you actually read them? My eyes just glaze past them like they would an unblocked banner add. I didn’t ever realize there was a pull quote there until reading your comment.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        I lack whatever skills you possess. That’s why I block all ads on the internet, and css-removed the pullquotes.

    • mouton says:

      Personally, I never notice them.

      Except when people complain in comments.

  3. lebbers says:

    While it’s commendable that prominent industry figures are tackling this issue, I can’t help but be amused by the part where Gaider imagines himself to be an objective participant in the process.

    Some of us actually did play DA2, buddy; you know what you did.

    • Strabo says:

      Well, DA2 did have some good (Aveline, sarcastic Hawke) with a lot of bad.

      • bard says:

        That and the single dumbest ‘story twist’ at the end I have ever experienced – ME 3 included.

        I mean, what the everloving flying human-waste-dispensing genitaliamonster were they thinking?

        • montorsi says:

          I like how no one at Bioware can offer an opinion on anything because they make games that some folks were disappointed in. This guy is a writer, no less, with no power over design or development. But lets dredge up our dissatisfaction because we can!

          • Phantoon says:

            They can’t offer opinions WITHOUT BEING CRITICIZED. This is the difference. He can offer all the opinions he wants, but Dragon Age 2 had terrible writing, and was a stream of events strung together with duct tape (gaffer tape if you’re Brit) for the waifus.

            Let me dissect the opening, again, for you. It’s incoherent at best. There’s a few things we can infer about Hawke in the first two minutes: They are combat experienced, they did not care about their village, and they are INSANE. The main idea of the darkspawn was they were supposed to be hard to fight because they were tough, and suddenly you’re killing Ogres, first thing you do. There’s no lead up, you’re just stomping twenty of the things at one time. This sets the game up for a ridiculous power curve… which it then does nothing with, instead sending you to fight bandits for most of the game. Furthermore, it’s also never explained.

            Hawke is potentially a sociopath, with how they care nothing for the village you escaped from. In fact, the village isn’t even visited. Neither is the relationship between you and your doomed sibling. I laughed when they had a tragic end, because it was clearly emotional manipulation to get the player involved in the story. It was NOTHING compared to the human noble intro of Dragon Age 1, where you meet and greet the inhabitants of your family’s castle, take part in some politics and family matters, and where when your parents die, it’s actually tragic because you had a moment to get to know them. On a sidenote here, I’d argue that the openings in Dragon Age 1 were the strongest parts in it. Back to the point- why miss a chance for emotional investiture in the character with the same sort of intro that worked so well in the first game? Laziness? I’d hazard a guess that it was part of their plan to “make the game more action packed”, by setting the tone by throwing you into combat. It didn’t work.

            Hawke is definitely insane, actually. One of their siblings is dying, they’ve been fighting for their life since they woke up this morning from horrible demons, and they’re potentially entering a deal with a powerful witch who probably will fuck them over just for fun. And what does Hawke say when asked “what do you want?” “I WANT A SANDWICH!” This shouldn’t be a dialogue option. It’s completely incoherent to the narrative they were slapping together, and really highlights what a clusterfuck the dialogue is in most cases. At best, Hawke actually IS insane, and all of their adventures are them dreaming as they bleed to death outside their unseen village, or Varric just made everything up. And what was with the side thing with Varric explaining it? That didn’t add to the story, either.

  4. IneptFromRussia says:

    Its funny they focus on these issues instead of making a good game. Also where are all apologies for Dragon Age 2? That was bigger fail than Sim City in my eyes ;_;

    • Themadcow says:

      Aye, it would be nice to know when they intend on making a sequel to Origins. An apology for DA2 holds about as much water as the apology Michael Bay made for Transformers 2 before making Transformers 3. The difference there being that there wasn’t an original film that was good in the first place.

    • Senethro says:

      Why is there this common belief that addressing this issue pulls resources or detracts from making good games or writing good articles?

      • Jdopus says:

        Because EA and Bioware tried to deflect criticism after the joke of a game that was Dragon Age 2 by claiming that their critics were sexists and homophobes upset about the equality agenda within the game. I don’t know about you but I didn’t particularly enjoy having my goodwill towards a developer betrayed by a cheap cash in, accusing us of being bigots was just adding insult to injury. The way EA have used the equality agenda for manipulative PR practice makes anything they say about the issue lack credibility.

        • Fluka says:

          To be fair, the whole Jennifer Hepler attack kind of proves that there was at least some bigoted portion to the backlash. Along with people complaining on their forum that the “exotic” female love interests proved BioWare no longer made games for “them.” And the vast number of people wailing that “Oh god! The game forced me to get in bed with a MAN!”

          Most of the criticisms are perfectly reasonable reactions to the changes in mechanics, the plot, and the game’s obviously unfinished nature. But the sheer level of internet *hatred* for this game does have a bigoted smell to it.

          • Jdopus says:

            There was some portion certainly, but it was a minority and EA attempted to portray all their critics as part of that minority. I’m not entirely sure what you’re referring to when you say exotic female love interests but in regards to Anders, I haven’t seen a single person complain about the fact he was gay, what people are annoyed about is that he went from a heterosexual flirter in Awakening to a homosexual in DA2, and a lot of people perceived that as changing a character solely for pandering. There was also a problem in that his romance was honestly silly, if you merely spoke to him politely he would flirt with your character, whereas the other romances required some more active input on your behalf. I think it was basically more down to Anders feeling like a character changed solely for fanservice reasons, that was a problem with every character in Dragon Age 2, be it the sexy pirate, the anime emo elf or the idiotic clumsy elf. People were just more annoyed about Anders because he was a better character in Awakening.

            Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but there’s a good reason for the hatred of Dragon Age 2, it was literally one of the worst, rushed and laziest titles released by a major studio in years, it was a cheap cash in sequel to an excellent Isometric RPG (A genre which I and many other people love and which just doesn’t get made any more) that exploited the fans who enjoyed Dragon Age 1, it had an incredibly rushed and idiotic story, people had very high expectations of Bioware as a studio that made good, polished games and they cynically abused their fans trust with the rushed sequel and finally, despite the game being awful and unfinished in every way, it was given 8+/10 reviews by every single major gaming website. The number of ways in which that fiasco took advantage of us as consumers was endless. It made it blatantly apparent to many of us that the major gaming review websites had gotten far too close to marketing divisions and were in fact more concerned with appeasing these marketing managers than they were in providing trustworthy and honest information to us.

            Personally, I used to preorder all Bioware titles but I haven’t bought a single one of their games since being so badly burned on Dragon Age 2, they went from being my favourite developer to one that I just flat out will not support any more in the space of one game.

            When you actually get right down to it there are a million reasons why the internet loathes Dragon Age 2, it personally demonstrated absolutely everything wrong with the modern gaming market.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      IT did work out of the box though!

      Dragon Age 2 is an interesting one. There are things it does better than Dragon Age (no interminable Deep Roads section, interesting attempt to try and do a different narrative style) there are things it does worse (interminable copy pasted dungeons, “another wave” of enemies, less inter character banter, ditching the origin stories) there are moments where it shines (certain characters are great and have their own agendas rather than being moulded to your whims if you are nice to them, the political and mage vs Templars undercurrents in the plot gradually build up nicely and come to a head) and things it does terribly (awful ending which throws away the good build up with nonsensical out of character moments, not making as much of the changing face of Kirkwall over time as it could).

      Ultimately I preferred Dragon Age and do see the sequel as a flawed game with a few nuggets of brilliance which make it an average experience overall and not one I’d play a second time (unlike the first), but it’s certainly far from a total failure in my eyes.

      • Themadcow says:

        Turning combat from something that felt like an RPG (especially in overhead view) to something that felt like Dynasty Warriors was a little bit of an issue.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lambchops says:

          The combat wasn’t great for sure. I’m not that enamoured with RPG combat in the first place though so the move from “alright” to “rather mediocre” wasn’t the thing I was most concerned about, though I can certainly appreciate it would be a massive turn off to those who enjoy more old school RPG combat.

        • HamsterExAstris says:

          What platform did you play on?

          On consoles, since we didn’t get the top-down view in the first game, DA2 didn’t feel like a significant shift in the combat. If you played on PC and lost that option, I can see how things might be different.

          • Lycan says:

            Yup, I played on PC. They removed that option, and that made the RTWP a *lot* less effective as a tactical system. But that wasn’t the only reason combat was dull in DA2 (compared to DA:O). There were multiple enemy waves that made positioning irrelevant, there was a constant deluge of equipment that made previous equipment obsolete too quickly to form any attachments to it, and any attachment you *might* otherwise form to the armour / apparel was significantly reduced by the fact your companions looked exactly the same in most types of armour. There was some malarkey reason given by EA/Bioware about doing this in order to “preserve an aesthetic sense” of the companions, but personally I suspect that they did it to shorten the development cycle and create less assets.

      • MarkB says:

        Yeah I actually really liked DA2. I absolutely hated it at first but once I realized it wasn’t going to be DAO it started growing on me. The characters actually feel like they have lives outside of following you around, which still blows me away.

        Just finding out that Aveline was going to have a career and a love life with no real connection to me was shocking and it gets even better when you realize that supporting your friends in all endeavors is not necessarily the best choice, for them or for you. While the ending got stupid real fast the spark that set everything off was an amazing idea.

        Overall I wound up liking DA2 quite a bit more than DAO, despite it being “objectively” worse in ALOT of ways.

    • NyuBomber says:

      I was always under the impression that their whole “We messed up ina number of ways on DA2, now tell us what you’d like to see for DA3″ was their mea culpa.

      • Blue_Lemming says:

        Personally i am a bit bored of the Boris Vallejo style fantasy lady, barely clothed, rubbing/draped over/admiring something either vaguely phallic, or vaguely Whitesnake.
        Yet this manages to sell games, and is still used, with great effect.

    • denthor says:

      I loved DA:O. I hated DA:2 with a passion, still get pissed off just thinking about how i got fooled into spending $60 on it.

      I vividly remember DA:2 where i get in the city and they are complaining of overcrowding and there is a MASSIVE courtyard with 2 people in it. Or how the guards thank you for killing the magic users and how bad they are all the while i was throwing fireballs at them. I think i got through ACT1 and then gave up got sent back to the same bloody cave again or how 5/10 years had passed and a turned over cart still blocked a side alley.

      They would have to do something mind blowingly good to get me to buy da:3 will have to wait on user reviews

      • TheMrSolaris says:

        I enjoy certain aspects of DA2 to this day but being a “Biodrone” at the time, I simply refused to acknowledge what a steaming pile of crap it was. :/

    • Stupoider says:

      Why would they apologise when most ‘reputable’ gaming journalists gave it a perfect score?

      • IneptFromRussia says:

        I remember PC Gamer gave DA2 94% and “RPG of the decade”. Never read those guys since.

    • shutter says:

      Speak for yourself, I thought DA2 was far better than the terminally dull Origins.

      • ShockLobster says:

        And speaking for myself, where Origins was ‘terminally dull’, DA2 steered even further into cloying, two dimensional characters having conversations assembled from the prefabricated rhetoric of worn out tropes. If you like that sort of thing, good on you.

    • Scelous says:

      Nothing has failed harder than SimCity.

      I enjoyed Dragon Age 2, and it makes me sad to see it get such flack. There were definite problems — the repetitive environments, the ninja combat, the spawning enemies — but I liked the story and some of the characters. And ultimately, it’s an RPG, something we don’t see nearly enough of.

      • thegooseking says:

        A little bit off-topic, but I don’t get the complaints that DA2 used repeated environments. The real complaint should be that it didn’t use repeated environments well.

        Repeated environments are good. They give consistency and continuity. Would Deus Ex be better if you never visited the same location twice? No, of course it wouldn’t. It’s important that you get into some sort of a routine at UNATCO HQ. It’s important that you later return to Hell’s Kitchen. In fact, I’d say it has a couple too many locations, particularly near the end.

