A Game Creator's Argument For Only Letting You Play As A Boy

From what I've seen of it, The Puppeteer is a delightful upcoming PlayStation 3 game starring a boy in a cartoon play. Its creative director, Gavin Moore, doesn't believe players should have the option of playing as a girl.

"Why do we want girls to play girls and why do we want boys to play boys?" Moore asked freelance reporter Konstantinos Fotopoulos during a recent press tour for his game in Hamburg. "So I should as a game creator start pandering to public opinion?"

The game developer and reporter were discussing the increased conversation among critics and journalists (that, yes, has included some Kotaku work) regarding the representation of women in games. We'd most recently talked to Nintendo's lead game designer Shigeru Miyamoto about both the rise of playable female characters in Nintendo games and the creator's thoughts on the relevance of the gender of his gaming heroes.

The full discussion involving Moore's stance on these isues is on Fotopoulos' blog, as is an audio recording of it.

There are certainly strong opinions about whether or not more games should give players the chance to play as characters other than the usual default male hero. Some offer the open to play as a female character. Some don't. And some that don't certainly risk losing players who want that option.

For Moore, however, he feels the creative intent of his game is sound and that he's entitled to only give his players a boy to play. And he has seen both boys and girls enjoying playing as his male hero in a game that he also says has numerous strong female characters.

"I think we should be making what we want to make, and if somebody is upset by that than please don’t buy the product," he said. "I grew up under strong women, I know how the women are strong and I love women. I think they are wonderful, but, I’m not going to change my creative vision over something because somebody tells me that that’s what’s important now. Because I don’t think that’s important. I tested this game with kids. Girls and boys. Not one of them has mentioned it. Not one of them cares. Now all of them had fun."

You should read the rest of the interview on Fotopoulos' site. You may or may not agree with Moore, but you can't knock his willingness to engage it in a civil and thoughtful manner.

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Comments

    “I think we should be making what we want to make, and if somebody is upset by that than please don’t buy the product,”

    Hooray. If the creator only wants to provide a male character option, it's their work and they are completely entitled to do so, same is true for female character only and the option to choose between both.

      But that's not fair! I want to play Tomb Raider as a male. We could call him Lars Croft!

    He got a focus group of kids? So I guess we'll soon be seeing a re-tooling of the game which gives the main character a grizzled look with an unshaven face in a world full of grey and brown war battles against a terrorist leader?

    Honestly, I couldn't care less about the gender of the main character, so long as they are well written and fit into the story and universe of the game. I doubt the developers sit down and say to one another "we're making the protagonist male because the majority of gamers are male". I think the gender of the protagonist is chosen as it fits in with the story the developer wants to tell, and personally I think a great story and well written characters are more important than being able to choose the gender of the protagonist.

      You're right - keeping the original vision and quality is more important than keeping everyone happy (especially considering the later is generally impossible). I think that keeping the option open for a male and female protagonist can make it harder to write the story cohesively - they need to consider different dialogue for every character that interacts with them, potentially diluting the story and the nuances of the characters, as well as the interactions between them. I'm not saying for a moment that that can't be done, but resources (including time) spent here are taken from somewhere else.

      I'm neither for or against player-gender choices as a whole - video games are (or at least have the right to be) an art form, which shouldn't have to be twisted to fit the politically-correct agenda that seems to be flying around. Are they going to provide 2 versions of each movie, depending on the gender people want the protagonist will have? I'm all for equality and choice of identity, but this is a personal choice for the author to make - that's all there is to it, IMO.

    There are only a few instances in which a story would be so strict that it wouldnt allow for you to play as whatever gender. People obviously like to project an image of themselves as an avatar most times as it personalises the gaming experience, so when females don't have that seemingly trivial option, it does remind them that gaming is a male dominated culture (even if it is progressing to being more accepting of female gamers, gaming has always been male dominated - just cause a few games have female main characters doesn't mean everythings great now). This developer has the freedom not to listen to the public but he's not being rock or awesome cause he ignores gender, in fact, he's being a bit ignorant. If he made the main character a female, then he would be taking an actual risk.

    do men complain that they can't play as a man in tomb raider?

      They would prob argue because Lara croft is sexualised males have no issue as playing as lara croft or we get off on it.
      People love to rationalize an agenda.

        What's sad is that you're probably right. I'm really stoked for beyond: two souls, and not once have I heard anyone complain saying 'oh wtf why cant I play as a male protagonist'

          All good points. I referred to Larry Croft and Leisure Suit Lara in a separate post. The character development of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (reboot) wouldn't work if she was a man, neither would Leisure Suit Larry.

          I'm happy to sit back and enjoy the strong female protagonists coming out in games, recently. Nilin in Remember Me was great. Not only female, but of Ethiopian, Indian and French heritage. The most beautiful thing about all of this, is it was set in a far flung future where none of this even mattered.

          Ellen Page's mocap acting would be funny to watch if Jodie became Joe.

    I'm have split opinions about this.

    On one hand I'm tired of hearing people demand that game designers water down their initial vision with political correctness. Games are designed to be an escape, but these demands do nothing but break the fourth wall when it comes to immersion. The worst case, most recently, was Massive Chalice including homosexual marriage because of backer demand. While I have nothing against gay people, the marriage in the game is about passing on genes(stats/skills) to your children. Are they now also going to include surrogacy or IVF for the gay marriages? In a medieval game this obviously wouldn't make sense (surrogacy kinda...). It's basically like "INSERT ANALOGY TO MODERN DAY" which completely ruins the fantasy for me.

    On the other hand, videogames definitely need more diversity. Not because I have some sort of social acceptance need the must be met, but because there is so much more to draw from. Gaming libraries are saturated with dudebro shooters and the like. Thankfully, indie developers are on the rise with some inventive and ingenious concepts and I can see them having even greater influence in this coming generation.

