A Matter of Resources

Twyst, Gunthera1, elenielstorm, and Brinstar look at playable men in games:

The latest fad seems to be asking why there are no playable male characters in video games. We reached out to a few developers to get their thoughts on this matter:

“These boys are just not understanding what it actually takes to make a game,” one developer wrote. She went on to say, “As a game developer, I am often asked about resource management and priorities. Creating boys in games isn’t a simple thing, listen, we aren’t a sexist company, we are just realistic. It is a matter of resources and expense vs. return. Creating a character that is fundamentally different from the other characters in the game takes up memory, time, and requires unique writing, voice acting, textures, skeleton rigging and animations.”

This sentiment was mirrored in many of the other responses that were returned to us:

“We just didn’t have the resources to put Mario in New Princess Peach Wii. I mean, he doesn’t wear a skirt, he has two legs and pants. Both legs have to act independently and that is thousands of lines of code!” (even though we note that AGAIN we have to save Mario in this latest release). But even after his rescue he is not a playable character. We see this as a missed opportunity. Especially as Mario was present in other Princess Peach releases, like Unicorn Race (he even had a snazzy kilt!).

“Our game is has a lot of dialogue and text, to have a male character involves checking every line of dialogue and text to ensure correct pronoun usage, for a small number of people who are not our target market. It just doesn’t make sense for us.”

A unicorn striding majestically across a stream. A brilliant sunset lights up the landscape, and a rainbow rises above the sunset.

“Due to our commitment to a rich, detailed experience, creating a male character was just not feasible for this release. We would have to recreate every cut scene, which, may I add, are cinema quality. This would involve another voice actor, motion capture, skeletons and rigging–effectively double the size of the entire game! We already motion captured all female characters. Think of the time necessary to redo the work for males. Their gait and center of gravity are completely different. We would have to start over from scratch! Were we to do that, we wouldn’t have the realistic castle drawbridges and customizable unicorn mounts that Queen’s Quest is known for!”

“We wanted to have men in the game, we really did. But as the release date drew nearer and nearer we had to make some tough decisions. Don’t get me wrong, i love men. Who doesn’t, mirite? I love to stare at them all day long. But there just are not enough hours in the day. We would have had to design form fitting clothing, and the penis physics alone would have taken days. And of course, we would have to redesign the costume choices to show off a little skin. The flowing dresses in our games simply do not show much skin. That takes time and effort.”

“Men see enough violence in the real world that we didn’t want to have such triggering scenes. Originally there was a plan for a male character, but early builds of the game shows that it just made us uncomfortable to have bad things happen to him. No one wanted to play him or do any harm to him. We felt protective of him.”

“In the end we felt that adding a heterosexual male would be pandering to ‘political correctness.’ Just look at population statistics and you will see that the majority of people in the world are not heterosexual, white, males. But hey, we should get points for the m/m relationships, because that is just hot, mirite, ladies? We just couldn’t show that as a real relationship. It would simply take too many resources.”

“It was regretful that we weren’t able to fit a playable male into the game. But the love interest, Keith, is pretty hot! We even got a few close up chest and butt shots in there for the ladies.”

“I don’t think men were ever in the plan for our game, hardly any men buy games anyway. We would have to change the artwork to include camouflage and black just to market the game and we didn’t want to do that. We felt there were already enough ‘boy games’ out there as it is.”

“Our entire art department is filled with women. They know how to animate female hair as they see it every day… but when asked to animate men’s hair styles they were stuck. And how does one possible animate a bald head? This was simply too much of a challenge for our art department.”

“When hitting the streets we made note of the people walking past us. After extensive polling we realized that straight, white males are clearly in the minority. As such it would be nothing more than a ‘politically correct’ move to include them in our games.”

“The majority of our developers are women, so of course, they’re more familiar with women. It’s about what’s relatable, you know? Women can relate to and identify with women more easily than with men. So what comes naturally to game developers is filling a world with female NPCs. This is why, about 75% of all of the NPCs in our RPG game are female, and 25% are male. Female NPCs also have more than twice the number of lines of dialogue than male NPCs. It’s just easier to write dialogue when you’re writing dialogue for female characters. And since the majority of the population, and therefore the majority of gamers are women, we don’t see why we need to pander to niche audiences like straight, white male gamers. Just think about it. The majority of our target market are women. We’re just making characters that the majority of market can better identify with and relate to.”

Really, a lot of the replies were the same old excuses that we hear over and over.

About Twyst

spider-woman (and marvel comics) fangirl, videogame producer
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40 Responses to A Matter of Resources

  1. Lerxta says:

    I’m glad this decision was made. I don’t want the devs funneling important time into such a silly idea. I mean, we know boys don’t play hardcore games, so why take away from the REAL game just for some silly fluff?

