Experienced Points: Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

By Shamus
on Jun 17, 2014
Filed under:
Column

My column this week is about how the Ubisoft excuse of “It would cost more to add playable female characters to the game” isn’t as absurd as it sounds. And then I follow up by pointing out there are much better reasons to be mad at them. And I didn’t even bring up Uplay. I hope you appreciate my self-control.

Is it just me, or does it feel like Ubisoft has their developers doing PR and their PR people designing games? The devs are out in front facing the public, and yet their games seem to be ultra-safe, ultra-targeted products where anything resembling a personal touch or a creative spark has been worn away. I’m still working my way up to my big Watch_Dogs rant – and I’ll admit that game probably impacted this column more than it should have – but if I had to sum up the game in one word it would be “sterile”.

I want to stress that I’m not coming at this from a social justice angle. This is about business and creativity. If Straight White Dudegames are really where the safe money is at (and I’m extremely skeptical on this point) then I’m really not going to demand a corporation like Ubisoft to deliberately make less money in order to make things more “fair”. I know some people do. That’s fine. This social justice stuff gets touchy, and in the end we’re all just trying to make the hobby the best it can be.

But like I said in the column, this is a hard thing to test and Ubisoft hasn’t even tried. (Read the article before nitpicking this.) And no matter which way the money goes, Ubisoft is still creatively impotent. Like, even if you can prove that games won’t sell unless the protagonist is a straight white dude, there’s still no excuse for Adrian Pearce, who has less personality than Gordon Freeman’s crowbar and less depth than the Adventure rectangle.

Also, if you don’t read my byline, the title of the article come from this Lost Levels presentation “10 Responsibilities of a Game Developer” by Ric Chivo:


Link (YouTube)

Makes me laugh every time. I’d love to know who was playing Ric Chivo here. The video was by a Justin Hall, and I was able to figure out that the assistant is Sarah Elmaleh. Ric Chivo has a twitter, but I want to know who was playing him.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!20208248 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Irridium says:

    Some fun facts about the Assassin’s Creed Vita game. It sold about 600,000 copies and was considered a big success by Ubisoft.

    Also, Liberation’s (the AC PSvita game)woman protagonist shares more animations in-common with Assassin Creed 3’s male protagonist, Conner, than Conner does with Haythem, who is Conner’s father.

    Just some fun facts I felt are interesting enough to share.

  2. lucky7 says:

    Ludonarrative Dissonance YEAAAH!

  3. Roland Jones says:

    The really “funny” thing about this excuse is that they already did make female characters for AC multiplayer in past games. They had a lot of female (and male) characters, of various body types (including a pretty fat dude with a big hammer), with at least a few unique animations for each one. So in addition to everything else, their excuse is basically that they can’t do a thing that they’ve already done, multiple times, for several games.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      This is a well-worn argument, especially on this site, but this is the cost of “cinematic” games. Not only does Unity have 4 dudes for multiplayer, it has 4 copies of the same dude. Exact same height, build, stance, and gait, with only minor variations to facial features. If not for clothing, you couldn’t tell them apart.

      This is what the AAA publishers’ higher-fidelity graphics steeplechase has wrought. We’re back to 8/16-bit era palette-swapped sprites.

      • Roland Jones says:

        The past AC games were AAA, cinematic games as well, though. Which is part of my point; it wasn’t a problem for them in the past, and if it is now it’s not because of the reasons they’re saying it is.

        • M. says:

          They were last-gen AAA, cinematic games; current-gen demands for visual fidelity have increased exponentially. Just because it’s easy to climb a stepladder doesn’t automatically mean it’s easy to climb the Sears Tower.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            If it’s really too expensive to make female PCs in a next-gen game, that quite honestly speaks more against the current AAA model than it does anything else.

            • M. says:

              I’m sure this is what you meant, but to be clear, it’s not “too expensive to make female PCs”, it’s “too expensive to make any PCs”. If AC: Unity had a female protagonist from the beginning, there would be similar issues of expense and work in adding a male protagonist.

              And yes, this is a major problem with the AAA development model, no doubt about that.

              • Ciennas says:

                Or, they could have defrayed the costs of it by doing it from the beginning.

                Left4Dead showed the model last time- at least 1 girl for three guys.

                And since the four guys in the finished product are all pallet/outfit swaps of each other, they really don’t have a good excuse- They could have been able to at least make a ‘base’ model of each gender.

                • Abnaxis says:

                  The problem is, no matter what character other people in multiplayer see, the person actually playing that character sees the main character. So, unless the main character is a woman, that means the person playing will see themself as a man, and everyone else playing with them will see them as a woman.

                  That’s…kinda weird, right? To take Shamus’s example, that like everyone thinking they are playing Francis, but to anyone else playing with them they look like Zoe, Bill, and Louis.

                  It doesn’t really work unless the person actually playing is playing a female model, which means adding a female model–along with all the cut-scenes, voice-acting, customization options, script changes, and NPC animation adjustments–to compensate.

                • M. says:

                  “Or, they could have defrayed the costs of it by doing it from the beginning.”

                  Probably not enough to make a real difference. There might be some low-level code issues that would be less effort if they’d done it from the beginning (for example, it would be harder to retrofit existing code to support multiple player character skeletons if it wasn’t designed that way from the start) but the vast bulk of work to support both sexes — making two skeletons, designing two sets of armor, making twice as many animations, recording and localizing twice as much voiced dialogue, et cetera — would still exist.

                  • Ciennas says:

                    I thought there was only one skeleton anyway. Then, that was based on looking through the Nexusmods site.

                    And it couldn’t be THAT much harder- the current set-up is the laziest possible one. four recolors of the same dude- that’s like Four Swords, or pre Halo 3 armor suits- and the pre-3 MJOLNIR has the benefit of being visually distinctive by color.

          • postinternetsyndrome says:

            Is that a fact? People keep using that word, “exponentially”, and I don’t think it means what they think it means.

    • Deadfast says:

      The problem with all of those incidental characters is that they will only have a limited move set. Making a guy swing a hammer is pretty trivial compared to setting up all of the climbing animations.

      • Ilseroth says:

        Actually, the female characters in the competitive multiplayer from the previous titles have fully functioning climbing and so on.

        • Roland Jones says:

          Yeah, basically the only things the old multiplayer character couldn’t do were, like, throwing coins to beggars and other things that would do nothing useful for the multiplayer gamemode. Parkour, fancy murder tricks, even the hidden gun and other such abilities were all available to them.

        • silver Harloe says:

          but are any of those animation assets reusable?

          I’m not experienced like Shamus, but I’m going to guess “no, those animations are no longer compatible with our more detailed models from this this game”. just a guess though.

          • Shamus says:

            This is what I’ve been assuming. I really should have covered this in the article. We’ve jumped to a new console generation and the graphics / game engines could have gone through any number of iterations that would make the old stuff no longer useful. Animation is complicated as hell, and animation formats and systems can vary wildly in how they record movement, how they attach to a skeleton, how gracefully they interact with physics.

            Repeat disclaimer: This is just a guess.

            • Roland Jones says:

              Oh, yeah, my point wasn’t, “they should reuse the old stuff,” it was, “they already did the thing they said they couldn’t do, multiple times”. I didn’t even think of them actually reusing stuff from the past games, I just thought, “we can’t do this,” is a weak excuse when they’ve already done it before. It clearly wasn’t a concern in Brotherhood, Revelations, III, or IV, all of which had a varied multiplayer cast with multiple female characters, so why it’s suddenly an issue now, well…

              • Paul Spooner says:

                On the other hand, if they’ve done this before, they have grounds for saying (with confidence) how much it costs to pull off.

                • Abnaxis says:

                  It’s not the same thing. Adding another model for free-for-all multiplayer, where there’s no story, no movie sequences, no script, and no NPC interaction, is not the same thing as adding a whole ‘nother protagonist to the single player campaign, which is what would be required with the way they designed the multiplayer.

                  The animations are the easy part, it’s all the other systems touched by adding another protagonist to the single player campaign that makes the costs balloon.

                  EDIT: Eh, meant to reply to Roland

            • Alex says:

              Actually they can retarget the animation. It will compensate for different proportions. So stuff like making sure their hand is on their hips isn’t a problem. Interacting with other characters will need a bit of clean up, but it doesn’t have to be a whole new animation job. Autodesk has actually made a tool just for this called Motion Builder. It is a general purpose animation tool but it is very good at handling mocap data, retargeting it(because your mocap actors are not 9 foot tall Greek gods), and layering correction animation on top. If you want to see how good retargeted anim can be you can DL Unity. Unity has a built in tool that lets you take BVH data(mocap) and apply it to any skeleton that is rigged in a similar way(even works for faces). Then go to https://www.mixamo.com/ and plug away any old anim. It will all work. Then you mix in a bit of dynamic IK corrections and the anim aspect of making a female character is done. Now, you “only” need to concept, model, texture, and skin weight.

              • Alex says:

                Also it would be awesome if Ubi or any other publisher or artist had a female protagonist that looked like Sarah Robles. Or even just a very masculine woman. It would solve any possible mocap issues. :)

                • ET says:

                  Jimquisition did a video last year covering (sort-of) this topic. One of the points he made, was that a smaller studio, made a space-marine-in-armor shooty game with females in multiplayer, where the women had the same size hitboxes* as the men. Didn’t double the time to make the assets, and the devs said it was worth it, since their game could now appeal to more gamers. Wish I could find the video; I can’t seem to find the right title.

                  * I suppose this point has more to do with balance, than with the time to create the assets. Still, this studio made time to put women in their multiplayer.

              • M. says:

                Take it from somebody who did this for a living: that’s not going to solve the problem.

                You can use a tool to mass retarget all your animations, and it’ll get you 80% of the way there. But that might as well be 0%, since if you want them to look as good as the male animations you still need to test them all in every situation and then tweak and polish them all by hand, and that takes much longer than just roughing out or mocapping animations in the first place. There’s also the side note, mentioned by others here, that your “female” character is going to move like a man does and look subtly off: remember how in Mass Effect Femshep runs like a linebacker and casually sits with her legs spread wide open? For something which is supposed to be a heavily animation-focused flash-and-sizzle next-gen showcase, it would stick out.

                • Alex says:

                  I know that. I was merely mentioning that it was possible to do a mass conversion fairly quickly and, as you said, get 80 – 90 percent of the way there with minimal effort. At that point the decision is really up to the Art Director, Producer, or who ever is up in higher management. If they actually wanted the female character “from the beginning” they would have put it in. To finish that final 10 – 20 percent would take you what(I animate but have never really done any corrective work on mocap)? 2 – 3 months? with a team of five? Maybe a month? I may be low balling it a quite a bit but the point is that animations are not really THE problem. Like the guy said in that press statement. THE problem was that they did not want to allocate the resources to it. That’s honestly fine. I just don’t like excuses that really don’t make any sense.

                  Also fun for every one. http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020583/Animation-Bootcamp-An-Indie-Approach

                  It is an interesting approach to animation. It is probably better for indies than the Assassin’s Creed guys, but the tech is actually really rather cool. And it’s procedural. So what more can you ask for?

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    Every time I see a demo like this, my first reaction is “wait, devs aren’t doing this already?”

                    Why is this novel? Do all animators just work on mo-cap or something, so nobody considered using processing to come up with initial animations?

                    • Alex says:

                      Well to be fair that approach to procedural animation does not look nearly as good as either Mocap or hand done animation. It just is a neat way of putting together animation on a “budget.” It, allows for movement that is faster to redirect. It also soaks up developer time making them work more closely with us dirty artists. Dirty, hippie artists. ;)

        • Geebs says:

          I’m not up to date on this, because all of the other annoyances with AssCreed caused me to stop playing after 2, but I think that the problem is that they basically used the same animation set for everybody who could do parkour. Last gen you could get away with that, but the added fidelity and resolution of graphics in this gen, having different characters with different body types perform the exact same frame at the same time might suddenly look terrible.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Which kind of brings it down to that the only reason that they didn’t was “We didn’t think it was important to or that anyone would care.” Which is, in my humble opinion far, far worse. Not only from the “social justice” standpoint (and I’ll wear that target if any of you want to take the swings and get it out of your system) but an almost negligent lack of ability to read where the market has been going for the past two years. and how it’s likely to progress over the next two. Why would anyone want to invest in a company *this* tone-deaf? Is their next strategic step to hope to be bought out by Zynga?

      • swenson says:

        I heard someone else say that they frankly would rather that Ubisoft straight-up came out and said “we didn’t include women because we hate women”, and I’m inclined to agree. I think I’d rather be deliberately excluded than simply ignored, you know? Ubisoft just didn’t think women mattered. And that’s pretty sad and shortsighted.

        • Mechaninja says:

          I think you’re using too many words.

          That is, “Ubisoft just didn’t think” probably covers it.

          Ubi really, really, doesn’t listen to what their fans have to say. In their defense, the signal to noise ratio probably approaches zero, but surely some of their staff are us, you know? Someone must be able to tell them what’s happening.

          They just don’t listen to that person either.

          • mewse says:

            Ubisoft has (probably literally) thousands of people working on these games. The signal:noise ratio just from the *staff* is going to be extremely painful, much less from the fans.

            For core game design issues such as how co-op works, those discussions are necessarily going to be clamped down to just a handful of people, with everyone else’s input discarded, because to do otherwise would cripple the development process while everyone waited for their ideas to be heard and evaluated.

            The trick is getting someone sensible into that group of just five or six people who are allowed to be in the room when those important design discussions happen, and the game budget allocations are made.

            • ET says:

              Surely each handful of people in the company has a supervisor, who they could tell their ideas to. I mean, isn’t that part of the job; Listening to the people you supervise, and filtering info for the people higher up?

              • Chamomile says:

                Sure, but the more layers of bureaucracy an idea has to go through before it reaches someone who can make a decision, the more chances there are that you’ll run into someone not competent to distinguish it as being worth their superiors’ time and discarding a good idea. This is especially a problem when if any of your layers of management (including the level that actually decides whether to implement the idea) are not programmers, and the more layers like that you have, the less likely a good idea is to survive long enough to reach someone who can make it happen.

      • M. says:

        “an almost negligent lack of ability to read where the market has been going for the past two years”

        But has it, in fact, gone there?

        There have certainly been a lot of people yelling that it has, but beyond the endlessly-quoted “46% of the market” statistic, we don’t have any actual numbers. Are more women really buying AAA games lately? Did adding female soldiers to Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer increase the number of women playing it? I’m not trolling here — these would be very interesting things to find out, and would add some much-needed facts to a discussion almost entirely dominated by rage, shaming, and accusations of bias.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Even if the numbers aren’t that much better (and I suspect they are), it seems silly to me to keep ignoring what could (and should) eventually be 50% of the market.

