Female characters

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Solo

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I'm not quite up to speed on the inclusion of female characters in modern RPGs (due to almost constantly working on my own game for the past several years), but there seems to be a distressing shortage of them in classic RPGs.

NOTE: I don't know if it's silly to note spoilers for such an old game, but the rest of this post contains spoilers for the plot of FF6.

Personally, I believe the stories they can tell are just as (if not more) interesting than those told by male characters. Take Terra in FF6, for example. For almost the entire game, she ponders her own existence and her own humanity; she wonders if she's even capable of feeling love. And finally, in the World of Ruin, she does get her answer, but (I love this) not at all in the way you expected. She discovers a love more powerful than any other force in the universe - a deep, passionate, MATERNAL love.

Stereotypes are another common problem. I think it's pitiful that some developers (as I've read) limit themselves and what their characters can and cannot do or what roles they can or can't play, just because the character is female. "Live unlimited" is what I say. The only boundaries on creativity (and more broadly, reality) are the ones we ourselves set. Why choose to limit your imagination, and yourself? The question is not "Well, how could this realistically happen?" Rather, it's "Why not?"

Anyway... what does everyone think of female characters in RPGs? Any favorites? I noted Terra from FF6; I like Relm and Celes as well (I would have cried when Celes leapt from the cliff, but my dad was there and he ruined the moment by saying "Is she gonna jump!?"). Do you enjoy designing or writing for female characters in particular, be it their backstory or actual dialogue? Do you try to equalize the presence of gender in your games, or do you not give it a second thought?

Feel free to post any other thoughts, as well. I just thought this might spark a fun little discussion...
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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The idea of a female main character has been evaded not just in games but in other media as well... Like from what I read some time ago, when the author of the Mortal Instruments novels is trying to find a company that wants to turn her novels into a movie, most of them said something like "Change the main character into a male and we will make it"

Maybe it's because a lot of the older games have been in part based on the world's history (medieval for example which is pretty staple in a lot of RPGs), even for the fully fantasy worlds, they still seem to base it somehow on those times (like Kings, Knights, Princesses, Castles etc)... Which made them unable to add up a main character that is female, because they based it on a world where girls are normally just at home...

And maybe also another reason is that they (the games) mostly have a love story as the foundation of it's storyline, and it's more normal to see a love story in which the guy saves the girl, instead of the girl saving the guy...

Which is why I think most of the games that I played where the main character is a female, doesn't have a deep love story...

Though if we will only consider the female  character as just a character but not a main one, I don't think there's really a shortage of them...
 
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SLEEP

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Female characters are pretty common in RPGs, when compared to other genres of gaming. They are still in absence, but they are generally more prevalent in RPG games. However, their depiction still leaves something to be desired, and their poor depiction can be directly correlated to poor developer attitudes. Most developers are still men, and they tend to fall back on gross sexism a lot. RPG maker communities are pretty good though, as there's a lot of women and men and trans and the rest diversity in developers here compared to AAA development. That's not to say social conditioning can't give women hang-ups involving negative stereotypes about their own gender, which certainly happens, but I don't see too much of that here.

FF6 stutters by having only a third of it's playable cast as women, and of those women, all of them are physically weak and rely on magic for their strength. (at least initially, before customizing stats with Espers becomes a possibility) (and Relm's Sketch magic is very different from Terra and Celes' more conventional magic) There's nothing inherently wrong with women relying on magic for strength, but woman with real physical strength are way underrepresented. (As are dudes with woah magical power for that matter!) It also has 2 women who exist as plot devices to give men characters angst (Rachel, Darill) and that's gross.

 

I do really like Relm though, she's got gusto, especially in the GBA version. FF6 isn't perfect, but it's pretty good and not a bad example to be looking at.

 

I guess now we're striking the core of the problem. A mage isn't inherently more or less sexist than a brawler, but the constant gendering of both is the problem. And while we're on that extreme, I do like how Terra's story subverted a potential romantic narrative with a focus on maternal love, I adore it. I cannot name one example of a similar thing happening with a man. Ha ha that's not good.

 

 

 

Going for equality, in numbers terms, like 50/50 women/men playable characters, isn't a bad goal. It forces designers to look at their cast and why they placed some roles in some genders, even if they don't end up changing a thing, an introspective look, and a chance to examine your own emotional baggage in terms of your creations, will make you a stronger author. There's no such thing as a checklist for equality, but there is the fact women are under-represented, something (hint: sexism) is influencing that, and you need to work through your own bad attitudes.

 

I also enjoy writing all my characters, if their gender makes them less fun to write, you're a ****ty writer. Seriously, having less fun writing for 50% of the population is really, really ****ty. You're bad at writing if half the world is out of your grasp. Practice makes perfect though, so get practicing! Good writers exit their comfort zone!
 
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The female character that I loves the most is Lina Inverse from Slayers series & rpg games. It's quite an old, classic RPG so many people didn't know about it. Anyway, I have no problems using female characters as the main heroine in my games. In my opinion, they held certain values, strength & aspects that males characters didn't have. However, either male or female, they have their own pros and cons.

