Well, it happened! No, not the Singularity. Adult women now constitute the single largest demographic of gamers. While men still (barely) outnumber women overall, adult females now surpass teenage males as the biggest single group. This should be fantastic news for everyone, as greater diversity and greater acceptance of games as worthwhile media should make most people happy.
This is of course big news for a more important reason, and that is because gamers as a whole still seem to have a disproportionate amount of sexist fucks. Remember when a writer was given death threats for daring to say she preferred story to combat in games? And Ubisoft said women were just too hard to animate? Or how all of film, tv, and other media are run by a suspiciously homogeneous cast?
The point is women are criminally under-represented in game making despite the opposite being true in game consumption. Others have written about this better than I could. Also, frankly, you should listen to women on this subject, not me or any other guy. But since I am writing this game I want to talk about the women of Heroes Must Die.
I have a pretty decent history with female characters, including such diverse roles as an exuberant narrator who controls the world of the show, a lesbian zombie musical love story, and charming interior designer who works exclusively in the medium of people she kills. Open Sesame, which I have mentioned more than once, contained my favorite hero-villain combo I've ever written: Meghana, the wandering warrior fallen from royalty and working to make ends meet as a household manager to a rich twit, until she needs to return to her roots to fight the evil Pirate Queen, really the goddess Kali in disguise. A sword-dancing knightess-errant vs a sexy death goddess leading a pirate crew?! Man, sometimes I amaze even myself.
It's important to me that the women of HMD are not only prominent, but as diverse as any other cast, and avoid the strong female character with nothing to do problem. So here is a sampling of who we have:
- Of Lord Murder's Lieutenants, War, Death, and Taxes, two of the three are female. War is a prototypical invincible boss type, while Taxes is more complex, a talented inventor but also comic relief as a nerdy Minister of Finance whose main concern is keeping the evil empire's books balanced.
- Eternal Spring is a warrior monk who heads a large religious faction, and can be a guiding mentor or implacable foe depending on choices. She is a priestess of sorts but also the Bruce Lee-est character in the game.
- Promise, who trains our young heroes but also has a mysterious past that can be explored.
Minor spoilers ahead. I will be talking about the game in broad strokes, so if you don't want to know anything, skip down to the drunk pic and you'll be safe.
If you don't mind some general plot outlines, keep reading.
The next-to-main character in the game after your protagonist is Angelica. As the hero's best friend, it would be too easy to relegate her to sidekick, damsel-in-distress, or even a badass who sits there giving advice while you do all the work.
So instead, after shit goes down and the world succumbs to tyranny and you just do your best to survive, she is the one leading the resistance.
Angelica coordinates essentially every surviving good guy in the world and does what no one else can - organize them into a successful, cohesive force. So, if you in your story choose to join the resistance, it's under her banner. This is important - you are working for her. And hell, she doesn't even need you that bad. She'd just rather have your skills than not.
I wanted her to be a true leader. So while you still get to do all the coolest stuff as the player - because come on, any good game should put you at the center - she is a major driver of the plot, and a complex individual struggling with the same moral issues you do throughout the game.
Here she is sauced.
So while the best solution to the problem of women poorly or under-represented in games is to have more female game designers and writers, I'm a dude and can't help that and still want to make games, so I actively try to make them enjoyable for all.
It's just good writing. All games would be better with more diverse, complex, empathetic characters. All characters are better if they serve the plot. Even those who don't see the social issue (PS you should), it's worth thinking about the women in your fiction to improve your writing, your product, and your appeal. It's smart business, it's quality, it's cash.
I want to end by giving props to our artists for making the women just so stylish and exciting and cool to look at. The designs are phenomenal and make an impact. You just don't see the chance all that often to play as people who like this:
And frankly, we are all missing out because of it!