          That is, of course, ignoring the benefits (or at least lack of backlash) they would get just from including them regardless of if it affects whether women will play it (which it would).

          I can’t help but have an image of some people with their heads in the ground (do I use too many parentheses?).

          • M. says:

            “Even if the numbers aren’t that much better (and I suspect they are), it seems silly to me to keep ignoring what could (and should) eventually be 50% of the market.”

            But that’s the whole point of my comment: maybe you suspect, but you don’t actually know, and a multibillion dollar corporation won’t, and shouldn’t, choose its business strategy based on that. Yes, women could eventually be 50% of the audience of Assassin’s Creed games. But anything could happen. We need some facts.

            • Kana says:

              Facts that no one is going to get if no one ever bothers to try. If you’re going to do multiplayer, at least give the option for an avatar. Hell, I was ecstatic for both Planetside 2 and Titanfall that I could finally play a genre I enjoy as a girl.

          • Daimbert says:

            I strongly suspect that the numbers AREN’T much better, and to argue that they would be runs into a major issue: assuming that gamers WON’T buy or play a game where the protagonist isn’t the same gender as they are. This is one of the major inconsistencies in the whole “women are 50% of the audience and you should try to appeal to them by giving them a protagonist that’s the same gender as they are” argument, as it implies that women will be discouraged from playing a game if they can’t play their gender but that men either won’t or at least ought not be discouraged from playing a game if they can’t play as their gender. Unless, of course, you only advocate for having games where you can choose the gender of the protagonist, which has some problems as not all games/stories can pull that off.

            In my view, based on a smattering of history, introducing either a choice of gender or having a protagonist that’s female isn’t likely to cost you sales, but it’s not likely to increase them either. Part of this might be the general lack of attention given to games that do introduce a choice or a female protagonist by the same people who go on a tear whenever it isn’t done. Part of this, though, is that if a game is good most people will play it no matter what the gender of the protagonist is, whether they are male or female.

            However, from the perspective of gaming companies, unless they think they’ll get more sales there’s little reason for them to change whatever it is they’re doing, especially if it might add more costs. This explains the whole “Straighter. Whiter. Duder” approach at Ubisoft: people buy their games despite them having the cardboard white hero, and for the most part the people who would want to play their games are going to buy it regardless of that, so why bother to change?

            (Caveat: I have a counter-example of this, as Saint’s Row: The Third is NOT my type of game but I bought it because of Shamus’ pitch about how customizable it was, so there they got at least one sale by allowing for customization beyond the bland. I haven’t played it, though, and I also ended up getting Star Wars: Battlefront because it was Star Wars despite my not liking or being any good at that sort of game either, so I’m probably just abnormal in that regard.)

            • Trix2000 says:

              I’m aware that, from a certain standpoint, it IS a better business decision to not have the option. But that’s a PROBLEM, not something we should assume to be the case.

              I’m not saying every game should have both genders as an option (far from it). But when a game brings player customization to the mix and on top of that HAS had both options available in the past, it starts becoming more important to do so. Not required, but considering how much smaller female representation is in playable characters sometimes… I for one would rather more variety.

              And I do think the proportion is at least good enough that female gamers ARE a large market. It doesn’t matter if they’re willing to play male characters – they’ll most likely enjoy the game better if they can identify with their character better. Still, I will agree that AAA studios don’t have the hugest financial motivation to do so (though I wonder if positive effects therein are just not visible)… but that’s a problem that I’m hoping the rest of the gaming market (particularly indies) can cure them of eventually.

              • Daimbert says:

                I’m aware that, from a certain standpoint, it IS a better business decision to not have the option. But that’s a PROBLEM, not something we should assume to be the case.

                That there currently isn’t a business case for adding optional gender or having female protagonists isn’t a problem. That’s reality. The PROBLEM is that there aren’t enough games where you can play as a female character, and that companies aren’t going to get more money from allowing it either as an option or as the main protagonist is something that influences the problem and maybe makes it worse. But I’m certainly not going to say that it’s a bad thing or something odd/wrong about the companies that they see that making the precise sort of bland, white bread type of character is the safest and easiest way to make their money.

                So, what do we do to fix the problem? See, the main reason I replied is that there’s an assumption that by adding that they could appeal to female gamers more and, presumably, make more money, but as I said I don’t think that’s the case. So can we make that be the case? Well, the first thing to do would be to spend less effort on backlashes on companies that don’t and more on praising the companies that do. The second thing would be to ensure that you give games that make the attempt the benefit of the doubt even if they get things wrong (like, say, having a mannish animation or build that doesn’t work), so that games that try don’t end up with the same backlash as the games that don’t.

                Ultimately, from a business side, as long as gamers will buy a game with a white bread protagonist as much as they’d buy it with more customization in terms of race and gender, there’ll be no business reason for them to add that and so they generally won’t.

                The other way would be to show that doing so allows them to tell more stories, or better stories, in different ways, to be unique, to be novel and in some cases to even be artistic. But to do that, you can’t just gripe that they’re missing or missing out on something, but you have to show how it would benefit the story (the famous French Revolution case, if not done angrily, would be a way to show that) or the art to do it. Which is harder than griping, of course.

                Ultimately, I’d like more customization as well, and have no problem playing female protagonists and wouldn’t mind it being used more. But if it’s going to cost the company more and not add to the story, I can’t see any reason to complain if companies forgo it, and attempts to say otherwise run into what I said in my first paragraph: if I can be expected to not turn up my nose at a female protagonist, others can be expected to not turn up their noses at male protagonists. Then, we simply would like more of a mix but my main solution for that is: use male/female/optional genders where appropriate, and now we need to show that the latter two options are appropriate in more cases than people tend to think.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It doesnt really matter.Even as a straight white dude,I still want more diversity in my protagonists.So its not just women who want women to be playable.

          But,on the other hand,I dont expect ubisoft to do anything about it.Someone else,but not them.

  4. Geoff says:

    Is it just me, or does it feel like Ubisoft has their developers doing PR and their PR people designing games?

    I imagine the conversation goes something like: *PR person says something about title.* Consumers say, “Why am I talking to this PR person? He just blows sunshine and glitter up my back end without actually knowing anything about the game! Let me talk to a Dev!” *Company puts Dev out front to talk about title and probably gets flustered and says something stupid.* Consumers say, “The Dev said something stupid! Why would you make a Dev do PR!?” ;)

    I haven’t seen the video of the quote in question for direct context, but I imagine the statement was mis-spoke had more to do with the latter point about how you always play as Arno and view others as different people, than it did with the cost to make a playable female character. It would be a little weird to have an involved character creation system when you never get to see that character (as you would only be seen that way by other players). They might even have most of the necessary animations and models in already if there happens to be any NPCs who can climb or jump around (enemy soldiers, Templar, Assassins, citizens who can climb up and down things, etc.).

    Now, whether “always choosing to tell a story centered around a generic, middle aged, brown haired white dude instead of a woman” is the best choice or not (spoiler warning: its probably not) or whether “multi-player is best played where you are always the protagonist and other people are always random mooks” or not, those are separate conversations from the cost of making female characters playable.

    • mewse says:

      Speaking as a dev who has been put out to do PR.. (Not me in this case; I’ve never worked for Ubisoft)

      Here’s how it usually works:

      The studio wants to make a statement about something, and the statement involves something technical, so they want to use a technical expert to deliver that message. Doesn’t really matter what the statement is. In this case, it’s justifying a design decision because of an alleged technical limitation.

      Before the interview (or interviews — usually they arrange a whole bunch of them with different media outlets), they give you training on what the message is that they want you to deliver. Usually (in my experience), this message is more or less nonsense.

      If you’re lucky, you can give them feedback at this point, and help finesse the message into something that holds at least a little bit of water under scrutiny. If you’re not lucky, you’re stuck with the message you’re given, no matter how nonsensical it might be. You’ll also be given several talking points. These talking points are usually explicit phrases that you’re supposed to work into each interview, but not use twice within one interview (a rookie mistake which I made many many times).

      In the interview itself, your goal is to answer every question with some variation of the message which the PR team decided upon. The interviewer’s goal is to ask you a question which cannot be answered using that message or any of the talking points which the PR team decided upon. Or if the message doesn’t make sense (as is sometimes the case), then to get you to admit that it doesn’t make sense.

      The combination of these two goals means that for each question, you usually wind up giving a two part answer; the first part being a somewhat noncommittal acknowledgement of the question, and the second part bending that acknowledgement into one of the talking points that PR wanted you to talk about. (Once you’re listening for it, you can easily hear this in most video game interviews, exactly as you hear it in most political interviews)

      I was never very good at being interviewed in this “stay on-message” format. Devs almost never are. This is one reason why the media love dev interviews; we’re much worse at dodging their questions and sticking to our assigned messages. I’ve watched producers and marketing folks give interviews, and their ability to stay credibly on-message despite the interviewer’s best efforts is pretty staggering.

      tl;dr: Even when a dev does PR, the dev has most likely been coached about what they’re allowed to say and what their opinion is, exactly like a regular PR representative is. We’re just (usually) worse at delivering it.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Fascinating! It’s strange that these tactics actually work, really, but I guess there is a natural human tendency (on the part of an interviewer) to generally accept, or act as if, a given answer to a question actually was a genuine attempt to answer that question. So, even when the interviewer knows their question hasn’t been answered, they generally won’t push it – at least not beyond perhaps a couple more attempts, usually with some rephrasing of the original question.

        I guess just natural politeness plays a big role! Oh, and this is the kind of thing that happens when the interviewer decides they aren’t going to play ball, for once:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KHMO14KuJk

        Some world-class “staying on message” there from the interviewee!

        • Olly says:

          Interviewers don’t always play with the kiddy gloves on… Google search for Jeremy Paxman’s interview of Michael Howard for a prime example.

          • Thomas says:

            =D That’s the link that MichaelGC gives. It’s such a funny interview. Politicians get briefed to go to interviews and avoid answering certain questions at any cost, so it’s always been good to have someone who won’t put up with that.

            Paxman’s been even better since it was revealed he was going to retire. He’s saying all the things that someone might say when they don’t have to care about job security anymore including asking Berlusconi whether he really called Angela Merkal an ‘unf*@kable lardass’

  5. Jeff R. says:

    Given the ‘Everyone is Arno’ idea, I’m pretty much sure the ‘twice the work’ is based on the idea that to have female multiplayer characters you’d need to pretty much make two versions of the game where you choose at the beginning if you’re playing Arno or Arnette, which would be at least that much effort.

    The ‘cheaper’ way to do it would be to include female models in the customizations part, but that would mean you’re either playing a very convincing crossdressing assassin rather than an actual woman or that they somehow worked in 18th century sex change clinics into their storyline. Neither of which seems all that satisfying.

    But the only point of duing this Everyone thinks they’re Arno is if you have the co-op bits seemlessly integrated into the plot and that’s the only time you ever do them. I sort of doubt that will happen at all. What they really should have done is to have the multiplayer split out into its own thing, where you don’t have to play Arno but can play a female assassin or a nonwhite one or any of the other options they can make (probably mostly small tweaks on the multiplayer assassin models they have from the previous games) any time other than the first time through playing the plot.

    • ? says:

      Or they could make it so one player plays Arno and progresses the plot of their game, and rest of co-op players are there as fellow assassins helping on a mission. What I’m imagining is something like summoning friendly phantoms in Dark Souls, except “summoned” players create their customizable multiplayer avatar instead of playing the same character they play in single player game. It would mean that co-op players still have to progress their own game, but even with “everyone is Arno” co-op there needs to be a system to replay the missions you already completed, because your friends will progress at different rate anyway. Might as well make it “you must play through this mission at least once as Arno to progress the plot, with or without co-op”.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      It’s the same concept as Watch_Dog’s multiplayer. In what you see, you are the protagonist and everyone else looks like a randomly generated NPC. To the other players, they are the one playing as the lead character and you and the other players appear to them as randomly generated NPC.

      Except this time, instead of a randomly generated NPC, it’s one of three pre-made clones of the lead.

      We’re not discussing having to choose between Arno or Arnette. After all, you’re always playing as Arno. What we’re suggesting is that players should be able to choose how they’re presented to other players in ways like choosing between a male or female gender.

  6. RJT says:

    According to this website, linked from the Twitter, Ric Chivo is played by Naomi Clark.

  7. newdarkcloud says:

    I feel the need to point out that the protagonist of Watch_Dogs is “Aiden Pearce”, not “Adrian Pearce”.

    Although, in the end, his true name is Blandface McGee.

  8. Wide and Nerdy says:

    And yet they released Child of Light, a game I absolutely adored. I never thought I’d especially enjoy playing a game as a little girl but there you are.

    i’m just sick of this argument period. i am sick of the squawking from one side and the hemming and hawing from the other. i don’t really care who gives as long as nobody imposes anything on anybody else (that means execs stop crushing ideas in development because they’re girl focused and feminists stop badgering every developer who dares not to gender flip their characters or whatever (this is hyperbole, please for once recognize that this is hyperbole))

    • RandomInternetCommenter says:

      Yep, yep yep.

      The worst part: hearing, over and over, we “need” to have this argument because “nobody” is talking about this and “nobody” makes games about women.

      I’m not on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, I don’t follow gaming actualities much… and I hear about this. All. The. Time.

      So there’s two options.
      Either those people claiming to be unspoken for are full of shit.
      Or, they’re even less informed about video games than I am; and hence couldn’t possibly know whether there’s strong women / black / transgender chinese fat men protagonists or not (I certainly don’t!).

      There’s african kids dying of hunger daily. There’s people getting beheaded in Iraq right now. Pointing that out often brings answers along the line of, just because I care about this doesn’t mean I don’t care about that. To which I’ll reply OK, fine (even though in itself the statement is very arguable; we all have finite amounts of time and emotion to devote to any particular cause). Make your point once per month then. Or once per week. Not every friggin’ time I browse the Internet. Because when I keep hearing the same people barking at me all the time (even though last I checked I’m not a high-ranking exec in a gaming company), it doesn’t make me empathize with your plight (and really, it’s not even yours most of the time as the ratio of white knights to actual women is ridiculous). It makes me want to bite.