I am agreed with SLEEP, female characters are still common in RPGs, Although nowadays, their involvement as the main character/lead in RPG is less compared to the past.
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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yeah... if you tell Lina inverse in kids nowadays they will probably think the hero from DotA... hahaha...

IDK if it's just me, but I actually see more females as lead chars nowadays rather than before... 
 

22pepperjack

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Well, i personally beleive that a female can make a strong main chracter if done correctly. In the game im working on, i have two storylines, one for male, and one for female. however, my original intention was to give the male the more action oriented storyline due to the male characters nature, and the female the more "backstory" oriented storyline due to her smart quizical nature. however, im thinking about balancing the two out becuase my female character is turning out to be much more interesting than the main character, and i would prefer it if players played the action side BEFORE the explanation side. so ill have to do a little of both on either side XD props to you Zodia, you have officially made me rethink my own game, and your just a figment of my imagination.
 

SOC

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There's so many female protagonists these days that it's becoming the new cliche, and classic male knight save the wolrd protagonists is a thing of the past. Whenever I see a female protagonist, it automatically makes me less interested in the game, just like if it isn't a human.

This is mostly because I feel like I need a character to relate to in order to become interested in it. The reason you feel like FF6 is so great with Terra and Celes is probably because you can relate to them in some ways. Usually, you want the main character to be someone the majority of your audience can relate to. In the old days, it used to be typical human male save the world knights, but times have changed, so have the characters.
 

ShadowFox

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Well in my game there is one main player character and is female. I have 3 temporary player characters. They are 2 males and a female. but those temporary characters are just interactive cutscene characters.

But at the same time I tried to make the main player character interesting.
 

Zevia

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Can't remember where I first heard it, but I recall reading somewhere about the idea of checking to see if you could change the gender of a character and have it still basically tell the same story. If so, it's probably a well-written character.

For example, since we've mentioned FF6, what if Sabin was a female character? Instead of a younger brother, Edgar has a younger sister. Would it alter the story in any meaningful way? Not that I can think of. Sabin's story is about a person who desires freedom, who runs away from responsibility and makes a life of only taking care of themself, but changing over the course of the game to become more caring about the fate of others (saving the collapsing house, for example). That he was male wasn't really of any consequence, and if Sabin had been female, it wouldn't have mattered. That wasn't important to the story.

What if we changed Celes to a male, however? A lot of the storyline would seem "off." Celes has to be the spitting image of what is presumably a gorgeous opera singer, despite being a military general. She makes a remark about not being some opera floozy, but has a very "pine for Locke" role and is, to him, a subsitution for Rachel. Her character sprite is even wearing what appears to be gogo boots. Her role largely seems to be as a romantic interest and damsel in distress for Locke to save.

Now, if the point of the story is to explore gender identity, then yes, it's very obviously going to make a difference who the character is. If you want to tell a love story, then gender *might* matter - but those same stories can pretty easily be told with same-sex couples, too, without writing one as very effeminate and one very masculine.

Take a look at the Mass Effect games, though - you can play as a male or female, and they're both ass-kicking big damn heroes. The main storyline is not seriously altered one way or the other.

I think the problem is when a character is written because you need a stereotype fulfilled, or their character development is limited to "their gender." Not every female character needs a romantic storyline. Not every woman only tags along out of maternal instincts (e.g., the blonde female healer archetype). We have a pretty patriarchal society in the real world, but in fantasy settings and video games, women could easily be the dominant societal gender, or could be the big, brawny, badass fighters - without doubling as a sex symbol wearing bikinis. There are a lot of female protagonists nowadays, sure, and yet their design and costuming still makes them sex symbols to be drooled over by the male players.

So I don't know that I think that women have more interesting stories to tell than men, per se, but that they should be able to tell the same stories.
 

A-Moonless-Night

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You've hit the nail on the head, Zevia. I think the issue most people have when trying to write a character that isn't society's 'default' cis-gendered heterosexual white male is that they think they can't. A common response is "I can't" or "I won't do it justice", or something along those lines.The truth is, their gender/sexual preference/colour/etc. should not make a difference (especially not to your enjoyment of the game). People seem to limit themselves to tropes and clichés and stereotypes.

I think in most games there's always a severe shortage of (good) female characters—there's some kind of 'special golden ratio' that people give their games where they think there must be at least five males to every one female character, and if there is a female character, she's either maternal, hot-tempered or quiet and shy. That always really annoys me.
 

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I also would like to add that in some cases, the decision was probably based on cost restrictions. I realised that with a strategy game from a new company several years back, which had random voice confirmations for the units of an army (all the army units using the same random pool of that army), where five of the six "sides" had five different pools of male voice confirmation, and the one side where there were female voices, the entire army was made of female units.

I think they were either missing the code to differ between army units of the same side, or were missing enough actors to make different voices - both cases usually being unable to pay for them.

And the question about stories fitting to female characters - as others said I don't think that is a general problem, but you need better writers to make such stories (it's much easier to use stereotypes only), so that also raises the question if you're able to hire a better writer...
 

