Mass Effect 3 Writer: More People Should Be Creating Complex Female Video Game Characters

Illustration for article titled Mass Effect 3 Writer: More People Should Be Creating Complex Female Video Game Characters

We so often receive dismally sexist news from the wide world of pixelated galavanting that a gem like the recent blog post from Mass Effect 3 scribe Ann Lemay feels especially precious.


Lemay, who is largely responsible for increasing the importance of the character Nyreen Kandros in the latest Mass Effect installment, explained that she had no trouble with developer BioWare when she set about creating a more nuanced female video game character, and that is exactly how things should be across the entire industry. Writing on Electronic Arts' website, Lemay explained what happened after she suggested expanding the originally bland role laid out for Nyreen:

In all of my years in the videogame industry, this request process was the simplest and smoothest I'd ever gone through, particularly for the creation of a significant female character. There had already been a great deal of foundation work done by a lot of people at BioWare beforehand, when it came to the creation of a female turian. With the budget set aside for Nyreen, everyone involved in her creation, from character concept to modelizing her to bringing her to life in game, threw themselves into the work with great enthusiasm and dedication. In doing this, we ended up with a DLC that, should the player choose to play as the female Commander Shepard, features a triumvirate of interesting, diverse, and powerful female characters. And it was never an issue.

See how easy that can be? Creating complex female video game (or, fuck, movie) characters shouldn't be challenging because women are all over the place. It's not like women are this rare branch of humanity that only three people have ever had any interaction with — they're more than half of everyone. Why shouldn't they be trudging through galaxy after galaxy, vaporizing aliens and shouting catchphrases? Unfortunately, the kind of support Lemay received is rare enough to make us all take note, but, as she says, this is just the way the gaming industry should be, everywhere, all the time:

Creating diverse and engaging female characters-or any character that isn't both white and male-should not be such an issue. If we can move beyond the resistance to such characters in our games, both as non-player characters and as main protagonists, I honestly believe that we'll end up with richer narratives and a broader audience, and the industry ends up with a bigger and more interesting playground.

It's a win-win all around.

I feel like this is as an appropriate moment as any to wonder what the alien stoner game ToeJam & Earl would have been like if the two main characters were lady stoner aliens, but nobody "wins" by playing ToeJam & Earl, a nostalgic pizza box better left unturned. We can fight video game sexism in other ways, like by making a Tomb Raider game that doesn't hyper-sexualize its main character.

Mass Effect 3 writer: creating engaging female characters "shouldn't be such an issue" [PC Gamer]

[Ann Lemay, Mass Effect]


I Still Dream

I had never seriously played games before starting the Mass Effect series six months ago, and still haven't really found any others that I like anywhere near as much, because I've never encountered any that actually let you shape your character as a human being to the extent that Mass Effect does. I'm a guy, but I had little trouble deciding to play as female Shepard because that option is so much rarer to get—and I'm so glad I did.

My Shepard is a complicated and compelling leader, a reluctant but decisive warrior who will give anyone the chance to walk away but will never allow oppression and evil to continue, someone who translated the horrific trauma of seeing all her comrades slaughtered around her into a burning determination that, come hell or high water, no matter how much struggle it takes, (to quote my favorite Doctor Who episode) "just this once—everybody lives!"

A huge part of being able to achieve that level of immersion is that Jennifer Hale's voice acting is just stellar, and none of the clips I've seen with male Shepard get anywhere close to that level of passion and commitment. It saddens me that only something like 20% of ME players play as FemShep, because they seriously don't know what they're missing.