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Whenever a game that boasts character customization comes out and subsequently doesn't offer a female gender option, you can go to just about any of the title's forum and find someone asking why this feature wasn't included. The topic then generally degenerates into a series of sexist jokes and the same few, lame excuses repeated ad nauseum.

Gender equality in the medium has always been important to me. The most prominent reason for this is because the opposition has so many mind-numbingly short-sighted (or just downright stupid) excuses for why continued unfairness is OK.

What follows are the five most prominent and annoying arguments against create-a-character systems that include women.

 

This sort of issue is as old as the Internet itself.

5) Guys playing as girls are creepy

Every time gender equality comes up, some dude talks about how men playing as women creep him out. Presumably, this is because he becomes confused when he hits on the first thing he sees with virtual tits and a male voice emits from the avatar.

Seriously, anyone who is that disgusted by betrayals of gender roles should really take a step back and realize that our entire culture is moving slowly toward more tolerance of pretty much everything. A time will come when you’ll have to accept that not everyone who seems feminine is a woman. It's not like every single guy who passes as a girl in an online context does so to mess with you…as if the entire world must revolve around what straight, homo-fearing men feel about a situation.

People have the right to take offense, but they do not have the right to demand that our culture be sanitized of that which they don't like. In a way, this argument says, "I'm glad this option doesn't exist because I hate transgendered people and/or cross dressers."

This is roughly as dumb as arguing that leaving out an option to play as non-white people is perfectly OK because racists might be offended.


4) Women don't fight wars

This is the primary argument coming from “realistic” first-person shooter message boards, where they claim that women aren't on the same level as men in the U.S. Armed Forces — that a game based in reality doesn't have to feature something that doesn't happen in the real world.

Just one problem with that, though:

I Googled “female soldier,” and this picture came up second. She was in Iraq. I suggest you tell her that women don't fight wars…maybe wait ‘til she puts the gun down.
 

Women pick up guns and fight in armed conflicts in many nations. Restricting this to just in America, women are allowed to fulfill about 70 percent of the positions in the U.S. Army, and the difference between men’s and women’s right to serve has been steadily eroding for years. Women don't just do the manual-labor jobs, either.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, guerilla warfare forced women regulated to the “sidelines” of combat into fire fights whether America liked it or not. This proved pretty well when all of them didn't immediately begin crying or baking a pie — they were not the liability that some men seem to think they are. Even if they aren't yet part of the main, front-line fighting force, the Army doesn’t train women any differently than men, nor are their assignments devoid of any danger or violence.

Additionally, these games aren't that realistic to begin with. I've run miles around a map in Call of Duty: Black Ops while killing dozens of people with a ballistic knife and a tomahawk without even getting winded. I then proceed to control a full-sized helicopter via remote control and rain death upon my enemies. After that, I could have purposefully killed myself to respawn so that I could do it all over again. Next to this madness, a woman picking up a gun is downright pedestrian.

Almost as if to prove half of my points for me, a female gamer who is damn good at shooters accomplished this feat of skill. It also proves that Call of Duty is the most realistic game ever!
 


3) This isn't a role-playing game

In RPGs with character customization systems, developers pretty much always need to have a female option or some poor programmer is going to get his legs broken. But with shooters, the more “manly” fans say that those same options aren’t required because it's not the same genre.

I totally agree, but excuse me for a second while I spec out my scout's gear in Call of Duty. I want to equip the lightweight perk to give a boost to my speed stat. That way I can kill more efficiently to level up and gain some more money to buy better guns at the shop….

Or maybe I should roll a tank instead….
 

In all seriousness, I don't buy this excuse at all. Modern shooters are borrowing more from RPGs, and RPGs in turn are using ideas from shooters. With that comes the expectation from crossover fans that they will have feature parity between similar experiences.

If Fallout 3 can be played like a shooter and allow you to customize your character like an RPG, then it creates an expectation that the next shooter will allow you to customize similarly. The only difference between the two sides of that slow genre creep is a perception of what your core fan base is, and the more shooters play like RPGs and the more RPGs play like shooters, the more that fan base will merge with both sides having the same expectations.