      • Shamus says:

        So it’s okay for me to bitch about how I want Skyrim to have more choice three times a week*, but not okay for someone else to bitch about how they want a game to have a [wildcard] protagonist? I mean, this is what we do here. We talk about games: Why we love them, why they piss us off, and why we put up with them anyway.

        I know the social justice stuff can be incredibly grating sometimes. It’s usually a lot of dire language and over-broad condemnation, framing the lack of inclusiveness as part of a widespread system of subjugating Certain Peoples. I can 100% understand how that kind of thing can wear thin. But to someone else, my complaining about the need for less nonsense in game plots is just as frivolous. And if they told me to limit by bitching to a couple of times a month? I… wouldn’t.

        But you can’t use “African kids dying of hunger” as a way to shut someone else up without having it turned around on you. (Unless your day job is feeding African children. Then you get to do whatever you want, apparently.)

        * Maybe I’m having a slow week?

        • deda says:

          There are many groups of gamers that want different things in games, and often they argue with each other about their preferences, but feminist are the only ones who turn it into a moral argument, if they can’t get what they want that’s proof that video games are evil, if someone disagrees with them they must be sexist cavemen, they constantly use shaming tactics to force people to comply to their personal world views. Because that’s what they always do, they want everyone to live in fear of social destruction if they don’t follow their dogma.

          And this is not some misunderstanding, they have made their intentions very clear again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

          • Shamus says:

            “feminist are the only ones who turn it into a moral argument”

            I’ve heard communists raging about the profit motive that drive the publishers. (It harms the poor!) I’ve heard heard other people upset about nationalism portrayed in games. (It leads to war!) Or anti-Americanism. (Supports terrorism!) Racial issues. Disability issues. And this is to say nothing of the ages-old “videogame violence leads to real violence” debate. And Men’s Rights Activists certainly aren’t shy about how important their cause is, either.

            There are assholes all over the place. I know some great feminists. I’ve got a friend who is a Men’s Rights Activist. I’m not interested in an argument over “Well the extremists in group A are more toxic than the extremists in group B.” That debate is not productive and is probably really bad for you.

            Moreover, this is a terrible place for it. :)

            • deda says:

              I guess I should have said “feminists are the only ones who can turn this into a moral argument and get away with it” all those other groups you mentioned are always immediately laughed off by the gaming community as a whole. And yet many of the same people that always point out how absurd the idea of “video games cause violence” is, are in complete support of “video games cause sexism”.

              And yes, the extremist in feminism are more toxic than in any other group, because they are actually the leaders of the group.

              • Joe Informatico says:

                How are they “getting away with it”? Have their concerns been addressed in any significant manner? Do they have a trophy case where they have their moral victories over the evil gaming industry on display somewhere? What are they “getting away with” more than any other underrepresented group in gaming that speaks up, except perhaps your personal aggravation?

              • Shamus says:

                You really want to push this, don’t you? I was gentle. I was polite. But you’re just determined to grind this “feminists are THE WORST” axe. Are you just incapable of seeing where this is going? Can you anticipate the counter-arguments feminists are going to make to your points? Do you have so little respect for my blog and my time that you want to use it to have THIS argument?

                Drop it. Last warning.

                • deda says:

                  Ok, that one bit was out of line, other groups have crazy people speaking for them too, it’s just that it’s really frustrating how it seems that being a feminist seems to give anyone an automatic moral high ground in all discussions, you never see that level of support for the likes of Jack Thompson.

            • Phantos says:

              Can’t we all just get along and hate Homestuck fans?

              (I keed, I keed)

          • Not to mention Ubi’s “too much work” argument falls flat in the face of Watch_Dogs’ recent modification. It turns out they did a LOT of work making their demos at 2012-13 E3 look really spectacular and then dumbed down the game assets for the new consoles and released said version for PC as well.

            They left all those amazing assets in the code, and they’ve been found. It even (allegedly) runs better on older hardware, so it looks like they tossed out optimization as well.

          • Chamomile says:

            You’re doing two things here that I think are unwise. First of all, you’re casting all people who argue about social justice under the same net (is that an actual expression? You know what I mean), but there is a huge difference between the analyses of people like Shamus and Campster and the rabid barking of self-righteous tribalists. Campster in particular doesn’t talk about these issues because he’s trying to lead a witch hunt and reap the social rewards of leading a crusade without having to identify or combat a threat who has any intention (or sometimes even capability) of fighting back, he’s talking about them because he has interesting things to say and he believes (correctly, in my opinion) that the conversation will benefit from his having said them. Shamus has a very different style, in that he tends to come at it less from an academic “what is this game saying” angle and more from the pragmatic “is this really the smartest business choice” side of things, but it’s fundamentally the same thing. He’s talking about the issue because he cares about the issue itself, and not because he has an ulterior motive in turning the ordinary actions of ordinary people into vicious bullying so he can get social cred for “standing up” to random, barely involved bystanders.

            This sounds a little bit like invective, but honestly I think we’ve got enough implicit accusations leveled at Shamus that this isn’t really an escalation: What you’re doing now isn’t really different from the behavior you’re condemning. You’re targeting Shamus, who is not bullying or shaming anybody, and trying to convince him to stop talking about the subject because other people have been bullying and shaming people, and since an oversimplified black and white narrative of the discussion places those people on the same side as Shamus, clearly they are the same faction and must be opposed together.

            And now I’ve spent so much time ranting about the “lumping people together” problem that I have completely forgotten what the second one was. Oh, well.

            • Shamus says:

              For the record, I didn’t read deda’s comment as targeting me, so much as a venting of frustration when the topic is brought up. Kind of like how mentioning “choice” in games always gets me in my “Mass Effect 3 rant mode”.

              Not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth. Just hoping we can avoid a lot of unproductive hostility.

              • HT_Black says:

                Shamus: as a long-time reader who’s modeled himself after your work since I was in my early teens, this is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve seen in months. It’s always cool to see someone handle a volatile situation with grace, especially when you consider that person an inspiration.

            • deda says:

              I was not trying to accuse shamus of doing those things, I was just trying to explain why when feminists complain they cause a lot more anger than when he does it.

              Let me be clear,like it or not, at this point saying “the writing in this game is bad” is seen as a comment on the quality of the game, saying “this game doesn’t have good female characters” is seen as a comment on its morality, that makes it impossible to have a reasonable discussion, and it’s feminists who made everyone to view it that way.

              • Trix2000 says:

                I dunno, that second bit sounds like poor quality to me. If developers can’t write good female characters, it detracts from the experience just as much as not writing good male ones.

                The ‘moral argument’ comes when female characters are not included, such as in protagonist roles. I don’t think that eliminates reasonable discussion – though obviously it’s easy for people to disagree and get defensive about.

                • Mm . . . to me, this is kind of a weird phrasing because in most matters men and women aren’t really any different–if you are a competent writer you can write both male and female characters just fine.

                  I suspect where it may break down is that some people can’t seem to mentally put X type of character in a given “role”. The idea of a female being The Protagonist just doesn’t seem to occur to people or, worse, they sabotage this by feeling that they have to jam a bunch of stereotypically “female” stuff in there to really drive home the point that THIS IS A FEMALE ZOMG. Everything suddenly revolves around the Femaleness of the protagonist instead of whatever the nominal plot actually is.

                  My general approach is not to worry about it too much. It doesn’t actually affect me that a lot of games are Straighter Whiter Duder (it might even save me a lot of money). I try to direct my efforts toward lauding things that I like rather than trying to attack everything I dislike–it’s often a lot easier to get more of something good than actually dissect what you dislike to the point where you can successfully get less of THAT without also getting a whole lot less of something that’s actually good at the same time.

                  • evileeyore says:

                    My post isn’t a comment on what you’ve written, I pretty much agree with it completely, this is just my kneejerk reaction everytime I encounter poorly written female characters:

                    GRRM on writting female characters.

                  • Tetracyclic says:

                    […]in most matters men and women aren’t really any different–if you are a competent writer you can write both male and female characters just fine.

                    I think George R. R. Martin put it well, when asked why the women in his books are so believable: “You know, I’ve always thought of women as people.”

                    • Phantos says:

                      MMMMMMmmmmaybe George R.R. Martin isn’t the best example here…

                      “Right now I’m reading a book from mega-selling fantasy author George R. R. Martin. The following is a passage where he is writing from the point of view of a woman — always a tough thing for men to do. The girl is on her way to a key confrontation, and the narrator describes it thusly:

                      “When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest …”

                      That’s written from the woman’s point of view. Yes, when a male writes a female, he assumes that she spends every moment thinking about the size of her breasts and what they are doing. “Janet walked her boobs across the city square. ‘I can see them staring at my boobs,’ she thought, boobily.” He assumes that women are thinking of themselves the same way we think of them.”

                      From David Wong’s article “5 ways modern men are trained to hate women“.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      I’ve seen Wong’s article before. Its horrible and only helps to further incite things. Its exists only to try to validate feminist hate. This sort of thing will help to guarantee that the rift continues for a long time to come.

                    • Chamomile says:

                      Having read Game of Thrones, I find that while GRRM’s advice is good, he is clearly not taking it himself.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “That’s written from the woman’s point of view. ”

                      So,every time a book writes stuff from the male perspective and the narrator says “He looked like this and that,and he was wearing this and that and the weather was like this and that and all he could think was xyz” that means the guy was consciously thinking about his looks,his clothing,the weather and xyz,and not,like the narration says,only xyz.Yeah,thats not how narration works.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Ill be amongst the first to point out how some feminists are crossing the line(like anita sarkeesian)with their shameful behavior,but heres the thing:They are the vocal minority.Dont equate the whole movement with their fringe radical members.

            • krellen says:

              Every group gets equated with their fringe radical members, because the fringe radicals are far more likely to be the ones out being heard and loudly and clearly identifying as the representatives of <group>. It’s hard to avoid.

              • Phantos says:

                It’s easy enough to slip into the mindset that the loud minority is the loud majority. I guess we all just have to do the best we can, and confront or ignore the people who make something awful out of a good cause.

        • Daimbert says:

          Well, I think there are a few differences in what you do in what happens generally in these debates. First off, in general the “gender of the protagonist questions” tend to start exceptionally heated from the announcement of it, not after the game has been released. For a lot of the SW comments, you do it after the game is released and as you go through it, and point out — at least in the articles as I don’t watch the show — where it could have introduced choice and why not doing that causes issues, at least for you. I remember one recent game where the company commented that the story worked better with a male protagonist, and I did write on my blog that the heated comments about the company not treating the female gaming audience properly or that there was no reason they had to write a plot that worked better for male characters weren’t the way to argue about that, but to simply express disappointment, wait for the game to come out, go through the story and point out where it could indeed have worked or maybe worked better for a female character. Criticisms always work better when you can point out what they did and why they could have done it better if they listened to your criticisms.

          Second, you not only in general complain about games, but you also make a lot of posts — again, SW might be an exception — where you talk about what you LIKE about games, and highlighting games that do things, in your opinion, really well. Like the Saint’s Row: The Third posts where you waxed effusively about the customization of the character which made me buy it (but not play it). It’s a pet peeve of mine that most of the people who complain that there aren’t games with female protagonists don’t seem to spend much time hyping the games that do it, with my main annoyance being the little attention given to P3P which spent a lot of effort to introduce a female protagonist and seemed to get not attention for that, at which point it’s no surprise that P4: Golden DIDN’T do that. If you are going to complain about the lack, then praise the presence, or else you look like someone who is more interested in ranting about an image you have of the gaming industry rather than in fixing the problem.

        • Wide and Nerdy says:

          For the record, i really am just tired of the argument. its like shamus said, broad accusations and being over dramatic and all that. i think people are right to be frustrated. i’m sorry that it sparked all this (though yesterday i was in a grumpy mood and i just didn’t care what happened, i am sorry about that)

          shamus, i think i’ve said it before but you’re the first person to take the profemale side without reservation who also seemed to really understand where the more reasonable objections (stuff like ‘dont tell me what to do’) were coming from. you have affected my view on this issue. but i do just want it to be over. i want devs to feel free to make games with women and to not make games with women and to dress them sexy with male gaze and to dress them sensibly for action. i want freedom and i want everybody to feel like games are for them if they want that

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            profemale side not really the right word. I mean the first to take the side of actively advocating for female characters in games who I felt like understood the concerns of the hesitant about the way some are going about it (and how she who shall not be named is really not your best advocate, your money went to the wrong person). I was at work on break when I wrote the above. I only had a few minutes to compose my thoughts. Please don’t dissect.

      • Classic says:

        Or option three:
        Their outcry remains mostly unheard by the people who make the lion’s share of decisions regarding: what studios get what projects funded; the content of those projects; the marketing of those projects; etc..

        This E3 the gaming press has seized on a narrative of AAA development retreating from what were seen as positive steps toward being inclusive to more people and welcoming more people into the hobby and into the ranks of the “hardcore”.

        I don’t think any of us want gaming to be a gated community hobby reserved for only the most privileged of individuals like yachting, or the equestrian, or the most dangerous game. If we want games to include everyone we have to be prepared to entertain these conversations and how and when we can help work toward those things, even when the conversation makes us uncomfortable.

        The only way I know to help the problem of representation in games (and the industry, for that matter) is to support games with positive messages and talk about how other games I like could have done better. And if you know of a good way that I can help to get the sectarian violence in Iraq back under control, or help any of the 54(?) countries in Africa develop more smoothly (beyond donating to various food drives, I mean), I am all ears.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Mhm,so theres one game in 50 that deals with a female protagonist,and that means they are represented now?Ok then,you see those children dying out of hunger,at least they get to eat once in 50 days,so we shouldnt bother with them anymore.

        Also,theres children dying of hunger every day and people getting beheaded in iraq,but what are you complaining about?People that feel underrepresented in video games.See,it works both ways,and is just as nonsensical.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “but if I had to sum up the game in one word it would be “sterile”.”

    Pretty much all of the games youve mentioned there are sterile.Ive realised that ubisoft does one thing well,and that is gameplay.The rest,its just white dressing for the sake of it not being wire meshes,and nothing more.Oh sure,a character will pop up here and there(like ezio,or the crazy guy in far cry 3),but most of the time they are all just processed cheese.

    And once I came to that conclusion,I didnt mind any more.I enjoy asscreeds,I enjoy princes in persia,I enjoy crying far,and all of that I enjoy without noticing whats going on around me.

    Heck,if you ask me anything about black flag,I wouldnt be able to tell you a single thing about its story.But sailing,shanties,the four huge fights,fort fights and tornado evasions,that I can talk about for hours.

