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Slow Your Roll - A Female Lead Does Not a Great Game Make
Yesterday, Ninja Theory announced at Sony’s Gamescom press conference that they were in the process of developing a game called Hellblade. They really showed nothing else about it except for how pretty it looks and its inclusion of a female protagonist. It’s honestly hard to have a real opinion about it, but naturally, this doesn’t stop the Internet. My Twitter feed almost instantaneously exploded with gamers climbing over one another to announce louder than the other how excited they were for Hellblade simply because it had a female lead.
Holy cow, I remember this.
Hm, I know that look. I wouldn't mess with her.
I’m fairly certain my jaw dropped in perplexity. They’re already excited about game we know nothing about just because the lead is female? What now?
I realize that most of the gaming world is dearth of female leads, and it is always nice to see a video game pop up that has such a protagonist. However, is that enough to get hyped over a game?
What if the game is absolute shite? Ninja Theory has tried to implement a female protagonist before in a game in order to generate excitement. That game was Heavenly Sword, and it was awful. The title was a QTE nightmare coupled with horrid, forced motion controls that could be completed within five hours with little incentive to replay that agonizing experience.
Do I even need to mention last year’s abomination from Capcom, Remember Me? The game had everything going for it - interesting concept, great idea for a character, and intriguing gameplay - but then failed at implementation.
Both of these games prove that it doesn’t matter what gender you have on the cover of your game; a crappy game is a crappy game. Slapping a female, a gay character, a trans, or minority does not automatically equal fantastic quality. It does generate hype and excitement, but if it fails, it only lends to gamers equating bad games with that type of lead.
Obviously, there are several games out there that have female leads and are excellent, excellent games. Metroid, Tomb Raider, Portal, and Mirror’s Edge all instantly come to mind when I think of great games with female stars. The question is, would these games be great no matter who the lead was? I believe the answer is yes, and therein lies the problem with current gamer response - the focus is too strong on the gender of the lead character and not on the game.
Don’t believe me? Think of any other game that was awful that stars a male. My first thought is Duke Nukem Forever. Take that game, replace Duke with a female. Does that make the game better?
How about The Protoype? Or Assassin’s Creed Revelations? Syndicate? Dark Void? Could a leading lady have improved either of those games?
Gonna take you for a little ride now.
For a minute I thought that was an... egg.
So then why do so many gamers get instantly excited for a game just because a woman stars in it? A leading lady obviously does not guarantee a great game is forthcoming, any more than a leading man does. The last thing any of us needs is a shady developer/publisher using a woman/LGBTQ/minority to mask how awful a game is. It’s crap! We have a pansexual Indian woman as the lead role! You’ll automatically love it, right?
Let’s not be blind lemmings. While the thought of a pansexual Indian woman leading a game is rather interesting, let’s reserve it for a great game and not use it to garner attention and undeserved hype.
While it is great that Ninja Theory is once again trying their hand at creating a new IP (or is this a Heavenly Sword sequel?) with a female lead, let’s focus on the quality of the game first. Let’s not jump on the hype train solely because of what is or isn’t dangling between a character’s legs. It’s okay to get excited that a game stars a woman, but before we beg developers and publishers to shut up and take our money, let’s see a little bit more first, like gameplay, story, and other things that make a game a game.
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