Too Bad Epic Games Considers Female Protagonists Tough To Justify In Gears Of War

Too Bad Epic Games Considers Female Protagonists Tough To Justify In Gears Of War
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Because seriously, how badass would a female protagonist be? Recently, OXM published excerpts of an upcoming interview with Epic Game’s Chris Perna where they talked about Gears of War: Judgement and female characters in the Gears universe.

It got me thinking. When Gears of War 3 debuted playable female characters, I realised first-hand just how empowering they were to play. Truthfully, there’s so much testosterone in Gears that it’s a wonder that anything other than men can exist in that world.

But they do! And look no further than Claudia Black’s signature sultry but fierce performance with Gears 3’s Sam to see just how well women fit into the universe… outside of that unfortunate “women only exist to make babies” thing in the lore.

Still, the inclusion in Gears 3 was progress. Might we ever see a female protagonist though? Probably not, according to the aforementioned interview. To quote:

Is it possible a future Gears game could feature a lady in the starring role?

Alas, it seems the market might have issues with this. “That’s certainly interesting but I don’t know,” Perna mused. “If you look at what sells, it’s tough to justify something like that.”

What to even say, though? Again we have an instance of decisions being dictated wholly by business — business that limits itself to one specific demographic. You’ve probably heard all of that before, and frankly, as much bullshit as it might be (hello! even Epic acknowledges the great female fanbase in Gears, nevermind the whole “women are half of the population” thing, and the insulting implication that guys cant relate to girls — on and on), as awful as it is for anyone outside of the 18-25 year-old male demographic to have to justify itself just to exist…putting those things aside for a minute?

It’s heartbreaking to read this, because I think a female protagonist could work, and it would probably be amazing. Anecdotal, but online, you see most people playing as the female characters anyway: so there’s not this complete aversion and unmarketability, I don’t think. People would be down for it.

I reached out to Epic to ask about specific stats: how many people were playing as women online? They told me that they don’t give out exact numbers on that information, but what they could tell me is that about 10% of the total userbase has gotten the “Battle Mistress” medal in Gears 3. That’s the medal you get for playing at least 25 matches as a female character.

Oh well. I’m sure Judgement will be just grand, but I definitely look forward to the day — should it ever come — that I get to play as a female gear as the lead.

UPDATE: Epic Games contacted me to add the following statement to this story:

We have lots of strong, intelligent female characters in the Gears universe and we would never rule out a female protagonist for any of our future games, Gears or otherwise.

Epic: a female Gears of War star would be “tough to justify” [OXM]


  • Having a woman in the front lines of a “manly man” war shooter makes no sense what so ever.

    There is a reason women aren’t allowed into modern military “front line” positions. Its because they typically can’t meet the physical requirements.

    So no, no a female “marcus” wouldn’t work, it would just look rediculous. Im sure there will be some waammmbulance cry from females about being equals. Well your not, (typical)females are not built like males to lug around 50+kgs of gear on your back while in the midst of a fire fight all while running around and holding multiple weapons at the same time, just not going to happen.

    So unless they make the lead female some roided up manly looking thing there isn’t going to be a female lead in gears of war, it would make no sense what so ever (not to mention ruin any sense of immersion). Plus the above character would defeat the purpose yeah? i mean she would be a man in all but genitals.

    So please stop posting these rediculous articles. ITs always something pokemon isn’t about black slaves, gears wont have a female front line lead, stop the mountian out of mole hill bs every article of yours trys to make. ITs like your whole purpose is to write stupid fing articles to troll bait people, its a joke seriously stop it.

    Side note, only reason people played chicks online was for the medal/achievments. Otherwise they just looked silly.

    • *sniffs the post*

      I smell… male chauvinism! Or some really, really good trolling.

      Anyway, your reasons for not having a female lead? Bullshit, women have been serving on the front lines for the past decade, they’re just not “called” line troops. You think ole Tommy Taliban gave two shakes if the US soldier they’re shooting at was a woman? They treat their own women like shit.

      Also, I think your weights are a bit exaggerated. Most infantry seem to say they carry between 25-35kg of kit, with the upper limit being close to 50. 50kg isn’t the average, that’s for sure.

      Some people may play a girl online because, (GODDAMN SURPRISE HERE!) they’re a girl! (GOTCHA DIDN’T I?).. Or perhaps some people just play as girls, who made you the spokesperson for every gamer out there?

      I’d like to say this was a far more relevant post by Ms Hernandez, the second time in a month I think. Although most of the time I just shake my head and not bother with her posts because they seem to have more bellyaching than gaming relevant news (blog yes, agony column, no). Posts like these, I like, relevant to gaming while also touching on social attitudes.

      Side note to kingpotato, people like it when you can spell common words properly, it gives your rant a bit more credibility.

