In games, women are often nothing more than garnish. From the scantily clad “heroines” to the damsels in distress, women often get cast as backdrops even in their own stories. And that’s counting when women actually appear at all.
On the one hand, the AAA studios pander to demographics, histronics, and market metrics to drive the grizzled male protagonist. On the other, in the indie world, the trend is toward more artistic games, but the male lead is still predominant. This needs to change for two reasons.
The first is that half of the population is female and our stories should reflect this. There are a lot of stories about women in the world. That’s the basis of our game, in fact. Because we decided to take the damsel in distress and asked what she was doing while the hero came to rescue her.
How did she live? How did she stay alive? What did she do for fun? Did she just wait for someone to come to rescue her?
These questions formed the basis of our narrative. And we found it weird that it seemed that no one else was asking. But that’s the shape of things at the moment, I suppose.
The second is simply that too much of one thing is really boring. While a gritty space marine stomping on alien necks might be fun every now and again, if you have to eat tacos every day for the rest of your life, you’re going to get bored of them. Then start to resent them. Then start to hate them.
But to bring it back to our game, a lot of the narrative choices come down to me. I’m a pacifist, so I didn’t want our protagonist to bust out of her prison and take names. But at the same time, so often when I see games centered on women, it takes the stereotypical route of either the tomboy or the dainty princess.
I haven’t really seen many games that treat the protagonist as just a person while interests and a life outside of their story. If the protagonist is a male, he’s an ubermensch. He likes beer and nachos and football and westerns, essentially. If the protagonist is female, she either likes all the same things that the guys like, or she like the baking and homemaking and social interactions. Or she’s into the girl power scene.
I can’t say specifically that anything is wrong with any of that. But it is a bit repetitive when that all you see. So we started with the idea of this princess in a medieval fantasy world. What does she like? History, art, literature, engineering, governance, magic, music, conversation, the right thing. What does she have to deal with? Well, as a woman in a medieval society near the throne, sexism. As a young person, ageism. As a member of the ruling family, regardless of her personal opinions on issues, her station.
From there, we tries to build a story that makes me happy as the writer and should entertain the audience. I do need some female perspective, though.