ArmA 3 is a military simulator coming later this year, and in my online travels I came across an interesting thread. The game does not include female character models and the community largely thinks that is not a problem.
The lens through which most people look at military games is amply from two sides: one of stagnation, the bane of a creatively pinched industry; or of dollar signs, with the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield ringing in millions. Ignored is the side of progress or of forward-thinking, to go beyond the limited expectations of military shooters and set precedent. It happens rarely because, for the console space, dollars dictate direction. For PC, there exists the same limitations but with technology as no obstacle, and as a last resort, vibrant modding communities.
Iconic now, the grisly video game cover of a male soldier surrounded by vehicles and explosions is rampant advertising. He usually stands uncompromisingly, gun hanging at his side, fresh from battle. It is reflective of a male-centric culture: that only men are interested in warfare, that men picture themselves as that soldier wreaking havoc, and that men dominantly serve in the world’s militaries.
But that last point is changing. Russian women served on the frontlines of World War II as snipers, tank operators and pilots. This year, the US and Australian militaries lifted their bans on female soldiers. Canada has allowed women to serve in all military trades since 1989.
ArmA 3, a military simulator from Bohemia Interactive, is driven by its community. While there is a single-player campaign, the invention of its player base spurs communal thinking, making for some impressively elaborate missions. Some of which take three or four hours to complete. However, Bohemia’s upcoming title caught my attention a different way–this thread specifically, questioning the exclusion of female soldier models.
While the topic may seem gender-based or rooted in feminism, it has a more logical backing: ArmA 3 is set in the year 2035, and by then women will serve on the frontlines as predominately as men. Moreover, the game will feature many of the world’s militaries, and in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, there is no way women could ever serve in combat. Bohemia would need to have that point accurately reflected, of course, but as ArmA 3 is in its Alpha, time does not constrain them to include female models.
In the forum thread, many commenters dismiss the notion of women being included as playable models. They say it is of low priority when more pressing issues exist, like stability and performance. People occasionally throw in “kitchen” comments just to make the argument seem more juvenile. Some comments also argue female models would satisfy only a tiny portion of the fan base, not enough to be worthwhile to Bohemia, and that the studio should leave it to the modding community.
It is difficult to say sexism is at play. I would make the argument that by including female soldiers Bohemia would make a game set in 2035 more reflective of the time period, in that women will serve alongside men in combat roles. And in twenty years, hopefully, it is an understanding and not an issue. This debate is a prime example of how sexism is sometimes too prevalent of an issue and invades other arguments, entangling opinions into one confusing mess and making it irrelevant.
I’ve reached out to Bohemia and will update this article if they respond.
UPDATE: Project Lead Joris-Jan van’t Land responded in an email by saying: “Our ArmA 3 Alpha F.A.Q. has stated that the Alpha is not representative of the full game’s content, and as such the lack of female soldiers in the Alpha does not guarantee they will not make it into the full game. Previous ArmAs have seen female characters and they are on our roadmap. Whether or not they make it into the initial release, or in what capacity, is not a political debate for us internally, but a question of technical implementation and data production.”
To the readers: Is this a big issue, or something small, or a debate not worth having? Would having playable female models in ArmA 3 make you want to play it?
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