      • He’s talking about in the context of Gears of War universe, not real life.

        Perhaps you should have picked up on that before launching into your counter-rant.

        • Oh? So the modern military “front lines” bit didn’t have anything to do with what followed?

          He was tying in future spacemarine mcbeefcakes into the modern military context, I wanted to school him on the realities of today’s warzone. He said women can’t fight, can’t lift their share, and don’t look good as a lead character, he justified saying that by his earlier rubbish about women in combat IN REAL LIFE.

          I’m happy to be called out on something, but try again when I’m actually wrong.

          • I’m not sure if you’ve looked into it, but our own military lowers the fitness level for female soldiers as it’s nearly impossible to hit the male targets as a female most of the time.

            In the Fire Brigade recruitment, there’s a yearly protest that the gender-neutral fitness level excludes 95% of female applicants due to their inability to reach it.

            There are physical differences between genders. That being represented shouldn’t be an issue.

          • Doesn’t Israel have female front line troops? I’m not interested in weighing into the debate per se but just suggesting it could be possible.

          • I’m all for anyone being a soldier/whatever if they meet the strength/fitness requirements.

            I wouldn’t. If a female can, awesome. Doing the job should be the only discriminator

      • Thanks derp for showing your lack of intelligence. I was making a comparison that teemo obviously picked up on unlike you.

        Men are built to fight women are men to spit out babies, thats pretty much how it works in gears of war. So yes the entire idea that a women would be on the front lines in the game is not just absurd its stupid feminist crap to the extreme. There is a time and place for this and whingeing about not having a female lead in a clearly male driven role is neither.

        There are plenty of games that have female leads and probably alot that have male leads that could also have females in the lead, however gears is most definitely not one of them.

        Since you can’t seem to differentiate between real life an d video game i’ll spell it out for you. GEAR IS ABOUT REAL LIFE, hurp a derpa. Gears is a sci fi take on us the human race in the near future. So my talking about weak females not being suited to front lines (just like they are NOT ALLOWED in 1st world countries) is entirely an accurate representation. Then add that to gears where every man is super human over the top and this difference is accentuated.

        So yes I am 100% justified in saying the idea of female lead for gears is stupid and absurd and mighty un-realistic, its not chauvinist if its the truth, ffs these wanna be white knights need to get off their high horses.

        So no this post is not relevent, its not a worth topic for gears (maybe other games) but sure as hell not for gears of war.

        • You said that Marcus doesn’t look like a ‘real life’ male, and that the men in the game are ‘super human over the top’ etc. which is true! But who’s to say the females can’t be bigger and stronger in Gears of War than they are in ‘reality’ as well? Why can’t they also be more super human and over the top and fight in the front line? It is after all a sci-fi game… it’s not realistic.

          To be honest, I don’t care that there isn’t a female main character. I just think if they actually wanted to develop one at some point, it definitely wouldn’t be ‘ridiculous’ – as you put it. A lot of things in video games are technically ‘ridiculous’ compared to real life. Thats half the fun! 🙂

          • But as i stated, for a “female” to be lead it would have to be made just as big burly and butch as a real man. Hence there being really no point.

            @ mc derp yeah you should read it “if they make the physical requirements” So yeah only the super butch or genetically blessed women can still get in, because as someone stated before 95% of fire fighter women can’t make the cut, i imagine the military cut being similar if not more demanding.

            so we are back in a loop its still a ridiculous thing to consider, because marcus and the like are the super duper crem dela creme spec ops guys if I’m not mistaken (even in military s with women none have ever made that cut). So again if there was a women she would have to be, to fit into the gears world and be a proverbial hulk and once that staged is reached what is really the point?

            As i said for gears, to complain over the lack of female lead is utter nonsense. Patricia needs to learn what real issues are because this most certainly isn’t one of them (nor is pokemon racism…)

          • So just because you’re not into it means that noone should have it?

            It’s a game. People play games. If ppl want to play as chicks then for gods sake let them!

            All of my fave characters in Skyrim have been female. If I have to stare at someone’s arse for 60hrs to finish a game, then I’m going to make it a nice looking arse.

            And that’s exactly what I did. Now I actually feel weird about making a barbarian character and having to watch him lug around the game. It seems kinda… gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

          • Never said there was anything wrong with it, I just stated patricias rants about everything being secret sexist racist or otherwise discriminatory against any minority in existence are beyond stupid and a waste of space, they also most certainly do not belong on a games new website (im not reading some yahoo’s blog, this should not be here) You can’t whinge about there being no female lead, in a near 99% male role. Females are in the game, they are in the best role that fits them within the games lore/ universe, it just happens that, in gears of war, that role is not the spec ops super team that saves the world. So get the f over it.