        But DA2 didn’t use them for consistency or continuity; it used the same environments for entirely separate events just because. And that’s the difference.

        So I guess I’m lying when I say I don’t get the complaints, but I just don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        (One interesting thing, though, is that ME1 did essentially the same thing, and no-one complained about that, because it was futuristic and those buildings were supposed to look like they came from some template.)

        • The Random One says:

          Ha, I never played DA2, but whenever that complaint pops up I’m like “But ME1 did the same thing!” And it was worse IMO because the environments had just enough change that I’d get lost, or try to get a door that was a wall in this particular instance of the reusable space dungeon.

        • Scelous says:

          Hm. I tried searching for Bioware’s old message board, where I gave a spoiler-free review of Mass Effect 1 when it was released. I was EXTREMELY disappointed with ME1 (whereas ME2 is one of my most favorite games ever) for a lot of reasons, especially the repetition of those soul-crushingly bland bunkers. Oh my god I hated that. I hated that so much. And believe me, I voiced my complaints.

  5. Njordsk says:

    Beyond good and evil. Jade. It did work perfectly. All I Have to say.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Unfortunately, critical success does not always equate to commercial success.

      Much as we (and they themselves) like to think of game developers as artists, their publishers typically don’t see them as anything more than convenient resources to be thrown at the nearest pile of hypothetical money.

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      I bought it three times.

  6. Lemming says:

    I think if you take the sexual element out then female characters become less of an issue with those that take issue.

    Fallout 3, for example, has loads of interesting strong female characters (Lyon, Sydney, Reilly), and none of of them are scantly clad unless it’s relevant to the story (ie Cherry), and the player can be female if they so choose, but it never comes up as an issue. That’s the way forward I think, it shouldn’t be about sex, a game should just ignore gender entirely.

    For non-RPG games, look at Jedi Knight 3. Give your FPS/3rd person action game protagonist a unisex first name, and let the player pick their gender at the start – Don’t change anything else in the script.

    These guys make a rod for their own back when they start trying to think of how the story or romance is going to play out from the perspective of the opposite sex, and then decide it’s too much trouble. Well, stop trying to write soap operas and start writing games.

    Disclaimer: I hate romance options in all rpgs, so bare in mind I’m coming from that perspective. I find them annoying and I hate the “I’m good = romance me” trope that seems to be prevalent in RPGs. I’ve got world-saving to do, I’ve got no time for romance.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      No sex please, we’re gamers? I’ll not agree with that as it sounds like an immensely dull, closed-off world to be in. Removing everything you feel uncomfortable with only succeeds in making your world smaller and poorer.

      Get with the sexing, Lemming, the world won’t end until you reach the final dungeon.

      • Lemming says:

        Look, no game does it right, it is my point. It all comes off as natural as nails on a chalkboard. And because it can’t be done right, they just shouldn’t do it. The medium isn’t ready, and probably won’t be for a long time. And most games do not have romance/sex options, so where’s the excuse there for not having a female option for an avatar?

        Was Fallout 3 any less of an RPG than Mass Effect because of the lack of romance? No. Was Mass Effect more of an RPG because it had romance? No.

        • Premium User Badge

          AndrewC says:

          ‘All games make me uncomfortable when they do it’ is not the same as ‘all games are bad at it’. It may not be a problem just with the games.

          However, if it is genuinely only implementation you have a problem with, how would you suggest games get better at the implementation? My solution, for disclosure’s sake, would be practice.

          • Lemming says:

            Oh I certainly think romance should be optional because I dislike it in my RPGs, and because that’s the best way to implement it. Being the good guy should not ever = people hitting on you. In a party-based RPG (like Baldur’s Gate 2) I help people and say nice things to them because I’m a nice person, not because I want to get lucky, yet I’m made to feel like an arsehole for turning them down by the game’s writing. That isn’t fair. Either have the romance stuff completely optional from a menu check box, or have very specific dialogue options for romance, with alternates for just being nice.

            In party-based RPGs, as far as I’m concerned, I’m an asexual leader of a group of adventurers.

            I wrote in my original post that I don’t like romance in RPGs as a disclaimer for the very reason you bring up. Yes, I have an interest in seeing them in games as little as possible, and I was being up front and honest about that, but I was also writing the main text of my comment hoping others would see that I have a point, regardless.

            If you want an easy-pull answer to your question however: Romance/gender acknowledgement shouldn’t be in games unless the developers/publishers/writers are prepared to give it 100%. And they aren’t, so they shouldn’t.

          • Premium User Badge

            Lambchops says:

            @ Lemming

            I agree it’s frustrating when romance is tied with being nice, the immediate example that sprung to my mind being my accidental liason with Kaiden in Mass Effect – however I reckon they did get better in that regard, I arbitrarily decided that my Shepard would stay faithful to Kaiden (despite him being a complete bore) and turned down any romance options later on and I have to say that they had got rid of the possibility of accidentally sliding into a romance and that there wasn’t the case of feeling like a dick for turning people down. Still some horribly clunky dialogue at times but for the most part it was easily avoided.

            The problems you mention are easily enough got around without the need to remove romance/sex from story driven games entirely – though I do agree with your point than in some cases having a character that’s more interested in doing their job of saving the world might make for a better and more sensible narrative. But equally, saving the world is a stressful situation who knows how it might throw people together unexpectedly, these sort of plot lines can work if handled well.

          • Focksbot says:

            “‘All games make me uncomfortable when they do it’ is not the same as ‘all games are bad at it’. It may not be a problem just with the games.”

            Man, you could say that about any criticism anyone has with any game, from bad collision detection to sudden crashes.

            The fact is he’s right – romance and sex is almost always done extremely cackhandedly. There’s an annual award for the worst sex in literary fiction – an equivalent for games would be a devil’s own job to judge.

        • Premium User Badge

          RaveTurned says:

          “no game does it right” is not the same as “it can’t be done right”, so “they just shouldn’t do it” doesn’t follow.

          Romance and emotional investment are core parts of the human experience. If games are to progress as a medium they have to find better ways to tap into these rich seams. Developers aren’t going to find ways to do that if they ignore them completely. I’d argue developers should be trying to push the envelope here – try and do it *more* often, with more emotional maturity, and in doing so find ways to do it better that they can build on in future.

          • iridescence says:

            The problem is, that because no game is long or complex enough to simulate a deep human relationship process, romance in games always gets reduced to a mini-game that feels cheesy. At best it has about the depth of picking someone up in a bar (without even the nuance involved in those sort of situations).

            If they really want to have it in games they should only have one or two NPCs that are “romanceable” , Most, realistically, just wouldn’t be interested in that sort of “relationship”

        • Scelous says:

          Well, speaking for myself, I actually did think Fallout 3 was less of a story due to lack of romance. I did feel the lack, and I didn’t like it.

          I like romance in my games for the same reason I like friendships in my games: That’s part of being a person. The whole “asexual leader” thing just makes me feel like a walking sword/gun; romances help me invest into the world to a greater degree.

          And personally, people like to give a lot of shit towards Bioware and their romances, but on the whole, I’ve enjoyed them. I’m really not sure what people want — awkward first dates? remembering someone’s birthday? — but I think the romances are well done, and I like them.

          It always irritates me when people take such a stand against romance in games. They are entirely optional. If you do not like them, then do not pursue them. It is as simple as that.

          That being said, I do understand what you mean how being nice shouldn’t equate to hitting on the person, and that’s fine.

          Edit: Oh, and I felt the lack in Skyrim as well. And I’m not talking about that cheap “let’s get married” spouse thing they put in; I wanted fully fleshed-out romances, dammit!

          • Phantoon says:

            I disagree. You can easily manipulate the values coded in to “win” at the relationship. This is absolutely nothing like a real one.

            And you’d be surprised how much less game there is in their games if you dodge the romances.

    • Ernesto25 says:

      I felt the same in bioshock infinite female character, although never really likening alyx from half life 2 she is a fairly strong character. I don’t mind romance options in RPG’s if done well but the witcher did make my eyes rolls turning the sex into a collectable cards.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Yup! Half Life 2 took ingame romance as far as it should (in any game). As in Eli Vance teases her(Alex) several times about her relationship with Gordon, and suggests he would not mind having grandchildren from them.. That’s it, topic covered now let’s get back to the gameplay!!

    • Strabo says:

      Games should very much include sex, scantly clad men and women, sexy people, naked people etc. It should be in a more mature and less objectifying manner.
      Example: Naked Geralt waking up next a naked Triss in bed and behaving like two adults would behave – good. Geralt collecting boob-shot-trophy-cards of the women he bedded – bad.

      • Lemming says:

        sex does not always = romance, though does it? I agree with your statement, but then I put it you that it shouldn’t matter what gender Geralt or Triss are in that context, and that it should be interchangeable.

        Why not have the option to choose gender and sexuality at character creation, sexuality being either homo, hetro or NONE? Would it fundamentally change the story? Probably not, unless having a child is crucial to it.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          I demand hermaphrodite option.

          And if they won’t include hermaphrodites – EU should punish them with few billion $ penalty, and force a sexuality selection screen in every single game.

        • Strabo says:

          Your gender, sex and sexual orientation should ideally influence the story, yes. Otherwise you end up with “man with boobs” as the female choice (which can work like in Mass Effect – a lot thanks to Jennifer Hale -, but isn’t really the best or most immersive way to do it). A theoretical female Booker deWitt should for example make Bioware: Infinite a completely different gaming experience. If playing a woman and/or a homosexual characters boils down to a search&replace of his/him with her in the game dialogues and a different texture/model it probably isn’t really that much of a intricate story to begin with.

          • Canisa says:

            Actually, I think a find/replace is the perfect way to do it. I honestly don’t get what this ‘man with boobs’ argument is all about. A woman is not a man with boobs sheerly by virtue of the fact that she is, in fact, a woman. Sexism is not a necessary component of a compelling narrative, quite the opposite in fact, its inclusion will generally turn me off a given story almost immediately.

            To take your Mass Effect example, those moments where you *are* treated differently for being a woman are far and away the worst portions of the series. If I am carrying four guns and wearing full-body battle-armour, I do not want to be mistaken for a stripper, thanks.

            Unless game writers can pick up their act considerably, I do not want to see them dealing with gender in their games in any way other than simply giving women totally equivalent representation.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matt_W says:

      “it shouldn’t be about sex, a game should just ignore gender entirely”

      Both parts of this statement are flabbergasting to me:
      1) Games should ignore a seminal part of the human experience? I’d prefer sex in games (and sex in most popular entertainment) were depicted more like it is in reality, but ignoring it seems ridiculously limiting.

      2) Ignore gender? How? People have gender; it is an important part of a person’s self-image and how they’re perceived by others. There is no way to ignore gender and create realistic portrayals of how people interact. If anything, game writing should, in general, be MORE responsive to a character’s gender.

      • Lemming says:

        So the characters I mentioned in Fallout 3 or JK3 don’t work for you then? Because their gender is never an issue.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          Horrible games. No idea how ignorant they had to be to make something like that. And to make it even worse: They didn’t allow any gay sex! What on earth is it!? XVII century?! [/sarcasm]
          Jeez… the logic of some people is beyond me.

        • Premium User Badge

          Matt_W says:

          In both the games you mentioned, making the protagonist’s gender vague limited the possibilities for interaction with other characters. And note that, unless I’m mistaken — I’ve played F3 and JK2, but not JK3 — those are both first person games, where you can’t ever see the protagonist or hear their voice. This matters; your character’s gender doesn’t really effect your experience of the game in those games, but compare to, say, Mass Effect. I’m quite sure that my experience, playing FemShep was significantly different than it would have been had I chosen a DudeShep (even beyond the differing romance options), though the dialogue is pretty much all the same.

