Tag Archives: protagonist

A new definition of manhood

Colin Stokes, TEDx:

Another thing that’s really unique about “The Wizard of Oz” to me is that all of the most heroic and wise and even villainous characters are female.

Now I started to notice this when I actually showed “Star Wars” to my daughter, which was years later, and the situation was different. At that point I also had a son. He was only three at the time. He was not invited to the screening. He was too young for that. But he was the second child, and the level of supervision had plummeted. (Laughter) So he wandered in, and it imprinted on him like a mommy duck does to its duckling, and I don’t think he understands what’s going on, but he is sure soaking in it.

And I wonder what he’s soaking in. Is he picking up on the themes of courage and perseverance and loyalty? Is he picking up on the fact that Luke joins an army to overthrow the government? Is he picking up on the fact that there are only boys in the universe except for Aunt Beru, and of course this princess, who’s really cool, but who kind of waits around through most of the movie so that she can award the hero with a medal and a wink to thank him for saving the universe, which he does by the magic that he was born with?

Compare this to 1939 with “The Wizard of Oz.” How does Dorothy win her movie? By making friends with everybody and being a leader. That’s kind of the world I’d rather raise my kids in — Oz, right? — and not the world of dudes fighting, which is where we kind of have to be. Why is there so much Force — capital F, Force — in the movies we have for our kids, and so little yellow brick road?

Take 10 minutes to watch this great TEDx Talk by Colin Stokes. I’m not sure how it escaped me that all Pixar protagonists were male until Merida (Brave). Looking back on my childhood, I am able to recall watching The Wizard of Oz again and again. I don’t think the themes of leadership and friendship completely sunk in at that young age; however, the limited and choice amount of violence certainly made me fear conflict much more than any war story.

During last year’s E3 Expo, I couldn’t help but feel there was an increase in games featuring a female protagonist. Not resting on a hunch, I decided to investigate which new titles featured female protagonists versus the year prior. Looking IGN’s Games of E3 lsts for both 2012 and 2013, I found that the inclusion of female protagonists in games announced at E3 jumped from 2% in 2012 to 6% in 2013.

I’m looking forward to breaking down this year’s data and may be asking for a bit of help with a publicly shared database (via Numbers for iCloud). My early numbers show 18% male, 3% female, 10% multi, 4% n/a, and 65% unknown.

UPDATE: Updated numbers the night before E3 are as follows:

26% male, 4% female, 17% multi, 9% n/a, 44% unknown.

My data (based on IGN’s Games at E3 2014) is publicly available and I encourage readers to reach out on Twitter (@_stateofgaming) or email with any recommended changes. Some “unknown” data can be implied but, without proof, I’ll be waiting until official announcements have been made before I update the chart.

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Humanity in Hearthstone

Humanity in Hearthstone

How Blizzard is changing the diversity game.


 It is an understatement to say that diversity in gaming has become a hot topic as of late. Themes of sexuality, racial prominence, and gender depiction are now a hotbed for passionate discussion across developer, journalist, and player communities.

From 2012 to 2013, the number of games showcased at E3 featuring a playable female protagonist rose from 2% to 6%. Reluctance to include the theme of sexuality is being countered more frequently by games such as Gone HomeThe Last of Us, and Mass Effect. This is clear evidence that players are yearning for character dynamic and identity in their games. Video games are a medium that exudes immersion more than any other, and in turn becomes the perfect platform for sympathetic and relatable storytelling.

On April 16, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment released their latest foray Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to the iPad. As a free-to-play (F2P) digital collectible card game (CCG) built by a AAA developer that prides itself on the promise of polish with a highly reputable back-catalog, it is an extremely inviting and sure to be incredibly popular download. From testing with a PC/Mac open-bata to trickling the iOS version out to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada prior to world-wide launch, Blizzard was sure this game would be a massive hit.

At the news of Hearthstone for iPad’s launch, I was extremely excited to see what the buzz was about. After rave reviews across the industry, I could not wait to invest in this new Blizzard title that seemed perfectly suited for the tablet platform. Upon launching the game, I assumed I would be given the opportunity to select/create a character and possibly build a deck. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Ultimately, Hearthstone does not include a single protagonist. From Orcs to Elves, Druids to Barbarians, players are eventually offered the chance to unlock a collection of Heroes to chose from. Many veteran CCG players will understand this at the onset. What they may not realize is that they will be forced to begin their Hearthstone experience in a tutorial as Human Mage, Jaina Proudmoore. A female.

