My upcoming game, code named “null sector”, features women’s issues in a historical context. Time has shown women as a group capable of anything anyone else can do, but the struggle to get there makes great drama.
A recent article on Jezebel shows the kinds of roadblocks women routinely ran into. Things aren’t perfect now, but there’s definitely been progress.
In “history was hella sexist, year 1962,” NASA’s Director of Public Information responded to a woman inquiring about becoming an astronaut that they had “no existing program concerning woman astronauts nor do we contemplate any such plan.” Ouch.
The real kicker here is that just one year later, Russia sent a female Cosmonaut into orbit. America squandered the opportunity to have a very significant first, in an era when the US and USSR were competing for firsts. That we look at documents like this and marvel at how backward its stance is gives one some comfort in the present, and hope for the future.
Perhaps slightly more on-topic for a game dev blog, Kotaku ran an article recently that addresses the same issue: historical discrimination against women, at the personal and institutional levels. This is a great article about a game from 2000 that I remember but never got around to playing, No One Lives Forever.
In a world where people still doubt that a woman can be a great video-game protagonist, here’s a game that pulled it off 13 years ago. And while on its surface, No One Lives Forever may be about Cold War spy games and larger-than-life James Bond gunplay, underneath its action-packed exterior is a story about workplace sexism and the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. No, really!
Author Kirk Hamilton spends a lot of time analyzing the character interactions with protagonist bad-ass super-spy Cate Archer. Basically, every man in the game spends the whole time questioning her competence, performance, and even integrity despite the fact that she is single-handedly pulling off ludicrous missions against scores of gun-wielding commies and international criminal cronies. And yet, Cate takes it all in stride, infinitely cool in the face of opposition to her very existence, and quietly kicks Evil in the teeth. Really makes me want to look into acquiring a copy of this game!
These are the kinds of struggles and triumphs I want to address with my game. For me, making games is about telling stories and artistic expression, in addition to geeking-out on the engineering of an elegant system. I have two female English majors consulting on the story, to help polish the dramatic impact, the contextual veracity, and the believability of the female characters. If we succeed in expressing compelling stories of heroic women struggling to be accepted by the very people they fight along-side, then I will consider the game a success, whatever the sales figures be. (But you should still buy it though.)