During this year’s E3 Coliseum, What’s Good Games host, Andrea Rene, spoke with Blizzard Entertainment’s community development senior director Sarah Lynn Smith, and performance capture actress Laura Bailey who plays Kait Diaz in the upcoming Gears of War 5, during a half hour panel.
The panel was called #SheTalksGames, which is one of the initiatives by Facebook’s Women In Gaming social engineering programs put together by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. In the pitch video over on the Facebook page it mentions that the purpose of the program is to create outreach and encouragement to “champion diversity in games” by talking with development studios around the world, since only 25% of women are working in the gaming industry.
The pitch from Sandberg doesn’t hide the fact that they’re working really hard to enforce young girls and women to get into gaming, and to enforce game studios to include more women in games, whether they fit or not.
In fact, Andrea Rene – during the E3 Coliseum panel – mentioned to the audience that #SheTalksGames and the developers they’re working with are being encouraged to make the “conscious choice” to include more diversity. At the 26 minute mark Rene explains…
“Something that we talk about when we talk about the Shetalksgames initiative, some of the developers and the interviews we’ve done with all kinds of women in the industry, we kind of all come back to this same thing that… Obviously we want to not shoehorn in diversity if it doesn’t feel right, but at a certain point, if we don’t take the step forward and make the conscious choice to include it, who’s going to do it, right? We’re still in the building process of getting more people inside these studios around the world, whether be big or small, at the publisher, at the hardware makers, whoever. We’re still in that phase of trying to attract more voices to the industry and until then, I think if there’s somebody who’s willing to do it – why not? Who cares if it doesn’t make sense? Who cares if someone with pink hair didn’t exist in 1942? Why can’t they? Right?”
Essentially, this is what we’re seeing with certain franchises completely having their identities upended to enforce the diversity initiative. For instance, we saw it with Gears of War 4, which was toned down in gore, and masculinity. The dudebro nature of the game was replaced with a trio of Saturday morning super friends led by the insufferable J.D. Fenix. The game sold poorly and even Microsoft refuses to publish sell-through numbers for Gears of War 4. This is opposite of Gears of War 3, which sold over 3 million units during its first week on sale, as reported by The Christian Science Monitor.
The Coalition is keeping with that direction for Gears of War 5, which stars Kait Diaz and is about her emotional journey of self-discovery. It’s a far cry from the original action-horror tone that the first Gears of War had.
In fact, just compare the announcement trailers for both games and you can see how Gears of War 5 has a far more emotional, and feminist-centric tone compared to the original Gears of War.
Also take note that the gore from Gears of War 3 to Gears of War 4 was drastically toned down, with the game taking on a brighter color palette with brighter orangish blood along with the removal of particle gibs during mutilation.
It would seem like if Gears of War 4 sold as poorly as it did by heading in a more family-oriented, adventure setting, they would course-correct for Gears of War 5. But according to Facebook’s #SheTalksGames, the idea is to keep pushing for the diversity angle and including more and more women in design roles and leading roles in games even when they aren’t the majority of the audience.
As noted by multiple studies, while women may make up half the gaming market, majority of them prefer non-violent games and non-competitive titles when playing, which is why they make up for such a small percentage of the demographics for most first-person shooters and third-person shooters.
What’s interesting is that sales for diversity-driven games seem to reflect the disinterest most women have for violent shooter titles. Gears of War 4 isn’t the only casualty of this change, other games like Battleborn, Agents of Mayhem, Gigantic Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and Lawbreakers were all victims of poor sales despite focusing heavily on diversity and female leads.
If they actually wanted more women in games they would focus more on making new IP that women actually play, such as role-playing games, puzzle games, or social MMOs, as opposed to stripping male-centric games of their masculinity or subverting entire franchises and brands that were predominately enjoyed by males.
Starting this October we’ll see how well the diversity push for Battlefield V works out, especially after EA’s CCO told critics not to buy the game, and next year we’ll see exactly how well this forceful push for diversity comes to fruition when Gears of War 5 launches for Windows 10 and Xbox One systems, along with Wolfenstein: Youngblood, which sees the lead male character replaced with two female characters. Following that we’ll find out exactly how well Naughty Dog attacking its own audience over the propaganda in The Last of Us 2 will work out when it launches exclusively for the PS4.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)