          Look at the new Tomb Raider. Lara’s relationship’s with all of the supporting characters are mediated by her gender in realistic ways. If Lara was male, Roth wouldn’t be as paternalistic, Lara’s relationship with Sam would be either drastically different or have different overtones, Jonah wouldn’t be as big-brotherly, and the infamous choking/threatened-assault scene would have had different connotations. Lara’s journey from vulnerability to bad-assity would have felt vastly different as well.

          Having realistic gendered characters allows developers to explore how genders work, both in the medium of games and, more broadly, in popular culture. Game writers can/could lampoon common tropes, critique misogyny or other bigotry, explore empowerment of traditionally dis-empowered roles, etc. All this without even touching on sex and/or romance, which also absolutely needs better expression in games. Shouldn’t game writers be free to do this? Isn’t exploration and expansion of experiences one of the reasons we play games? Doesn’t gaming, where the consumer of media has actual agency in its narrative progression, present a unique opportunity to depict these things in powerful ways? Why should we limit the hobby we love to what is essentially the lowest common denominator? I, at least, want more.

      • Jupiah says:

        I think both you and Lemming have a point. Sex and sexuality are an integral part of human nature, but they aren’t universal. Some people really are asexual and find all that romance and rutting and child-rearing stuff to be offputting. This is not because something is wrong with them, they are simply different. So while I agree that most mature games should at least acknowledge the existence of sex and romance and include them in the game if reasonably possible, I also agree that those things should be optional. Games are a form of escapism, some people might play them precisely to get away from that kind of stuff, and shoving it down their throats is unfair. Including an option to turn off sexual and romantic content would not cost the developers anything.

        • Premium User Badge

          AndrewC says:

          I think an ability to remove sex from the game world itself would cost the developers a lot. However the ability to choose a ‘no, thanks’ option that doesn’t make the character sound like a nasty person wouldn’t go amiss, and would not cost much. I think there are quite a lot of ‘professional’ or ‘just the mission’ responses in Alpha Protocol, for example – so they do exist. Sometimes.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t think you need to take it out, I just think it needs to be well-written with an incredibly delicate hand. That means that you can’t make every character fuckable.

      The only character I think they’ve actually done that with recently is Morrigan.

    • Kamos says:

      I think the problem with “romance” in games is that the way it is written is absolutely silly and it feels forced. Other than that, I don’t really mind it. It is just another thing that can happen in a story. Now, I agree 100% with the nice person = sex thing. Edit: that is, I agree that it doesn’t make sense.

      • mouton says:

        Not always, Bioware sometimes gets it right-ish. But yeah, mostly it tends to be awkward.

  7. Ross Angus says:

    Well, Nathan’s not going to say it, so I will.

    Thanks for your time.

    • Adriaan says:

      This appears to be a part 1 of 2, judging by the end of the article (“Check back tomorrow for part two”).

      • Ross Angus says:

        This explains why I’m such a poor conversationalist. Standing up in the middle of a chat, and leaving. Rookie mistake.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Another comment storm incoming I think. Gaider seems to be an ok guy to me, smart and thoughtful. But some people on the internet seem to latch on to him as somehow representing everything they don’t like about modern RPGs/Bioware/Dragon Age/Mass Effect and do personal attacks.

    I’ve pledged enough to Torment to do an NPC. I’ve started brainstorming ideas, I thought it would be fun to do a female character, and damn this stuff is hard. First I tried writing STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN but when I looked at it again, doesn’t it veer a little close to being a stereotype bad-ass action girl? So then you try to make a more nuanced and sympathetic character, but then you have to be careful not to make her pathetic or passive.

    Really feels like walking on mined land, here.

    • Njordsk says:

      A geralt-like type of woman would be fun. Eating mens like fruits and moving to the next adventure. Well, I guess it’d fall again in mysogyn stereotype or whatever, but that’d be fun.

      edit : oh what about a boo/minsc type of duo. Some kind of shy girl only talking to her pet.

      Man you’re only limited with your spirit, get wild !

    • RvLeshrac says:

      If you’re not a woman, you’ll be called a misogynist for the slightest flaw in your female character.

      If you’re not [race], you’ll be called racist for the slightest flaw in your [race] character.

      People decry the lack of female/[race] characters in games — the reason you don’t see them very often is because the designer literally cannot possibly win. There is nothing to be gained.

      Unless the designer doesn’t care, at which point you see plenty of the poorly-designed ones.

      That’s been the real effect of all this ‘discussion’ — people who would make decent characters are too scared to try, and people who make crap ones continue.

      • Dinger says:

        Your argument only works if you assume that stating “I’m not racist” or “I’m not sexist” amounts to being that way.
        But, to be honest, there are plenty of fictional people of colour and women whose existence is written by white dudes and whose portrayal doesn’t elicit that response. So, it’s not that you can’t win: many, many people do win. And sure, you are absolutely right that there are pervasive patterns of thought in society, and sexism and racism, among many other nasty influences. So the accusations get leveled. Sometimes they’re purely to be abusive; sometimes the accuser is full of crap; and sometimes the accusation is founded. When that happens, responsible people reflect on it, adjust their behavior, and move forward. We all want a better world. Nobody wants your testicles.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Reads like the mines are all in your head, Lars!

      It also reads like you are seeing character only on a sliding scale of STRENGTH. If they are not STRONG, they are WEAK. This is not terribly like humans. Start with who and what they care about and go from there.

    • Njordsk says:

      Oh and please make her say “HEY ITS ME IMEON” every 5 seconds, just to remember good ‘ol time.

    • gynoid says:

      I’d say that you need to find out why she’s strong and independent. How have her experiences formed her into that person? What are her reasons for behaving in that way? Until you give her some motivations, you’re right: your “strong independent woman” is a complete stereotype.

    • Kiya says:

      Hi Lars, your comment reminded me of a blog post that touched on this subject by the author Ilona Andrews, you may find it an interesting read -> http://www.ilona-andrews.com/fun/reading/gender-in-ya-books

      Good luck with your NPC, as another Torment backer I look forwards to meeting her in game :-)

    • Reapy says:

      Go for the calculated female. The one that is trendy and concerned with appearance, demands public visibility for any good thing they do to appear saintly, yet is calculated and manipulative of her friends, ultimatly dictating through social channels how others lives will go. This is a very popular character type on reality TV that has many women viewers and I haven’t really seen this type of female villain in an rpg before.

      Possibly though this is because RPGs typically resolve conflict through violence or straight up persuasion cha checks, not leaving a lot of room for this type of subtle manipulation.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Yeah I was impressed by the interview. Gaider made a point not to dismiss criticisms of his own work, something I wish happened more often in the games industry.

      • Phantoon says:

        This is also one of the first times it’s happened, and Nathan wasn’t exactly scathing in his criticism. The failures of Dragon Age 2, SWTOR, and the ME3 ending and response have served him humble pie in large amounts.

        He finally took a bite.

    • bfandreas says:

      The issue is a different one.
      We have very few really strong characters. Most of them are cookie-cutter crud without any personality, internal conflicts, rough edges, nothing. As long as game writing is barely able to transcend away from tropes and stereotypes game characters will be bland, uninteresting non-entities. Writing in computer games is largely still an unsolved problem.

      We need to tackle this first, interesting female leads will follow.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Regarding character creation, the whole “strong and independent” theme creates a false dichotomy. Like, who isn’t independent, and what does it actually mean to be strong-willed? Just about any person apart from perhaps some mentally ill and very young children would fill those criteria, unless you veer into cartoonish action-hero overexagerration.

      Best to create a genuine, entertaining personality and once you have it fleshed out, take a step back and see how it plays out. Does their behaviour seem forced or unrealistic? Then back to the drawing board. Uh, keying board, I guess.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The problem with trying to make an empowered woman in a quasi-medieval setting is that the source material is really, really sexist. So it’s hard to make someone that is empowered without taking a specific gender role, or reverting to the base, hamfisted, this is a woman doing what you would expect a man to do role. Some of this is helped by the differences between Planescape and Medieval texts, but the degree to which you can change things is strained.

      Examples of empowered roles for medieval women (that aren’t queen) are few and far between:

      You could make her a merchant wife who rules over the family and business while the husband is away doing stupid crap.

      A nun who left her family at an early age, became an abbess, and now uses her abbey as a private fiefdom.

      A traveling midwife drawn to women in danger.

      A woman on the edge of town trained in the secret herb-lore that only women know.

      A delightful prostitute who’s okay with what she does, but tries to convince her clients to enact positive social change.
      http://www.cracked.com/article_17126_5-whores-who-changed-course-history.html

      A rule of thumb might be, empowered female characters that differ from accepted medieval roles are empowered by the differences in setting.
      Like a technomancer who works in the black smoke beneath the town.
      A melee fighter who uses magic-shields to disrupt her enemies.
      A theatrical performer who uses a girdle of gender bender to hide her true nature, but gradually learns to like the ability to switch back and forth.
      A hermaphroditic priestess who’s villagers believed that she represented both divines.

      • Kamos says:

        I agree in general with what you’re saying, but I think you’re wrong where Torment’s background – the 9th world – is concerned. Have a read at Shanna Germain’s article about gender in the PnP game (she is one of the writers for the PnP Numenera RPG):

        http://shannagermain2.wordpress.com/category/gaminggeekery/numenera/

      • Phantoon says:

        The source material is sexist because of the two lenses we view it through- that of the Renaissance, and that of our modern era. Women can and did lead armies back then. Renaissance introduced the idea of “the pure maiden”, something that is both bullshit and sexist. Modern era can’t find jobs for philosophers, though we apparently can’t rationalize anything ourselves, either.

    • harbinger says:

      Yep, some of the recent examples, want to make female characters not much different than the male ones e.g. creating very similar NPCs that the main character hits and makes dead like anything else riles up the “How dare you hit a woman” crowd, so you have to pull back, violence against female characters is apparently a no-no: http://www.gamespot.com/news/god-of-war-dev-pulled-back-from-violence-against-women-6388007

      People have been complaining for years for your company to include any female characters in your game about hulky grunting marines and you do so? How dare she not be a paragon of perfection? And on top of that, how dare it be only one and despite having the same armor as the rest of the squad how dare she have desirable bodily proportions?
      http://www.gameranx.com/features/id/13645/article/gears-of-war-judgment-how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-sofia/

      Notice that aside from ruffling their nose about another “space marine” or “military shooter” game nobody seems to give a shit and go question a male character, no matter how bulky or exaggerated he looks, what he wears, what personality he has, his motivations or the quality of his writing or what stupidity would come from his mouth, how many people he kills or how violently he maims and minces his opponents, also making it the “easy” option from a marketing perspective too.

      • harbinger says:

        There’s even entire dissertations as to why Plants vs. Zombies or Banjo-Kazooie are “sexist games” or “boys games”:
        http://lmc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/lcc4725/blog/?p=6030
        http://lmc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/lcc4725/blog/?p=6039
        There doesn’t seem to be a way to “win” in this debate other than to either outright ignore it and not play or not include any female characters at all…

        • Focksbot says:

          Who complained about Portal 2? Or Mirror’s Edge? Or Skullgirls?

          They can win the ‘debate’. They just don’t want to.

          • JackShandy says:

            “Who complained about Portal 2? Or Mirror’s Edge? Or Skullgirls?”

            Many people accused those games of being sexist. Are you asking me to track down the comments and post them here?

      • Focksbot says:

        The problem you’re identifying is entirely to do with the convoluted hoops developers make themselves jump through in order to scrupulously avoid levelling the playing field.

        “We need to treat women equally by having them take up more of the enemy roles!”
        “Jeez, really? That’s a bummer – the male gamers will feel weird killing women. If only we could make it more exciting for them somehow? I know! The women can have their baps out and their hips thrust forward to an absurd degree. Then the male gamers can get an eyeful, followed by a bit of joyous whore-punishing.”

        “We need to cover up the women as much as we do the men!”
        “Awww, man! But that’ll hit our sales right in the nuts. Look, if we’re going to do that, let’s at least make sure she’s really hot so the player can *imagine* her naked. Oh, and give her some of those female emotional weaknesses, otherwise she’ll be too threatening to the male gamers.”

