I adjusted the title a bit so folks wouldn't be confused about the state of Remember Me. As we posted a few times before, Capcom is publishing the game. More info on that after the article.
No matter how many examples one can pull up in an instant, it remains true that women protagonists in gaming are still a minority. For every Lara Croft and Commander Shepard there are a few dozen dudes, but despite this, developer Dontnod always thought a leading lady was the only route for their upcoming sci-fi action game, Remember Me. It's too bad, then, that so many publishers didn't see it that way.
Speaking to Penny Arcade Report, Remember Me creative director Jean-Max Morris talked about how Facebook influenced its narrative direction, and why the protagonist had to be a woman. It's a really interesting read, so be sure to check out the full article, but I'd like to focus on the issues Dontnod had with finding a publisher, and how that speaks loudly about the current state of the industry.
According to Morris, making the lead Nilin a woman was never a decision. "It was just something that felt right from the beginning," he said. "It's one of those things that we never looked at from a pure, cold marketing perspective because that would have endangered the consistency of the whole game."
Once Remember Me was being shown to a variety of publishers, however, it suddenly seemed like everyone else hoped it was a decision, and one that could be changed. Of course, it was too late to do so at this point, so potential backers did just that: They backed away from the project.
"We had some that said, 'Well, we don't want to publish it because that's not going to succeed. You can't have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that.'" explained Morris.
Had Nilin been able to undergo a video game gender swap, other problems would have arisen anyway. Morris and the team wanted to delve into Nilin's private life, "and that means, for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy," Morris said. People responded by telling him they can't "make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that's going to feel awkward," which made Morris laugh.
"I'm like, if you think that, there's no way the medium's going to mature," he said.
That about sums it up. The lack of women representing leads in gaming is a glaring hole in an industry which continues to balloon at an amazing rate. Its widespread appeal is only going to increase, so I'd like to think there can be something out there for everyone, and that isn't even getting into the issue of racial diversity in games. At a certain point, publishers are going to become so risk-adverse they'll simply implode or be left in the dust by more intriguing, daring competition.
That doesn't mean we should shoehorn diversity in just for the sake of it. It means developers should be able to allow the creative process to dictate the content, not fearful and sheepish executives. It's true that games are expensive and risky, but we're essentially allowing folks who have no vested interest in gaming other than a bursting bank account to tell us what we want and what we should experience, and that needs to change. If that sounds naïve, it's only because we've been led to believe that's the case.
Thankfully, Capcom saw the promise in Remember Me and it's set to hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on June 4, and will be playable at this weekend's PAX East. If you haven't seen it, here's the release date trailer Capcom put out last month.