    So as for five,I dont really care if Ill be playing a dude or a chick,as long as I get to snatch muskets,jump on notre dame,and sail(you have to have sailing in asscreed now),Ill be happy.

    However,I wish if they would come forward and admit this.They do gameplay well,and thats what they should focus on.So why continue this sharade when its just giving them bad publicity and drains their resources?Its much better for a developer to be honest and admit what their strengths and weaknesses are,and focus accordingly.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Vaas (the “crazy guy” from Far Cry 3) wasn’t even planned from the get go. He was inserted mid-development, with his mannerisms adapted from those of his voice actor when he was auditioning for a different role. Compare him to all of the characters developed from the ground up by the writers, and it reveals…things.

    • Klay F. says:

      Its worth nothing that Ubisoft normally quite inclusive in their commitment to making ALL of their characters bland and uninteresting. This is the company that managed to make Mary Read boring. Hell the only reason Blackbeard was the best character in Black Flag was because its impossible to make Blackbeard uninteresting.

    • Felblood says:

      The thing about Ubi is, they don’t seem very good at coming up with human characters, but they’ve got a decent record for alien dudes.

      Take their old, flagship title, Conquest:Frontier Wars.

      The human admirals? Six guys and one woman, each of whom have exactly one emotion, and one background trait. (Benson is the woman and excited, Hawkes is British and determined, Halsey is the boss and haggard, Blackwell swears and is impetuous, Smirnoff is Russian and selfish, etc.)

      The aliens, especially the Mantis bug-people, tend to have much more memorable personalities, even though most of them only get very minor speaking parts, or only appear to round out their roster in multiplayer. (Azkar and Mordrella are dead by backstory before the game starts and still get to be fun.)

      Maybe it’s the buzzing bug-man voices, or the obviously babelfished grammar their real-time voice translators serve up, or even the fact you spend less time with them and thus don’t have the chance to get sick of them, but I think there really is something more charming to the mantis cast.

      There’s something about a society that remembers the last time they had to kill and eat their neighbors to survive, but still has a seemingly normal emotional range that’s kind of refreshing. Ker-tak seems somewhat upset and angry that Ver-lak has betrayed her, but she’s perfectly businesslike about the idea of hiring a fleet of alien mercenaries to kill her treacherous sister. They could have spent all their time being noble warrior-race guys, or constantly raging berzerkers,and they would have served their purpose in the plot. –but taking the extra work to put some humanity in their alien-ness really made them pop out at me. Plus, all of their leaders were women or mad scientists, which made a nice contrast to starchy, professional navy guys that made up the human cast.

      Plus, who can forget Great General Mulmax, who was not really a general, as far as I can tell, so much as a snake oil salesman peddling human body fluids as a sports drink? This guy is on screen for 30 seconds, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t appreciate his special charm. He is just so upbeat and pumped to be selling you this unadulterated hype, today.

      “To pursue ones foes; to crush their bones beneath one’s feet; this weakens the exoskeleton, and tires the Brain! For this recommend I MANTIS AID!“!!!1! All punctuation more than deserved.

      • Felblood says:

        5 minutes later, I think I figured out exactly what makes the Mantis so much more relatable than the standard Ubisoft character: Stated motivations.

        The Mantis will, with rare exception, tell you exactly what they want and how they want you to help them with that.

        The fact that these goals often involve assassination, oppression and casual genocide falls by the wayside compared to the fact that they are actual actors in their own plots.

        The human and Celarion characters generally just drift with the flow, going from place to place because that’s where the plot says they go next, and not because they have any personal stake in the proceedings beyond surviving them. They are extras in their own movie.

        For some reason, bored white people paying less attention to the plot than the player, became the standard template for Ubi characters, and not zany bug-people who are actively planning the next chapter to go their way.

  10. evileeyore says:

    I hate to say it Shamus, but “Like, even if you can prove that games won’t sell unless the protagonist is a straight white dude, there’s still no excuse for Adrian Pearce, who has less personality than Gordon Freeman’s crowbar and less depth than the Adventure rectangle.” is far better a character than the douchebag you get to control in FarCry 3.

    At least it sounds like Pearce isn’t making jokes about his younger brother getting raped…

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Yeah, lets not forget that there’s one step worse than “bland character I can project my personality onto” and thats bad personality. Duke Nukem and from the couple of hours I played, Geralt fall into this. People you don’t want to play as because that would mean seeing them win.

      EDIT: Actually I’m going to add Adam “being a transhuman sucks” Jensen to the list. We’re talking about our one big chance not to suck as a species and he wants to piss it away.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Actually, that would be an interesting game design challenge. What if you designed an unlikable character and made it easy for the character to fail, be beaten up, killed in hilarious ways, or just generally be set back? The failure would be rewarding because you hate the character and want to see them fail over and over. SPITE: The Game.

        • evileeyore says:

          Ah yes, someone get on this FAILURE: The Nut-Punchening. We need to be able to customize the character into one we hate on a personal level, like maybe be able to scan a picture or likeness of someone you hate and have the game render them in engine.

        • Thomas says:

          One of the games I used to want to make involved jumping forward to the end of the game and showing your sidekick betraying you, then the mechanics of the game just so happen to be designed so that you can ‘accidentally’ get the sidekick killed in horrific ways (he’s also kind of annoying).

          You win if you get to the end of the game without killing him.

          (Otherwise, when you get to the end of the game, just before he betrays you, it shows you a quick recording of everyone time you got him killed throughout the game)

        • Felblood says:

          There’s kind-of already an entire genre built around this, but it caters to a very specific audience.

          You know how there’s all this rhetoric about how there’s too much misogyny and caveman douchebaggery going on in the game development community? There are places where that awfulness has condensed into a physical form.

          I hesitate to even mention the term for these types of games, in such polite company, but there’s no value to be had beating around the bush. “Game-over rape games” are a thing that exists, and we are all made less by this fact.

          Whatever other opinions you hold about sex and pornography in games, there are some things that are simply not okay, and must never be okay.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Whatever other opinions you hold about sex and pornography in games, there are some things that are simply not okay, and must never be okay.”

            I disagree.

            First of all,there are also women with rape fantasies(both of being the rapist and of being raped),so whatever someones fetish is,no matter how dark or depraved it is,as long as its done with consent(I know,rape with consent is an oxymoron,but the culture nevertheless does exist)and it doesnt seriously hurt anyone,let them have it.

            Second,Id much rather have potential rapists satisfy their urges with a fantasy,then become frustrated and do something in the real world.

            Third,just because you fantasize about something,doesnt mean you actually want to do it.Just look how many games revolve around fantasies about murder.Also tied to this,rape is not worse than murder,so if graphic murder is ok,so is graphic rape.Of course,that doesnt mean that you should sneak in graphic violence of any kind into your game,but label it accordingly.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I don’t care for rape games. I’m normally very much against banning anything but in this case, I might be willing to make an exception.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Any reason as to why,other than that they make you feel uncomfortable?

              • Wide and Nerdy says:

                From what little I know of them, the rape is something that happens when you beat an opponent or pull of a complicated move. This makes rape a reward. Rape may ooccasionally have a place in a game but definitely not in this context.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Again,why?How is that worse than fatalities in mortal kombat,for example(a brutal murder as your reward for beating the opponent)?

                  • Wide And Nerdy says:

                    I used to think that way too but had it explained to me thus:

                    Because nobody is ripping spines out of people with their bare hands in real life. Nobody is torching someone down to a skeleton. Mortal Kombat’s fatalities are outsized to the point of being cartoony.

                    And even if people were doing stuff like that, the victims aren’t surviving the spine rippings and trying to move on with their lives.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      There are still games with less cartoony violence.The military shooters for example.Just as well,there are games with cartoony rape.Many of it is tentacle porn and similar over the top stuff.Yet the first group is widely regarded as ok(unless you work for fox),while the second one is not(because rape is not a joke,damn it,but murder is).

                      As for the other part,the murdered one is not the only victim of the murder.There is their family and friends as well.Is their pain meaningless just because their friend/family member is no longer there to say something about it?Dont they have traumas of their own?And yet,we never think about that when it comes to fake violence.

                      Or,since I already brought up military shooters,what about war veterans that have ptsd?Are their traumas not as real?Yet we dont mind their traumas being portrayed both in a realistic light(spec ops)and in over the top cartoon light(modern warfare).

                      When it comes to art(even if its schlock),I will always say that if it doesnt directly hurt anyone*,it should not be banned.It should be called out as being idiotic for sure(like a serbian film),but still not banned.As always,Ill leave you with George Carlin.

                      *If you label your art as “having this and that graphically portrayed”,then only the one that disregarded that label is to be blamed.No,I dont mean just the one who had the trauma,because if you show your motherless friend a movie about killing mothers,you are a shitty friend.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      First, you won’t see me defending modern military shooters. I prefer my games to stay away from reality.

                      Second, killing is a part of combat. Its an unfortunate necessity sometimes. There is no practical reason to rape anybody ever, rape doesn’t repel the enemy, it doesn’t stop an intruder, it doesn’t stop guys from beating you up in an alley. If you’re in a situation where you could rape somebody, then you are not in danger from them.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “First, you won’t see me defending modern military shooters. I prefer my games to stay away from reality.”

                      Still doesnt say anything about the outcry against cartoon rape over cartoon murder.For example,the stick of truth had pretty cartoony rape censored in a bunch of countries,but meanwhile the cartoony murder was left in.

                      “Second, killing is a part of combat. Its an unfortunate necessity sometimes.”

                      Except its not just combat games that have killing.Theres hitman where you kill for money,and theres gta,saints row,prototype,and a plethora of rpgs where you can kill just for fun,or to alleviate boredom. Not to mention necromancy,thats not just killing your enemy,but sticking their soul into an animated meat suit and bending it to your will.Which you can also do for fun,or for no reason at all in a bunch of fantasy rpgs.And yet,even cartoony rape is considered to be over the top in most games.

                      ” There is no practical reason to rape anybody ever, rape doesn’t repel the enemy, it doesn’t stop an intruder, it doesn’t stop guys from beating you up in an alley. If you’re in a situation where you could rape somebody, then you are not in danger from them.”

                      You mean just like suplexing an unarmed civilian?Or smearing them all over the road?

                      Also,a counterpoint to there never being a practical reason for it and doing it only to those that present no danger to you.

      • Zukhramm says:

        At least Jensen has a good voice.

      • Ofermod says:

        I’d say that Adam Jensen wasn’t a bad character. “I never asked for this” is kind of a reasonable attitude to take towards losing all of one’s limbs and a majority of one’s internal organs when it isn’t necessary. Not everyone’s as eager to become a full cyborg.

      • Chamomile says:

        I haven’t played Human Revolution, but this seems like an extremely unfair criticism of the character from what I know about it. There is no objective measure of what is good in life, and if Adam Jensen personally thinks that keeping his human bits is important, then performing invasive surgery on him to replace his limbs is a violation of his autonomy as an independent being. It doesn’t matter if your personal measure of a good life is different and you would’ve considered it an upgrade, it’s his limbs that got traded in, not yours.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Jensen’s opinion of his new body and life can be pretty heavily influenced by the player. Even the famous ‘never asked for this’ line is an optional dialogue selection. If you play him a certain way, Jensen can be pretty supportive of his augmentations, though understandably skeptical of the circumstances under which he received them. There’s a scene late in the game where you can convince a critically injured man to receive life saving augmentation or die with his human body intact as he wants to. Even the endings, justifiably maligned as they are, play into this. Adam can choose to fully support Sarif and his vision of a future for augmentations, or the conspiratorial forces seeking to regulate or ban them.

        • Trix2000 says:

          This, pretty much. Most of my playthroughs I ended up taking the aug-positive responses and rarely had anything negative come from him (mostly because playing augmented Jensen is fun). That, and he was pretty reasonable and pragmatic about the whole thing to begin with.

          Some of the endings felt a bit off to me, but then you can pick any of them you want.

          • Thomas says:

            I like to think of the endings as the very specific question of ‘what will you let people know about what happened here?’ and everything after that in the cutscene is just speculation by Jensen and the AI about how they imagine the public will react to this news.

            I think the developers were open to this idea too, which is why the footage is all stock footage of humans being humans with a voice over about what it means philosophically for human nature instead of saying ‘and then this happened, and this happened but not this’ etc

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I did too but it always seemed like the game wanted to steer you towards the anti-aug stuff. Like you’d get three responses, one would be “this sucks” the next would be “I didn’t ask for this.” and the third would be “I guess they’re all right.” Like the balance of the character leaned toward not liking them.

            I played pro aug too and that made it a little better. I just hate this trope in general and wanted to throw Adam in the mix.

      • Humanoid says:

        I dunno, I tend to save my ire for protagonists who are stupid rather than those who are jerks. I like Geralt (and heck, I like Roche, who as someone who has you tortured, you have every reason to dislike). I love the protagonist of Privateer, ol’ Brownhair (canonically Grayson Burrows) who perhaps singlehandedly raises the game above the mainline Wing Commander series for me. No, it’s stuff like the Goldun Riter-winning escapades of Desmond/Ezio the Idiot that makes games unplayable for me (though admittedly my only exposure to the series has been the SW series).

      • Sanguine Cavalier says:

        I don’t think Adam’s position on transhumanism is ever dictated by the game itself; it does let you choose that. They apparently just feel the need to add tension to his relationship with Sarif by having Adam be super angsty about his augmentations in some conversations…even if you choose at other points in the game all of the “HOLY CRAP THESE ROBO-ARMS ARE AMAZING” dialog options.
        It doesn’t make very much sense, but then they make a real hash of the whole theme/controversy of transhumanism by picking some really weak pseudo-religious arguments against it for Purity First/Humanity Front to espouse, rather than the much stronger ‘socio-economic impact’ arguments.

      • The problem is I don’t think Deus Ex really tried very hard to make transhumanism something amazeballs beyond “you get superpowers.”

        I just got finished reading a pretty decent post-apoc-with-cyberpunk-elements series by Simon Morden (starring a protagonist named Samuil Petrovich). In the three books, we have our hero getting a bit “jacked up” as it were, having parts of himself replaced with artificial devices. Eventually, via the use of an interface to his brain, he’s able to do things with computer networks and information transfers as well as block pain in his body (nothing that repairs it, mind you) and you really notice, as he does, when he’s forced to relinquish this connection that his implants allow.

        I know it’s hard for a shooter, even an RPG one, to focus on the non-combat potential of having loads of hardware in your body (heck, even an MP3 player or a game of Pong would’ve been a nice touch). Still, it would’ve been nifty to have some of the Watch_Dogs style hacking or some other significant data-oriented benefit that truly made you go beyond what a human could do with a keyboard.