        Why’s it so hard just to bung in a variety of female body types in normal-ish roles?

      • eden prime says:

        “Notice that aside from ruffling their nose about another “space marine” or “military shooter” game nobody seems to give a shit and go question a male character, no matter how bulky or exaggerated he looks, what he wears, what personality he has, his motivations or the quality of his writing or what stupidity would come from his mouth, how many people he kills or how violently he maims and minces his opponents…”

        And this becomes the most important observation thus far.

        We could argue that men in games are every bit as sexualized, prototyped, and constructed into a prevailing social norm of their accepted gender as women are. And we probably should argue it, resoundingly.

        But what intrigues me most about this observation is what it further reveals about women. Women in games and other media are constantly being judged on their appearance. Whether good or bad, thin or fat, feminine or masculine, sexualized or chaste — you’re right. Developers can’t win. Women can’t win. They will constantly be judged on their woman-ness.

        If I was a developer, I’d be afraid to touch that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      Thanks for all the comments everyone. Lots of good suggestions.

  9. DickSocrates says:

    I thought Perfect Dark on the N64 ended all sexism in the world, not just in video games.

    In retrospect, it looks like a brave decision by Rare/Nintendo to have a lead female character, although the bald space marine thing hadn’t started up yet and Tomb Raider was still in its (first) hey day.

    I think a lot of sexism stems from jealousy. They wish they were the woman, but can’t be and so sublimated it into hatred. This is not the same thing as wishing to change sex, it’s just anger at not having the “power” the woman has and/or resenting the power the woman has. The history of the human race is built upon men hating women for what they are and suppressing them to teach them a lesson. That’s my pop psychology 2 pence worth and it’s as good as anything Freud ever pulled out of his arse.

    • notenome says:

      “I think a lot of sexism stems from jealousy. They wish they were the woman, but can’t be and so sublimated it into hatred. This is not the same thing as wishing to change sex, it’s just anger at not having the “power” the woman has and/or resenting the power the woman has.”

      That’s actually an interesting comment from a Freudian perspective. Freud’s theory of phallic envy states that women wish to have a phallus but can’t, and that creates a desire to destroy the phallus (symbolic of what they cannot have). What you’re saying is basically Freud’s theory in reverse; vaginal envy or birth envy. Freud discards this because the phallus, for lack of a better term, is ‘out there’, which is to say that it exists and can be seen whereas female genitalia are inside the body. This is important because these psychological complexes are formed at a very young age, so for a 1-2-3 year old the difference between what can be seen and touched is very relevant.

      Still, Freud’s objection aside, I see no reason why a parallel complex isn’t feasible (especially because gender complexes tend to be mirrored; animus/anima for example).

      • InternetBatman says:

        It’s worth mentioning that Freudian analysis is only used in lit theory, and has been thoroughly disproven by psychologists.

        • notenome says:

          Woah there son, slow down.

          I know plenty of psychologists and psychiatrists who employ Freudian theory. There is even a psychiatrist called Nicholas Chaud (iirc) who made games based on Freudian theories (Polymorphous Perversity). Much like sociology or anthropology, its rather complicated to say that anything has been thoroughly disproven. Most major criticisms of Freud stem either from his one size fits all vision of sexuality in the human psyche (Karl Jung’s main criticism) and/or his ethnocentric promotion of European values as human universals (Malinowsky and other anthropologists main criticism). But this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say he has been thoroughly disproven.

          • Phantoon says:

            Let me rephrase it for you, then.

            “Freud is a hack who sent psychology sprinting off in the wrong direction when he got it started, and whose theories are completely irrelevant to modern psychology because anything he said that was relevant has been said in a better way by a less insane person.”

            How about that? There’s no reason to defend the guy, because he’s not exactly going to get offended, and the re imagining of his story and legacy has put him to the point where he’s a hack, even if that was, in reality, not the case. Also I doubt his mom was hot enough to be worth obsessing over.

  10. Grimgrin says:

    This interview leaves a bad taste in my mouth, not sure why. :-/

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Probably because it’s supposed to go in your eyes, not your mouth.

  11. Rinu says:

    Thank you for the interview. I look forward to the next part.

    I always enjoy bumping into Gaider’s posts on BSN. His replies to people are long and to the point. And Bioware is one of few who offers me an option to play as non-oversexualized female protagonists and meet female characters defined by something else than their sexuality. No tight shorts, no ridiculous cleavages, no exclusively damsels in distress or “professional admirers”. Kudos to them.

  12. frightlever says:

    Seems to be a lot of blaming games for what’s intrinsic in society going on. Little girls idolize pop stars and movie stars. Grown women exploit and abuse men all the time. This is a two way street. I am at a loss how the gaming industry could be doing more than it is, in the face of a tidal wave of entrenched popular culture. The sexes both idolize and look down upon their opposite numbers. It would be weird if this was otherwise. The sexes naturally assume that they are each better than the other. Equality is unachievable in everybody’s mind. You will never reach a point where everybody feels they are being treated equally. It’s like child poverty.

    I defy you to alter anyone’s OPINION by telling them what they HAVE to do. That’s why there’s so much resentment. You can’t convince someone to respect someone else, that respect has to be earned.

    • thegooseking says:

      Why wouldn’t you blame games?

      I get not blaming games for people who go on shooting sprees and stuff, but to suggest that games aren’t responsible for the depictions of certain groups of people in culture is to classify games as somehow separate from culture. They’re not. Games are culture. Yes, other forms of culture also have to move in the same direction (although movies arguably already are, albeit only recently, and books have been since forever), but the fact that it’s not purely games’ responsibility doesn’t excuse games of any responsibility.

  13. Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

    Somewhat struggling to comment due to my utter unfamiliarity with most of the titles mentioned here, but…

    Yeah, out of all the baffling things with gender in games, the desire of people who stand to profit from games to restrict their audience is the most confusing. Like Mr. Gaider says, it shows how deeply entrenched this thinking is with some people that developers and/or publishers will attempt to sell their product to a limit audience based upon a conviction that it’s the only audience available.

    Moreover, I think this is a great example of why getting rid of gender-based nonsense in games will be straight-up good for everyone, however you feel you relate to the issues – it’ll make better games. From the sounds of it, Mr. Gaider’s considered position on gender matters makes his writing better. That’s particularly great if you’ve found yourself previously excluded by some issue of gender and now feel like you can participate, but it’s also great for people who were already participating but now have a better story and more believable characters. I think for some people hostile to more women in games – especially perhaps younger people with relatively little real life experience of interacting outside of their immediate peer group – there’s the expectation that (as per the article) it’s going to involve pink boxes and unicorns everywhere, and I think articles like this that show that, no – it’ll involve more interesting and believable characters, better writing, more people playing the games you love. Gender equality isn’t onerous, it’s fun!

    Thumbs up all round. Except for those fucking quote boxes, they really are horrible.

    • The Random One says:

      I’ll explain to you! The reason they don’t want to expand their market is simple – money is not as important to a company as control. That’s why they use DRM – they know it won’t work as a piracy deterrant – that’s just the line they feed the investors – but it’ll give them knowledge of how many people are playing their game, how often, and for how long. A company has a lot of money and can borrow a lot more if the need arises, but the moment they stop understanding their market it all goes away quickly. So companies are reluctant to embrace the female (and non-white, and older) markets because they know (or believe they know) what young males want and how to reach them; if they have to even aknowledge females and older men are part of that market, then the tired and true strategy they’re doing won’t work. If they try something different and fail the fault will be theirs, and if they don’t it’ll be obvious they’re not catching up to the time, so they feed themselves the idea that their market is set in stone.

      That was a huge block of text full of dashes and parenthesis and I’m sorry.

  14. TariqOne says:

    Oh god. An article on gender in games AND BioWare? I’m guessing 16 pages of comments.

    That said, bravo. The industry does have a problem. And as much as the next 16 pages of comments are going to feature a lot mud being slung the bottom line is it’s in *everyone’s* interest to see it change. I’ve got a young daughter who loves games and super heroes and is a total nerd in training and it pains me to think of some of the images she’s going to be confronting if she continues down the nerd path.

    I also liked SWTOR and DA2. So the fact that this is coming from a BioWare person is not only objectively irrelevant to the discussion, it’s doubly irrelevant to me.

    Again: bravo RPS and Gaider. Keep on keepin’ on.

  15. Staf says:

    This is coming from a guy who works for a company that sells games featuring women who’s breasts gets magically larger in the sequels. And it’s not just Isabella that got that treatment but Ashley as well. I agree with the message but i hardly think Bioware should pound their chests as being a rolemodel when it comes to sexualization of women in games. Especially not post-EA buy out.

    • Rinu says:

      Yeah, ME3 was pretty bad in that way. I’m still very critical about it but a game writer has hardly a say in a breast size of polygonal model.

    • Kamos says:

      Maybe the character got a breast implant, because she wanted?

      (inb4 people going berserk, that was a joke. I’d like to live in a universe where the only obvious reason was that one)

  16. Rather Dashing says:

    I find it absurd that a Bioware writer seriously criticizes other companies about those subjects. Bioware offered us shallow romance plots, female characters built like two basketballs glued to a lamppost, a female protagonist that the studio didn’t bother designing itself, an asymmetrical reference to two characters who bear the same name (“Shepard” and “FemShep”), a race of intergalactic super-advanced strippers… Oh please teach us more, masters of equality.

    • Strabo says:

      “Femshep” is something fans invented, not Bioware. And the opposite is “Dudeshep” btw.
      Reducing the Asari to “intergalactic super-advanced strippers” – well you can say similar things about all Elf-races in anything ever.

      • Premium User Badge

        strangeloup says:

        I’ve heard “Broshep” more often, myself, but the same thing applies.

        Personally I’d like to see a Garrus’ Adventures spinoff to the ME series.

    • Fluka says:

      No, David Gaider actually does have some ground to stand on here when it comes to sexism. For all its other flaws, Dragon Age 2 does a damn good job with its female characters. Aveline is one of the very few female characters in gaming that I can point to and say “There, you got that one right.” Sensible armor and physique. Personality, hopes, and dreams which all revolve round something other than a main male protagonist. But not just a man with boobs – she’s definitely a woman, and has her own concepts off femininity and her own awkward romance on the side. Isabella’s not perfect, but she’s definitely a *character* with an arc beyond her sexuality, rather than two balloons on a lamppost. And Merrill’s different than either of them. The whole videogame romance thing aside, DA2 did a darn good job with its women.

      You seem to mostly be talking about Mass Effect, however, which Gaider does not work on. ME’s definitely not without, uh, massive problems (the Asari, the easy sexual availability of each of its female characters, etc.). But they put some great resources into making a fully fledged female protagonist. As a woman, playing as female Shepard is perhaps the most I’ve ever felt truly included in gaming. It might seem like a pittance, but it’s gotten a ton of women (myself included) interested in and playing the series.

      Tl;dr. BioWare’s not perfect, but they’re a damn sight better than most games out there, sexism-wise.

      • Rather Dashing says:

        I did read everything, don’t worry :)

        Yes, I am more resentful towards Mass Effect simply because it’s the series I played more of. Friends who have bothered playing more of the DA series than I did, confirmed that the situation was not much better there.

        I have to admit that if *something* was done right in the ME series, it was the casting of the fantastic Jennifer Hale as the voice of female Shepard. My friends and I have a joke about how bland and boring the male voice actor sounded compared to his female counterpart, saying that she is the true Shepard and referring to him as TARZAN SHEPARD (in caps).

        • Fluka says:

          I think they’re a bit better than ME in the romance sense. Dragon Age at least has female characters who aren’t interested in you (Avaline, Shale, Wynne). The romances are all a bit silly in the “increase approval/friendship/rivalry and say right thing to initiate sex!” But there’s a bit more equity than ME’s legions of adoring fangirls. Alistair, the lovable hunk, has a romance which could be characterized as female wish fulfillment. And Anders’ eager gay romance could arguably be called the canon romance of DA2 (given how much people talk about it). I’d say with Dragon Age, it’s more of a “sex in videogames is still weird and often icky” issue than an outright sexism issue.

