My latest comic is about Brink, and its endlessly malleable yet critically restrictive avatar builder.
While I don’t want to defend the decision to leave out females, I do want us to go into the discussion with our eyes open. As I said:
I've said in the past that diversity is expensive. More expensive than most people realize. You can't just take a few clothing options away from the men and find yourself with enough development resources to build a female character. A female character is going to require an entirely new model, voice files, different behaviors for the sliders that shape her, all new clothing models, totally different hair models, different hitboxes, and totally different viewmodels. (Viewmodels: The arms you see in front of your face in a first-person game are usually separate models with different animation and rigging.)
Leslee suggested that they could have made the game all female instead of all male. It’s an interesting idea. Would it have worked, in a commercial sense? I don’t honestly know. The squad-based multiplayer shooter is a exceptionally masculine genre. Unreal Tournament. Halo. Quake 3 Arena. The fanbase of these games is stereotypically young, angry, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and profane. Not all players fit that profile. Not even most. But it would be folly to discount the possibility that a lot of these dudes would simply refuse to play as a female.
Then again, maybe it’s the hyper-masculine setting of these games that sets the tone. Maybe, when presented with a different world, these players would respond with different behavior. Maybe there would be some females to pick up the slack, sales-wise. I don’t know. I’d love to see it happen, even if I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it in a financial sense.
People have asked why Brink is getting picked on for this. After all, you can’t be a woman in Modern Warfare 2, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Halo, or any of the other multiplayer shooters. I think the difference here is twofold:
- The game lets you customize your appearance. In other games, your soldier is not a personalized avatar. It’s just a generic clone, just like everyone else. It’s not supposed to matter. Here, you can craft a human being in every way except for the most obvious way, and so the lack of a female option is more noticeable.
- This game is a stylized fantasy future-world. I can see leaving female combatants out of a gritty, hyper-realistic World War II game. It would look really, really goofy to have female Nazis fighting alongside the man in the trenches, like the Third Reich suddenly had a gender equality drive in between their ethnic genocide meetings, or something. It would go against the setting. But here, there’s no reason to leave them out. The setting of Brink is over-the-top fantasy. There’s no room to object to females in the name of “realism”.
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