Tag Archives: Dead or Alive

5 Ways To Make Computer and Video Games More Gender Inclusive

8 May

Here I present a short ‘wish’ list, stemming from my recent gaming experiences as well as trawls through the internet, of just a handful of ways to present a more equal gender experience within the medium.

Female ‘stock’, ‘cannon fodder’ or ‘grunt’ characters. By this I mean, un-named female characters, as the over abundant enemy than needs to be vanquished to progress. A good discussion of this can be found here.

I recently had the pleasure of playing through both Uncharted games, but one thing I kept thinking was ‘why are there no female pirates/mercenaries’? In Drake’s Fortune, the stock bad guy are new-school pirates. This doesn’t seem like a career with particularly gendered entrance criteria, especially in what is essentially fantasy. In Among Thieves, the stock bad guys are some unnamed PMC. Fair enough most armies in the world (private or not) only allow men as infantry, Israel being a notable exception. However, Chloe Frazer, a highly capable woman on a par with the protagonist Nathan Drake, has dealings with the PMC, and is treated as an equal or superior within their ranks. Thus it is not too much of a stretch to imagine the possibility of other female soldiers there too.

Not a job for women it seems...

[edit: It has just occurred to me that ‘bad guy’ is gendered language in itself, and highlights just how innately sexist much common parlance is… I will endeavour to stop using it]

More named female characters, preferably playable, and especially so if there is a cast of multiple playable characters. For example, if there are 10 playable human characters in a JRPG, 5 of them should be women, give or take. That is just about the population balance in real life (women have a slight edge), so it should translate into media depicting human experience in one way or another.

A good example of how not to do this would be Final Fantasy VII. Of the 9 playable characters, only three are women. Of those, one dies to serve as a plot development for the main character (Aeris), another is entirely optional (Yuffie), and the third is most remembered for her ample bosom (Tifa).

Entirely optional

I would like to see less shameless pandering to the ‘male gaze’. I am talking about this. I’m not saying this has no place in the medium, just not as the default. Either that, or balance it out with equally abundant crotch shots too. Straight male sexuality is not the only standard, nor is it necessarily as obvious and tasteless as it is too often assumed. Women’s sexuality just as much needs to be represented in popular culture and the digital arts, and I believe the medium can only benefit from it.

So less ‘realistic’ breast physics:

Independently animated

Until we get an independent physics engines for these:


A broader set of traits and characteristics for female characters to be built upon and judged by. So far we generally have a scale that ranges from ‘sex object in need of rescue’ all the way to ‘sex object who kicks ass’.


In need of rescue

Kicks ass

A quick check-list of more positive features might look something like this:

  • Believability
  • 3 Dimensional Personalities
  • Sense of Humour
  • Individual Motivations
  • Capability
  • Self Reliance
  • Expertise
  • Athleticism
  • Political
  • Intelligence
  • Independence
  • …and sure, attractiveness, but not sexualisation

Also note that none of these are gendered traits/descriptions. What I am trying to say I think is that writers should aim, first and foremost, to created decent (or painfully flawed) human beings, rather than ‘women’ or ‘men’.

Finally, I would like to see greater integration of gay and transgender characters. Sexuality needn’t be considered a universally touchy subject in computer and video games as a medium of expression. Cinema as proven that exploration of LGBT issues can both sell and be critically acclaimed, without being patronising.

Whilst I am not saying there need to be gay or trans characters in every game about people, LGBT issues certainly shouldn’t be a) unilaterally avoided or b) subject to gross stereotypes.
I have recently been enjoying playing through Persona 4, and it is hands-down just a better JRPG than most. Not because of its battle system, not because of its story, but  because of its diverse and believable characters, a number of whom struggle with both gender and sexuality (and maybe because of  its constant interaction with Jungian Analytical Psychology).

[See the Extra Credits video on this for a much better discussion than my own.]

How about you? What would you like to see included/removed from game design to make it more gender inclusive? Comments below…