In a recent Capcom livestream event in support of their upcoming PS4 exclusive game, Deep Down, the game's producer Kazunori Sugiura mentioned that it would feature no playable female protagonists. That's an odd decision to make for a game that will feature custom character creation and bit of a minor sore point for me, personally, since I have a habit of always cross-playing if the option is available.
Power of plot
Putting my own preferences aside, this just seems like a really dumb decision, especially when gender issues in gaming are a known point of contention, both within the content of the games themselves and the inner workings of the industry itself. Making the choice to omit a feminine option just seems like deliberately painting a target on your back, with no obvious benefits.
But perhaps Capcom has a good reason for the omission? It's not impossible. According to Dualshockers.com's english translation of the livestream, the male's only decision is tied into the game's plot. Well, OK, then. That's good enough for me.
No it's not!. That's actually a really stupid reason, because Capcom is in complete control of what the plot is. They're not adapting an existing IP with an established male lead. This isn't Batman or James Bond, it's a completely original premise with no baggage or established traditions to limit it. They can write whatever they want.
I am struggling to conceive of plot contrivance that could possibly justify this. Unless this game has a story twist on a level equaling Bioshock that makes this work, no one is going to buy this reason. It could happen, but this is Capcom. They're not a company known for their engaging storytelling skills. So if Capcom have written a plot that fundamentally requires the player character to be male, then there's definitely something wrong with that company.
It's especially wrong-headed to do so in a game that specifically gives the player the autonomy to create their own personal avatar. What possible reason could there be not to have that option, when it's been done so many time before in the past? Heck, Capcom itself has done it, most recently with the brilliant Dragon's Dogma.
But what about that other oft-cited reason for keeping the girls out? You know the one: "It's technically or financially unfeasible."
For a while there, I used to buy that particular line. I'll concede that there was a time when that was a legitimate reason; there was only enough memory to create one lead character and/or there was only enough time and money to create one lead character. But the minute you have multiple lead characters or even multiple skins for a lead character, I fail to see how you couldn't make just one of them female.
If a developer earmarks, say, $100000 to create all the bits needed to make custom character creation possible, then why can't half those bits be female-centric? No really, why? Because it will narrow the options? No it doesn't, it's the exact opposite. For the same budget, a developer would have given gamers a much broader swatch with which to design their player made character. And maybe in doing so, encouraged some ladies to actually try their game.
I struggled for years to get my 11-year-old daughter into gaming. Despite my best efforts, she just wasn't interested. Download Lara Croft: Guardians of Light for free thanks to Games with Gold and bam, instant gamer. Now I have to battle to get game time for myself. Being gender inclusive doesn't cost the developer the anything, but it can potentially gain them more customer.
The fact is, there really is no good reason to not give gamers the option to create a female character. The fact is, any developer refusing to give gamers that option, especially in a gamer that features character creation, is at best lazy and at worst misogynist. In either case, it's the gamers that lose.
image by The-Monster-Hunter
What to do?
Deep Down isn't a game that I was particularly looking forward to, but this development isn't doing anything to draw me in. This may well be a brilliant game, but it's going to have to work so much harder now to convince of that.
Adding female characters to games is easy. It doesn't involve unique training, specialist programming skills or someone's permission. It's literally a matter of creating the female character models, something that devs already know how. Lara Croft, Chun Li, Samus, Commander Shepard, The Boss, Bayonetta, Cate Archer, Zoey, Alyx Vance, Jade, Chell, Clementine, Aveline de Grandpré, Joanna Dark and Sarah Kerrigan, are clear examples that there's no technical reason this can't happen. It's been done before, gentleman, just do it again. It really is that simple.
Ironically, implementing this, is really just a matter of someone having the balls to do it.
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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd