As video games become more complex and gamers become a more diverse group, there are still far too many games out there that are, to put it bluntly, complete sausage-fests. When asked why there's a lack of female characters, enemies, or protagonists in a game, a lot of developers tend to trot out the same old, tired excuse.
"Game development is complex and expensive," they say. "We had to make tough choices about what to include. Creating and animating female models would take too much time and too many resources away from developing core gameplay features."
Sounds logical, right? Well, over the years of watching game developers who include and those who exclude female characters from their games, I have one response to this line we're being fed by certain companies. Bull puckey! I'm willing to bet that the whole, "we ran out of money for women" excuse is often a fancy way of masking the fact that a development team never thought or intended to include female characters in the first place, but let's take them at their word for now. Even if honest, the decision not to allocate resources to the creation of female character models has no place in modern video gaming.
So why is it important to reject this developer excuse and push for the full inclusion of female characters in games? Some say it's important in order to attract more female customers, especially as women are becoming an ever-increasing percentage of the primary gaming consumer base. I would argue that it's not just for women, but for all gamers. Building worlds that fully include the people who make up over fifty percent of the global population adds diversity and veracity to virtual worlds, and (when done well) promotes respect for and inclusion of women amongst gamers.
Let's look at a couple areas in which female characters are often neglected due to "lack of resources." Women are frequently left out when it comes to active combatants in modern and futuristic games, and amongst enemy combatants in all kinds of games. The first case is in direct contrast to the reality of modern warfare, in which female soldiers are an invaluable part of armed forces around the world, both on the front lines and behind them, where (as we know all too well from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts) soldiers face many dangers in modern combat.
Neglecting to include female combatants may be thought of as a resources issue amongst some developers, but when games with solely male soldiers arrive in public hands, that absence becomes a form of denial that women soldiers exist. It's disrespectful to female soldiers and the sacrifices they make alongside their male peers around the world every day. It also works against the goal that many modern military games have of providing a realistic combat experience. If a company is going to spend the time and resources to recreate the weaponry and tactics of modern warfare, doesn't it also make sense to faithfully portray the people who are engaged in battle?