        • Fluka says:

          (Also, TARZAN SHEPARD is an *awesome* monicker. ME SHEPARD. I SHOULD GO.)

    • Canisa says:

      Yeah, as much as Bioware is probably the best company in the industry at getting female representation right, it still ain’t perfect in that regard. Especially not in ME3, where I’d argue it wasn’t just imperfect, but outright bad at it.

  17. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    No Nooooooooooooo! They are coming to infiltrate Eugine’s Lair!!!!!!!!!

  18. shisch says:

    Gaming is not going to change until societies on whole change.
    The efforts are valiant, but pointless. Do like the French and revolt, or wait for a couple of generations to die off. Constantly bashing the topic just tires the audience, regardless of how important it is.

    • Premium User Badge

      LTK says:

      Why should we wait for the rest of society to catch up if we have the choice to tackle the problem of sexism now?

      • shisch says:

        Because gaming is such a small entity within society. Making a change here will not impact society on the whole. What does that really solve? Soon enough, people from the “outside world” will start gaming, too, and they will bring their views. Some will start developing and/or publishing games. Then we are back in the same situation, the problem only having been solved for a moment.
        Of course, it goes the other way too. Soon enough, people from gaming will leave for other avenues and will take their views with them. But they are so few in comparison that they will be silenced.

        Start with something that affects the whole modern world, like advertising. Things are already changing there, and if it gets enough traction the views will likely carry over to lesser entities.
        Besides, not everything can or has to be solved right this instant. Maybe we want it to, but that is not how things work. It never has. Give it some years and, if things are allowed to develop without people like Walker who cry wolf getting attention, the situation will be better already.
        Ponder this – every generation has its problems, yet every new generation has been better off than the previous. We are not the utopian generation.

    • Lanfranc says:

      Social norms don’t just change of their own accord, they change (to a large extent) because people keep talking about them.

      • shisch says:

        Talking is important, but nagging is going to get you nowhere because people will stop listening. Especially when you try to find things to nag about where there are no such things to find.

        • Blackseraph says:

          It works just fine, suffragettes nagged about suffrage for decades until they won.

          If they did nothing, well perhaps we would have gotten woman suffrage eventually, but it would have been decades later at least. And equality would be currently even worse shape than it currently is.

          • shisch says:

            Sorry, maybe I should have been more specific. Nagging like angry children will not get you far.

          • Blackseraph says:

            Since no one from rps writers does that I fail to see your point.

          • shisch says:

            Then it is obvious that we look at John’s articles/posts in different ways. I hope it was clear that it is them I have a problem with specifically. The other articles about the issue (where they actually talk about it seriously, not like that SR4 trailer article) are more in line with how I believe things should be handled, even though I still think they are speaking in the wrong place. Though that is forgivable since they do it less often.

          • Blackseraph says:

            It’s not a wrong place since this is a real problem in the industry. Since they are game journalists, they can and should talk about this if it is a problem in their chosen field, which is it.

          • shisch says:

            Because this is such a giant of a website that everybody in the industry visits daily!
            If they want to make an impact, they should query every (large) body and then post about that here, rather than speak about it here and never elsewhere. Even if they bring it up in interviews like this, the guy said that he is not responsible for any decisions and that they are basically talking to the wrong person.
            I will stop repeating things now and start searching for alternatives. Polygon was one, but their layout is hideous. Escapist, maybe.

          • Blackseraph says:

            How you change attitudes is talking about them. It’s not any less valuable if their audience isn’t huge.

            As for escapist, they tackle this same issue occasionally as well. As they should.

            http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/7044-The-Creepy-Cull-of-Female-Protagonists

          • Focksbot says:

            “Sorry, maybe I should have been more specific. Nagging like angry children will not get you far.”

            It’s always ‘nagging like angry children’ to people who don’t want to listen. Those people sit there poutingly, deaf and blind to the increasing numbers of people who are being won round by all this ‘nagging’. Then they start declaring that the whole world has gone mad when the tide of popular opinion shifts, and they find themselves on the wrong side. Then they either start u-turning on their previous positions like nobody’s business, or stick stubbornly to their opinions and get remembered as jerks.

          • Canisa says:

            If we don’t ‘nag’ we’ll just get ignored. The only way we will get our voices heard is by raising them loudly and repeatedly until we cannot be avoided, ignored, dismissed or denied.

  19. BobbyDylan says:

    I’ve yet to form an opinion on the matter of Sexism, or at lest one I can effectively articulate. I’ll concede that the game’s industry does have a bit of a tendency to objectify woman, but I feel there are greater issues and challenges facing the industry as a whole.

    • Reapy says:

      I am more concerned with stale design in the aaa industry than theme choice. I don’t generally care if its a rabbit, man, woman, whatever as the protagonist, I just want satisfying gameplay.

      In RPGs I’ve always been more concerned with character design in relation to their combat skills than their gender and dialog options. Very few RPGs actually get any kind of emotional rise out of me for characters and plot, and I am still in the habit of dismissing video game plot as I have since Atari and nes days.

      Occasionally one slips through and are forever with me, but in general if I want a loveable character I will find that more frequently on a book, TV show, or movie. It is the nature of games to have an insane protagonist and npcs have to react to your insanity as a player. It only works in games where you only steer the character in combat and their interactions otherwise are scripted ( eg final fantasy tactics).

      But I guess for me I always consider theming ( character designs, environment setting etc) as secondary to what makes a great game, which I guess is why personally I have trouble understanding the raaaaaaaaggeeee I am reading sometimes.

      • InternetBatman says:

        When properly done, characterization interfaces with gameplay (in a way more complex than a friendship bonus). A characters should be defined equally by their class choices and abilities, and Bioware seems to have forgotten that.

  20. MDefender says:

    David Gaider the social crusader? This guy is at the very core of EVERY issue he is most eager to redress. Good games deftly sidestep every issue apparent with grace.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Oooh, like the rhyming let me have a go:

      Ray Muzyka the colour of sepia.
      Greg Zeschuk the . .. oh my that’s just going to be crude isn’t it?

  21. Strabo says:

    The games industry produces what customers demand.

    I don’t know if that’s exactly true. Firstly, for customers to choose a “better” version there has to be one. Secondly, “grown-up depiction of women, romance and sex” rank rather low on the bullet point list in reviews, packages or Steam descriptions.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      What!! Who demanded dumbed down game play, on screen prompts, cover shooting etc etc! Tell them to come here as I want to waggle my finger and have strong words!

      However the addition of many lustrous extra graphics is OK in my book! (as long as it’s OK with the girlie pixels, no coercion on my part)

    • Brun says:

      The games industry produces what it THINKS customers are demanding. That’s a really important distinction to make. Even with the best market research in the world and pages and pages of metrics, you’ll never be able to get a complete picture of what customers want. The research itself must also be interpreted, and data loss is inherent in such a process.

    • lifeasclarity says:

      I immediately think of the famous supposed Ford quote:

      “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

      (he may not have actually said it, but I do appreciate its logic.)

  22. Jdopus says:

    I presume the image of Flemeth (turned in the space of one game from an old woman to a sexualized dragon thing with no explanation) being put right after, “The idea that, “Okay, we’re going to have a female character. Let’s create her as a sexualized character without even considering her place in the game or the variety of depictions of female characters.”” is intentional?

  23. biggergun says:

    Can’t we, you know, at least get a dozen decent videogame writers before we start saving the industry from sexism, homophobia, rainforest cutting and genetically modified foods?
    I mean, yes, the way videogames treat female characters is ridculous, but isn’t it the same for male, alien, animal and ogre characters too? It seems to me that sexism here is not a separate issue, but a part of bigger one: horrible, horrible, horrible writing. When your writer is pulp fantasy grade, no wonder his female characters are just a walking talking pair of boobs.

  24. dahauns says:

    Great interview – especially for pushing Gaider on the whole “you are in a position to change things”. (even if he still somewhat sidestepped it in the end.)

  25. LuNatic says:

    So instead of pushing aside the old, tired tropes of over-sexualised, incapable and utterly dependent female characters, he just reduces male characters to the same level?

    Gender equality, the Bioware way!

    • Fluka says:

      I’m not sure he mentioned male characters at all in this interview? So where did you get that?

      And DA2 does have more characters than Isabella.

  26. Beernut says:

    What a lucky coincidence, that this interview was pre-empted by the “rules for commenting”-article. *g*
    That said: I could certainly do without over-sexualized female characters in games, which are ridiculously propportioned or just bad stereotypes. I hold the same grudge towards shallow male-characters though.

  27. sinister agent says:

    Cannot resist. Fourth picture caption:

    BLACKFACE

  28. lofaszjoska says:

    What’s next, an interview with Johnny Riccitiello about the pitfalls of always-on DRM and forced social media integration?

  29. Livein says:

    I’m 30y old male gamer. As offensive as it sounds – I can’t get around the idea of playing as female. That’s the reason I’ve skipped Tomb Raider and that’s the reason I’ll skip Remember Me.

    That is why i kidna understand publishers of AAA games. They tend to cost fortune and you want to have good shot of getting your money back. You want to have latino chicks running as game protagonist? Fine, but make it optional. Commander Sheppard could be latino chick with crazy hair if you wanted to. That was cool. But if they force you to play as preset female, that’s the title I’ll be skipping.

    • Fluka says:

      I have to ask: why?

    • MajorManiac says:

      If you ever play Saints Row 2 I would recommend playing a female character as the voice acting of the latino-style woman is amazing.

      Well worth a try if you ever wish to leave your comfort-zone. Not that you should ever feel forced to do so.

      • sinister agent says:

        You can compromise, and have a male character with a female voice, or vice versa. I played as an Indian woman with a 1950s male Cockney’s voice. It was most amusing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      So with the first line I was genuinely going to ask you why this was the case. I mean publishers seem to think this way, so clearly there are people who feel like this, here’s one of them let’s find out why.

      However after the second paragraph I’m afraid that I’m not going to have any response to whatever your reasons are other than “that’s fucking mental, that is.”

      I can understand preferring to play a male character, but not playing a character purely because they are female . . . frankly odd.

      What about non human characters? Does playing a dolphin feel uncomfortable? Or an anthropomorphic bandicoot? Or would it only be an issue if it was was a female bandicoot? I am veering back to being genuinely intrigued again!

      • Premium User Badge

        cpt_freakout says:

        I think it’s a relatively straightforward identity thing mixed with macho culture – I know people like that, and even in board games if they play a female (because all other characters are taken, obviously) they’re the kind of guy that jokes that they’ve changed genders. No you haven’t. You’re roleplaying. The point is, the games they play are not about the games or the stories or whatever… they’re power fantasies. Those games are ultimately about themselves and the way they conceive of their own persons as such. So to play a woman is to change gender, to not identify themselves in the character, in the end, to being unable to conceive of an open and diverse human experience as much as being unable to think of a woman as being able to do the things they do, through the power fantasy or not. I think the argument you make of playing an animal or whatever reveals that it’s more of a macho thing than an identity issue, but I couldn’t say for sure. They’re like the other side of the coin of the guys that only play women in stuff like MMOs for the stupid argument about looking at a woman’s ass all day instead of some dude’s. It’s the identity – macho thing in another scale altogether, but essentially very similar.

        Edit after Cockles’s post: I’m referring, of course, to those who make exactly that argument for playing only women, not anyone else.

    • Cockles says:

      I have the opposite opinion. I’m an (almost) 30 year old male and I always like to play as a female character. One of the reasons I haven’t played through the witcher is that I can’t get past my preconceptions of a gruff-white guy having sex with lot’s of ladies. I’m probably completely wrong and the witcher games do sound great but I just can’t get past it. Even in Arkham city I preferred the catwoman sections, admittedly she was a lot faster so that played a part in it.