      • slipshod says:

        Not sure how much this is influenced by my adoration of the game worlds which the characters inhibit, but both Jensen and Geralt are among my favorite protagonists, right alongside Gordon. (If I were to use a terrible cooking analogy) Gordon is a recipe you have to start from scratch, whereas Jensen and Geralt feel like concoctions that you have the opportunity to refine to your liking. Completely different and equally rewarding iterations of customization.

        • Wide and Nerdy says:

          I don’t really hate Jensen, just that one thing about him. As for Geralt, I will probably like him more when I finally get around to making myself play the games in earnest. I made it through morrowind. i can do this. but Geralt doesn’t make a good first impression

  11. Von Krieger says:

    I read the title and I think of “Faster, Harder, Scooter,” which may be the intent. But being half deaf, I cannot understand what’s being said in the linked video.

    So I’ll just leave a cover version here by an exceptionally silly metal band.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOzzHsC9iwA

  12. This is just Ubisoft being lazy.

    BioWare do this stuff pretty well, as Shamus noted they re-used the male skeletal animation, which kind of works.

    Also the last name of the main character is used which means that instead of NPCs referring to the player as He or She they use Sheppard.
    This also has the added benefit of letting the player use whatever first name they want.
    If planned ahead this could potentially mean only a need to record dual dialog for the main character (and in case of a BioWare game, the possible gay relationship with one character which would result in another dual dialog in a very few cases for some very specific dialog.)

    BioWare has done this multiple times with multiple game genres and franchises.
    Heck little Obsidian managed to do the same with Fallout: New Vegas right?
    So Ubisoft not being able to do this is just pure laziness and plain ignoring of both men and women that wish to play a female character.

    Also, being able to customize your character is one of the few things that is awesome about games, you can’t do that with books or movies or TV series.

    • silver Harloe says:

      Yeah. Shamus said “females are generally X compared to males” but there’s so much variation in that ‘generally’ that it is perfectly possible and reasonable for any given average male, you can find at least one woman in the world who has the same basic body. They could say, “yes, she’s a woman, but she happens to be one with a longer torso and bigger hands than the average woman, and she works out slightly more than Arno does so she can have the same musculature.” Then they just put some bewbs on Arno’s model and call it a day.

      Then, for bonus points, they reuse the clothing assets (minus bulging the chest a little – this could take some art time, but not as much as whole new outfits) and actually come across as MORE feminist by having her wear clothing at least as sensible as the male character (catching up some of the distance BioWare’s femShep with full body armor lapped them by)

      • Agreed.

        When I read the paragraph starting “A big part of the problem is that males and females are proportioned differently.” I had to work hard to prevent my eyes rolling so much they fell out.

        The problem is that people look at the difference in averages of two curves and ignore the difference within each curve. The distribution for one gender is far more varied than the difference in the gender distributions’ averages for almost all features. I can’t say it better than this so I will simply link to it.

        To say that the average man or woman has stats X and so they’d have to completely redo all their work to deal with changing gender is totally failing to think about what range of people there are. Even discounting the gender essentialism, it doesn’t make any sense from the numbers. The average man has larger hands but you cannot accurately determine the gender of a random person by measuring their hands.

        • Humanoid says:

          I’d go so far as to say that if I were allowed access to a character creation tool with infinite options for an Assassin’s Creed game, my immediate thought would be to create a female assassin who is built like a male gymnast, and who could pass for one as necessary.

        • Shamus says:

          Sure, they could put in a female that’s proportioned like a man. At which point it will look like a man. Do you really think this is what fans want? Hulking, mannish women? Do you imagine that Ubisoft is even capable of considering such an option? I mean yes, there are always people on the high and low ends of the bell curve. SOME women have big hands. SOME women have shorter legs. SOME women have mannish hips. But a woman on the fringe of ALL of there (which is what you’re proposing) is just gonna look like a dude. Trust me. I’ve done it. Proportioning is a huge part of what we use to judge gender, particularly at a distance. (Which is how these characters are intended to be viewed.)

          I’m willing to believe that a good artist could take a male skeleton and proportioning and get it to look feminine with the right tweaks. But that would be a bitch of a job and in the end lots of people still wouldn’t like the result and would say it felt “off”. That would be harder than just sucking it up and making a proper videogame female like they should have in the first place.

          If we’re going to make a woman proportioned exactly like one of these guys, then why bother building a new model at all? How about we just say the dude on the far right is actually a girl and you can’t tell?

          The point of the [first half of the] article was to talk about why it wasn’t as simple as some people made it out to be. You’re just trading one difficulty for another: Instead of fussing with animations, we’ll be fussing with a difficult base model. Either way, you’re going to be tweaking and experimenting.

          • I’ve also done it in the past and we’re not talking about the edges of the mesh (outside of the finger tips, which do need to hit the exact bounds – there’s going to be enough space, even with the accuracy of modern animation, to allow sculpting back on the volume without it breaking the contact/distances/clip-box considerations) but merely the skeletal joints. Yes, that means we’re going to require the hands to inherit the length of fingers and hip rotation points and leg length proportions if we do no work to make any animation adaptation but there is still plenty that can be done on the actual mesh to craft a perfectly workable woman that is not outside the bounds of credibility. As you say, it would take someone doing a decent job with the new mesh. But adding any new model to a game requires you to do a decent job with the mesh. Why bother adding a 6′ something woman to the 4 identikit assassins you play as in the co-op if this cheap ‘hack’ solution is less than adding in a full variety of male and female body types? Because representation in media and if they wanted to be bound by the work they’d already done and only having enough time to drop a new mesh on top of their existing skeleton then there is still no reason they couldn’t do it and at least provide something more than 4 identical dudes to play as in the co-op.

            Gamers do notice, because this isn’t the least common shortcut used. But what would be worse is a GTA Online where it’s just dude, dude, dude as far as the eye can see. Small steps are better than none.

            You know how you should judge gender at a distance? Don’t. Maybe Ubisoft could teach that valuable lesson within the constraints of a least effort fix for this current problem.

        • The problem with this is that if you build one character who is some sort of generic artistic average male and another who is an unusual but still plausible woman, the woman looks BIZARRE in comparison. In fact, if you’re going to design one figure to be some kind of Platonic average it had BETTER be the female because people are going to nitpick the SHIT out of what the female figure looks like.

          Go to any game forum if you don’t believe me. Post a picture of a male character and people say stuff like “cool armor” or “he looks badass”. Post a picture of a female character and a good 50% of the comments will be along the lines of “she looks like a guy” or “3/10, would not bang” or “why is she so UGLY?!” The other 50% are people getting mad at the first 50% for being shallow jerks. The number of comments on females that actually say something interesting is so small as to lack statistical significance.

          • Why didn’t they use the model for Aveline (Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation HD)?
            I am assuming that Assassin’s Creed: Utopia also uses the AnvilNext engine, so re-using the character model should require very little changes. Chris played that game and could probably comment on how the female model looked/felt.

            As I said, they must have been lazy.
            (Or guys at the top where just making stupid decisions, which wouldn’t be a first for Ubisoft.)

            That being said, if I was given a choice then I would (like I usually do) play as a younger a little slender male with dark hair and a nicely trimmed full beard.
            I can’t recall the last time I played a female character (games with no choice do not count).

            BioWare’s stats for Mass Effect was interesting, how many played as Female Shepard? was it 1/4th? But how many females played Mass Effect? 1/4th more? I’m assuming that almost half the females played a male Shepard while a quarter of males played a female Shepard.
            Would be nice to see actual stats on this.

            But still, when you sell in huge numbers like this ignoring even just 1/4th of the market is insane, and pissing off potentially half your market is ludicrous (Spaceballs ref. here).

            BTW! I’m talking about changing the main character here now, the story is about Arno after all.
            But the co-op multiplayer part (which Ubisoft already managed to mess up in a weird way, clone assassins?!), that wouldn’t have been so difficult would it?

            (Wikipedia) “other players will look like other random members of your brotherhood. Many missions and activities are available for cooperative play, but there are some story missions that are set aside to be single player only”

            Why no sisters in the ‘hood Ubi? It’s the French Revolution, there where fair french ladies present then after all. And isn’t Ubisoft originally French as well? Weird. *shakes head*

            • M. says:

              “Why didn’t they use the model for Aveline (Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation HD)?”

              A last-gen model — in fact, a last-gen model originally designed for a handheld — standing next to current-gen models with more triangles, texture resolution, skeletal bones, bling-mapping shaders? It’s going to stand out, I guarantee you that.

              There is no royal road to character modeling and animation, unfortunately.

          • I can’t recall the game, (please don’t let it be just The Sims), where you could drag a slider to alter the look you could look androgynous or drag it to one side and look very butch or the other to look very female/feminine, and then you could choose sex in addition to that.

            Sure with voice acting the work doubles up for the player character (if voiced) and to varying degrees for other characters (but if planned from the start it can be minimal, just a word here or there changed).

            In most RPGs you are “the hero” rarely does gender really come into play.
            Heck in Dragon Age: Origins a NPC getting pregnant was somewhat part of the plot and BioWare found a way for that to work regardless of the player character gender, then again BioWare is insane at times (voicing an entire MMO for example) so they might be the exception.

            Now if you play as Lara Croft then obviously you play as Lara Croft, she has a identity and look that is expected.
            But look at the 4 “characters” in the image Shamus showed, I see no identity there at all, they just look like any brotherhood male character with a assassin’s outfit on.

            They could have done some cool stuff too with female characters.
            For example if one of the other co-op players are female then they could disguise in normal female clothes and sneak into places that have guard check points, or even act as a distraction.
            I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation but wasn’t there some things she could do that would be a tad odd if a male player character did the same?

            • Cinebeast says:

              I think the “androgynous/butch” slider you’re referring to was featured in Dark Souls? Whether male or female you could adjust your character’s “masculinity/femininity.”

              Dragon’s Dogma might’ve had a similar slider too, but I’m not sure.

        • Geebs says:

          @Geoff Burch

          I thoroughly applaud your link for wanting to be inclusive (frankly they could have just said that humans generally have somewhere around 46 chromosomes and that would be enough for me to say that they deserve equal respect), but they are committing a crime against rational inquiry by not just totally failing to understand what a normal distribution is, but outright denying that you can compare two distributions statistically. Then they get confused about the difference between size of effect and statistical significance.

          Saying that, morally speaking, a scientific observation is unimportant is one thing. Saying that the scientific method is wrong because it doesn’t support your opinion is totally another.

          • My University education (both in Mathematics & a Science) disagrees with your characterisation of the arguments in the link. They are doing the opposite of getting confused about the size of the effect and being statistically significant, they are explaining how the latter is required for science but the former is not required to be large (which is why it can be simply stated that the range inside either distribution is much larger that the different between the two’s averages and detailed comparison shows they are not two distinct population but on mingled one). They are not saying you cannot compare distributions because they are comparing distributions and showing a fallacy of trying to simplify that comparison by looking at averages or thresholds. It’s rather classic classification issues they’re highlighting.

            In no way is this an argument against the scientific method, it is an argument based entirely on the principals of solid mathematics and the application of the scientific method.

            • Geebs says:

              I don’t really want to argue the point further, because I think we can agree that trying to answer political questions with statistics is inherently stupid (although I would point out that most people wear off-the-peg clothes).

              However, it is necessary to inform you that my statutory requirement for people trying to win an argument on the internet by telling me that they went to university is a notarised copy of their degree certificate and transcript. I can provide a list of suitable notaries if required, but you will have to cover the costs yourself :-p

              • (It’s a polite way of saying anyone with a formal education in statistics would think what you wrote was very funny, there was no argument to be had)

                There was no political point made. It was pure statistical analysis of population data and how classification problems arise when trying to use these data points from mingled populations. The (for example) range of 2:4 digit ratio inside the male or female cohort is so staggering broad compared to the difference in the distributions as to make a nonsense of anyone who might possibly claim that this is a gendered marker from which you can say a specific ratio is male or female. Men and women do have a statistically significant difference in the distribution but you could never use it for classification so it makes a mockery of “men are X, women are Y”.

                • Geebs says:

                  If you are demanding that your effect size be big enough that all of one population be larger than all of the other before you will recognise any difference, you are already on pretty shaky ground even before you consider whether you are even measuring the right effect. Literally nobody ever is suggesting that you can make a binary decision regarding gender purely on the basis of linear height or hand proportion, or even carrying angle at the elbow. If you ask meaningless questions, and declare that the meaningless answers mean that the entire subject area is meaningless, you are lying with statistics.

                  (you also brought up linear height in a discussion of body proportions, which was a shaky start)

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      As a bit of disclaimer I am putting this up as trivia rather than an argument.

      It’s something that English speakers are not aware of but, and I’m speaking for experience, the “one dialogue for both genders” is a pain in the behind to translate when you’re doing it to a target language where adjectives and (often) verbs have gender suffixes.

      • Yeah but translations for dubbing are usually rewritten quite a lot anyway, it just means that the German audio may take more disk space (and take a little longer to translate/dub), but then again Germans have dubbing down t almost an artform due to doing it to pretty much everything over the years. Heck I learned to understand generic German thanks to watching always dubbed German TV.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “BioWare has done this multiple times with multiple game genres and franchises.
      .
      .
      .”

      Theres a difference between doing this in a game where most a model does is run and jump once or twice and a game where they are constantly doing parkour right in front of the camera.Or are you saying that bioware is lazy in making their cities so small,because blizzard has constantly displayed hundreds and hundreds of various sized units in their games?

    • Viktor says:

      The other option, of course, would be to use a female assassin as the protagonist, with male being the option that’s dropped for being too expensive. But Ubisoft doesn’t think stories about women are worth telling, so it would never happen.

    • Muspel says:

      Bioware’s games generally tend to be less animation-intensive than Assassin’s Creed, however.

      For instance, in Mass Effect, characters don’t really interact with the environment or other character models in ways that require great precision. You might smack an enemy with a melee attack, but Assassin’s Creed has you shimmying along ledges and grappling with enemies.

      Basically, in AC, you have to worry a lot about how a given character model will interact with other models and the environment. In Dragon Age and Mass Effect… not so much.

      Which is not to say that Ubisoft shouldn’t make the effort, but there is a significant difference in the amount of work that’s required for different types of games.

    • Kian says:

      “BioWare do this stuff pretty well, as Shamus noted they re-used the male skeletal animation, which kind of works.”

