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The Masculine Mischaracterisation of Gaming and a quick reminder of what’s to come.
A look into the growing representation of women in video games and the impact on the industry's future.
Our RECAP of #Dreamcon2023 ✨— Black Girl Gamers (@blackgirlgamers) September 4, 2023
Our Founder @jayannlopez_ and our Social Media Manager @contra_viction went to DreamCon and showed out! We cannot wait to show you more from this unforgettable event.
See you next year @rdcworld1 and @dreamconvention! 🔥#Blackgirlgamers #DreamCon pic.twitter.com/FISYhM3xCs
In recent years there’s been a concerted effort on most fronts to distance the modern gaming industry from the misconception that gaming is male exclusive, an effort organisations like Black Girl Gamers, Women in Games and even controversial entities like the now inactive Feminist Frequency either were or still are on the front line of. This joint effort to combat the unsubstantiated idea that women aren’t a significant portion of modern player bases and that they are, therefore, not worth appealing to and accommodating for has in my opinion either been a complete success or, is at the very least in the process of becoming one.
Although gender based harassment and ostracization still persists to this day, evidenced clearly by the entirety of Maybelline’s ‘Through Their Eyes’ project and possibly surmised most poignantly by their findings through an Australian national survey which revealed that ‘83% of female-identifying gamers have experienced offensive behaviour online’ and tend to play with their micro-phone’s off in order to avoid it. Regardless of this, the market reality is that the presence and visibility of women within the gaming industry has grown significantly over time to the point of them now accounting for 47% of the player base in the UK and now, we’re finally starting to see that presence reflected in the games released and who’s on the cover of them.
Back in 2020 during the penultimate E3 expo, Feminist Frequency: an organisation that specialised in the media criticism of gaming as it related to women, reported that the number of games announced with female protagonists had grown to a new peak of 18 percent, doubling the previous peak of 9% established when the reports first began in 2014. While still not proportional to the size of the audience they are appealing to, it’s a welcome change in contrast to the 2% lows recorded in 2016, a change for the benefit of women in the industry as well as gamers in general, those who look for diversity in the stories and experiences they hope to cherish in an industry prone to being dominated by profit-driven trends.
A phenomenal exemplar to this desire for new perspectives and experiences and how that can directly translate to the success it found is Hellblade: Senua’s sacrifice. A darkly immersive and atmospheric third-person action game developed and published by the British studio Ninja Theory.
In this title you follow the Viking Senua as she embarks on a dangerous Celtic and Norse mythological journey, with every step the player takes being haunted by the character’s own struggle against psychosis. Released in 2017, the timed PS4 exclusive went on to sell over 1.5 million copies and ‘won over 67 awards, including 5 BAFTAs, and a “Game for Impact” award for its “profound social messages”’. A far cry from the staple male power fantasies the industry is accustomed to, associated and arguably oversaturated with, this title was celebrated for its innovations and its sequel is widely anticipated as one of the few saving graces for Xbox this console generation following Microsoft’s acquisition of Ninja Theory in 2018.
Considering it’s announced release window of 2024 and the Xbox Games Showcase behind us, it’s safe to speculate that you can look forward to the chance for more information on the sequel this year at The Game Awards, streaming live to Twitch and YouTube on December 7th (the same event where the sequel was first announced in 2019).
But maybe Hellblade doesn’t sound appealing to you, or maybe your just not an Xbox/ PC gamer, then allow me to present to you some of the games with female leads that have been announced in recent memory. Both in celebration of how far the industry has come and also because there’s some really good-looking games in that bunch you’ll want to know about.
Upcoming Games with Female Leads
HADES II Development Update! 💀🌒🌕🌘💀— Supergiant Games (@SupergiantGames) September 14, 2023
We've been making steady progress since our reveal at The Game Awards, and getting close to an Early Access launch some months from now, in Q2 2024.
More details and answers to your questions here:https://t.co/qioX4wKUuU pic.twitter.com/GomZuQLPyF
Speaking of sequels to award winners, Hades 2, the successor to the Greek mythological Isometric rogue-like got announced at The Game Awards last year but sadly hasn’t received a substantial update since.
In development with Supergiant Games this entry marks a first for the studio as the only sequel they’ve produced to date; now featuring a new protagonist, we can look forward to playing as the Princess of the Underworld Melinoe who’ll be battling against the Titan of Time.
Given where this game was initially announced, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest again that if you’re interested in the title, you should make an effort to tune in to The Game Awards.
Unfortunately for those who’ve been holding out hope since its announcement in 2008, Beyond Good and Evil 2 hasn’t received an update accompanied by visuals since 2018.
However, despite a tumultuous development cycle marred by more than one scrapped versions of a sequel and then a prequel to the original game, the publisher and developer Ubisoft still confirmed last year that the title was in pre-production so, whether it’s out of morbid curiosity or nostalgia-induced blindness, Beyond Good and Evil 2 may still be something worth keeping an eye out for.
Ever wanted to play PG-13 GTA in space? Then Star Wars Outlaws might be the game for you.
Officially announced at the Xbox Games Showcase this year, the title is being developed by Massive Entertainment and published by Ubisoft. The open world third-person action RPG set in the iconic atmosphere of the Star Wars universe tells its (debatably) canon story between the events of episode V and VI.
Boasting a unique faction-based notoriety system and a Han and Chewie-esque party dynamic, we follow Kay Vess and her animal companion Nix as they travel the galaxy taking illicit jobs and navigating through The Empire’s cruel regime. Having only been announced recently with an open 2024 release window, there’s no guarantee that there’ll be any more updates on this title before the end of this year but, there’s always hope.
If having an animal companion sounded interesting to you but you’re off-put by the sci-fi setting, then maybe you should consider picking up Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn when it releases, a gunpowder fantasy by A44 Games and published by Kepler Interactive. Another third-person action RPG but this time slipping into the ever-expanding souls-like gaming genre; we play Nor Vanek, a member of the coalition army with her magical companion Enki as we get to combine gunplay and magic with weighty melee combat.
With its release delayed from early 2023 to some point in 2024, it could still make an appearance at the game awards or potentially wait to justify the delay with a more substantial update closer to its actual release.
To wrap this up we end with a game I’m especially excited for: Judas. The spiritual successor to the beloved Bioshock series with the returning director Ken Levine heading the same studio, only restructured and rebranded to Ghost Story Games.
This title marks the industry veterans first project since the Bioshock Infinite DLC: Burial at Sea all the way back in 2014 but, even after all that time the franchises horror roots and tell-tale twisted visuals are all over the 2022 trailer. Returning to the first-person shooter action RPG formula, Judas takes place on a doomed spaceship while we play an as of yet unnamed character wielding a mechanical, sci-fi substitute for what Bioshock fans would recognise as Plasmids: usually elemental based superpowers the player commands with their left hand.
Unfortunately, with an announced release of March 2025, I’m personally not holding out much hope for learning anything substantial or anything at all really before mid-2024.
Looking forward, let’s hope that in the absence of an E3 we see the trend in more diverse games reflective of the constantly growing and diverse gaming audience continue at The Game Awards.