Developer on Gender: A Choice That Works for The Story

One developer says it's up to the developer to make the gender choice.

The issue of females in games continues to rage. Should we see more female protagonists? Will this induce more women to get involved in the hobby?

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Well, one developer addresses the first question in a recent Polygon interview. Mike Bithell, creator of the indie hit Thomas Was Alone, says a protagonist’s gender is simply the choice of the designer. However, that being established, he added that people are getting tired of the same ol’ same ol’:

“People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns. The thing that’s interesting with gender, and is exciting, is that the conversation has gotten to a point where I’d even be asked ‘Why male?’. That’s a big deal, and speaks a lot to the awareness that’s brewing in the industry about gender depictions, and frankly, the boringness of the standard chiseled beefcake with the big gun.”

Bithell is working on a new game, Volume. Initially, it had a female lead. However, as the development advanced and the story began to take shape, he realized that given the “Robin Hood-style story,” the hero really needed to be male. Bithell was looking to create a “particular form of rich masculine heroism,” so he made the appropriate choice. He added:

“I [hope] that when people play the game, they’ll realize why I chose to tell this story with a male protagonist. For me, that’s the interesting shift in the thinking recently. Male heroes should no longer be the default; it’s a choice, a choice that should be deployed when it works for the story being told.”

This is exactly correct. You create the story first. You don’t try and build a story around a female (or gay) character simply for the express purpose of “making a statement.” You develop the story and if such a character makes sense,  you put him/her in. If not, not. This is the only 100% fair approach; i.e., the only approach where there is no semblance of bias, and only the artistic craft of storytelling exists.


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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.