In Dishonored 2, people panic when Emily Kaldwin enters a room. When she’s caught sneaking around the docks, NPCs yell out in terror. It’s a special feeling to play a fear-inducing woman in a game, and yesterday at E3, Arkane Studios’ co-creative director explained to Engadet that, if it wasn’t for criticism of Dishonored 1‘s women, gamers may have never experienced Kaldwin’s badarsery.
In an interview with Feminist Frequency founder and media critic Anita Sarkeesian for Engadget, Arkane Studios’ Harvey Smith said that Emily Kaldwin, Dishonored 2‘s playable co-protagonist who featured heavily in its marketing, was a direct response to complaints that Dishonored 1‘s women were bland or offensive.
In 2012, Feminist Frequency tweeted that while Dishonored 1 featured “many truly brilliant elements… sadly representation of women are not among them. #Disappointing.” Sarkeesian’s 2015 video “Women as Background Decoration” showed several clips from Dishonored 1 in which the player peeks up sex workers’ skirts, throws them against walls or murders them.
Yesterday at E3, Smith himself recalled that “Every woman in Dishonored 1 is either a servant, a prostitute, a witch, a queen or a little girl,” which he describes as “not an intentional choice”. So, Arkane Studios, in his words, “internally sat down” and made a “deliberate” decision to include more interesting roles for women. Kaldwin would help promote “more plausible balance in the [Dishonored 2] world”.
Discussing that decision to make Emily Kaldwin playable (and fearsome), Smith cited Feminist Frequency’s tweet, saying he’d “take it to my grave”.
Dishonored 2‘s newly-announced DLC “Death of the Outsider” will star Billie Lurk, another of its badarse women.