      I recognise I’m in a minority of people who want to play as females but I believe it would force writers to think deeper about their character if they couldn’t just tick the checklist of usual ex-CIA/Space marine dude who is angry about stuff, probably their love interest is in trouble.

      A lot of guys who I discuss this with just look at it at a surface level and assume I just want to stare at my character’s arse, which is not the case. I used to always choose to play as the strong male when I was a puny child who probably had fantasies about being strong and wanted to directly translate myself in to the game experience but as I grew up I wasn’t interested in that and got bored of seeing the same old cliched characters. I’m completely comfortable with my gender identity and sexuality so why not explore what it’s like from the other gender’s perspective?

      You are catered for, as the article states; you’re priviliged (not in an insulting way). You have plenty of games to choose from where you can be the man, why not try opening up to something different? You might change your perspective.

    • harbinger says:

      According to this study: http://www.gameranx.com/features/id/10438/article/study-of-box-art-reveals-games-that-feature-non-sexualized-women-on-the-box-don-t-sell-well/

      As you can see from the chart above, about 40% of all game sampled had a male on the cover. 27% of the games sampled had males and females whereas only 7% had only a woman on the cover.
      Each category (based on the research questions below) was tested in a binomial regression model. The results of the regression analysis concluded that male figures on game boxes seem to influence the sale of games whereas a female character on a game box often negatively impacted sales of the game she appeared on the box for. Additionally, sexualized female characters positively influenced sales as long as they were not central to the box art.

      The author concludes,
      “Hypersexualized and objectified women, aggressive men, and signs relating to violence or war are effectively symptoms of a masculine-coded space or cultural object, not just content that this audience desires for its own sake; in other words, a masculine-coded space signals potential buyers that the game will meet the cultural norms for this type of game space. In contrast, central female characters and any signs that might code the game or space as feminine contradict audience expectations and desires. The higher sales of games rated Mature lends further credence to this idea—these games received a higher ESRB rating than games rated Teen because they had more violent, sexual, and/or drug-related content, all of which are generally coded as masculine. While it is possible that potential consumers seeking masculine games note the ESRB rating in making purchasing decisions (since ESRB ratings are listed on the box front), it seems likely that potential buyers also detect cues of masculine coding in box art.”

  30. cjlr says:

    I had just the funniest response to one of the troll comments. But then it was deleted, and you’ll all never know. :(

    Oh, but I guess I should say something on-topic. It’s quite the idiotic circle; we can’t risk a female protagonist because the last few big sellers didn’t have female protagonists because they didn’t risk it because the last ones didn’t… Stupid, but hardly a unique phenomenon.

    I think there is a case to be made for some portrayals of inequality, when put in a historical context. The past is nasty, yo. That also presents the opportunity for commentary, even if it’s only a, “gee, that was bad” sort of way. Far cry from defaulting to the grizzled brown-haired white man for no particular reason regardless of setting, which is what we’ve so often got now.

    • Fluka says:

      See also the circle of “We don’t make games that appeal to or feature women because there are not enough female gamers because we don’t make games that appeal to or feature women because…”

    • Canisa says:

      If ‘gee, that was bad’ is your idea of incisive and valuable commentary, you might want to avoid that particular avenue of artistic expression. Simply portraying an egalitarian past-style society is a statement in itself, and often a very powerful one. Certainly preferable to portraying a shitty one uncritically except for one sentence thrown in to say “This is bad, m’kay?”

  31. thegooseking says:

    I think he could have been more to the point about the sexualisation of Isabela. The fact that it’s a primary motivator for the tension between Isabela and Aveline (both parties thinking the other doesn’t deserve to be considered a “real” woman) is a pretty shockingly obvious clue as to what that was all about.

    Isabela as a character has a preconception of what being a woman is “supposed” to mean, and is frequently challenged on that. Aveline’s own preconception of what being a woman is “supposed” to mean is hardly more realistic, but the tension between the two is the point, and ultimately sends the message that preconceptions about what being a woman is “supposed” to mean are flawed.

    And, I mean, if BioWare writing really is as facile and simplistic as people say, there’s no excuse for not getting that, right?

    • Fluka says:

      I absolutely love the conversations between them throughout the game. First the tension that you mention (I hadn’t thought about it exactly in those terms of “what it means to be a woman” – nice analysis!). And later the growing friendship between them as Isabella’s brash confidence and Avaline’s honor begin to rub off on the other. Besides, it’s actually quite unusual to see two female characters develop a friendship like this in the course of a game.

  32. Eddard_Stark says:

    It is pretty ironic. David, if you would return to making actual games rather than interactive dating simulators for the sexually deranged poputlation of BSN, that would be a step in the right direction, wouldn’t it? I mean sexualizing polygons is what your studio has been basicly specializing in for the past several years. I fail to grasp why you consider depicting female characters as sexual objects in particular to be the first and foremost problem when your own current core audience is sexualizing literally everything that moves in your games. Male, female, robots, whatever. Don’t you think that actually creating complex multi-layered characters instead of shallow sex toys is a far more effective policy than constantly bringing up sexism as a major issue in lengthy verbal conversations?

  33. Bluestormzion says:

    His point about there “being reasons” for Isabella to be such a sexual character, and therefore not being an example of something wrong with the current state of gender depictions, is total bunk. Her reasons are as designed as she is. Taking that justification to the absurd, you could make a game called “Sex Asylum” that’s about an Asylum full of sex addicts, and the entire game is just lesbians goin’ at it. Justify it all you want with their own personal addictions and psychoses and backstories… but you made them up because you wanted characters constantly bangin’ each other!

    I could not possibly care less about anything BioWare or their leaders or writers have to say about anything; they’ve gone beyond the deep end, sitting in a corner and jerkin’ it about how great they are. Sex in a game or sex not in a game, it doesn’t matter. Strong female characters or weak female characters, it doesn’t matter. Shaved head commando man or not shaved head commando man, it DOES NOT MATTER. I know strong AND weak women in reality. I know men with hair and men without hair. I know commandos and non commando individuals. Some people I know have sex, some do not for various personal, spiritual, or medical reasons.

    You don’t craft believable universes either by having people have sex or by having people NOT have sex. Put frankly, relying on sex to showcase “maturity” or “reality” is nothing but lazy. Once upon a time, Bioware crafted worlds that relied on well written characters with emotions and drives and goals. Now we get skintight space armor, quadrasexual pirate wenches, and last second deus ex machina that showcase just how far the writing has fallen. And the industry as a whole has done no better. It’s time to grow up for real.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      To be fair, I think he addressed your “Sex asylum” example when he said:

      ” Those are things you should at some point stop and think about. If we happen to make a game that has a lot of female characters and every single one of them is sexualized… Even then, let’s say the writing actually supported that and every one of those characters had a very valid reason to be sexualized. Well, maybe, at that point, you need to step back and say, “Why did we create a whole bunch of justifiably sexualized characters? What are we saying about those characters and about women that might end up being hostile to a female audience?””

      I think his implication is that justification by back story isn’t enough of a reason in and of itself so I think he’s well aware that things are more nuanced than that.

      That’s aside from the quality of Bioware’s writing, which I’d agree with you has some weaknesses (but for me, enough strengths that I find their current games enjoyable if not without flaws – particularly endings DA2 and ME3 were both pretty terrible).

    • Fluka says:

      But she does have emotions and drives and goals. Her relationship with her crew, her emotions regarding slavery, the whole Qunari arc. Her physical appearance maybe designed with marketing in mind, but writing wise she’s an individual. Whose sexuality, yes, is part of her personality.

      As Gaider says, it’d be a problem if the entire game was full of characters like this (your “asylum”). But the 2-3 other female party members are all extremely different, and unlike Isabella. At least speaking as a woman who is usually quite sensitive to these things, I felt like I was being presented with people rather than wish-fulfillment sex toys. Does avoiding sexism mean that some women can’t also be sexual?

    • stormhit says:

      You should click on the link to his tumblr, because you’re missing the point.

  34. Spoon Of Doom says:

    “The thing that would bother me more is having a character who was sexualized who has no reason to be sexualized.”

    Like how even fricking old Flemeth suddenly became a big breasted, cleavage showing action figure in DA2 (visually at least)?

    As a reminder, that is her in DAO: http://i.computer-bild.de/imgs/2/6/7/8/0/7/1/Kompletloesung-Dragon-Age-Origins-Flemeth-745×466-db8052fd437b82d7.jpg

    And this is her in DA2: http://biowarefans.com/wordpress/wp-content/gallery/dragon-age-2-demo-part-2/flemeth2.jpg

    Granted, it’s not as bad as some other fantasy games (I won’t post links here because some are almost in NSFW territory), but they picked a very peculiar character to give the “sexy” makeover.

    • Lord_Xia says:

      That was my first thought. What could be more moronically sexualised than taking an old woman and changing her the way they did in DA2?

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      Granted, he said he had little control over the final designs and so on, but this is exactly what I thought as well. It doesn’t have to devolve into Reign of Terror stuff, but come on, working in a group should give you some leverage on these things, and he’s probably (I would hope) not the only one who thinks about unnecessary sexualization in games, in order for that of Flemeth to have been avoided. As it is, it’s totally out of place.

    • formivore says:

      Ugh, you know it’s possible to overcorrect on this stuff.

      Personally, my inner puritan likes to rely the Beyonce standard: Is a women character trading on on sex appeal more or less blatantly than Beyonce Knowles? So, scantily clad elf maiden beckoning to you play – worse than Beyonce; Flemeth with cleavage – not so bad. Video games are such a hive of scum and villainy as it is that maybe it’s not worth worry about those rare cases where it’s no worse than other forms of media. I’ve seen some people get really puritanical like complaining about how Alyx Vance is designed (designed the cynical bastards!) to be attractive to a male gamer.

      While I can’t say I’m a fan of the outfit, there’s nothing out of character about Flemeth who is an immortal shapeshifter who does what she pleases. To geek out on you, Morrigan will chat about how mommy liked to lure woodsmen into the cabin, in the form of a scantily clad elf maiden, a pure white stag, or maybe Beyonce, and then murder them and steal their boots. This unstable home environment of course in no way affected young Morrigan who is a strong free spirit superior to the neuroses that afflict lesser beings.

      • Premium User Badge

        strangeloup says:

        Imagining Beyonce as an ancient witch explains a lot of things.

        A lot of things.

  35. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Excellent interview. The issue of accepted industry wisdom did remind me of a passage on The Emperor of All Maladies, by Syddhartha Mukherjee (a book I strongly recomend. It contains a full biography of the Cancer in an accessible language. A detailed answer to what it is, its history since ancient times and the history of the fight against it).

    To this day, Roger Bannister 1954 feat of breaking the 4 minute barrier on the 1 mile race remains as a changing even on the sports overall. For so long had that 4 minute “barrier” existed that it was actually believed the human body couldn’t do it. Our muscles couldn’t gather the necessary energy, or our lungs were incapable of pushing enough oxygen into the blood stream. When Bannister finally broke it, it turned the world of sports upside down. What he proved is that notions about limits and limitations are created by us, not by the actual thing that the limit refers to. What he broke in a definite way, wasn’t just a limit, but the notion of limits. We today better understand this concept in the world of sports. We keep waiting for another barrier to fall. And we do it naturally. But it’s still a prevalent issue on many other aspects of our human collective minds.

    So, definitely I can agree Gaider on the importance of removing accepted (false) wisdoms. And I think, not just the industry, but gamers and the press can help with it. On the matter of sexism there are indeed notions of false limits that need to fall. In that context John Walker, Tropes Vs. Women and others, have been an eye opener and a just cause.

    What I often question though is the style of such activism, very often in the form of passive aggressiveness or outright aggressiveness. And, on the case of Tropes Vs. Women, the sometimes less researched, misleading, and even false, examples used to illustrate a problem that actually does exist.

