An Open Letter to All Game Developers

Subject: An Open Letter to All Game Developers
From: A Female Gamer
Date: 1 Dec 2021

Dear Game Developers,

Maybe unlike the majority of you, I am a female. But just like all of you, I enjoy playing games. Now, I haven’t been playing games for that long nor have I dedicated that many hours of my time to playing games, so what I have to say may come only from the point of view of an amateur gamer. More importantly, I am writing as a female (or a “girl gamer” if you’d like). There are some things that are preventing me from enjoying the full extent of fun and thrill of games and that thing, very unfortunately, are female characters, the female characters that you created in order to give the players the best and most entertaining experience.

First of all, there are just not enough female characters in games, whether video games, mobile games or online games. In 2016, only 2% of video game protagonists are females, compared to 41% that are male (Video Game Protagonists). That number has been improving but it’s far from enough. I understand that when people play the games as the main character, they want to relate to them and have a sense of identification. That’s why male players are able to enjoy being the hero with the sword, but female players also want to experience being the heroine with the sword. “Well,” you may say, “considering that there are more male players than female players, it makes sense that more game protagonists are male.” To that I agree, games, like all products, are created to suit the needs of consumers. But better products find the needs of potential consumers as well. Everyone, male or female, can be a potential game player. Take me as an example, I was drawn to games much later in life. With more female protagonists in games, more females are able to appreciate and be drawn to all kinds of games. You’ll have more people who play and pay for the game, and everyone can enjoy the authentic experience that games promise. That’s a win-win!

Secondly, even when there are female characters in games, they are often unimportant, over-sexualized, or just badly portrayed. Male characters get all the cool armors and equipment while female characters go to battles in bikinis. I’m sure you can see the absurdity in that. Other times, when female characters appear in games, they merely function as potential romance options. They play the second fiddle to their male protagonists or are given the worst stereotypical characterizations. Now, I am not saying it because I am personally offended, but bad characterization of any in games ruins the experience. You should realize that’s not how females in real life act or talk. Yes, I realize that games aren’t exactly aiming to replicate real life, but when female characters are so bad that players feel detached from the game, something needs to change.

Sex sells, and nudity does too. There has never been a lack of female nudity in games to attract what I assume is male attention. I’m not saying that over-sexualization and exaggerated portrayal of the female body in games can’t exist. But if so, please do so with the male characters as well. If you feel as comfortable and necessary putting a 10-inch penis on male characters, then it’s only fair to do so too. Worst of all, however, was in a recent online mobile game where if you choose to play as the female character, your facial expressions include a “sex face” when struck while the male version does not have it at all. You can imagine my shock and appalment when I first saw it. I could not believe that this was purposefully made into a game for all ages. To what end I could not fathom, but I can only assume that this game was not meant for female players. You may find over-sexualizing female characters enjoyable or entertaining, but please think about how female players would feel. And you really don’t have to do all these things to female characters to create a good or popular game. I think Horizon: Zero Dawn is a great example that showed having a strong female protagonist in game without any sexualization of the female body can still do well. It’s one of the best-selling video games, without having to pander to male fantasies.

As you see, female characters and characterizations, or the lack thereof, are problematic. As a female player, I really want to have the same experience and fun that a male player gets to enjoy. I am grateful for all the wonderful games you have created and look forward to even better contents that are yet to come. All the problems I brought up, I brought them up not only as a female, but more importantly, as a game player that cares about the community and wants to see it grow. I trust that you have the power and ability to make games that attract all genders and sincerely hope that the community can welcome more diverse and wonderful people.

Thank you