Monday, 30 September 2013

GTA V and The Great Female Protagonist Debate

Grand Theft Auto V was the most anticipated game of all time. This isn't hyperbole, there is a damn good reason why it became the fastest selling game of all time , earning more than a billion dollars in just three days. The 16th of September, the day before GTA's release, at 15:00 UK time - the reviews came pouring in. It was near unanimous - GTA V was absolutely brilliant in almost every way. A Metacritic score of "97" doesn't lie. One particular review called it "...outrageous, exhilarating..." while stating that it "...pushes open-world game design forward...". The reviewer gave it a 9 out of 10. That's a brilliant score. So naturally...she got attacked by anonymous idiots in the comment sections. Why? She had the nerve to say that the game featured a fair amount of misogyny. How dare she!

The problem being that the game IS rather misogynistic. From stripper mini-games to the lack of a strong, major woman in the story. In fact, there is not many strong minor female characters in the game. There are maybe two or three off the top of my head (Taliana - the getaway driver you meet during a random event - being the best example). Most others are either there as sex objects or are purposely super-annoying (i.e. Franklin's aunt). Now, there had been a big debate on whether or not GTA V should have had a female protagonist and I'm all for more strong female protagonists in the vein of FemShep in Mass Effect or Lara Croft in the rebooted Tomb Raider. Would I want one in GTA? Of course! In GTA V? That's what I'm not sure about.

The issue is not so much that I would be against a female character in the vein of any of the male protagonists we've had over the years. She would be a horrible woman, but all the male protagonists are horrible people themselves. Sure, CJ and Niko were slightly more sympathetic anti-heroes...but they still killed thousands of people on their way to the top of the criminal pile. So, I have to wonder whether or not a female character in that mould would be accepted as much as the male ones. I fear that if there was a female protagonist in GTA, she would be reacted to strongly as a "bitch". If there was a hint of sexuality in her, she'd be a "slutty bitch". Because as that Gamespot reviewer found out - a loud minority of male gamers are misogynistic idiots who, under the guise of anonymity, think nothing of attacking someone based on their gender. It's a very real problem in gaming.

On the other hand, if they were to dilute the female protagonist, then that would dilute the effectiveness of having such a character in the game. If Rockstar were to go through with it, they would need to write her in the same way they'd write their male protagonists. I would love to see a GTA game with a female protagonist reacting to the misogyny in the game itself, because it will probably still be in there by GTA VI.

Dan Houser has said he would happily write a game with a female protagonist but that "But for GTA V, this was the organic thing that came up, these were the characters what [sic] would display the themes we wanted to think about."- in reference to the all-male protagonists. That's a very important point - Rockstar should absolutely not force themselves to write in a female protagonist if one doesn't come to them naturally. That would be the worst thing they could probably do. It has to come to them - whether it's in GTA VI or some other Rockstar game - they need to write what they feel comfortable with and what they want to write. Otherwise it's a half-assed effort that, again, would diminish the impact of the female protagonist.

Hopefully, though, the day will come when a Rockstar game features a strong, well-written or even just a fun female playable character. The sooner, the better - because if one of the biggest gaming companies in the world creates such a character, you can bet your life that many other companies would follow suit.

I am curious to hear other people's opinions and thoughts on this topic. It is an important one to discuss in regards of gaming. Please, if you disagree with me, tell me why I'm wrong. Did I miss anything important, tell me. If you agree, tell me why you do so. If you want to say something unrelated...I guess you can! Leave a comment, tweet me (@SuperGameFight) or link me to your blog if you've talked about it. I want to know!