            Like seriously, its the same as me kicking up a shit over lara croft being female its ridiculous and asinine. These sodding feminists think that just because “wahhh equal rights” that as soon as a female verison is suggested/shot down its an instant sexism alert, its not. All she is doing is making a mountain out of an actual hole, its not even a mole hill.

          • so basically you’re reinforcing that women should only be depicted as eye candy exclusively to appease the male audience in video games?

          • “she would have to be a proverbial hulk” – Whats the point? Well, you get to play as a macho-woman! 😉 An entirely unique female character for the gaming world. Theres heaps of macho men extremes, why would a woman version be pointless? I don’t see it as redundant, it’s just a different type of female character in comparison to what everyone is used to.

      • What about exceptional females though? If they can pass the physical requirements, shoudn’t they be allowed to join?

        Otherwise it’s straight up discrimination, not doubts about it.

        • Totally.

          Equality should mean “If you can lift X and do Y you’re in”. If that means more of either gender get whatever role, that’s fine.

          I’d love to see that across the board – true equality.

          • Me too. You should be given things because of your ability. Period.

            I know some MMA chicks who are seriously tough. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’d be really effective on the battlefield, if that’s what they chose to do.

    • I don’t want to get pulled into whether I agree with this post or not, but it does make me wonder: do those women who want to play as women in shooters actually want to play the sort of woman who participates in front line combat – i.e. unusually muscular and bulky, shaved head? Or do they want to play characters like Lilith from Borderlands?

      • As a woman, to be honest, I don’t mind either way. Muscular and bulky, or Lilith, I’ve played as both character types at some point, and enjoy it equally. It doesn’t make a difference, it just depends on the game and it’s context. Not all female characters in games have to be dainty and pretty, having muscular female characters just adds diversity.. diversity which we do see in all humans in real life. We often see that diversity in male characters but female characters in games seem to be highly stereotyped to one character type.

        But I must say, having the option to play as a female lead every once in the while is pretty fantastic. It’s refreshing! 🙂

    • That last bit’s not true, I liked playing as Bernie because she was a pretty great character in the books. Also, her voice annoyed the shit out of my friends, so that was an added bonus.

    • Female leads in a combat situation do not need to be macho. Look at Samus Aran from Metroid. Perfect figure and not macho at all.

  • I always thought the demographic for GoW was mainly 13-15 year old boys who are still trying to define their masculinity and therefore won’t want to play a game where they play as a girl.

  • Yeah a female, better make her non white too, has to be of a minority group, that way we can kill two birds with one stone.
    Oh wait… better make her gay too. Can’t forget that.
    There are a lot of games with female protagonists. we don’t have to change every game.
    If any game has male protagonist, there’s something wrong?

    Gears might not be suited to a female protagonist but we better just do it anyway because if we don’t we’ll be supporting the idea that women can only make babies and nothing else.
    Plus there’s nothing tougher than pushing a massive headed miniature out of your nether regions. SERIOUSLY how is that not tough? giving birth is brutal.

  • Dunno. In the Gears cannon, isn’t humanity on the verge of extinction, with women being protected as they’re the only ones who can propagate the race?

    There’s a justification there for males being expendable, if true, and therefore the Gears.

  • Why not a male Tomb Raider? Why is this game in particular even an issue? We can talk broadly but there have literally only been TWO GoW storylines, one with Marcus and one with Baird. To me, there isn’t even remotely any fuel to point the finger at GoW. I mean it’s a hard pill for you to swallow i know but sometimes you don’t put in certain things just because. I mean you’re kind of saying that creative integrity always has to take a backseat to equality, that WAIT! Forget the story, let’s change our direction and swap out our established character with someone else because equality. Let’s have a female James Bond! Let’s have a female Superman! Let’s have a female Thor! BECAUSE EQUALITY.

    I mean seriously, i’ve said it before; your general argument is always valid. That women and people of differing sexual orientations should absolutely be better-represented in the medium. ABSOLUTELY. But pointing the finger in every which direction does nothing for your cause. Especially at GoW. There’s so much else wrong with the story and it’s presentation that when you immediately point the finger at SEXISM in GEARS OF WAR, i find offensive and irritating. I feel like i’m not a sexist guy at all, i agree with the general outlook but I feel like if I ever made a game with a male protagonist in mind, Patricia will write an article about why MY STORY should be about a woman instead of a man and that i’m ignorant because that seems to be what equality means to her.

  • Do you think maybe they haven’t done it because they just don’t feel like it? Because they feel they have done well with a male character and don’t want to balls up the style of writing of the main character?

    I’m not even against having a female protag. Last Mass Effect playthrough I played I played as a female protagonist. But why the hell does it matter? I don’t care if my protagonist is male or female so long as the writing is good. I’m getting a strange feeling that Patricia is implying that they’re being sexist or something stupid like that. A game developer does not need to have at least one game with a female protag to prove their integrity.

