Or “Let me play as a girl, dammit!”
First things first. Watch this video.
After watching that video, I had an epiphany. See, I had been following the early rumors for GTA5 and I had really bought in to the “GTA5 will have a female protagonist” rumor. I mean I really bought into it. In fact, I’m 70% more likely to be interested in picking up your game if you offer me something other than the default white dude protagonist. It’s also the main reason I picked up Shantae, for example (really guys go back that game I’ll be crushed if it doesn’t get funded), but I digress. Back to the point, I came to the realization that I had lost all* interest in playing GTA5 when they announced that the main three protagonists are all male. And before you write the comment about GTA Online and the fact that you can make girls in that or the possiblity of DLC, stop. I’ll address that a bit later on. If Rockstar had made a female led game they could have given us…
*hyperbole is one of my main forms of communication, sorry not sorry.
One of the main reasons I play video games is to have unique experiences. It’s the reason Suda51 games appeal to me. It’s also the reason I don’t play The Sims. And contrary to my user icon, I’m in fact not a cute little pink-haired Chinese girl or female at all. When I have the chance to play as a female in a game, I always take it. Sometimes the game will adapt to your choice (Fire Emblem: Awakening / Mass Effect). Sometimes it won’t really change anything (Saints Row 4). But like I say, I’m not a girl and the experience of being one even digitally appeals to me. Furthermore I’ll cop to being enough of a hipster that I’ll want to have a different experience than the default. And before you ask, my Persona 4 play through was hilarious. Plus I think that having a female protagonist would have led to a…
Let me preempt one complaint right here: I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing. I’m certain that GTA5′s story is amazing.**
That being said, I’m also certain that GTA5′s story won’t stray too far from that of previous GTA’s. Start at the bottom or somewhere close to it, make an empire, betrayal, etc., etc. Of course there’s the potential to change things up but I doubt they’ll change things up too much. That also being said, how unique of a take would it be to have a female in the role. The way girl gangs operate and the way girls in gangs are treated is completely different than that of males. Plus I’m sure you know that Rockstar had gang members voicing roles in GTA5. Is it absurd to think they could have consulted with female gangbangers to tell a story? Honestly, why the hell hasn’t Rockstar written a female protagonist yet? As a result of a fame led GTA we could have had…
**bought Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix instead, sorry still not sorry. I’ll play it later I swear!
Speaking of harassment (NSFW)… I think we can all agree that playing games on Xbox Live is an uncomfortable pit of racism and sexism. If you disagree, go back, click that link and read until you do.
Now that we all agree that XBL is an awful place, let’s all also agree that GTA5 is gonna to be the biggest monetary event of the year, bar none. I mean, it’s already made $800 million dollars day one and it hasn’t even come out everywhere (take that Activision!). This game is going to 100% make more money than anything else release in 2013, movies included. You can take that to the bank***. Everyone is going to buy GTA5. I’m not even interested and I’m buying GTA5 (eventually). One more thing: If Dan Houser is to be believed, GTA5 will last around 100 hours. Now even taking into account the fact that most gamers don’t finish their games (150+ backlog here!) we’re looking at a least a 30 hour investment here (assuming you aren’t me and play more than 10 hours). Now let just imagine that with their admittedly fantastic storytelling, Rockstar makes gamers empathize with this imaginary female protagonist and her struggles. Now it’s a bit of a stretch, but not one entirely without precedent. Did you know that CEO’s with daughters both pay and treat women better? Friends, I’m basically suggesting a gamer version of Stockholm Syndrome. They fall in love with a girl on screen and maybe, just maybe they’ll be less horribad to the ones behind the screen. And finally, female led GTA would have also led to…
***though I don’t know why you would. They’d just look at you funny. Also, banks are awful too but that’s a different article entirely.
More Female Led Games!
Let’s face it. As Tony Hawk, GTA3, Call of Duty 4, Guitar Hero, Final Fantasy VII and countless others have shown, the industry is kinda full of sheep. After the breakthrough and unprecedented success of GTA3, the easiest way to get a game approved in a pitch meeting was “It’s Grand Theft Auto but…” I mean, it even has its own Wikipedia page. GTA5 has already been a massive financial success, so I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: most publishers and even some devs don’t actually get why it is that certain games are successful. When they see Call of Duty tearing up the charts they think “Must be the gritty action shooting” and we get Metal of Honor and Spec Ops and a million other shooters. When they saw Final Fantasy VII become a huge success, suddenly there were a plethora of spiky-haired heroes wielding improbable weapons. So what do you think would happen if a GTA with a female protagonist was the biggest success of the year? Like I said, most publishers don’t get why certain games are successful. Plus, I know that there are devs that have been wanting to tell stories about female protagonists that were and are being actively blocked. I mean, they wanted WayForward to sideline Shantae for a male playable character too. If GTA5 starred a female, then not only would those devs have a much easier time getting greenlit, the gamers themselves might have less resistance to playing as a girl.
Now about GTA Online. Is it cool that you can play as a girl? Yes. Does it matter that you can play as a girl? Yes. Does being able to play as a girl change anything? Nope. Any MMOG (and let’s not mince words, GTAO is basically a heavily instanced MMOG) worth its salt will allow gender choices. It’s not so much a step forward as the avoidance of a step back. Plus, unless I missed something, the online part doesn’t really have much to do with the narrative so there’s that. The same argument applies to having a female led DLC. Plenty of people don’t buy DLC and it’s much more tempting to not buy an add-on for a game you like than to not buy the game at all. Plus there’s a number of people who wouldn’t even know that the DLC exists: why do you think The Lost and The Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony came out on disc? It certainly wasn’t because it was the cheaper option…
One last thing before I close: I want to note that I’m not saying that one of the characters in GTA5 should have been female or the the story of GTA5 could have worked with one of the characters being female. What I’m saying is that by not making a GTA with a female lead, Rockstar missed an opportunity to change the landscape of gaming forever and for the better. There has yet to be a game with massive mainstream appeal and success that has been primarily about a female character. Rockstar could have changed that and they didn’t. And I think that’s a shame.
I so look forward to your comments.