    It’s not just enough to gather like-minded individuals around a cause (I’m sure people against sexism are counted in the millions). It’s a whole lot more important to make the problem disappear. And for that we need to convert others. Being a constant source of division, promoting an ever larger schism between different-minded individuals (and sometimes even between like-minded individuals), is the worst way to actually help create a healthier society.

  36. Hoaxfish says:

    I wonder how this “Diversity” mashes with DA2′s removal of the multiple races and backgrounds that appeared in DA:0 character creation/opening chapter.

  37. ZHsquad says:

    In all honesty, I’ve never really thought about my gender in video games that isn’t an RPG. The exception of this being HL2. In an FPS, pretty much all you see is a gun so I never thought about me being male or female. And when it comes to games sexuality characters, well, it’s not totally unrealistic at times. Rarely will I see a strong female character in a bikini, why? Because she’s too busy wearing armor and smashing you with a hammer. Strong males on the other hand, shirts off and smashing you with hammers. Physically weaker women however, they might show some skin. It probably helps with them getting around the world more (if you take a realistic look at it).

    Maybe we put just a wee bit too much thought into this at times.

    • Cockles says:

      Maybe you are right but if you have thought about gender in games for any reason then you will see the pattern that emerges. I’d hazard a guess to say that you are male? If so, you are well catered for in terms of character gender (I am also male and well catered for in terms of male protagonists), you probably haven’t really had much reason to think about because this is a medium aimed at your demographgic. If it wasn’t catered to your tastes then you might have a different opinion.

      • Matt-R says:

        I don’t think this is particularly true, I can only really think of one or two games where you have an actual male character, sure you get all sorts of male /looking/ characters but they’re essentially a-gendered, perhaps this is a pointless argument but it was something that particularly came to mind from the Rhianna Pratchett article Lara not being a strongly written female character wouldn’t have made her a man with boobs, Lara would have been the exact same character as Protagonist A from a CoD game neither are men, they may have gendered representations but just because the book says Don Quixote on the cover doesn’t mean you won’t get Mein Kampf.

        • Cockles says:

          I think I disagree with you but I’m not sure I follow you. You’re saying that male protagonists are essentially a-gendered? Even where the game is gender neutral then how many times do games feature women in these roles? Not very often.

          You could argue that half-life is a-gendered because the character is a silent protagonist but it’s still a guy called Gordon so he’s not gender neutral, that’s why there is not an option to choose whether you play as Gordon or Brenda. I’d argue that nothing is gender neutral in this context, somethnig like simcity would be an exception but whenever you play a game as a character, the gender is chosen for you according to the developer’s (or publisher’s or whoever’s) preference.

          Perhaps I’m not understanding your point but I feel it’s easier to say that games are a-gendered when you are being catered for as a male player, although I apologise if you don’t think that’s the case for you.

          • Matt-R says:

            Well it’s not that male protagonists are a-gendered its that generally characters as a whole are a-gendered, to go back to the RP article, Lara lacking strong female characterisation doesn’t mean she’s male, anymore than Gordon Freeman’s lack of character at all means ‘he’ is female, game characters in general might have a particular gender in terms of visuals but it’s rare where gender actually plays in to who they are and thereby makes the character actually have a defined gender.

            It kind of boils down to the idea of characters who can represent a particular ideal, be it gender or race or what have you, we or people or whatever generally call out for better representation of minorities in regards to this but I don’t even think that the privileged are even properly represented at this point we’re woefully short of any meaningful gender representations as a whole.

            Essentially it boils down to the idea of having tons of male pictures and i’ll agree here completely that even from a basic idea of having gender visuals its far less common to have female forms, but not really having a proper representation of a man, or woman, or anything else for that matter.

            But you don’t have to agree that’s fine.

  38. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Equality should never be understood in its entirety. No one is asking for that type of equality. In many contexts, difference is a good thing, should be promoted and cherished.

    Equality, in the context of men and women, as always been about equality of rights and equality of treatment. It’s a matter of ethics, not of physiology.

    • Strangerator says:

      Sexual dimorphism exists in most species for sound evolutionary reasons. I think of it as cowardly that games don’t recognize this, and most games just treat men and women as reskins of one another, maybe with different romance options.

      The problem is of course the way we value various traits in games. Say for example your statistic system in RPGs penalized women in strength, but gave them bonuses to charisma and/or wisdom? As long as they balanced out in terms of -2 here +2 there, you would not be stating that one gender is better than the other, just that they’re better at different things. But since games tend to still be targeting a mostly male audience, they are designed in a way that makes combat the focus. Strength is usually one of the best stats, while charisma is one of the worst, solely because of how the game is designed. So you would indeed be charged with sexism for making a system this way, which is why the “not with a 10 foot pole” approach is usually taken, where gender is purely cosmetic.

      It goes back to the feminists and their insistence on eradicating sexual dimorphism from all media, despite the fact that it is a reality that should be addressed honestly. Think of the mindset of a young girl who grew up playing this type of videogame confused about why she isn’t allowed to play football with the boys in high school. You are placing this unfair burden on women, expecting them to be physically just as strong as men, without ever recognizing the value of anything “feminine” whatsoever. There are plenty of worthy traits women posess that men lack, but society as a whole has devalued femininity.

      EDIT: Anyone else having trouble getting replies to stick to their intended comments?

      • realmenhuntinpacks says:

        @ Strangerator – H. sapiens are one of the least sexually diamorphic species on the planet. Just so you know. Also, know much about lemurs? Might put a dent in your testosterone tank.

      • Premium User Badge

        cpt_freakout says:

        I think you’re mixing biology with social values and arriving at a deterministic conclusion because of it. Women can be as strong as men. That’s where the physiological ends. “Charisma” and so on are social values, and are just as conditioned by context as your views on the physiological. Ever seen a mixed gender football match? The answer to why not is related entirely to context, and to how biology is used in that context.

        I’m not saying women and men are identical, we obviously aren’t, but many of the differences we think are entirely biological are, in fact, ideological. We think of biology as a sort of essential thing, when it’s actually changing all the time, and when it’s actually different from person to person. It’s as affected by history as anything else, and the theory of evolution is the most clear proof of that. This means that I do think that, following your example, in RPGs all characters should start the same, and become differentiated through context, and through interactions within that context. For example, I love to play women in Mount and Blade because most people in that game are mysoginist bastards, and it makes the interactions (as a lady, as a bandit, as queen…) quite interesting, in different ways than how you can deal with them when playing as a man. Many options open to you are different, but your character will always be yours to build as you wish – beginning with the biological (not all men are strong and practical).

      • Contrafibularity says:

        @Strangerator: You seem to be forgetting humans aren’t most species. The problem with naturalistic approaches such as the one you’re taking is that they are based on so many observations wrongfully applied to human society and the role of individuals that it would take a few pages to sort out the rubbish. People are defined by culture and society, simply put, we are who we want to be. We are both subtly and distinctly different from “most species” in this. See;

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

        The reasons for this include that we have evolved to be a species who can concentrate energy and nutrients into cooked food, practice medicine, have highly specialised skill-sets and so on. Furthermore, there seem to be 3 different “types” of brains randomly distributed amongst the sexes, contrary to the belief that “women and men are both most proficient at sometimes different things” it would be more accurate to say that each of those 3 brain types have their strengths. And that’s still a hugely reductive thing to say.

        The differences people seem to perceive are, believe it or not, ALL down to cultural preconceptions, most of which are “laid down” by patriarchal religions which spread around the world. And this oppressive system of deterministic inequality has become self-sustaining and self-reinforcing, because more people buy into it every day. Children are raised and indoctrinated with the beliefs that certain roles exist only for certain sexes, or in the case of religion, even worse. You might be surprised to find that in a matriarchal society such as the Mosou, these preconceptions are almost completely inverted:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosuo

    • thegooseking says:

      Can you name some feminists who “insist on eradicating sexual dimorphism from the media”? Because it’s not an attitude I’ve really encountered.

      And even if you can, I’m curious as to why you call them “the feminists”.

      EDIT:-

      EDIT: Anyone else having trouble getting replies to stick to their intended comments?

      Apparently yes.

  39. gingerbill says:

    For me a big part of the attraction of bioware games are the romances , i really enjoy them , it’s something different you don’t see in many games . The romantic/sexual relationships definetly added to the DAO story for me . It’s one good way to make me care about the NPC’s.

    Can’t people lay of DA 2 now ? i think they got the message :) . It wasn’t in the same league as DAO but it was still a good game i completed twice and spent 80 hours playing. Despite the bad things it did some great things as well.

    • Fluka says:

      When the oceans have ground down every mountain to fine sand, and when every star in the sky has finally burned out. Only then we will stop yelling at BioWare for Dragon Age 2.

      In that point, in the silence and darkness of the cosmic void, we will get back to discussing the ending of Mass Effect 3.

    • Berzee says:

      Conversely, aroundabout Jade Empire I felt that BioWare was becoming creepily obsessed with forcing me to MAKE SOMEONE LOVE ME…even in KotOR, one of my favoritest games of all time, it was always becoming a little bit implausible.

      Here’s how they could impress me: take away all the “romance subplots” between you and your traveling companions. Add in a romance subplot with an obscure vendor in a hole-in-the-wall shop (not like Fable where EVERYONE IN THE UNIVERSE LOVES YOU, but an actual story about an individual person who is more-than-averagely happy to see you). Make it so that this story never intersects with the main story (i.e. the vendor never gets kidnapped by the villains), and make it so that the only reason your relationship flourishes is because the vendor is an interesting person (not because you’re all stuck in the same ship / camp / dungeon). Make it so that you have to take time off from the main quest, possibly even miss out on other things you could be doing, to keep traveling back to this random back alley in a city to visit this vendor. Your combat-companions get annoyed if you pursue this relationship, because you’re always making them backtrack so you can go on a date.

      After you finish killing the main boss, you get to go back and marry this person and live happily ever after.

      They don’t join you to fight the baddies in the sequel either, but they might send couriers (and/or one of your children) after you with encouraging notes and baskets of meatloaf or something (making them better than Skyrim spouses, who only feed you if you seek them out).

      • Scelous says:

        I like Bioware’s romances, but your idea does sound pretty cool.

  40. Cockles says:

    The problem is, gender equaility is not yet a reality and that is certainly the case in games. We seem to be getting there slowly, at least places like RPS are having the discussions, and of course there are a VERY SMALL minority of extreme feminist opinions but when you weigh these up against the very large amount of male sexist themes and opinions you will see that we are a long way from pushing it too far.

    EDIT: By the way, in relation the specific examples you gave; as a male I did not find Anita’s videos provoked the same reaction in me and if she did go too far, it’s understandable in an industry that is not really interested in her regardless of whether her point is incorrect (I also have no issue with her getting money for these things, she didn’t steal it from anyone). The Patricia thing I have no idea about.

  41. harbinger says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much, he will be out of a job soon enough, the way his company is heading.

    “Essentially I guess the thrust of what I’m talking about is, the fact that we’ve had to confront these issues has made us better developers and has made our games more inclusive.”
    That’s rich considering some of their latest games which have gotten gradually worse, and boy the main thing I’m looking in any game for is how “inclusive” it is, there should be a new rating scale from “Not Inclusive” to “Totally Inclusive”, screw the quality of any of the underlying elements, for instance the overall writing or characterization. We’d better include all those token characters instead.

    “Yeah, I find it interesting. I call it “accepted industry wisdom.” The thing about accepted industry wisdom is that you can’t question it. Everyone just agrees. It’s weird. The things that the industry decides are treated as incontrovertibly true until someone else comes along and proves them definitively wrong in a way that we cannot ignore. Then, of course, everyone jumps on it.”
    They’ve sure proven everyone wrong, oh wait both Mass Effect 2 and 3 have shown that over 82% of their player base (the people buying their games and giving them money) play male Shepard exclusively despite female Shepard having the arguably better voice actor based on their numbers: http://i.imgur.com/JnFqEdj.jpg
    http://gamasutra.com/view/news/122323/83_Percent_Of_Mass_Effect_2_Players_Opted_For_Male_Protagonist.php
    This is something else than “sexism” entirely and is called “market appeal”. If a developer isn’t planning to make a “blank slate” character that you can inject any type of gender or personality into but rather have some actual characterization like in The Witcher games, they have to consider this.

