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JANFeature: The role of women and the future of the franchise
GTAGaming.com - General News | @ 10:30 AM CST | By victim
In the past, men have dominated the video-game industry. Not only are most game-designers and developers men, but most of the market has been male as well. Yet, times are changing. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has calculated that forty-two percent of gamers are in fact women, also stating that women over the age of 18 is the industry's fastest growing demographic.
This information comes with the inevitable questioning on my part; just how far away from seeing a female protagonist in a Grand Theft Auto game are we?
Rockstar have been experimenting with the idea of strong female characters for a few years now. GTA IV had Michelle, Mallory and Elizabeta, while Red Dead Redemption had Bonnie, Luisa and Abigail. Although these characters never sat in the driver's seat in any kind of way, they were all given major roles as vital cogs in the stories of our leading males, as opposed to acting as the traditional love interests which film and video-games have long-since exhausted.
Even with a long way to come, the role of women in Rockstar's more recent blockbusters is expanding and guessing that we'll (eventually) be playing as a woman is a pretty safe guess to make. How soon this will be is not clear right now as even I have major doubts it will happen in V. Even with the Ned Luke lookalike all but confirmed to be our playable character, a few fans and industry figures alike have warmed to the notion of playing as a female and have expressed a desire for it to finally happen.
The industry calling for female leads doesn't strike me as a particularly odd thing though. More and more females are being worked into games as the lead -- though more often than not only in games with some form of create-a-character type set-up. Mass Effect springs to mind, where I far preferred playing through with a female Sheppard, if only because of Jennifer Hale's outstanding voice-work, which was leaps and bounds better than her male counterparts.
Then there's the Saints Row series, the only franchise to break-away from the inevitable "GTA clone" label that the industry dumps on any games with guns, cars and freedom. Like many other modern games, players get the choice of which sex to play as, though either way, what you get is mostly an androgynous experience. The male and female characters are quite indistinguishable due to the same clothing/hair options, and the fact that the player, if they wish, can have their female character voiced by a male actor and vice versa.
The create-a-character model can give players aesthetically unique experiences, making the player feel like it is their character and their's alone. With that being said though, it generally destroys any notion of a character driven narrative, a notion which Rockstar have been expanding with every title for over a decade.
A true feminist would have you believe that playing as a female should have no affect on gameplay and I would tend to agree. In terms of story this is definitely true; nothing will change, in fact, a strong portrayal of a female lead could do leaps and bounds for some of the games more subtle themes. As long as the character is not just a female to be a female, other gameplay will also go unchanged. Gamers would probably have to give up on being serviced by prostitutes and going to "titty-bars" with Roman and Brucie though -- in other words, no big loss.
I was raised primarily by my mother and I've always been told that women can do exactly what men can, so why should this be different in video-games? It really is quite an amazing thought, if only for the step-forward it would bring for the series. Lara, Samus and Chell should look out, a strong-female GTA protagonist could be joining their ranks sooner rather than later.
As always, we at GTAGaming love to hear your thoughts and demand you share them with us. Whether you love or hate the idea of playing as a female, make sure you comment til your heart's content and your opinion is heard.
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