BioWare: Female Leads Must Become Financially Viable

BioWare’s David Gaider believes female protagonists will only become popular in the industry once they are proven to be commercially successful.

In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun at GDC, the lead writer on Dragon Age III explained his disdain for the popularly held belief that female protagonists don’t sell. He said:

“To say that about female protagonists – that they just don’t sell [is myopic]. Over the last ten 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… There is lots of that in the industry.”

Unfortunately, Gaider believes the only way the industry will change its mind is with an irrefutable example of a commercially successful female lead. He said:

“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 can’t ignore. The only way the industry can’t ignore something is when money is involved.”

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, as well as the original StarCraft: Brood War, both feature the same female protagonist prominently on the box art — a rare occurrence in the industry. Could HotS be the commercial hit necessary to convince the industry? What about Tomb Raider?

Gaider went on to explain that the idea is not to make a game that caters specifically to women — but rather one that doesn’t exclude women. He said:

“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.”

Wait — pink boxes and unicorns don’t make something appealing to women? Damn; I need to get some new t-shirts, then.

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16 Comments on BioWare: Female Leads Must Become Financially Viable

gasmaskangel

On April 2, 2013 at 10:29 am

The industry needs to learn that inclusions is always better than exclusion, if not for the obvious moral reasons, then because it will make them more money in the long run.

I also find it interesting (and slightly creepy) that the money men in publishers will dismiss a crappy game with a female lead as failing because it had a female lead, but if that same game was successful it will be because of literally any other factor the money men can think of.

That said, you know what I’d like to see more of? Female antagonists. SHODAN was one of the best villains in science fiction, and I’m totally not saying this because her malevolent contempt left a lasting impression on me as a young man.

Robyn

On April 2, 2013 at 11:22 am

So…Heart of the Swarm, Tomb Raider, Portal/Portal 2…weren’t commercially viable games? O.o

Michael

On April 2, 2013 at 11:30 am

I think he should check the MMO market and Just Dance.

gabrielle

On April 2, 2013 at 11:39 am

Speaking of Bioware, I was wondering about the ME3 game statistics that Bioware shared at PAX-

I’m a little skeptical that so few players played as femshep (18%) – even among those that completed the game.

Does the 18% represent first playthrough per unique player? Total playthroughs?

Maybe I am the minority, but I will usually go through the game (completely) more than once in various combos (male/female/good/bad) just to get the “full” game experience.

Sgt. Theresa

On April 2, 2013 at 11:44 am

The millions of Femsheps call bull.

Sigh

On April 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

More gynocentric PC crap. Wake me up when you start writing about games again instead of fashionable amateur sociology lectures.

sep

On April 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I have never played a game with/as a female protagonist in my entire gaming time in the last decade or so. I just cannot connect with the character.

But, that’s just me.

R.J.

On April 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Tomb Raider sold 3.4 million copies in the first month, so that sounds pretty successful to me. I suppose it really comes down to wanting to cut costs since they claim so few people choose to play as female characters in Bioware games.

Kevin

On April 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

This isn’t sociology crap. It’s about making compelling games that actually impact people. The problem with games nowadays is they are far too generic, far too focused on the bottom line, and afraid to do any innovation whatsoever. Even when they create compelling female characters (like in Bioshock 2), they feel the need to pander, and almost always to the worst common denominator.

I say this as a Catholic Republican. If anyone should tire of the “PC” crap, it’s me. Yet I find myself underwhelmed by most games because I really don’t give a damn about the cookie cutter characters and constant boring conventions.

Kevin

On April 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Lately, I’ve been playing KOTOR2 for a bit of old school nostalgia. Both of the “wild cards” in that game, Kreia and Atris, are incredibly compelling female characters. Kreia is one of the greatest characters ever designed in a game period.

If you’ve played KOTOR2, and didn’t connect (or argue with) Kreia at every moment, then you really can’t appreciate a compelling narrative

Michael

On April 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

Forgot to mention Dino Crisis, Parasite Eve and Beyond Good and Evil…

Maay

On April 3, 2013 at 12:54 am

I for one can’t connect at all with games WITHOUT female leads or main NPC. The narrative is so much better this way.

Freedonadd

On April 3, 2013 at 9:16 am

@Kevin

Not to mention the Exile of KOTOR2 is canonically a woman. Meetra Surik, I believe, is her name in SWTOR. After learning that I actually did a playthrough as a femExile after getting the Restored Content . Not bothered in the least by her romantic relationship with Atton I might add.

Heru

On April 4, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I guess Tomb Raider, Portal, Metroid, Parasite Eve, Resident Evil, Beyond Good & Evil Mass Effect, Dragon Age,etc etc, and any multitude of MMO’s where you can choose your characters gender just don’t count as commercially successful?

What planet does this guy live on?

Wesker1984

On April 6, 2013 at 12:59 am

I find Bioware feel a little bit ”” since they get bought by an Excremental Anuss…

Wesker1984

On April 6, 2013 at 1:06 am

Only Resident Evil 0, 3 and REvelations have really a female lead Heru because all the other games of the franchise have a male lead.

In Resident Evil 1 you can play both Chris and Jill but Chris’s scenario is the canon one so it make ”Chris” the lead.

The canon scenario of Resident Evil 2 is Claire A and Leon B making Leon the lead because he stop the main baddie at the end.

In code Veronica you begins the game with Claire but you finish it with Chris who end up killing the main baddie and stopping by himself the main threat making him the lead.