Recently Ubisoft technical director James Therien spoke about about creating female characters in computer games. Among other things he was quoted as saying: "It was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it's a question of focus and production," They would have to, "redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes." and, "It would have doubled the work on those things. And I mean it's something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision... It's unfortunate, but it's a reality of game development." Which translated means there will not be any female characters created by Ubisoft in future games because to paraphrase, it's too hard, costly, and time consuming.

That got me thinking and I went through my (somewhat limited) video game collection and came up with the following screenshots in about ten minutes. It seems other computer gaming companies don't share Ubisoft's attitude and their results have been pretty good to date. 

Capcom's Resident Evil series not only has many female characters, but they are leaders in their own right. Much of the Resident Evil series has the ladies armed and up front, taking down mutant baddies by the score.

EA's Mass Effect trilogy let the player choose between a male or female character. I played both male and female versions completely through several times. Regardless of the gender of the Shepard character, the play was essentially the same (save the romance angles, obviously) and there was no "weaker" sex.  Of the two, I actually preferred FemShep.

Lara Croft has been a staple of the gaming world since her first video Tomb Raider game appearance in 1996. The latest reboot shows her as a young woman dealing with her first foray into the real world.

Then there's Alyx Vance from Half Life 2. Rampaging across City 17 with Gordon Freeman, her character was the perfect empathic foil for the non-speaking Freeman. She made Half Life 2 the mega-hit it became.

There are many more examples of women in computer games. The ones presented here were from my personal PC game collection.

So it seems Ubisoft has a minority opinion in the industry. If development of female characters were truly problematic, then wouldn't other companies have stopped also? Catwoman from the Batman Arkham City game is as good as I have ever seen a female character. Not only does she move naturally, but her fighting style is completely different from Batman and fits her character perfectly.

Perhaps developing a female character in a computer game is more challenging. However, I am glad to see the majority of computer gaming companies embracing that challenge and coming up with believable and effective characters instead of simply looking at an accounting spreadsheet and saying, "no, that's too expensive."

The thing that mystifies me though is that Ubisoft recently came out with a female assassin (Aveline de Grandpré) in Assassin's Creed Liberation. That shows that they CAN develop an effective and convincing female character; but it looks like they just don't want to.

 


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