      “Kind of works” is being generous. My sister and I are both fans of Mass Effect, we both played the game multiple times, etc. I’ll play MaleShep, she plays FemSehp, and she’s pointed out some times where slapping the male animation on FemShep was hilarious and embarrassing for her. Such as FemShep sitting, while wearing a dress, like a dude; with her legs side by side and slightly spread instead of crossed.

      Bioware are great at making support characters, and giving them cool arcs and such. But visual fidelity is not their strong suit. Which made me very confused when the ME4 talk was all about landscapes instead of people. Do they still remember why people bought their games? It wasn’t for their looks.

  13. CALLED DAT SHIT SON!

    …ahem…

    I mean…hmm, interesting discussion. Yes… Indeed…

    …quite…

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    Indie gaming is becoming more and more mainstream each day, and it’s all thanks to AAA gaming constantly shooting themselves in the foot. The fact that they can’t understand how boring these white 30-something dudes are is astounding.

    Heck, one of the hottest (i.e. most talked about) game protagonists these days is a freaking goat!

    • Tizzy says:

      I think there may be a generational issue at work here as well. AAA games seem to onsider that there is only one customer demo: the white teenaged boy.

      The boredom that you mention comes in part from experience. There is nothing wrong in itself about straight white 30-something male protagonists, so it’s easy to just consume ONLY that… …for a while. Even with a high tolerance, 10 years or more of that, and you can’t wait to see something else. After almost 30 years, I find myself indifferent to most of those games.

  15. Mephane says:

    In Assassin’s Creed Unity, the multiplayer is designed so that you always see yourself as the main character and your friends as “other guys”. I think that’s a ridiculous way to handle things. It would be like a game of Left 4 Dead where every player sees themselves as Francis, and the other players as Bill, Zoey, and Louis. That’s goofy and counter-intuitive. Actually it’s even dumber than that. In Assassin’s Creed Unity we’re all Francis, but we’re all Francis with slightly different hats on. That’s… beyond lame.

    Wow. This is so utterly ridiculous that I still can’t believe they actually did this. That’s like… I imagine a scene where the batmobile arrives at a crime scene, and four Batmans come out of the vehicle, and start arguing who is the real Batman and who are the impostors, before engaging a group of four Jokers.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      It actually makes sense.If you play a single player game as The Guy,and then you go to multiplayer,of course youd want to continue being The Guy.Just how everyone wanted to play mario back in the day,and no one wanted luigi.

      However,for this to work,one first needs to feel connected to The Guy,ie The Guy needs to be a character first.Which is rarely the case in asscreed games.

      • Humanoid says:

        Sort of, like lately you’d be happy to play Mario or Luigi in one of the New Super Mario games, but most would rather not be stuck with one of the generic Toads. (If it was THE Toad plus a different character it’d be different, it’s inexplicable the route they took with the lazy palette swap) You can substitute the characters for Rayman, Globox and the Teensies respectively for an equally questionable decision, though to be fair, the Rayman franchise has less recognisable protagonists.

        • Mephane says:

          That’s why the sensible thing in a 1-4 player coop game is to create 4 unique characters that are each interesting on their own. Like it was in Left4Dead.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            That is true.However,asscreed is not a 4 player coop.Asscreed is a single player game with a coop multiplayer atop that.Thats a big difference.

            If you went in reverse,for example,and had a 4 player coop game with a single player campaign on top of that,would you then find it stupied if they tried to cram all 4 of the possible coop players into that campaign?

            • newdarkcloud says:

              That’s ultimately true. According to the devs, approximately 80% of the game will be entirely single player. However, there will be specifically designed co-op missions designed around this “Brotherhood”.

            • Ciennas says:

              Nope! They did have that exact sort of thinking driving Gears of War 3- There was always four unique characters running around at all times, at least. This was done so that you could always have four player co-op, and it conveniently blended it in with the utterly massive single player campaign.

              It also went out of its way to at no point make this feel forced.

              There you go- a perfectly good working model for how to do that thing we’re all talking about.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Um,that was my point actually.If you have a game designed around 4 player coop,its not stupid to have all 4 characters crammed into the single player.They dont just puff into the multiplayer,never to be seen when not played by a human.

                But asscreed is not this.Its a single player game first,designed around that.So it is not stupid to have you always look like the main dude when you enter the multiplayer,while everyone else looks like the other three.

                • Ciennas says:

                  So… hang on. The Co-op is a tacked on feature in this new Creed game?

                  Is this tacked on as in ‘why did they bother’ or tacked on as in’ the single player campaign with friends’?

                  Because the former just means that Ubisoft has successfully imitated the video gaming feel of the late 80’s, while the latter means they really should have thought of this from the beginning.

                  Either way, this is a sad story.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    “Tacked on” insinuates that there was no effort given.They did plan the coop thing in advance,but the game remains primarily single player.Lets say that it is 80% single player,20% multi player.Both are planned carefully,but one is carrying more of the weight,therefore it is natural to expect the smaller part to submit to the larger part.

                    • Ciennas says:

                      Huh. You mean like…. huh. I haven’t personally experienced a game that’s used this model, now that I think of it.

                      How does this model even work?

                      I’m genuinely bewildered. Do you get to play the whole game together, with some bonus rooms or something?

                      ‘Cause I guess that’s okay, but still bewildering about the whole no girls allowed bit.

      • Tizzy says:

        Daemian wrote: “If you play a single player game as The Guy,and then you go to multiplayer,of course youd want to continue being The Guy.”

        I am at a disadvantage here because I don’t do multiplayer, but does this have to be the case? Always? I mean, especially when the protagonist is pretty bland to begin with, it should be easy to swap them out of the field in multiplayer, and have the main thread between single- and multiplayer be the core mechanics instead.

  16. Tobias says:

    I really don’t wanna be THAT guy (you know, the one with the the nitpick but without anything substantial to add to the topic at hand):

    Can we please stop referring to women as “females”? It’s really weirding me out, unless we’re talking ferret-women or lioness protagonists. Because I’m pretty sure “female” as a noun only refers to female animals.

    (Also, if nor for weirdness or correctness alone: I’m pretty sure this thing comes from Reddit, so… Eww.)

    • syal says:

      I’m reasonably certain the military’s been calling women ‘females’ for longer than those Redditors have been alive.

      • Ilseroth says:

        Also… whether it weirds you out or not… Humans = Animals.. Animalia is the start of our taxonomy. There is no reason why a biological statement of male or female should be incorrect.
        (For the record I know there is more before Animalia, but the fact that we are Eukaryotes definitely doesn’t assist in a counter argument)

    • Humanoid says:

      Struggling to recall, is it a more common thing or not for fantasy writers to refer to a “dwarven woman” or “elven man”?

      • Mike S. says:

        Tolkien mostly just used “Elf” or “Dwarf”, or adjectival words/phrases (“Dwarf Lord”, “Elven-maid”. (He called Galadriel an “Elf-woman” once, IIRC.) Not that the main published works had an overabundance of examples to look at. There are more in the Silmarillion and other ancillary works.

        (Though I’m pretty sure the number of female Dwarves seen “onstage” remains zero, and I think only Dis– Thorin’s sister, Fili and Kili’s mother– is ever given a name.)

    • Shamus says:

      That’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought about this until now. If we were talking about groups of humans, it would sound a little strange if someone kept talking about the number of females in the group.

      On the other hand, if we’re talking about working on 3D models, the opposite is true. “I’m working on the women models today” sounds a little off. Not wrong, but off. “I’ve got to convert the female models from blender” sounds much more correct.

      Now I’m paranoid and wondering how I used the words in the article.

      • Thomas says:

        I’ve never seen somebody complain about ‘female’ as an adjective, but ‘female’ as a noun is increasingly a faux-pas.

        • Tizzy says:

          Male/Female is still on a bunch forms. I guess the appropriateness is context-dependent, and the question becomes: which term is more appropriate when discussing video games protagonist?

          I am not sure what he arguments are on both sides, so I don’t want to form a firm opinion yet. But my gut instinct would be to save “woman” fo flesh-and-blood beings. Then again, I’m not even a native speaker.

        • Kian says:

          I think the noun/adjective distinction is the way to do it. You can say “female protagonist”, because protagonist is the noun and female the adjective. “Woman protagonist” sounds weird to me. “The protagonist is a female”, however, is weird while saying “the protagonist is a woman” makes sense. Notice the “a” though: “The protagonist is woman” is dumb but “The protagonist is female” is ok.

        • Classic says:

          The quick and dirty rule I use for when I feel that this needs to be over-thought is to ask, “Do I want to create as much mechanical distance from the subject as possible? If yes, choose ‘female’.”

          “Female” seems to be used whenever it’s felt that detachment is more appropriate, impersonal forms, descriptions of biological sex on test subjects, etc..

          Further, as far as I can tell, the reason “female” is becoming a more severe faux pax is that it’s a term used to imply faux-detachment by people who have problems with women, or believe that the civil rights movements of the 60’s-70’s have completely erased inequality in all of its battlegrounds.

      • Steve C says:

        Please don’t go down the “females” vs “women” vs “girls” road. There be monsters ahead. There is no right answer and looking for one will get you eaten by a Grue.

        • Shamus says:

          I didn’t even realize this was a real thing that people fought about. I just thought it was a regular observation about terminology, like “pixel shader” vs. “fragment shader”.

          These are dangerous roads indeed.

          • Ronixis says:

            One example I’ve heard is that using ‘female’ as a noun can sound kind of like Ferengi speech. (Particularly early-TNG Ferengi.)

            Another thing that can come up is parallel structure or lack of it. If your article refers to ‘men’ and ‘females’, it sounds weird (and I have seen a few places that have done this), whereas if you use ‘male’ and ‘female’ I think it comes off fine.

      • KremlinLaptop says:

        For me personally? The use of ‘female’ makes perfect sense when describing things like physical characteristics. So say you’re talking about walking animations or character models, they’re either male or female. Makes sense. Using it while talking about actual people though? It’s really impersonal.

        And the thing is I’m guilty as sin of doing this. I tend to use ‘female’ a lot in sentences like, “Me and a female friend went to X” or such.

        It was only when I read someone ranting about men cat-calling her on the street, and got progressively more annoyed — even though she had a 100% legit point — because instead of talking about ‘men’ she talked about ‘males’. Depending on context it can end up sounding dehumanizing.

        • syal says:

          “female friend” is an especially good example of the language problem; in that context, “girl friend” and “lady friend” are out for sexual connotation, and “woman friend” is just awkward.

          I think the main reason people don’t like using “male” and “female” to talk about personality traits is because they carry a biological connotation. There’s an implication that “male”/”female” things are in the chromosomes and unchangeable.

    • silver Harloe says:

      This isn’t some new phrasing or internetism. It’s way older than that. Some people prefer female because of the etymology (I had this discussion in high school, which wasn’t before the internet existed, but before anyone not in college was on it)…

      “Female” comes from the Latin “femina” meaning “woman,” where in the same language “vir” means “man.” “Femina” is not a form or derivative of “vir.” They are separate words entirely. The word “male” has a separate etymological root to a dissimilar sounding source word, and the two words came to sound alike in their passage through France.

      “Woman” comes from Old English “wifman” meaning “wife + man,” where in the same language, “man” means “man.” “Woman” is a derivative of “man” and defines women only in their relation to men.

      “Wymyn” doesn’t solve the problem of defining females in terms of their relation to males, because it is directly traceable to “woman” which means it inherits all the same etymological background and still makes it a derivative of man.

      I, personally, habitually call women “women,” and console myself with knowing that few people know or digest the etymological roots of words, and probably mistakenly think that historically “female” relates to “male” the same way “woman” relates to “man,” anyway, so aren’t going to be impressed with my word choice as more feminist.

      • syal says:

        Also if you don’t use ‘female’ you lose out on possible ‘Iron Man’ jokes.

      • Chamomile says:

        ““Woman” comes from Old English “wifman” meaning “wife + man,” where in the same language, “man” means “man.””

        Not entirely true. Old English had distinct words for males and females, which were were and wyf (or wif – Old English is written in runes and romanization is not 100% accurate, but wyf looks cooler) respectively. These were sometimes prefixed to the word for humans in general, which was man.

        The trouble is, you can only refer to humans in general when referring to a group. An individual human must be either male or female (from the perspective of dirt farming Anglo-Saxons, at least), and in Old English when you referred to an individual man it was assumed you were referring to a were and and not a wyf. It’s a lot like how sometimes in a multiplayer game or one with multiple party members or whatever you’ll get something like “Arnold is the bruiser character, Bob is the cold character, and Carly is the female character.” Character is not actually a gendered term, it’s unisex, but in context it comes to mean male by default unless modified by a female adjective.

        Likewise with the Old English man. Technically it is (in Old English) a unisex term for all humans, and wyfman means “person who is a wife,” which is also why you get things like “the race of men” referring to males and females alike, but in the context of Arnold being the bruiseman, Bob the coldman, and Carly the wyfman, man came to mean male by default unless modified by a female adjective. The technically correct way to refer to a female and a male would be as either wyf and were or as wyfman and wereman, but the prevailing cultural context was and is that if you just said man and stopped there, it could be assumed you were talking about a male because that’s the default. And then Old English morphed into Middle English and mashing words together to use nouns as adjectives like a Germanic language fell out of vogue. Man retained its dual-meaning of “all humans” as a group but “male human” as a singular, and wyfman evolved into women.

      • FlameUser64 says:

        It’s a language problem, really. IMO our species as a whole ought to be “man” (or “men” if plural), thus making male members of the species “humen” and female members “women”. Both are then derived from the species name, and any unfortunate connotations due to defining by relation are removed.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Because I’m pretty sure “female” as a noun only refers to female animals.”

      And?Humans are animals too.

    • Shirdal says:

      While the word ‘woman’ can mean slightly different things depending on the context in which it is used, the meaning I normally see attributed to the word is ‘adult female human’ – ‘adult’ being the key word here.

      When someone talks about females, that word is neutral in regards to age group (and sometimes species – when talking about characters in a fictional setting), as opposed to meaning only adults which could be implied by the more ambiguous ‘woman’.

      Jade from Beyond Good and Evil is a woman, while Didi from Contrast is a child and arguably not a woman, but they are both unambiguously female.

      ‘Female’ just strikes me as the more practical word when having these types of conversation about gender, even when humanity is assumed.

  17. TSi says:

    Shamus, i just wanted to point out that the tweet from the ex-ubi animator was about making the animations only, not the whole thing.
    He is right and as he said a bit later, his tweet was mostly to remove the “animation” process from the equation.