    I hope we will break this 'games as an art-form' mold soon, but Pupeteer looks to be taking great strides in this direction - so lets not bog them down with political correctness, yeah?

    Last edited 13/07/13 6:30 pm

      I agree. Political correctness these days is getting waaay out of hand, especially when it comes to industries like gaming that are male dominated (therefore clearly sexist).

      I definitely think there need to be more great female lead characters in gaming but forcing every single gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, etc into every game isn't the right way to go about it. For games like Mass Effect and Skyrim that are all about you and your choices, sure, there probably should be options. For linear storylines and the like...no, let the Devs do what they want.

      "the marriage in the game is about passing on genes(stats/skills) to your children."
      That may well be what the function was DESIGNED for, but I seriously doubt all players would be using it for that. I think there are plenty of gamers out there who'd use the marriage as their own way to decide what their characters are like and who their characters like, and giving them the option to let same-sex characters wed simply gives them the choice to fulfil their want to see two personalities together as they desire. Who cares if it's not functional in game, if it makes the world they're creating better for them?

    I don't see how the game would be harmed or compromised if players were given the choice, honestly. His response was almost violent and extremely childish - "It's MY game and I get to say what goes in it!" All people want is to be able to pick for themselves. If you're in a situation where having a male (or female) lead is specifically important for plot reasons, then fair enough, but players love choice, especially when deciding what they're going to be represented by in-game, and multiple options never hurt anyone.

      You say violent and childish, but really your projecting your opinion on it. Other people however dont see it that way and trying to force your opinion that "unless its for plot reasons you must ensure a player gender choice" onto anybody is just not going to work and REALLY shouldnt be something you should advocate on anything even if you dont see the harm or compromisation that may or may not happen.
      If a game developer/designer/producer/whatever doesnt want to offer a female or male gender option, that is their right as its their idea and their project.
      (Not every game on the market is going to be female oriented, let alone LGBT friendly.
      Personally, i like it when you can play as any gender, have same sex marriage all the bells and whistles, but i dont ask nor expect every game to have it.)
      Just like as a consumer you now have the option to not purchase said product because of your views.

        I'm not saying that it should be mandatory or anything, but the fact is he tried to justify not having the choice to play as a girl by simply declaring that it was his game and he didn't want to and if people don't want to play as a boy then they shouldn't play his game. It's a selfish opinion to hold. I would ask him if the game itself would suffer at all for the inclusion of choice, because all that seems to be hurt so far is his "creative vision", i.e. ego.

        And I say this as a director of plays and musicals so I know when someone's being an egotistical jerk, because I am often guilty of it myself.

          You do it then. Finish writing a play or a musical. Get the plot sorted and all the lines right, enter from stage left, blah blah blah. Finish the product to your complete satisfaction, and now calmly listen to some ignert tell you why your character is the wrong gender, and for the sake of their preference, you should rewrite. I bet you'll love the experience.

            I've written a musical and many plays, and had them subject to harsh criticism. And you know what? Sometimes, in fact quite often, people were right! Their suggestions were for the better, and changing what I had in mind ended up making a better product that more people loved. It's getting over your ego and the idea that your vision is perfect that creates a better product. Always.

            (Also comparing games to theatre isn't exactly a fair comparison since theatre involves the presentation of a story that isn't influenced by audience members while games are actively participated in by players and everyone will have a different experience and people like being able to shape their own experiences and decide how their story plays out, so once again we come back to the convenience of choice which keeps getting conveniently ignored.)

    Well, I fucking won't well play it then, will I?

    I don't think I'd be able to articulate an answer because of disbelief at the question even being asked. Does he also have to make the options for the characters to come from any variety of ethnic or sociolinguistic demographics? Would that please all the equality crusaders out there? Or should he instead be able to make something that he actually intended to make without everyone foisting their preferences on his product? If you want a game where you can play as a boy, a girl, a ladyboy, the gay pope of rainbow unicorns, then by all means make it yourself. If you can't even do that, then shut up.

    Cue the crusaders - "Waaah waaaah,, why doesn't Mario have gay marriage in it? Wah wah waaaah..."

      I agree with this. I am a gender and sexuality egalitarian. Some nice words to describe my position on all of this sociopolitical discourse.

      I don't see how all of that is relevant, though. It's a game where you play as a boy. No-one was up in arms because Tomb Raider didn't allow you to play as Larry Croft. Or Leisure Suit Lara, for that matter. I don't disagree that some people would prefer the option, but I don't see the relevance of the question to begin with, where it comes to equality. No-one is being marginalised or disadvantaged by lack of option to play your preferred gender. It's posturing and attempting to artificially swing the social pendulum at the cost of a developer's artistic license.

      Developer makes a good point. Kids don't care. And we don't have to, either.

    The logic is in the name. "The Puppeteer". I'm happy playing female characters, though I'll play a male if its available, because it's not a big deal. It's not exclusionary, it's just who the character being played happens to be. That shouldn't have to be according to the whims of the audience. Of course a game with customised character creation would be different, but not an established character.

    I hope this become a trend, you know developers sticking up for their creative right to choose the demographic for their game.

    The whiners are really high school bullies in disguise, it's not like they go out and buy these games. All they do is go around crushing the spirits of those vulnerable with a barrage of political correctness. To impress that girl or satiate their hatreds. Times haven't changed folks, it's just the scenery looks different.

      Prepare to be heavily moderated, like the previous comment stream did just because it doesn't agree with the pandering.

    I like the comments were moderated since I last read the discussion. Kotaku censoring comments that even vaguely refer to one of it's writers. That's nice work guys, really just blocking out the criticism from your readers as if it's not there will completely fix the problem.

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