At E3 2013, you’re more likely to play games as a car than as a woman


If you haven’t seen or heard about everything that happened at E3 this week, you have either been living under a rock, or were ambushed by OUYA fans outside the venue and blocked from entering. If you haven’t heard that the event was pretty abysmal at highlighting any games with female protagonists, you’re probably either just not really all that into video games, or you’re an angry nerd with your fingers in your ears.

To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember much of the first conference – Microsoft’s – being left too angry for rational thought after the creepy rape allusion smack talk that was made to a female gamer during a live demonstration of beat-em-up Killer Instinct. Even if we ignore the fact that telling a woman to “just let it happen, it’ll be over soon” is pretty much the definition of Not Okay, you would have thought that Microsoft would have remembered last year’s sexual harassment of Miranda Pakozdi during a prominent fighting game tournament, and her harasser’s later comments that “sexual harassment is part of [the] culture” of fighting games, and as such, tried to maybe disprove that claim.

Nope! I went to bed angry, and woke up to more idiocy – this time in the form of the latest bile directed at Anita Sarkeesian, of Tropes vs Women fame. After pointing out the distinct lack of female protagonists at Microsoft’s E3 conference, Sarkeesian was bombarded with tweets from angry gamers telling her to shut up, to stop being “retarded and bitchy,” and to stop pushing her “feminist agenda” on video games.

Alongside all the insults, threats, and frothing cries of frustrated nerds were comments like “they’ve just announced Mirror’s Edge 2, are you happy now, feminists?” Well, actually, no. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mirror’s Edge, and I’m incredibly excited for the sequel, but one game does not solve all the problems that the games industry seems to have with female protagonists. I could talk for much longer on this topic, but instead I think I’m just going to show you the data.

I went through all of the games that were talked about in the big five E3 2013 conferences – that’s Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo – and counted how many games have exclusively female protagonists.

It’s four.

This compares to a whopping 49 titles that had exclusively male protagonists; 22 titles that let you pick between male and female, or that let you play as your own avatar; 14 titles with non-gendered protagonists; and 9 titles that I was unable to conclude whether or not they had any female playable characters.

Not only do these numbers show the great divide between male and female-led games – there are over 12 times more male than female protagonists – but they also, tragically, highlight the sad truth pointed out in the title of this post. At E3 2013, there are more games in which you play as a car than in which you play as a woman.

Despite the fact that nearly 50% of gamers are women, this year’s E3 games with male protagonists outnumber those with female protagonists by 12 to 1. Not only are women barely represented in these games, but with three of those four female protagonists being thin, pretty, and white, there is even less diversity in their representation.

One of the replies to Anita Sarkeesian’s tweet accused her of being an “ungrateful bitch.” I’m very excited about a number of the games announced at E3, but if pointing out ways to improve the industry – by not ignoring literally half of its consumer base – makes me an ungrateful bitch, then so be it. I’m still going to play games, I’m still going to love playing games, but I’m not going to stop with the “feminist agenda” until the gender split is both equal and diverse.

Heck, right now, I’d settle for just more playable female characters than playable cars.

Below is the breakdown of my research, with all titles mentioned in each of the five conferences.

Games with exclusively a female protagonist:
1. Mirror’s Edge 2
2. Beyond: Two Souls
3. Transistor
4. Bayonetta 2

Games with exclusively a male protagonist:
1. Metal Gear Solid 5
2. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
3. Ryse
4. Sunset Overdrive
5. Quantum Break
6. D4
7. Dead Rising 3
8. The Witcher 3
9. Battlefield 4
10. Black Tusk
11. Halo 5
12. Titanfall
13. NBA Live 14
14. Madden 25
15. FIFA 14
16. UFC
17. Splinter Cell: Blacklist
18. The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot
19. South Park: The Stick of Truth
20. Watch Dogs
21. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
22. The Last of Us
23. Puppeteer
24. Rain
25. Batman: Arkham Origins
26. Killzone: Shadow Fall
27. Infamous: Second Son
28. Knack
29. Mercenary Kings
30. Octodad
31. Secret Ponchos
32. Ray’s The Dead
33. Outlast
34. Oddworld: New n Tasty
35. Final Fantasy XV (might have playable female characters, but the trailer was all-dude)
36. Kingdom Hearts III
37. NBA 2k14
38. Mad Max
39. Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate
40. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut
41. Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
42. Shin Megami Tensei IV
43. Sonic Lost World
44. Ducktales: Remastered
45. Mutant Mudds Deluxe
46. Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails
47. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
48. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
49. X

Games that let you choose to be male or female, that let you create a character, or that let you play as your own avatar:
1. Kinect Sports Rivals
2. Dark Souls 2
3. Killer Instinct (probably)
4. Minecraft (though the footage showed only Steve, the gendered-male avatar mascot)
5. Project Spark (presumably)
6. Dragon Age: Inquisition (I hope)
7. Rocksmith
8. Rayman Legends
9. Just Dance 2014
10. Don’t Starve (although apparently the female characters are unlockable acheivements and not immediately available)
11. Elder Scrolls Online
12. Pokemon X and Y
13. Super Mario 3D World
14. Mario Kart 8
15. Wii Party U
16. Wii Fit U
17. Disney Infinity
18. Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
19. Shovel Knight (although I can’t find “gender swapped” footage, the game’s Kickstarter promises it as a stretch goal, which was successfully met)
20. A World of Keflings
21. The Wonderful 101
22. Super Smash Bros

Games in which the player characters have no discernible gender, or are non-human or non-sentient and have no sex:
1. World of Tanks
2. Forza 5
3. Crimson Dragon
4. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
5. Peggle 2
6. Need For Speed: Rivals
7. The Crew
8. Rabbid’s Invasion
9. Gran Turismo 6
10. Drive Club
11. Galak-Z
12. Cloudberry Kingdom
13. Coaster Crazy Deluxe
14. Spin The Bottle – Bumpie’s Party

Games in which I could not determine whether there would be any non-male playable characters:
1. Below
2. Star Wars: Battlefront
3. Trials Fusion
4. Tom Clancy’s The Division
5. The Order – 1886 (Put in this section because the E3 preview was purely cinematic with no gameplay, but ‘The Order’ had three men and one woman, and looks like it could be a multiplayer game. I’m hopeful.)
6. Destiny
7. Disney’s Planes
8. Skylander’s SWAP force (I know the original Skylanders had some femae figures, but all of these seem to be either male or non-gendered… which more often than not, also means male.)
9. Ballpoint Universe

Please let me know if I have made any mistakes so I can amend the list.


6 thoughts on “At E3 2013, you’re more likely to play games as a car than as a woman

  1. you can play as Dixie Kong in Tropical Freeze, and I think you can change your gender in South Park. that said, it’s still disproportionate. i’d definitely like to see more female main characters, but people are listening. Nintendo at least is on it, almost every game they showed at E3 lets you play as a female character.

    • Thank you for that information! Nintendo’s conference did have quite a few games that either let you pick between a male or female character, or that let you use your mii to play. A lot of people are excited at the inclusion of Princess Peach in Super Mario 3D World, it’s the first time she’s been a playable character in a “main” Mario game in 25 years, I think!

  2. Pingback: E3 2014 and Representation – Only four female-lead titles for the second year in a row | Lich, Please

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