  18. poiumty says:

    I want to address a little thing that’s been bugging me. An overused statement that “grinds my gears” (family guy reference I am a horrible person etc) whenever it’s mentioned.

    “about 50% of the gaming population is female”

    Sure, that’s all well and reasonable, and I don’t doubt there’s some truth to it. The problem comes when this argument is used in this particular “games need more female main characters” argument. That’s the point where it becomes frustrating to hear.

    You see, I don’t doubt the fact that there are many women out there who play video games. I don’t doubt a sizeable portion of those go out and buy the common white dude AAA power fantasy, and for some of those, it’d be pretty cool if they could play a lady.

    But saying things like “you’re alienating 50% of your player base by not making female main characters as an option!” is stupid on SO many levels.

    The ones of you who have played multiplayer online shooters, online multiplayer AAA titles, or MMOs, can you say, with a straight face, that the ratio of women to men in those games is 1:1? Because I’m extremely, thoroughly, unconvinced of it. Yes there are women who play Call of Duty. Are they the same amount as men? Oh hell no. If anything, they’re a frighteningly small minority, and for good reasons I’ll elaborate on later.

    Meanwhile, hidden object adventure games apparently sell well enough to be a small industry themselves. You ever hear your dude friends talk about’em? Maybe you, straight white dude, consider them an entertaining use of your time? No? See them talked about much through male journalists on gaming sites, or by male-centric gamer forums? No? There’s a reason for that. And there’s also a reason why most of them seem to have female main characters.

    Common AAA games are male-tailored power fantasies. They all include violent confrontation, supermacy of the main character’s ego, little to no romance and a predatory style of gameplay in which the main character Kills Many Dudes and Gets Point Across. This is a decidedly male take on entertainment: competition, ego, empowerment. Meanwhile, females, on average, tend to play games that are quite different. Games that are more cerebral, with an emphasis on romance, mystery, smooth male villains that are maybe not as bad as they seem, and confident male side-characters that hide a soft heart under a thick outer shell (broad stereotyping meant as playful example, not stated objectively).

    The condensed point being that while females might as well play video games in as large of a proportion as males, they almost certainly don’t play *the same* videogames.

    It makes sense then for AAA videogames to target their central demographic. Which is dudes. If we ever start making female-oriented AAA games, there’s no doubt in my mind most of them will have female main characters. This isn’t, and never was, a problem of sexism or representation. It’s a problem of diversity. We want diverse protagonists because we’re bored of the character-less shmuck all the time, not because we’re worried there are women out there who like the game so much but just are mentally incapable to play it until their Boring White Dude becomes Boring White Girl.

    So that’s what I have to say about that.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      One thing I’ve always found telling about this debate is that it’s always about how male-targeted products “need” more women, and never the other way around.

      Nobody cares if men don’t read romance novels. If anyone tried to say that romance novels needed to try to be more inclusive for men they’d be laughed out of the room. The assumption is that men will consume the media that men want to consume, and if there’s something that men don’t traditionally consume then it’s just not important.

      With women, there’s this implicit assumption that they need to be “saved” from their non-gaming and comic book ways, and that it’s a problem if a game has an predominately male audience. Women haven’t made a conscious choice that they aren’t interested in loud, dumb power fantasies, they just aren’t being included.

      These debates seems to always focus on the AAA action game industry, but why? They’re very visible, sure, but they aren’t the end-all be-all of the industry. They’ve found a demographic niche that’s highly profitable for a select few, and a huge money sink for a lot of others. From a business perspective, it makes far more sense to try to sell games to women that are more aimed at their interests in the first place than to try to shove them into the COD demographic.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You are missing a key thing here:Plenty of those women dont play aaa games because there arent enough females in them.Its a vicious cycle where women dont play aaa games because there arent enough females in them,therefore the developers dont put females in their aaa games because not enough women are playing them.

      Also,on top of that,there are plenty of us guys who like having female protagonists.Even if most of the time its for the juvenile reason of “if Im going to stare at a butt for hours,at least make it a female butt”.

      So yes,there is a market for more females in video games.

      @Bloodsquirrel
      “Nobody cares if men don’t read romance novels.”

      Thats not true.I always lamented that there arent more romance movies like chasing amy.

      “These debates seems to always focus on the AAA action game industry, but why?”

      They seem like that only because thats the hip new thing and media gives it most of the coverage,but the debates run deeper than that,and have done so for decades.

      • poiumty says:

        “Plenty of those women dont play aaa games because there arent enough females in them.”

        Do you seriously believe that? How many women bought Tomb Raider (especially the old ones) in comparison to men? Would the ratio of men to women be 1:1 (nevermind the reverse of the current one) in multiplayer call of duty if all soldiers were suddenly girls? What about MMOs with choosable characters? Do an overwhelming number of women play Dragon Age? Mass Effect?

        Yeah, no, I don’t believe that for a second. Genderswapping the main character doesn’t make it any less of a male power fantasy. Tomb Raider was a male power fantasy even though Lara Croft was female. Remember Me was a male power fantasy. Bombshell will also be a male power fantasy. A main character’s gender hardly influences that.
        And by “male power fantasy” I mean a power fantasy specifically designed for a masculine mentality, not a power fantasy featuring a man.

        “Also,on top of that,there are plenty of us guys who like having female protagonists.”

        No doubt. Not the point I was making though. The point was that a boring character is a boring character whether they’re male or female. I’d rather have a character with his own unique and interesting personality (like Geralt of Rivia) than a choosable blank slate with an empty stare and paper-thin motivation.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          And towards whom were all those games marketed?Yeah,just swapping the gender does not solve the problem magically,because that is not the single thing that is off balance.

          But even if we did all the orrect steps to fix the problem,it still wouldnt be fixed over night.Or do you believe that culture flip-flops at a drop of a hat,and that the instant women were given voting rights the ratio of voters became 1:1?

          • poiumty says:

            “And towards whom were all those games marketed?Yeah,just swapping the gender does not solve the problem magically,because that is not the single thing that is off balance.”

            “Balance” implies either making two separate games in one, or making a game without any gender-related elements to begin with. Which is impossible, as even the presence of combat in a game can skew the demographic over to one side. I’m afraid the intent of making the one game that can be bought just as much by women as it is bought by men is a rather pointless endeavour.

            So while I’m all for diversity in our characters and games, I’m not exactly sure how or why women not playing popular games is a problem. Comparing it to voting rights is a bit reaching, don’t you think?

            But to answer your question, while some of those games were indeed marketed towards men and teenage boys, I’m not sure games such as World of Warcraft or the Tomb Raider reboot had a specific gender in mind when it came to their marketing.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              “as even the presence of combat in a game can skew the demographic over to one side.”

              No,it wont.Tastes differ between people,not between genders.And as long as the culture dictates that “girls like pink,boys like blue”,therell be a problem.Because nothing in your genes says that,its all in the nurture side of the equation.

              • Shamus says:

                Are you really expecting to settle the nature vs. nurture debate so easily?

                My kids are home all day. I’ve watched them. When they were little they had a huge pile of videos to choose from. They weren’t “girl videos” or “boy videos”. Anyone could watch whatever they wanted. Yet my son wanted Bob the Builder and Big Trucksm and the girls wanted Kipper and Arthur and old Shirley Temple movies. When the girls left the room, my son would deliberately change to Bob the Builder, even though he was free to watch what he pleased and Kipper was the path of least resistance. When the girls came back, they wouldn’t watch Bob. They wanted their shows. These distinctions arose based on their own preferences, and were strong enough to cause fights. The girls didn’t fight with each other – they always wanted the same shows. They did this at ages where they were barely able to talk, long before they had any concept of gender.

                And it’s not like the son was imitating me. I never watched shows about trucks or construction. He decided quite on his own that this was what he wanted.

                The difference was pretty clear: The girls wanted shows about people. The boy wanted a show about doing things.

                This pattern repeated in their play. The girls played “house” or “store” – situations where people spoke to each other. The boy played… “cars” or “airplanes” or “castles”. It was always about physical objects and how they behaved or could be used. He only played house when the girls badgered him to. He NEVER initiated it and he never led the game.

                Even when playing with the same toys: The girls used LEGO to build little people and homes and had them talk to each other and enact little dramas. The boy built little devices that had no personality or identity.

                This is a pattern I saw in myself, in my brothers and sister, in my kids, and in the children of friends. Girls trend towards social play and the boys trend toward mechanical play. None of it was encouraged, enforced, or taught. In fact, as a parent it would have been a huge help if the kids had been a little more flexible about their play and their toys. It would have required less toys and caused less fights. These divisions arose despite us doing everything we could to PREVENT them.

                I get that not everyone fits neatly into gender binaries. And we should always have respect for everyone, even if they don’t act or respond the way we expect or want. But this “there is no difference between men and women” is unreasonable. It’s a demand that we simply pretend the world is something other than what we observe.

                • poiumty says:

                  Nice to see some empirical validation for once. Not being a parent, I wasn’t quite sure I was hitting the mark since most of the experience that backs up my opinion is based on my friends’ preferences and various real-world extrapolations that amounted to little more than educated guesses.

                • Mersadeon says:

                  Thank you for saying that. Too often in a debate do people simply ignore that there ARE differences. I am by no means a mysoginist or sexist or whatever, but I think we all have to acknowledge that there are physical and psychological tendencies that don’t come from the nurture side.

                  • Shamus says:

                    Yeah. A lot of people use the argument, “Well, men and women are different, therefore we should [be an asshole to women].” The fact that we’re different is used to justify all kinds of crappy stuff.

                    And I can even get behind the idea that maybe the differences aren’t as drastic as they appear in our culture, or that they’re greatly shaped by environment. It’s just when people say the differences don’t exist that I feel the need to object.

                    • Classic says:

                      Disclaimer: Don’t have children of my own. Do not mean to imply that anyone is doing a bad job of being a parent. Do want parents to accept that they’re not ideal observers of their own children. /disclaimer

                      Like it’s been said, the sticky point here is we know children are able to understand language before they can speak it and it has been impossible (or perhaps inhumane?) to separate what’s innate from what’s a learned preference past the earliest stages of infant care.

                      Here’s Neil deGrasse Tyson answering the question, “What’s up with chicks in science?” And his take on why it is a question wrongly asked.
                      It speaks more to the ways in which people argue, “Well, men and women are different, therefore we should [block women from opportunity].” Or act on blocking women from opportunity without meaning to do so.

                      Yes, there is objective, measurable dimorphism. So it’s plausible that there are other, harder-to-measure differences. Girls tend to describe friendships very differently than boys, for example.

                      What’s tough to say is weather or nor your son would have been interested in watching a show about Barb the Builder and her assistant & anthropomorphized machinery. Would your daughters be into Arthur if DW was not such a boss? We can’t honestly say, “None of it was encouraged, enforced, or taught,” even though it feels like it, because we’re living in a culture where gender roles are still fairly aggressively defined, and reinforced in ways that are difficult to notice because they’re so normalized.

                      If you’ve heard this “riddle” before:
                      A man and his son are driving one day and get into a terrible car accident. The man dies before reaching the hospital, but the son arrives in time for emergency care. However, the surgeon says, “I cannot operate on this boy. He is my son!” How can this be?
                      I hope you remember how foolish you were for not knowing the answer immediately.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      As Shamus’s children are home schooled, this is about the best case study you’re going to get. At that point, the only outside influence would be marketing.

                      As for the riddle, its a little unfair to use that as an example. The riddle itself is touted as revealing programming but it programs you itself. It uses male terminology throughout. Its a man and his boy, and the phrase “I cannot operate on this boy he is my son” at the end coupled with the question “How can this be?” as with many riddles, is designed to make you search for an answer more complicated than the obvious. Even then, took me maybe thirty seconds to figure it out.

                      You can use these same tricks in many many other situations where society hasn’t programmed us with biases to steer us away from the obvious. For example, when I used to compete in Math tournaments a question asked of myself (the 9th ranked regional math competitor) and my opponent (the 8th ranked regional math competitor) was “How many prime numbers are there above 50?” It took us both longer than it should have to answer (I got it, sadly though it was the only question I beat him on)

                      The question is designed to make you first think of counting or using a method but the answer is obvious. I only mention my ranking to make the point that even in such a competitive environment, that kind of phrasing can trip you up.

                      You haven’t proven anything by it. All you’ve proven is that if you build a good trap, someone will fall into it.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “As Shamus’s children are home schooled, this is about the best case study you’re going to get. At that point, the only outside influence would be marketing.”

                      Not quite,because Shamoose still has friends and family,so they cam in contact as well.But even if we disregard them completely,marketing is still the most biased and most prevalent thing in our culture.

                      “The question is designed to make you first think of counting or using a method but the answer is obvious.”

                      And yet I,with a different programming than you,have thought of the answer practically at the same time as reading the question.So its not that far fetched that someone with a different programing about genders would interpret Classic’s puzzle differently and answer it much faster(yes,it took me too long to remember the other parent as well).

                    • Classic says:

                      @Wide_and_Nerdy

                      It’s weird to me that you count those both as “trap questions” when the priming that they do isn’t related to the answer. Heck, your math tourney question barely primes you at all, though I concede that I’ve never been in a math tourney, and the broader circumstances of the tourney may have primed you to search for more computationally intensive answers, (spoils the “riddle”) just like most people (in the US) count surgeon as a masculine profession, and struggle to conclude that the surgeon must be a woman.

                      It’s also pretty easy to construct counter “riddles” that you’ll find most people (again spoils the “riddle”)(in the US, or someplace where surgeon is a masculine profession) have no problem answering “correctly”. (again. Spoils “riddle”) e.g. Make the participants in the accident a mother and daughter. OR As was done in the Wapman/Belle study that I’m struggling to google, doing a final substitution and making the declining father in the above scenario a “feminine profession” like a nurse. BUToday Article discussing the Wapman/Belle study in the spoiler section.
                      Incidentally, my first guess was the son of a gay couple.

                      You are clearly approaching this problem from a very different point of view. Almost all of your language reflects this. But what baffles me most is that you’re willing to describe priming as a sort of trap, or cognitive illusion (Thanks Dr. Ariely!) and admit it’s existence and efficacy, but seemingly not willing to consider the that a person may be biased by memes pervasive to society. Nor do I feel you’re interested finding those biases to apply similar “trap-dodging” strategies that permit you to resist priming and other Predictably Irrational behaviors.

                      But I mean, if the trap catches 4/5 of the test subjects. What does that say about the trap?
                      ..