    In that regard, it’s a little ironic that the developer who invented the idea of “romances” in video games (with their purpose to the player being to “get some” and all his companions falling at his feet after the exchange of a few words), coined the term “player-sexual” and based large parts of their marketing campaigns on characters like Liara having hot lesbian sex or Miranda/Diana Allers and produced EDI, an AI with cameltoe is discussing how this is apparently “this thing in the industry” that suits are apparently wrong about…

    • stormhit says:

      Your entire last paragraph isn’t tied to reality, but you made your point clear with your first sentence, so I guess that’s not important.

  42. Berzee says:

    After everyone’s had a good run discussing how to make games that aren’t full of sexist content, maybe we can also get someone to add a menu toggle to skip over sexual content, or just not load their games up with it to begin with.

    Then I’d actually try a Dragon Age game. For now it’ll have to be Scribblenauts.

    • Scelous says:

      I like my games with sexual content.

      In addition to Scribblenauts, you’ll want to play Super Mario Bros. and other games that appeal to children.

      • Berzee says:

        “Mario”, you say? I will Google this video-game on your recommendation.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Oh look, the implication that Mario + such games are just for little kiddies because they don’t have enough tits and blood and swears.

        My teenage cousin’s going through that phase right now, he laughed when I tried to talk to him about Zelda. He prefers the ostensible “maturity” of Call of Duty. It’s adorable.

  43. TheBarringGaffner says:

    I would have agreed about the Isabella from Dragon Age II thing, except that her characterization doesn’t go beyond “slutty pirate”. It’s still blatant fanservice, it’s not as if the game explores exhibitionism in a mature way.

    • Voronwer says:

      I have to disagree. My first look at Isabela had me rolling my eyes, thinking this would be horrible. Instead, she became my favourite character of the entire game. Did you actually play it through that she returns to you after running off? I was very surprised at how well written she was and to me even the lack of pants made sense (even if it’s a little silly, but dammit, Isabela needs no pants cause she’s just that awesome).

      In all seriousness, I found she had a lot of depth and was surprised at how much she changed around in the game. Yes, I’m sure there was some fan service there, it’s hard to say there wasn’t, but there was so much character behind it, that for once, I didn’t mind. DA2 did a lot wrong, but the one thing it did right in my eyes, were its characters.

      (FYI: I am a female gamer, but I do have a bit of a girlcrush when it comes to Isabela so maybe I can’t be taken seriously.)

      • Fluka says:

        Agreed 100%. I’m a feminist, and I thought Isabela was awesome. I’d actually say she’s a great example of how making your female characters believable and human doesn’t translate into sacrificing sex appeal.

        • TheBarringGaffner says:

          Huh, maybe I was just too jaded against the game from what I heard about it to actually give the characters a chance.

      • Jimbo says:

        Isabela’s character development was one of the highlights of the game for me.

  44. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    Point the First: I liked Dragon Age 2 miles more than the first one, which I suppose puts me in a minority. I’m told the gameplay is better in the PC version of DA:O (I played both on console, at the time) but it’s still got the same monumentally tedious story and about one and a half characters I wouldn’t happily kick off a cliff. (I still played it for a zillion hours). DA2 was certainly flawed but I felt it had better focus and better writing, and unlike Origins, I was actually interested in the characters and in Kirkwall, though some of the more general setting tropes that remained from the original were still rather dull.

    Point the Second: I enjoy playing female characters in games, or at the very least, having the option to do so. I’m a guy, I’m not transgender in any respect, but one of the reasons I enjoy gaming is the chance to be somebody else for a period of time. If I’m going to be a star commander or a sword master or a wizard, an experience completely different to everyday life, why should I be made to maintain the same gender? Or, even, at that, the same species? I equally enjoy being able to play different races, especially if they have real distinctions from the humans in the setting. In terms of romance options, I think these tend to be a distraction from the storyline, and while it’s certainly pleasing to have options conforming to my RL orientation (as a gay man), I found it rewarding to roleplay FemShep as in love with Garrus. Because really, who -isn’t- in love with Garrus?

  45. Bootsy81 says:

    “The fact that we’ve had to confront these issues has made us better developers.”

    Sorry David, I just can’t agree with that. I think the focus on sexism that has been in some part foisted on Bioware by their fan base and in part willingly accepted by them has made them a poorer developer. It’s almost as though they spend so much time arguing or considering these issues they have lost sight of what they should be doing. Making good games.

    I’m not saying that some sort of stance on these issues is a bad thing but I’m sure most would agree that that should not come at the cost of making good games, something which I believe most would agree Bioware seems to have forgotten how to do over the past decade or so.

    Not that that’s all the fault of sexism issues, I’m sure the EA buyout and things like the leadership changing have affected them much more, but it can’t help that they are mostly famous now as the willing poster boys/girls of the most ridiculously inflammatory sideshow there is in the industry right now. They really should just get back to the business of making good games without letting them get dragged down into this increasingly tiresome mire. If that means a gay female main character that’s fine, great even. Female main characters never hurt Tomb Raider, Mirrors Edge, Metroid, Portal or Beyond good and Evil. But make sure you’re delivering an unarguably good game first instead of targeting demographics or untapped areas of the consumer base… Quality of the game first, marketing to demographics and social issues second would be the best thing for Bioware these days in my opinion.

  46. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Wow, been in hospital for a couple of days and have just seen the smoking rubble of RPS post-idiotwar. Just want to say thanks for keeping on with this. RPS is clearly no longer the quiet, being-excellent-to-each-other village green it used to feel like – I absolutely cannot bring myself to trawl through the 15 pages of (presumably) horrible comments on the Cara piece – but so glad you’re still shouting about it. It truly is weird as fuck – the most modern form of entertainment has the most ancient gender politics. Think it’s going to take a day or two to work the furrows out of my confusedalated brow.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Might I suggest you do at least read something before forming a strong opinion on it? By all means feel free to not want to get involved, but to weigh in on the matter without caring to put the effort in to find out any details is very much wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

      • Premium User Badge

        RobF says:

        It’s not like he’s wrong though. It’s 15 pages of predominantly dumbfounding “I don’t see what the problem is” or “I hate RPS, stop talking about this stuff, better in my day, eeh bah gum” crap and anyone with any experience of RPS comments sections when the issue of sexism arises doesn’t need much of a flag to know what lies at the end of the rainbow, right?

        • Droopy The Dog says:

          It’s a matter of principle though, prejudices often stem from preconceptions that people believe in so strongly that they never feel the need to re-evaluate them and thus never see how wrong they are. There’s a big difference between thinking those comments could very easily be horrible and thinking those comments are definitely going to be horrible. Just looking at the article title and thinking to yourself you know exactly how the comments are based on your own preconceptions is a bad habit to get in to, it reinforces a pattern that leads to close-mindedness and leaves the potential for people to manipulate your opinion by playing on your preconceptions that you don’t fact check any more.

          Do I need to substitute the preconception of “stupid sexist commenters” with “stupid lazy immigrants” to illustrate how it’s a terrible idea to parrot the sentiment without first checking it for yourself?

          …Especially when you’re working with 2nd hand information that insists several hundred responses can be accurately boiled down to a couple of caricatured responses. It’s a pain in the arse to read them all, and often face palmy, but it’s the price you have to pay if you want pass genuinely fair judgement on the issue, which is the only type judgement that should be aired in public.

          • realmenhuntinpacks says:

            ‘Do I need to substitute the preconception of “stupid sexist commenters” with “stupid lazy immigrants” to illustrate how it’s a terrible idea to parrot the sentiment without first checking it for yourself?’
            Bloody hell mate, bit of a leap! I appreciate your sentiment and I think we’re on the same side here but… yeah.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            Eh, sorry if the example was a bit uncomfortably extreme, I was miffed with RobF trying to validate that kind of thinking. It is a valid example of the same principle though, one’s just a lot more harmful than the other

      • realmenhuntinpacks says:

        Fair enough Droopy. It just depresses and confuses me, and I’ve seen it all before. I’ve never heard anyone who wasn’t an obvious, self-declared arsehole say these kinds of things in real life, yet there’s hundreds of people – who apparently have similar interests as me, and inclinations enough to draw them to as skewed a blog as this – willing to display attitudes unreconstructed enough to make the pope blush. Ah well. I trust in the passage of time. And thanks RobF – exactly.

  47. ass wasp says:

    I think the best way of addressing sexism isn’t through countless articles that just attract angry reddit morons or get ignored, it’s through games. Many rpgs let you pick female characters, why not have the player experience discrimination based on that? Mount & Blade sort of did it by making lords not take female characters seriously until they’ve got a big enough army/enough renown, but bioware-style rpgs have often shyed away from that kind of thing, preferring to have the typical human/elf racism thing.

  48. Joshua Northey says:

    The big thing for me when talking about say “sexism” in video games is to always keep in mind the consumers who drive the market. Young men. As an older man (in my 30s with a family), I am constantly frustrated with the immaturity and childishness of a lot of the topics themes and gameplay of the core titles.

    But are those titles “ageist”? No. That just isn’t a helpful or productive framework for understanding what is going on. The sad truth is that the medium I choose to get my entertainment from have most of its products aimed at someone different from me. That isn’t a tragedy, or injustice, it just is.

    If it becomes too frustrating I can spend my money elsewhere. “videogames” or “hockey” or “rock-climbing” or whatever don’t have any “responsibility” to reach out to as broad a market as possible. They only have to do what they want to do. They will as a matter of fact expand and grow because the people working in all those industries have an incentive for seeking out new markets, but they don’t owe anybody anything.

    It isn’t the Japanese cartoon industries problem that most of its output is aimed at children and teens and there is some small market in the US of adults who wish more of it was aimed at them. They can either try to monetize that market or not.

  49. Jimbo says:

    DA2 deserved the stick it got, but I thought Isabela’s character was quite interesting and her appearance was justified by her character. As the game progresses she’s revealed to be quite insecure and trying to hide that insecurity with her appearance and attitude. This is quite common in real life of course, but it’s rare for a game to handle a female character in that way – usually she’d just be Sexy Sassy Sidekick and no more.

  50. xsikal says:

    On the one hand, I am entirely in agreement that sexism is a real issue in the industry (and the world at large), and appreciate that Bioware has tried to be more inclusive in their approach, with their recent RPGs supporting gay and lesbian relationships.

    On the other hand, I feel that Bioware’s last few games have been mediocre-to-bad, and the quality of writing continues to deteriorate. And the romances in general, once begun, have often been so laughably sophomoric that I question whether they’re actually undercutting the social message. Is it a good thing that straight and gay characters can have equally atrocious romance arcs? Maybe, but it would probably be better for them to have GOOD arcs, (and not just fan-fiction that eventually devolves into claymation porn).

    I think Bioware needs to refocus on making quality games that feature competent writing and compelling characters (you know, two of the things that helped made them famous in the first place). That doesn’t mean they cannot still be an advocate for social equality — I’m in no way saying the two are mutually exclusive. It just means that their social activism might be more successful if the quality of the game didn’t undercut it.

    And, on the third hand (damn it, we ARE being inclusive here!), the overriding factor behind all of this, as mentioned in this interview, is that it really is all about the money. AAA titles are too expensive for publishers to want to deviate from ‘what has worked in the past.’ If things are going to (continue to) improve, I do think it will have to happen with indie and small budget titles proving there is a market for gay, lesbian, TG, or even just female protagonists. Publishers like EA and Activision are not going to take $10-30M risks until they’ve seen definitive proof of the existence of a market for such ideas.