Gender parity in video games

Last night I was playing Diablo 3 with my fiancé and a friend, when I was asked a question.

“Why is your barbarian a female?”

The reason is that since the option to pick my gender in a game happens so rarely, when I can, I do. My heart pumps purple blood for Mileena, I adventure with Celes and Terra, I pop heads as a female cyborg, it’s just how I prefer to play.

This morning we continued the discussion, why do I play as a female? Because “it’s 2016” and my gender remains staggeringly under-represented in games. Why is that?

I heard the argument that I could play Lara Croft games, Metroid, Heavenly Sword… and so what? I’m not saying that no female game protagonists exist. I’m saying there are precious few. The proof is on my shelf.

I own 132 video games. I like to play RPGs, tactical games, fighters, dungeon crawling loot bonanzas, solo games, co-op FPS, simulations, all sorts of games. This is my shelf:

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I pulled every game to the edge. Any game with a male protagonist was pushed back in, now 61 games remain.

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Of what’s left, about half are RPGs like Final Fantasy, where you play as a large cast of characters of both genders, and there is nearly always a main male character on a coming of age quest.  The remainder are adventuring games where you can pick your gender, like Oblivion, Dragon Age,or Diablo, and games where you choose a fighter like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter.

So I pushed back every game that did not have a clear female protagonist.

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4 games remain. Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy XIII-2. Since FF games have a large cast that knocks FF XIII and XIII-2 out of the running. Sorry Lightning!

What is left?

2 games.

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Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy X-2, arguably one of the worst, cheesiest FFs ever made.

Why is this? A mere 2 out of 132.

Hey Nintendo. While I was drooling over the E3 footage of your new Zelda game, I couldn’t help but notice that once again we’re going to play as Link. Where is “The Legend of Zelda: a Link in Chains“?  Where is the Zelda game where you get to play as Zelda?

This is not a problem limited to Nintendo. This is a problem and a responsibility shared by all game manufacturers. Not only is it a poor financial decision to continue making and marketing games mostly towards men (I’m looking at you Ubisoft), it’s a moral failing.

Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and the game manufacturers are continuing to perpetuate the myth that women don’t exist, women don’t matter. Why?

Dear video game industry, why don’t my dollars matter to you? Why don’t I matter to you? Where are our games?

I’ve shown you my game shelf. What does your look like?

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