Brink: No Girls Allowed

Once again, we're talking about why we can't play war games as female avatars. This time, guest blogger Brad Gallaway weighs in on the male-dominated Brink.

So, a while ago I blogged about Crackdown 2 and how players don't have the ability to have a female avatar. In today's scene, the developers' claims of technical limitations preventing them from including a non-male choice didn't ring true with me, and I was quite disappointed to hear that no efforts were being made to include female models. Still, even though the line about tech limits was their story and they were sticking to it, after getting hit by some of the feedback, they hinted that female characters might be available as DLC later on down the road.

Since most games that feature player customisation give people the basic choice between male/female characters as a matter of course, I figured that Crackdown's mono-gendered approach was going to be the oddball exception; a one-off thing, or a blip on the radar that would quickly fade away. Unbelievably, that's not so.

Enter Brink.

A team-based shooter developed by Splash Damage and published by Bethesda, it was recently revealed that Brink has no options for female avatars despite one of its main features being incredibly deep avatar customisation. Everything from race to body type to clothing, from the videos I've seen and the interviews I've read, it seems as though there are an absurd number of options for players... except being a female.

Interestingly, Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgewood has given speeches where he's publicly stated that one of the most important things is to be "AAA" in whatever you do. That's certainly a philosophy I can get behind, although I must admit that I'm having a little bit of trouble reconciling the concept that female characters aren't a part of AAA-level presentation.

So what's behind all this? Did Splash Damage think that no female players were going to be interested in their game, so why bother including them? Was it unthinkable to the devs that male players might want to choose a female avatar? Are they somehow biased against females, or perhaps even incapable of properly rendering female 3D models?

Doing a quick search of the Splash Damage message boards, a few of the threads feature "official" responses which basically state that the developers (allegedly) had a choice between having in-depth customisation options for male characters, or having less options for both male and female. In the circumstance described, female avatars got the axe.

Now I can certainly understand the realities of operating under a budget and the drive to turn out the best product possible, but I have to admit that there's something very disturbing to me about having a choice between fifty different pieces of upper torso clothing or including an entire gender, and then deciding to go with the clothing. What does such a decision say about the attitude of Brink's developers, and the studio itself? What message will be taken away by female players who check out the game only to discover that they haven't been given any representation? Not including female avatar options might have seemed like nothing more than a practical choice to Splash Damage, but taking a look at the bigger societal picture and the changing face of today's gaming constituency, it's pretty clear to me that more that should've been taken into account.

Inclusion and respect, or outfits and haircuts? I'll take the former, thanks.

Reprinted with permission.

Brad Gallaway is a lifelong gamer, a thirtysomething married man and father of two. He blogs about games and writing at Drinking Coffeecola, has been the senior editor at GameCritics for the last 10 years, and can frequently be heard on the GameCritics Podcast.


Comments

    "Since most games that feature player customisation give people the basic choice between male/female characters as a matter of course,"

    actually, you missed a key word to your assumption.... most RPG/MMO's that feature player customisation give people the basic choice between male/female characters as a matter of course, not most customization games in general...Brink is a first person shooter, a genre not really known for customization since YOU CAN'T YOURSELF. Them offering ANY sort of customization is fantastic. FPS games also happen to be predominantly played by males.
    ---

    "A team-based shooter developed by Splash Damage and published by Bethesda, it was recently revealed that Brink has no options for female avatars despite one of its main features being incredibly deep avatar customisation. Everything from race to body type to clothing..."

    you can't choose your race, Captain inaccurate assumptions...if you could, it would probably be an RPG/MMO, and there would most likely be the choice to be female.

    About the whole "choosing more options for males over having both male and female and less options for both." It's more than just choosing more options for males, like they are a bunch of male supremacists. They have a deadline and limited resources. SD is a small studio (around 70 people) adding females requires time and money, new models, animations, clothing, coding, sounds, testing, etc. I would rather they focus those resources elsewhere - and the same goes if the game was all females.

    Any female who would get bent out of shape because an FPS game didn't offer female avatars, needs to get of their high horse. If any female is playing FPS games, they would have no problem NOT having a choice for females, since 99% of the games in the genre have only male characters. That's like being bent out of shape because they don't play Heavy Metal videos on BET.

      Hey girls, don't get upset with *this* game having no female characters since *99%* of games have no female characters.

      Yeah, that's reasoning I can get behind!

      I wish those pesky girls would just go away and let us boys play the Man Games in peace!

        no thats not how it works... pretty much 70% of RPG playing guys play as girls... look at WoW and even Borderlands im pretty sure most people played as the siren in that..

        its pretty embarassing that they dont have both genders.. actually its pretty retarded too

          Don't know where you are getting that 70% figure from, but it's entirely false. I've played WoW and other MMO and while yes, it is true that a portion of male players play as female avatars, the percentage is much lower. Think 25-30%

          On top of that, no-one thinks about it the other way around. Many girl gamers like to play as MALE avatars. Especially in MMO's, where they usually feel they will be 'hassled' less (OMG A GURL ON THE INTERNETZ!) if they are playing a male avatar.

          I don't know why there is such a big deal about this. Oh wow, a shooter where you can't play as a girl. Feminism as we know it is crashing down around us

    One of the big reasons for a FPS is the hitbox - the area of the avatar that takes damage basically.
    In a RPG this is not an issue as being hit is determined my other things than player accuracy but in a FPS it is key.
    Females being generally slighter of build that would mean an accurate avatar is thus smaller and harder to hit than a male and that is unfair.
    The alternative is making males and females have the same proportions which would not only look bad but kind of be missing the point of having any difference in the first place.

      Oh and this is a game - unlike real life it is defined by coded mechanics and a time frame. It is not discrimination it is just what they need to do to make their creation work.
      I don't complain that Pride and Prejudice is not about a bunch of aussie blokes, so until you yourself make a polished multiplayer FPS with avatars of every persuasion what right do you have to bitch?

    I totally agree with Brad and find it disturbing. I have far more than 1% of fps friends that are female, more like 20-30%, and my girlfriend is one of them. Needless to say, she's quite annoyed when there's no female avatar to play. I can understand that. Game devs from rpg and other genres also have deadlines and budgets, yet they manage to include female avatars. In 2010 there's just no valid excuse any more...

    Who cares? People getting hung up on crap like this is the problem. Play the game as it is and have fun instead of nit picking about not having enough skin tone options or gender choice.

    Games like counterstrike have never had female avatars and no one seemed to notice or take offence.

      I agree, is it such a big deal? No, not really

    Whether you lot are correct or not, remember that this game is made by the folks who did Quake wars enemy territory which was all male chracter models too so they are probably just continuing on with the same design methods and saving time. It is worth noting that females who played that would often just change the text colour in their names to pink or something which at the time seemed to be enough.

    What kind of revolution doesn't have girls? Is it so much to ask for to include a female avatar in a game that prides its self on making a unique character. And for all those people saying that girls don't play this kind game: 1. yes they will and 2. maybe a guy wants to play as a female avatar. Lastly, how would you feel about a game if it was an extremely customizable game, but only had female avatars?

    Ok...I am a girl and i dont care about playing as a girl.i like playing as a guy better.and i will be playing this game.......and cant wait.....

    Obviously different people see it from different points of view but I was looking forward to this game, I was like yeah awesome super customizable FPS this is gonna be wicked. Then I found out there are no females. What the shit?. no, not cool. I play a variety of games in different genres and I know a lot of girls who are the same as me,

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