Change Is In The Air at E3

E3 2015

E3 has been going on this week, and that means that there have been a ton of video games shown. Overall, there looks to be a lot of great games coming out. Fallout 4 looks amazing! One thing that happened to catch my eye during some of the coverage, was the fact that there are actually some female protagonists being featured. If you play video games, you know that the default character is a buff white male. It’s refreshing to see this change in games, and frankly it’s long overdue. It’s not a huge shift for the industry, but these games show that things are beginning to change.

Dishonored 2

Emily Dishonored

This was the first one that caught my attention. They showed a cinematic trailer for the game that featured Emily Kaldwin, the new playable character. I didn’t play the first Dishonored, but as I understand it, she was a non-playable character in that first game. The original character from the first game will also be playable in this second game. The trailer was great, and the character looks to have some very cool abilities. In a game that features a male and female playable character, it was nice to see them go off the beaten path and showcase Emily. This looks like a great game.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizons Zero Dawn

This game is a blend of prehistoric and future. It features a female lead who uses a futuristic bow along with several different trick arrows to take down robot dinosaurs. Robot dinosaurs! I recently read an article on Polygon in which they point out that Sony was actually worried about the fact that the lead protagonist is a woman. This might seem silly to a lot of people, which is good, but spend a little time around the comments on video game websites, and you’ll understand their hesitation. That hesitation seems to be unfounded. The game appears to be getting good feedback, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on it. Did I mention robot dinosaurs?

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft has been around in video games for a long time. The problem is, she’s generally been designed with skimpy clothes and big boobs. Not exactly a practical design for a cave explorer. That changed with the release of the Tomb Raider reboot that came out in 2013. Lara looked much closer to an explorer in that game. Rise of the Tomb Raider is continuing with the rebooted series. It’s nothing new, but it’s good to see that this series has done well and is able to continue.

The Point

So you might be wondering, what does any of this matter? Why does it matter if games have female leads? Well, the thing is, video games as a whole are not known for their diversity. The vast majority of main characters in games are heterosexual white men. Even in games that let you create your own character, they almost always default to a white male. A lot of people bring up the “All you have to do is click an extra button to switch to female” argument, but it’s not about whether or not it’s difficult to switch the default. It’s about what the default implies. It asserts that a white male is the norm. It says that the game developers planned on you most likely being a white male. If you don’t fit this mold, it’s implying that you don’t fit with the game. In an industry where magic, dragons, super soldiers, and aliens are so easily accepted and included in games; it’s a shame that developers are nervous about just having a female lead. Orcs? Awesome! African American woman? Uh, just throw an option in the creation system.

I think things are getting better in general. It’s taking a while but video game developers are starting to actually consider other options for characters outside of the default “white guy” and, for the most part, players are showing their appreciation for the changes. Compared to film, books, and music, video games are still young. This isn’t an excuse, just an observation. As games get more and more popular, more and more people are playing them. It’s important to give all gamers the same feeling of connection with the characters as white guys have had all along. Video games are about interacting with a great story and fantastic characters. The more people who can be included in that interaction, the better.

Just a disclaimer, there may have been other great games showing off some diversity at E3 that I just haven’t seen yet. I’m not purposefully excluding them, these are just the ones that I happened to see.

You can follow me on Twitter @jakecrump

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