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Actually a good lead female character is Marine in the Millennium series; strong, non-clichéd, etc., so it can be done.  It probably helped, though, that the story wasn't your standard "save the world from the overpowering evil one".  In fact, I think it's probably easier to do a more unusual story with a female lead because you don't face the same temptation to meet expectations of what a lead character "should" be and do.

I think a lot of the problem lies in the way that many devs don't step outside the over-used classes of characters, and so slip into a multitude of stereotypes all at the same time.  And yeah, Zevia is spot on with the observation about the art work of most female characters.  Go along with that aesthetic and it's almost impossible not to slip into all the other gender assumptions as well.
 

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maybe another matter of money too... since if your team members is more used into making these stereotypes, then they can create the game in less time... and in the working life, more time spent = more money spent... the effect of time is much much obvious and drastic in a work setting than in a hobby setting... because in a hobby setting, time might not equate to money... but in a work setting, time equates to money...

this is one major difference of making games as a hobby and past-time with making games in a full game company (indie too, as long as they are full time and in a work setting)... 

so they go like "Let's use the stereotypes, it costs us less and it will still sell anyway"

though for indies the above phrase might not hold true...
 
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Indinera

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I love making female characters. Especially LEAD ones.

I made so many:

Luciana in the Laxius Force series

Marine in the Millennium series (heroine of 5 games!)



Rayanne in Asguaard (my favorite!)



Calypso in Moonchild



Erin in Dreamscape

Katie in Sylia ( :p )

I don't treat them any differently from male characters and I don't try to fit to any cliché. I just take inspiration from the girls I've known in real life.

I like female leads because they are a change from what we usually get and one of the things I value in a storyline is originality. :)
 
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Probotector 200X

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I was always frustrated by the awful female to male ratios in most RPGs. Like, 1:3, meh. I always wanted to have a party of all girls, but the games either don't even have enough female characters to form a party with, or have a male lead forced in your party at all times (bleh) or, usually both.

And, as always, things that I've always wanted in RPGs, are the things I try to do with RPG Maker! I often wanted to take it one step further, and just make all the party members girls, but...I usually prefer balance.

Some might say it's "forced", but I love varied casts.

For example, 8 party members. 4 girls, 4 boys. Varied ages too. Maybe most are human, but they are other non-human races too. The ratio of "fighters" and "mages" is often balanced between the two genders, like 2 for each.

I admit sometimes I feel like I'm trying too hard for balance and variety, that I'm missing a certain feel, but...I don't know, never finished a game. The point is, I'm trying for balance. Most RPGs don't give a crap, like I said, that 1:3 ratio burns.
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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yeah... that's where RM users like us come in... my game right now is using a male lead... but the next I have in mind which I'm still thinking it I'd go commercial with it will use a female cast... 
 

Indinera

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I always wanted to have a party of all girls
This requires a female lead and quite a big number of recruitable characters in the game unless it really has 70-80% of girls. And, does a female animal or monster or non-humanoid still count as a girl? :p
 

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Modspeak/Just chiming in and saying I'm monitoring this thread so it doesn't get out of hand (due to our history).


Hear that people? Let's talk civil. Let's not delve into stereotypes, and let's not make women participants feel unwelcome here./Modspeak


On topic; you know who I'd like to play as a main character? Lin from Legend of Korra. She's a no-nonsense badass police officer. If there's one thing I like to see, is female main protagonists with a spine. I've seen way too many where she doesn't have a spine, and never gets one either. Don't get me wrong, people like that do exist, and they make for a great coming of age kind of story - but it's all I ever see when it comes to female protagonists. Frankly, I'm so over it and bored with it - and can't you do something else? Instead of the meek, humble, shy, maternal girl, can't I have a stupid, egoistic, vain girl who's obsessed with make-up? Or an abrasive girl who will stand up for what she believes in, confronting people without even thinking about it?


Actually, just give me any kind of girl that isn't: 1) eye candy for male players, 2) fantasy fuel for male players, 3) a romantic love interest, and 4) always saying self deprecating stuff like "I'm not good enough" and "You deserve better" or "I'm the worst" and finally "Sorry".
 
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Quigon

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 Do you try to equalize the presence of gender in your games, or do you not give it a second thought?
I don't really give it any second thought. I think that adding female characters along a 'well I have a particularly male oriented cast so I should throw in some ladies' mindset tends to shoehorn people into giving them rather stock, and particularly clichéd traits that add to the whole problem here.

That said I agree with Cel's post above in a way - there seems to be this thing where developers are going to 'THE STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER' a lot now - I think people need to open their minds a little and just write women as CHARACTERS. All your cast should be strong characters anyway, and like I said before, I've noticed focusing on a lady being 'THE STRONG WOMAN' tends to bring out the stereotypes too. Just write what comes naturally.

And I mean hell, even if a female character is the love interest for the MC, don't shy away from it, just write her character in an interesting and engaging way. Love interests are interesting. It almost comes round to that cliché argument - I don't think these stereotypes are degrading when they're USED WELL. In the end it comes down to your writing. If a lady is your male's love interest, remember she's more than that and is a HUMAN BEING. 
 
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