Saturday, June 20, 2015

E3 2015: The Year of the Female Protagonist.

Not many new games were announced at E3 2015.  Rarer still are new games that aren't just sequels, but of the new - truly new - games that were announced, there is a distinct trend.

Hellblade (left) and Mirror's Edge 2 (right) were announced in 2014.

In the past decade or so, there has been a heartening swell in the number of triple-A games with female leads.  They remain few, and far between - Mirror's Edge, Remember Me, Alice: Madness Returns, WET, Telltale's The Walking Dead Season 2 - but ever so slowly, we're approaching a place where fifty percent of the population may be represented in fifty percent of our gaming heroes.

Think about the new game announcements from this year's E3.  Name me a new, single-player IP with a male protagonist.

I can't name one.

Among most returning franchises - Hitman or Gears of War or Shadow Warrior - big changes aren't happening.  I wouldn't want them to - Agent 47 is iconic, to me - but the new triple-A single-player games are led by ladies.

All of them.  And some of them are usurping their franchise's male hero.

Dishonored 2 - the hugely-anticipated sequel from Bethesda - switched out the male heroes of the first game and its DLC for Empress Emily Caldwin. Coming to PS4, One and PC.

A new NieR title was announced by Square Enix - almost nothing but concept art was shown - and the only human figure in the entire trailer is the woman pictured above.  Coming for PS4.

ReCore from Microsoft and Keiji Inafune, about a girl and her robo-companion in a vast wasteland.  Coming for Xbox One.

Beyond Eyes is a gorgeous water-colored adventure game about a blind girl searching for her friend.  Coming to Xbox One.

In Eitr, the Shield Maiden seeks to purify all nine branches of Yggdrasil, the world tree, of the black taint of the trickster.  Coming to PS4.

A little girl must face her nightmares in Hush.  Coming to Xbox One.

The "Vengeful Heroine" of turn-based stealth platformer Ronin will be assassinating her way on to PS4, Vita and PC.

The split among indie games is pretty much fifty-fifty (when one accounts for games with gendered protagonists), and multiplayer games either favour a gender mix or men - but among new, single-player triple-A IPs, it is a complete sweep.  Every big, new single-player game announced at E3 2015 is starring a woman.

How awesome is that?

Horizon: Zero Dawn
Coming to PS4.


  1. Like... so awesome. Tens of millions of triple A dollars flying in the face of gators.

    Let the healing begin.

    1. I think sales numbers will be interesting - especially in the cases of Horizon and Dishonored.

      With Dishonored, Emily is sharing the spotlight with Corvo - you can play as either, I'm told - but it's a bold move to let the game's introduction focus entirely on her. So what we've got is an established franchise switching its focus to a female lead - will that impact sales?

      Horizon might be more difficult to gauge. New IPs always have an uphill climb - no one else has Activision's hype-engine budget - but if it does well (well enough to legitimize a sequel), it could be an important next step.