    And at the end of the day that’s what matters to me. If a character is female to improve the plot, then fine by me. If the protag is male to improve the plot, so be it. That’s all I care about. I care about the game itself. I care nothing for these people using video games as an outlet for their social commentary and first world problems.

  • WHY NOT MAKE JAMES BOND A WOMAN??!! seriously patricia, find something else to write about other than these bullshit sexist witch-hunt rants.

  • I’m the furthest thing to a misogynist or anti-feminist but… Jesus Christ these Patricia Hernandez articles. There’s a fine line between ‘Yay! Equal rights!’ and being insufferable by nit-picking at completely artificial issues of your own creation. This is a non-story, stop trying to make an article out of it.

  • Go play Tomb Raider, or suck it up and deal with it.

    BTW Patricia, it’s good to see you’re growing as a journalist, by always repeating the same issue in every single one of your articles… bravo!

  • People write their stories with a certain kind of character in mind not only to appeal to a certain audience, but because that character fits in with that story. In this case, that would be a male over a female because of the universe the game takes place in. Personally I think it would take away from the integrity of a story and its characters if a story-teller just added in a different kind character just for the sake of appeasing people who would be offended by the lack of that kind of character. I would rather play as a male lead in a well written story than as a female lead who has been shoe-horned in.

  • Does it really matter if Gears of War in particular doesn’t have a female lead in a future game? It’s already had a trilogy, it has a prequel coming up (which has two female characters acc. to Wikipedia) and has already established itself as a “Band of Brothers” type game about manly bromances. To put a female lead in at this point would just seem like pandering. Who knows though, with two females in the squad in Judgement, Epic may give them centre stage at points throughout the campaign.

  • Here’s an idea, let the player define their character, like mass effect or dragon age, in every game out. Sure, game companies need to do a few voices, but damn, if volition can do it for saints row 3 and it can be the most crass thing on the block then why can’t other games? Games aren’t books and movies, they are better when we can identify more with the protagonist, and what better way then making them like us, or as different from us as we can imagine?

    The interactive nature of games would be heightened by giving players more choice, not restricting it. Developers, let us choose out avatar to interact with your story. You can sell us more skins via dlc, more voice packs, you win, we win 🙂

    Personally, I thought the article was great, we need to question why the games industry doesn’t have broader ranges of characters from diverse genders and backgrounds. If its because it won’t sell, then we can talk about it, but simply shouting down writers for raising the topic is just reactionary and gets us nowhere in understanding why certain races and genders aren’t in more games regularly. These are topics that make games relevant to more people, and we should have more of them, not less.

    Finally, I’d love to see a female James Bond. If I had a daughter I think a hard drinking, “man”inizer, with a license to kill would be a great role model for her. It works for us guys so why not?

  • Going to be honest here. Women can’t “be on the front lines” like men can in the Gears of War universe. They need to be like Anya and Bernie.

    Anya was at Command giving intel to the ground forces. When the shit hit the fan she went to the front lines. I’m fine with her bring there, but not with chainsawing people. Not because women -shouldn’t- do that, but they can’t do that. Only reason Marcus, Dom, and Cole can do it is because they are walking tanks. Baird shouldn’t be able to do that either.

    Bernie was a sniper. She didn’t chainsaw people. Even though in the books she DID, but at her age and lack of muscle, it wouldn’t be possible.

    As for Sam…. That was the the problem with her. She was trying to at like she had the body type to do the same thing men do. Which wouldn’t be possible.

    They couldn’t just not “let” the women chainsaw people because then no one would play as them. Which is stupid. They HAVE to let them do everything a man can do because of balance of the game. It’s just not canon to allow them to be in that place or allowed to do such super-human abilities.

    Now I’m ALL for women being in video games. I sometimes play as one in my games when I just hate how the men look. Like in Kingdom of Amalar is a good example. I couldn’t stand any of the male models so I went for a female. I also don’t have a problem like some men do when it comes to being “forces” to play a female character. Like League of Legends or a fighting game like Street Fighter. If the play style is what I like, I don’t care what sex it is.

    What I’m trying to say is, it’s fine to have women in the game, but don’t pretend that they can do -everything- a man can do. Some women just can not. I can not actually chainsaw a person in half because I do not have muscles. Even if I had the muscles my illness would keep me from doing it as well. There ARE some women who could because they worked hard to get their muscles and bodies perfect. But that is VERY rare and none of the women in the game Gears of war are rioded like Marcus, Cole , etc etc.

    My point is that having a female lead in the Gears of War universe wouldn’t work as well as supporters would hope. They would have to make the woman be jacked up and look kind of like a man. Then people would cry out that she isn’t a super model. So, we’d be in the same spot where we started at.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!