  2. Deirdra says:

    Gee, now I feel bad that Life Flashes By isn’t going to have a male avatar option. But, you know… technical limitations!

    • Gunthera1 says:

      Maybe in your next game you can devote an NPC slot to the the greatly under represented white heterosexual male character. But, I now understand that it take a lot of pre-planning to do so.

      • Twyst says:

        And really, that is a nice-to-have, but you dont want to sacrifice features more integral to the game.

      • Deirdra says:

        Well, my main character does have a male sidekick — well, technically, his species is single-sexed, kind of like those blue aliens in that Bioware game. I figure if I’m going to animate these characters over and over, there at least needs to be one who’s pleasing to the eyes! And he’s got fairy wings too! Rawr!

  3. JoeTortuga says:

    Darn! I was really looking forward to a game with good penis physics on the Wii! I mean, my wife and I spent a lot of time unlocking the red, white, and blue thong bathing suit in Dead Or Alive: Men’s Volleyball.

    It’s why we bought the original Xbox, after all.

    Are they at least including Toadstool Faeries as playable characters in NPPW?

    • Gunthera1 says:

      I unlocked the camouflage thong in my game!

      They would have included the Toadstool Faeries but the idea did not occur to the team until too close to release date. It is very disappointing.

      • JoeTortuga says:

        The camo one is nice, but my wife & I liked the way the colors moved on the more patriotic one ;)

        Too bad about the Faeries. I figured they might have been included since they wore kilts. Double jump/flip is your friend there, if you know what I mean ;)

    • nanasuyl says:

      Oh, no, a game like this needs to be on X360 or PS3. It needs better graphics!

  4. Mantheos says:

    LOL! Very well done!

  5. Cuppycake says:

    Awesomeness, you all! Love this!

  6. Scopique says:

    You know, if you women would come down off your high horses and try some of these social games like FarmVille, you’d lean what it’s like to be a male gamer in this hobby!

  7. Thefremen says:

    This is pretty much the greatest thing. Which is good because Topeka’s latest thing today stunk.

  8. I’d feel uncomfortable shooting male characters in an FPS game, think of all the real world violence men get subjected to! Also, playing a male character would suck because they’d be slower and their hit boxes would be larger. And face it, I don’t want to play a dood if he’s not sexy, if the devs aren’t going to give him super tight pants and ginormous nads what’s the point of even putting men into games?

    (What me bitter at the FPS market cause I can’t have an AK-47/P90 and a female character? Couldn’t be! Everyone knows women don’t like war.)

    • Twyst says:

      And men would be slower too, you would have to adjust for their AGI.
      I mean, men had CONSCRIPTION, how terrible was that?

  9. Alex H says:

    I really hope some devs see this and get it. Great post everyone!

  10. Asilic says:

    I laugh so much! Thanks this article is great.

  11. karazos says:

    Bald heads are indeed difficult to animate. Great post!

  12. Ann says:

    That was awesomely done – so much love for this article. Oh so much! <3

  13. David says:

    Like for the first Crackdown, for Crackdown 2 woman agents would take too much resources the developpers could use to increase the bump-mapping of the walls or something:

    They might add them in DLC, but still.

  14. Beth says:

    And they’re still claiming ‘budget constraints’ as the reason for no female avatars, even in current games: http://www.joystiq.com/2010/04/01/crackdown-2-will-not-feature-female-agents/

  15. tekanji says:

    Where’s this “lack of playable males” that you masculinist types keep bleating about?! Games with strong male characters like Laurence Croft and Bayonett are the norm! Masculinism has been achieved so stop whining!

    • Laurence and Bayonett are pandering of the lowest form. Yes they are male characters, but they aren’t for us. They are predominatly eye candy for the majority female audience. Plus they can’t even bother to put LC in a decent game where you don’t want to throw the controller through a window. That is such a tired argument. Real good characters like Seamus from the Metroid series and Jed from BG&E are too few and far between.

      • oliemoon says:

        But even with Seamus they had to drag his character through the mud and put him in a sexy Zero Thong for female gamers to ogle.

        • Thank you, at least someone gets it on this site.

          To be fair I have to thank you for the Border House. It’s so much better than those “news” sites and their cat-calling, sexist commentors.

        • tekanji says:

          Seamus spends 99% of his time in an unattractive, feminine space suit and the *one time* the creators let his masculine side come out and play, it’s met with cries of sexism! Why do you masculinists hate sexiness?!