If T-shirt makers want their money, they must cater to a large group…OK, this isn't really proof, but I like the “try to contain your surprise” sarcastic tone of the shirt.

2) Nobody wants it

This one is tricky, as Johnny Internet thinks he is speaking for all fans of his choosen series when he says that gender choice isn't that big of a deal.

But we have no surefire way to prove he is wrong. This is because the people who want this feature are usually disgusted by those who hang out in his forum, and they won't be there to speak up in opposition. Considering this sort of comment is either directly preceded or followed by a joke about how women should “stay in the kitchen,” it's no wonder why.

Let me just put it this way: If no one wants this choice and no one cares, why does this argument arise every single time a game releases without the feature?

Of course, the meat of this claim is that not enough people care to make it worth the development time and effort to do it. While statistically this might be semi-accurate for some titles (depending on what percentage of female gamers play shooters these days), it's a shallow argument because we don't know by how much that feature (or other such considerations) would boost the number of women playing these games until developers actually take the plunge.

Girls already play shooters in enough numbers to be a recognizable minority. So that should be enough of a reason to cater to the needs of this demographic in order to promote its growth. This is not even considering guys who would like to use female characters in their games, which I personally have noticed is no small matter, either.


1) The game’s budget/memory resources couldn't handle it

This is the elephant in the room regarding actual, reasonable discussion about the problem. It takes the number-one slot because it is both the biggest roadblock to such gender equality being common place and also the most lame, annoying, cop-out excuse.

Like it or not, a female option requires a near doubling of art and animation resources for the average create-a-character system, and by God, shooter developers haven't ever had to do that kind of work before! I mean, with all of the time they take making systems to model every last detail of the trees sway in the wind, how could they find the time to notice that women exist?

It's a good thing MAG didn't have a female character option; otherwise, we would have had fewer opportunities to make our male characters look bland and stupid.
 

Oh, but what if they did add in women? If their resources are finite, then that means that they would have to provide men with fewer options. That would be so terrible! Obviously, men having 100 percent of everything and women having zero is the best out of all the possible combinations you could come up with.

We might even see the game's graphics suffer somehow! We wouldn't want to have to cut into the budget for animating grass or lose that newspaper that's blowing in the wind on that desert town map! Won't someone please think of the realism?

I know, developers. Programming games is hard. I mean, all of that coding must really get to you, and you’re on such strict deadlines. It's got to be a chore just trying to cram every last thing you want into your shiny new game and get it out the door on time. Developers may even consider getting rid of female characters to be a difficult and disappointing decision. They certainly claim it is such a decision every time they do it. But it's never enough of an issue to make them bother to work on putting it in in a sequel or downloadable content.

Ha! Well, maybe Duke Nukem is officially satire or self-parody by now. Still, it ain't getting chick friendly anytime soon.
 

Still, when you are planning a game and want to maximize development time, maybe you can consider this: Out of all the features you could cut, maybe you shouldn't drop the one thing that is usually the only proof at all that you care that half of the human population is female. Chances are that this half is sick of your man-centric game's rah-rah, chest-thumping horseshit. Let’s try taking a step forward every once in a while instead of stigmatizing the entire genre as a cesspool of excess testosterone made by macho pricks.


And after taking all of those lazy and frustrating excuses to task, I bring this show-stopper evidence to the table as a special bonus for you all: Halo: Reach gives players this option.

And she isn't even half-naked. Suck it down, sexist people.
 

This is coming from the developer who is responsible for the currently popular systems in console shooters' online matchmaking, one of the best level creators in console gaming, and hands down the best replay-saving and file-sharing systems in console shooters. These games exist in the form they take today thanks in no small part to Bungie being damn serious about their fan base.

I think Bungie knows what they are doing and put resources into providing players with female characters in Reach because they knew it would be worth the investment. You other developers use Bungie's ideas rather often anyway, why not take this idea too and see how it works out?