                      After finishing up the rest of the post it occurred to me you could be complaining about “How can this be?” inviting a complicated answer, but that seems churlish how much I defang the “riddle”. Frankly, entertaining this as your objection borders on an insult and I owe you an apology entertaining it for the short time that I have. I am sorry.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      To answer both of your remarks about the prime question, yes the context of the situation is necessary. We’re at a math tourney, everything we’ve been asked up to this point has been about calculating answers and I was racing my opponent to get the answer right so there was pressure. Taken in a casual setting its not a particularly good example but I was having trouble recalling riddles and that was the only thing I could come up with that seemed to fit.

                      I don’t try to deny that we’re programmed in all kinds of ways by our experiences. The problem I have is with using a riddle as proof. It asks you to consider a very limited set of information in isolation and is crafted so that every instance of explicit gender is male. This isn’t how it works in real life.

                      We’re good at pattern recognition but sometimes bad at finding the right meaning behind the patterns we notice. We’ve seen a lot of debate on that in this very thread. Our biases don’t develop from isolated lies, they develop from our observations. You can’t just tell people they’re wrong about what they notice. You have to go deeper than that.

                      Besides, your example plays into this notion about patriarchy that we’re just blind to its effects. It comes down to the assertion “its not your fault, you were programmed by patriarchy, you can’t help but reach bad conclusions without our help. Let us feminists do your thinking for you and don’t worry your pretty little head.” Or the notion that I can’t correct evaluate a situation because I’m not the correct gender or race or whatever. If you can’t convey the situation its your failure as a communicator, not my failure to comprehend. Talk about mansplaining. Which I know is a bit removed from what you were saying but its part of the issue and it sets me off as much as anything about modern feminism.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Im definitely admitting that differences exist,but when it comes to social stuff,thats way more nurture than nature.You didnt raise your kids in isolation,and that stuff seeps in from everywhere.

                  For example,my country is very big on politics,but my parents dont care much about it,and have never talked about it in front of me.Yet even before I went to school,I already gathered a bunch of stuff about some of the political leaders at the time,through background noise from various sources(tv and radio,people gossiping,glimpses of the news,etc).That still doesnt make my country genetically predetermined for political crap.

                • Chamomile says:

                  Bob the Builder is, as a character, male. Shirley Temple is, as a character, female (additionally also as a real person, I assume). So are the kids gravitating towards goal-oriented and social-oriented shows, or are they gravitating towards shows with male main characters and shows with female main characters? My instinct is to agree with you and say that it’s the goal-oriented/social-oriented distinction that matters, but we don’t know until we toss Dora the Explorer onto the pile and observe who watches that one. Dora is about overcoming obstacles to get from point A to point B and its formula includes a confrontation with Swiper in every episode, it’s very goal-oriented but comes with a female main character. So throw that on the pile and observe: Who watches Dora? The boys? The girls? Both? Neither? I am genuinely curious.

                  Granted, for your household specifically we aren’t getting that data unless someone has a time machine handy (or if it did happen to be on the pile and wasn’t mentioned). Your oldest daughter is like seventeen or something, right? Was Dora the Explorer even a thing when she was four?

                  • Wide And Nerdy says:

                    He did mention the legos too. Thats probably his strongest evidence. The same toy used differently seemingly divided on gender lines.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Marketing for lego still goes in different directions though.

                      Boy commercial
                      Girl commercial

                    • Classic says:

                      @Daemian Lucifer

                      Of course, the gendered marketing strategies don’t really tip this chicken-and-egg discussion so much as further demonstrate how pervasive gendering is.

                      We can’t know if girls see role models preoccupied with interpersonal relationships and emulate this or if children simply seize on the aspects of a narrative they feel the most affinity for.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      But in this case, surely the kids were working with the same collection of legos. Those commercials are for specialized kits targeted by gender. But given a common pile of legos, the girls did one thing with them and the boys another.

              • poiumty says:

                My entire first post was about how different demographics prefer different styles of game. If you disagree that’s okay, but let’s not go in circles with this.

        • Ronixis says:

          I would be curious to see the Dragon Age and Mass Effect statistics. I did read on Bioware’s forum that one of them saw more women than men come to their booth at one of the conventions (I think it was PAX last year). I’m not quite sure how they might gather them, though – they have telemetry for ‘gender of player character’, but not for ‘gender of player’ (and although it would be interesting, for privacy reasons I’m glad they don’t).

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            They have all kinds of data on how their games are played. One of the developers posts semiregularly and once said that he’d be amused if the forum regulars could see the statistics because they quite often go against what fans assume based on looking at other fan posts.

            For example, the regulars assumed that the non human races where the more interesting option and probably were played more often but the data gathered by Bioware indicates that the number of playthroughs with human characters overwhelmingly dwarfs the other options. More players played the human origin than all other origins combined.

    • Kian says:

      There is a problem with this argument which is often hard to see from the inside. The thing is, much like how Call of Duty or Battlefield assume an American audience, most of the media assumes a male demographic. You don’t find the loud, dumb power fantasy in the “male” aisle at Gamestop. You might find “for her” sections in different places though (under different guises depending on context).

      So it is presented as if “the default is male, the alternative is female”. This isn’t even about sexism. More accurately, the default is “straight white male”, so non-whites (who make an ever increasing proportion of the US even) are also left out. White isn’t a majority, but it’s still treated as the default. Not just in games, but movies and other media as well.

      The problem isn’t that the guys behind these games want to keep women down, it’s that they’re just as immersed in a society that sees anything other than straight white dudes as strange, and a chore to deal with. When you have every advantage by default, it’s easy to think that everyone must be in your same situation. And it’s a vicious circle, because when someone does try to stray from the mold, they’re under a lot of pressure to conform, because the people over them who also live in the same society see their mold breaking as risky, because it doesn’t appeal to the “default” demographic.

      Not because they think white dudes are better, or for any overt sexism in their part, but simply because they are also immersed in the same society and don’t want to target what they see as fringe demographics. So comfort, not malice, is the problem. Which is why it has such a strong negative response when it is framed as sexism. I like Shamus’ posts in general because they take a different tack, tackling the business case in favor of diversity and leaving the social justice aspect aside.

      • poiumty says:

        Well, games (edit: TRIPLE A games, to be clear) are predominantly made by white dudes for white dudes – that’s a fact. And it’s also a well established idea (if not fact) that the major revenue coming from these games is from white dudes. This isn’t subject to circular reasoning – gaming was invented by the white man, and it was white men in their basements who nurtured it in its infancy. The first FPS was made by a bunch of white dudes. The industry is predominantly white dudes, and especially due to the amazingly strong indie scene atm, no one is barring other people, be they of different race or gender, from entry.

        So I again wouldn’t call it “a problem” if it just so happens that there aren’t a huge number of games featuring something other than white dudes. Not from a social justice standpoint, I mean. There is of course the problem of stagnation, but I’ve already acknowledged that.

        It isn’t our duty as white people to force others anywhere, or to extend the red carpet to our honored guests for the sake of representation. What’s happening is what’s bound to happen – an industry whose top echelon feeds off the money of a certain demographic makes games tailored to that particular demographic. My original post dealt with the common misconception that the demographic is half female, which would be a reasonable argument if true, but it isn’t true.

    • burningdragoon says:

      I think it’s pretty disingenuous to say “Sure they make up about half the gaming population, but they play different types of games. See? There’s no problem!”

      In part, it’s way over simplifying things and acting like a it’s a huge majority of each gender only liking certain types of things. And it’s also super dismissive of the women who do like stereotypical “guy” games and just wish they had more chances to be a super badass while also playing someone that better reflected themselves, of which there is not an insignificant number.

      • poiumty says:

        I made a point to mention the girls who do indeed like playing the same triple-A games that guys do, and yes I believe they make up a very decisive minority. If you have numbers to challenge that, I’ll gladly hear them, but I seem to remember that bit about 18% of Mass Effect characters being female, and while that doesn’t say much about how many women play Mass Effect, the little that it does say is pretty telling.

        It’s not dismissive. The point isn’t that there are *NO WOMEN* who can possibly play what guys play, rather that bringing up the “50% of all women are gamers” argument is incredibly short-sighted where that number is in fact much smaller when it comes to stories and gameplay designed for males.

        Now it’s your turn to tell me what the problem you’re talking about is. And if the problem is “women don’t play man games like they should and it’s the marketers’ fault!”, you’re going to have to add a bit of convincing to that.

        • burningdragoon says:

          I wouldn’t say that 18% really says anything significant by itself unless at the very least that accounts for people who just pick the default options and start playing. And even if it did, 1/5 (rounding up, sue me :P) is not an insignificant amount of people.

          When I used the word ‘problem’ I was referring to the greater discussion about whether or not there’s enough diversity within the AAA market. ‘No problem’ meaning the diversity situation (as far as genderstuff goes) is fine.

          As far as marketing goes, there absolutely is some degree of self-fulfilling going with respect to female-lead games that makes any claim that they just don’t sell well at least somewhat disingenuous. That being said, I consider marketing to be one of the most (potentially) fucking evil professions out there other than, like, tyrant or warlord*, so any chance to blame them for something I am all for.

          *mild hyperbole

          • poiumty says:

            Assuming most women don’t play male characters, and assuming a good chunk of men do play female characters, then it’s not 20% women playing, it’s more like 10% + whatever number of women chose male Shep (which is a subset of that 10%). That’s pretty small for this kind of game, even with the male-oriented marketing and male Shep as default.

            My original post did say it’s a problem of diversity, so we were in agreement from the start.

            As for games with female leads, I do believe that they would sell very well if they were very good. I don’t think having a female as lead character detracts any significant amount from sales by itself.

            • burningdragoon says:

              Just to elaborate what I was saying, according to this it looks like 20% people chose default Shepard and a significant number of people played Soldier. So part of that is people just mashing X to start the game. And considering default Shepard is Mark Vanderloo, an attractive male model, and not a plastic-face custom model, there are going to be women playing as him on purpose too.

              That really doesn’t fully confirm or refute your assumptions, but that’s basically my point. You can’t just pull one number, do a little finagling and use that as solid evidence for anything.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                Actually here is a quote on it from a joystiq article.

                “Turns out, according to BioWare, that 13 percent of Mass Effect players just use the default male Commander Shepard. 83 percent of players customize the hero in some way, and of those, only 18 percent use the female version.”

                So of the total players:
                13 percent, default male shep
                4 percent default fem shep (100 – 13 – 83)
                15 percent chose custom fem shep
                68 percent chose custom male shep

                I’ve seen their posts, any Bioware developer will tell you that the actual player base is skewed way differently than the hardcore fans you see on the internet.

                That is not to say that there shouln’t be women characters, but as another poster said, its not as blatant as the 50% statistic makes it sound. Studios know who their current audiences are. The problem is less about blatantly ignoring an equal demographic and more about being skittish about trying to cultivate a newer demographic.

  19. Galad says:

    Apologies for the off-topic in advance.

    Shamus, unless you plan on using the main site (www shamusyoung dot com) for something (maybe reworking it in some sort of a portal, such as the image links on the right side of the blog? dunno) , can you please just add a redirect to main site slash twentysidedtale? I swear, I probably visit said main site at least three times a day, and THEN click the link to twentysidedtale?

  20. Steve C says:

    Why couldn’t we get an Assassins Creed game with nothing but female PCs? Assassins Creed is pretty stale as a franchise after so many many sequels. The French Revolution seems like a great setting to go with something fresh to the series like female assassins. I don’t mean femme fatale as that’s been done to death. But a true Assassins Creed game with all of the standard AC things like missing fingers. The franchise makes a big deal out father-son assassins and the lineage. Where are all the mothers and daughters in this family business that stretches across time?

  21. Phantos says:

    When former animators and even the series creator call malarkey on the “it’s too hard/time consuming/costly to animate women” defense, I think we can officially call Ubisoft sexist.

    What’s the point of all this “next-gen technology” if a breast is too complex for ten studios working on the same project?

  22. Zekiel says:

    The oddest thing about personality-free Aiden Pearce is that Ubisoft have demonstrated the can write interesting characters. Ezio Auditore is one of my favourite videogame protagonists of all time. Far Cry 3 is full of fun characters (particularly Vaaz and Sam, but Dr Einhart, Willis and Hoyt are also fun).

    Of course in the self-same games they also demonstrate the ability to write dull protagonists (e.g. Desmond, Jason).

    Weird.

    • evileeyore says:

      Dude, Jason isn’t just a dull protagonist, he’s repugnant. I got through that game only because the game play was so incredible I was able to overlook the character’s hideous personality.

      When asked if I’d recommend FC3 to other people, I always say this: “If you don’t mind listening the the main character make jokes about his little brother being raped… the game play is pretty excellent.”

      • Zekiel says:

        You have a point. I don’t remember the remark you quoted, but I agree that Jason is pretty hard to sympathize with sometimes. But I stand by the fact that his characterization is also far less interesting than many others in the game.

        • evileeyore says:

          It right after Dudebro learns his younger brother has been sold to a slaver named Buck who likes to rape his captives and Dudebro says:

          “Huh, huh, his name is Buck and he likes to f**k.”

          That’s when I earnestly wished the character were real and standing in front of me so I sucker punch him in his stupid face.

  23. Now I remember why I didn’t start out using my real name — because there’s ALREADY a Justin Hall in the games journalism community. Apparently he’s even notable enough to have a Wikipedia page.

  24. Daniel says:

    As a reasonable person who listens to his fans, you might appreciate this gentle nudge pointing out that “differently abled” is problematic for a variety of reasons and it would be better to say “disabled” instead.

    • Shamus says:

      Seriously? I honestly thought it was the other way around. I thought “disabled” was considered kind of ugly, like “crippled”, and “differently abled” was the preferred term. Did I hear wrong? Was this ever the case? Did this change at some point?

      • Daniel says:

        The term “differently abled” has appeared and receded in similar fashion to the way “African American” is still sometimes used but the black community mostly prefers “black”. Disabled was once an insult but has been reclaimed as a source of positive identity and pride. To draw another comparison, “queer” has been similarly reclaimed.

        The main reasons not to use “differently abled” are that it downplays the severity of people’s disabilities and legitimate need for accommodations, it frames “disabled” as a word to be avoided which is the exact opposite of language reclamation, and by extension it frames disability itself as a negative trait rather than a natural part of the human condition. Also, much like African American, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        Autistic advocate Lydia Brown has a much more detailed explanation on her blog: http://www.autistichoya.com/2013/08/differently-abled.html

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