  16. Maverynthia says:

    Meh, people should stop complaining. Just look at all those games released by smaller companies like Atluus and NAS where you have to choose what man you want to go after. Like that one game Arnold Tornliqo, you have all those guys singing for you, you just have to protect them! They are all white and straight, as a matter of fact they all have the hots for the main woman! What more could you want!

  17. nanasuyl says:

    Can’t wait for Princess Peach Galaxy 2. I hope Mario won’t get kidnapped again! That’s all he does, he’s totally useless! Princess Peach should just give up trying to save him. All he does is look pretty and get kidnapped.

    Well, at least Mario is a good driver in Princess Peach Kart.

  18. Laurentius says:

    “We would have had to design form fitting clothing, and the penis physics alone would have taken days.”
    “And how does one possible animate a bald head? This was simply too much of a challenge for our art department.”- LOL ,brilliantly funny :D

    The grim thing is though, that this kind of irony presented in this post, is untranslateable through priviligies, as those who are reffered to :white, male, gamers would read it, in their vanity ( which is strenghten by social structures) as a compliment to their importance…

  19. madwit17 says:


    And also sad.

    It runs the gamut!

  20. no one important says:

    I’d love it if clothing options for male characters in MMOs weren’t limited to jockstraps and spandex. Seriously, who goes into battle dressed like that?

    But then, we men aren’t the real target audience for these games (even if everyone knows we do play them a lot) so I guess it’s a little unreasonable for us to expect to be given so much as the OPTION to be reasonably dressed.

    I mean, sure, these games go through the trouble of providing bajillions upon gazillions of weapons, armors, monsters, etc., but throwing in a breastplate that actually covers a man’s breast? Why bother?

    • oliemoon says:

      Sigh. The jockstraps and spandex give male characters total freedom of movement in battle. Plus, it’s like a compliment to their physical prowess: they’re so good, they don’t have to worry about covering up because no one is going to hit them anyway! It’s all the female characters that are armored from head to toe that are really being oppressed. Besides, what’s wrong with men looking sexy? No one wants to look at ugly men. You’re probably just jealous.

  21. So first I want to say: haaaaaa

    But I would also like to step outside of the satire and say that in addition to being dang funny, this is actually valuable to me. I try to remind myself to see around my privilege (since I am a hetero while male gamer), to set it aside and look at things from other perspectives. Not just in games, but everywhere.

    And it’s not easy to do – in fact, one of the things that comes with privilege (for me) is that with no effort at all I can just sort of kick back and enjoy most games, even when, were I female, I couldn’t possibly escape the feeling that on a fundamental level, the game was marginalizing my very self. And sometimes I just do that, I ignore it, pretend it’s fine, and that games are awesome, rah rah, let’s go climb Mount Olympus, etc.

    So I really enjoyed this post on a number of levels. I’ve thought about the “penis physics” thing before, trying to personalize how it feels for a woman to see something like “Breast Physics.” And when I really take in the words, close my eyes and pretend the satire is real, it allows me to kinda get a tiny bit of how it feels to see this kind of crap every day. To want to rail against it day in and day out, because it’s as personal as it gets.

  22. Heather K says:

    HAha this was a great article. Lots of laughs

    Geeze I never thought about how complicated the penis and breast physics could be lol

    -Animation for bald heads haha the only thing i can think of is random reflective shines and moving wrinkles for the older guys haha. maybe a stray hair or 2 haha.

    -Heather K

  23. Aaron says:

    also you owe me a keyboard

    and a wendy’s medium fries

    and a new set of sinuses OW GOD

  24. Truthseeker says:

    OMG This is brilliant and should be required reading for all game design students //bookmarks for later spammery//

    Honestly, I can’t quite figure out why the devs of these games spend any effort at all on the PR-spin/rationale around this issue, which comes up again and again.

    Video games are nothing if not paragon examples of Modern Marketing Science, and these guys (and everyone else) know pretty-much exactly who’s buying which games.

    Who here really thinks it would cost them anything significant in sales if the devs of Crackdown 2 (the current outrage du jour) just busted out and said “Look, we know where our bread and butter is: it’s 14 year-old boys. They don’t care about girls in games, and not enough girls buy our games for us to care either.”

    Wouldn’t such honesty (from an actual game-company spokesman, not some defensive fanboy) be at least refreshing, if still totally asshole-ish??

    I think the real reason for all the pseudo-technical BS-ery from these guys is that none of them wants to be the guy on record answering a much stickier (and more important) question: Where the hell ARE all the female/black/queer/etc. game developers (whose presence in the industry is the only thing that will really mitigate any of this nonsense) , and why aren’t any working for YOU??

    I mean, if game development is the Ultimate Utopian Meritocratic Level Playing Field that the whiteboys are always claiming, then WHERE THE HELL IS EVERYONE ELSE???

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