A game for this June, Remember Me features an intriguing premise in the near future. But the attention came because of the female starring role.
It is an invariably small world the games industry lives in. The business itself might be huge, but it is the scope and a centric ideology that sparks a critical issue of games today: representation. Subjected as pawns or playthings or objects of affection, female leading roles are largely used as a mechanism to drive story or character development. The rare and special case is when the starring role is not a steroid-using, rough-talking, warmongering man, but a strong, confident, stalwart woman.
This year will see the return of a fabled heroine and potentially the birth of another. Lara Croft relived her origin story in the reboot of Tomb Raider, featuring a stellar redesign and the voice acting talents of Camilla Luddington. And this June, and what triggered the idea of this piece, the Capcom-published Remember Me and its lead will steal the hearts and memories of players everywhere. But the game almost never came to be.
The character of Nilin has the powerful ability to “remix” memories of her targets as she spends the adventure trying to reclaim her own. In the near future, people have digitized their memories through neural nodes, apparently based on technology currently in development. The game even works this into learning combat: Nilin was previously a combat agent, and when combos are uncovered she is unlocking her memory.
While conceptually promising, Remember Me was close to death. The idea of a female-led game stunned publishers, fearing it would not sell. As Dontnod creative director Jean-Max Morris told The PA Report: “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.”
The craziness of that statement is bewildering at the least, or quite true at the most. The fact that men so heavily camp outside for midnight game launches or populate the thinning aisles of game stores, maybe, but it is a stark misconception to believe games with a female protagonists are doomed. Just because a woman is on the box, that does not instantly qualify it as secondary or profit poison.
I think this false line of thinking comes from how women have yet to enter positions of authority of these major publishers. The video games industry has never been “a man’s world”, but within the hierarchy of many of these companies women have barely broken through the corporate ladder. The development side has seen a women in the spotlight recently, Maxis GM Lucy Bradshaw, explaining the ongoing problems of SimCity. But never in corporate.
For the industry to move past this disturbing way of doing business, it must realize video games are on the precipice of a period of creative opulence, and that within five years (or in the worst case a decade) female protagonists will be as plentiful as male ones. And they will be certainly as marketable and relatable to not just the crowds of men who dedicate themselves to grabbing a midnight release, but to the scores of women standing beside them in file.
I cut this post a little short to get it out today. Sorry for the wait!
To the readers: Does Remember Me look like an interesting premise? And, ultimately, is it important for the industry to change its thinking on woman protagonists?
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