A Rant on Female Leads in Games

The Border House, a site dedicated to bringing equality to gaming for the disenfranchised and marginalized, reports on some interesting comments from Microsoft Game Studios’ Tom Abernathy. In a recent rant, Abernathy laments the lack of female protagonists in games and says that by not serving female gamers companies are only serving half of their audiences. Abernathy worked on Halo: Reach, Destroy All Humans!, and The Saboteur.

Abernathy’s rant on the subject:

"I’m tired of those of us who care in the game industry complaining that there aren’t enough female protagonists while those of them who make the money decisions keep responding, “Gee, we’d love to, but the market data is clear. They just won’t buy it.” I hear that from WOMEN in those money/marketing positions, too. And they say it while agreeing with the principle of the thing. Since when did it become okay to NOT do something we know is in best interests of our kids, just because our profits won’t be as obscene? I am all for obscene profits, but I want my daughter to see and play characters she can relate to. SHE wants that; nobody put it in her head.

I’ll freely admit, as sensitive a dude as I am, this didn’t become a concrete issue for me until I started seeing how much more excited my kid got when there was a girl onscreen she could identify with. She asks for “girl songs,” “girl movies” and “girl games.” Why shouldn’t she have that? I had that as a kid. She’s a consumer. We’ll buy it. I’ll MAKE it. We can’t be the only ones. I know we’re not. As I told @leighalexander for her article, I’m DYING to write more female protagonists. I do everything I can to make that happen.

I am less than successful. This angers me and, when I look at my little girl, breaks my heart. It’s not right. Forget the data. Scale down the budget accordingly if needed. We are not serving half our audience in the manner they want and deserve. Not good enough, gamemakers, dammit. Not good enough. Here endeth the lesson."

The Border House adds that game companies need to stop using excuses when it comes to strong female leads such as "it’s too expensive," "it’s too risky," or "it doesn’t make good business sense."

Source: The Border House

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    When I said "ladies", I did so because I was addressing this whole tired argument, and the (mostly) women who make it, in general.  I guess I counted on people being able to put two and two together and realize "ladies" didn’t refer to the specific man who wrote this particular article.  My bad?

  2. 0
    Joe_Sixpack says:

    What "ladies" are you referring to? The complaining here is being done by Tom Abernathy, a man. The only "lady" complaining is his daughter, but hey, if you wanna talk smack about a little girl just because she’d like to see more girls in games, knock yourself out.

  3. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    I play games where the main character is some grotesquely muscled caricature of beefcake masculinity.  Doesn’t bother me.  I play games where I am a squat, tubby little mustachioed man.  Doesn’t bother me.  I play games where the main character is a woman.  Doesn’t bother me.  These things don’t bother me because they don’t really matter.

    So, keep on bitching about this if you want, ladies, but it’s falling on deaf ears. Take games as they are, make games the way you want them to be, or quit.  I could respect any of those 3 choices, but not this self-entitled complaining.

  4. 0
    kurifu says:

     I highly doubt female protagonists will simply sell more to women.. sounds like a very short cited argument. A sample size of "her daughter" also isn’t going to produce results which accurately measure consumer behaviour.

    Besides, many AAA titles out there now let you choose your sex when playing, and I have not noticed or seen any results which show some substantial change in market behaviour for that.

  5. 0
    Monolith says:

    by not serving female gamers companies are only serving half of their audiences.

    Yeah…I’m pretty sure the genders for gamers aren’t split 50-50.

  6. 0
    Flamespeak says:

    I think the complaint is mainly the lack of women in the development end of things, which isn’t too suprising when you consider it is a math heavy field and women don’t tend to gravitate toward math heavy fields on the whole, same with engineers and the like. If there are women who can do the work and enjoy it, then hardly anything is stopping them, but work as a code monkey is almost required to get a foot in the door in the industry unless you just make your own game with a small team and it catches on first.

  7. 0
    Samster says:

    Ugh. I wish these people would stop trying to speak out for female gamers. As a female gamer myself, I don’t want token women appearing in games when they add nothing to plot or gameplay.

    Are they completely missing the plethora of games with powerful female characters, or if that doesn’t satisfy, those where you can completely customise everything about your character and make your own choice? They are becoming more and more common and are pretty damn successful to boot. I’ve been playing games for a long time and I personally think the games industry has progressed and is progressing much more quickly on gender issues than many other mediums.

    When female leads are made, the feminists just scream that they’re oversexualised and horrible anyway. Make anything too girly and you’re ‘stereotyping’. It’s small wonder the industry don’t make any moves when they may be damned if they do, damnded if they don’t.

    I don’t know. I certainly don’t have anything against female leads (obviously) and if they’re well-written instead of being a walking pair of breasts, even better. But maybe I’m not girly-girl enough to understand why a game isn’t acceptable enough for a girl to play unless the lead character is also a girl. *shrug* True gender blindness is not paying attention to the genitalia of the character on your screen.

  8. 0
    Allan Weallans says:

    Personally, I find it more than slightly insulting to see guys with huge muscles and huger guns adorning the box art of the titles in my game store, and knowing that some money guy at some publisher, somewhere, decided that I’m knuckleheaded enough that that must be what I actually want.

    Maybe I’m an exception. But I doubt it. Even if I am, I don’t think this minority is all that slender.

  9. 0
    DorkmasterFlek says:

    This is one of the reasons I’m excited for the forthcoming HD remake of Beyond Good & Evil.  Aside from it being a great game that was overlooked when it was released and deserving of a second chance.

  10. 0
    Neeneko says:

    It also shows short term thinking on the part of the executives….. ‘the current market wants X, making Y wouldn’t appeal to our X buyers and Y are not buying right now so why should we make stuff for them?’.  Very circular and short sighted.

Leave a Reply