This tutorial consists of six ‘missions,’ each introducing details about the game’s mechanics and subtleties. Each ‘mission’ sets the protagonist Jaina against an eccentric opponent, throwing out comical comments that unfold their caricature against a backdrop of the colorful and cartoony tones of the Warcraft universe. Jaina faces her six opponents in the following order:

Six males versus one female. This alone is a powerful statement that will likely slip into the unconscious if not willingly observed.

Sex aside, characters banter back and forth throughout matches. Each foe’s optimistic attitude is met with Jaina’s cautious yet powerful tone. The addition of voice-acting helps build a bond between player and protagonist. Like reading through Katniss Everdeen’s struggles in The Hunger Games, it is nearly impossible not to build a trusting connection with Jaina, rooting for her to defeat each of the tutorial’s quirky baddies.

The initial tutorial took me roughly one hour to complete. Once finished, I felt an attachment to Jaina. Not only had we defeated six opposing (male) Heroes without fail together, we had conquered the powerhouse that is Illidan Stormrage even though the game told us we couldn’t. (A comical, clever and original design choice)

While Jaina and I must spend more time together in order to unlock additional playable Heroes and decks, I am not racing to change protagonists. This tutorial has certainly bonded me to Jaina and is likely to do the same for most players: young and old, male and female.

As subtle and simple as it may appear, Blizzard has made a bold move as a AAA developer in building a tutorial showcasing a powerful female protagonist against six male rivals. Forcing hardcore veterans and casual novices to learn from, protect, and assist a female protagonist in what has the potential to become the largest cross-platform game is a great leap for the cause of diversity in gaming; however, the job is far from done.

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is currently available for PC, Mac and iPad.


Originally published on TheStarrList.com

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E3 2013: Genre/Gender Breakdown

Curious about male protagonist dominance in video games, I decided to do a little research…

The following post was originally published on my IGN blog on 6/15/13. It went on to be featured on the front page of IGN.com.


After all of the announcements at E3, I was curious to find out the genre breakdown between the games announced at E3 as well as their protagonist genders. To delve into this information, I pulled the original Big Games at E3 2013 list (156 games), mapped the platform section into a quantifiable “TRUE”/”FALSE” list, gathered genre lists from both IGN and Wikipedia, and researched the gender of the protagonist of each game.

Elaborating on the gender categories:

“Multi” being either:
– a) multiple characters to select from (ie. Mario Kart 8 / Killer Instinct receive 1 count for “multi” although there are several characters to select from)
– b) customizable gender
– c) large customizable party

“n/a” being a
– a) gender ambiguous character
– b) God-view game
– c) first-person with no direct gender association

 

Some key points:

– Sample size = 156 games
– 9 exclusively female protagonists (Bayonetta 2, LocoCycle, Transistor, Barbie Dreamhouse Party, Beyond Two Souls, Magic The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, Mirror’s Edge 2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13, Time and Eternity)

The most interesting bits of data show PS3 receiving more releases than any other console, Sony in general receiving more releases than any other brand, and Nintendo catering to female and multiple choice protagonists more than any other brand.

The following charts represent IGN’s Big Games at E3 2012 list:

Some key points:

– Sample size = 55 games
– 1 exclusively female protagonist (Tomb Raider)

This is still very much a work in progress as there is plenty of unknown data. Seeing as these charts only map E3 2013, there is no current assessment of industry trends; however, I am currently adding previous E3’s to this research. I may be reaching out to the community for assistance in updating this data to slim down on the amount of unknown and update on previous E3s.

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UPDATE; 2013-06-15, 12:15p: Added platform spread for announced games.

UPDATE; 2013-06-17, 12:15p: Added Genre breakdown based on Wikipedia classifications, Protagonist Distribution per brand, and Protagonist Distribution per Wikipedia Genre classification.

UPDATE; 2013-06-20, 12:10p: Wikipedia video game genres have been simplified for broad classification. Wikipedia classifies “Shooter” as a sub-Action genre. For the purposes of this study, “Shooter” has been given its own classification.

UPDATE; 2013-06-21, 9:15a: Added charts for Genres Per Platform and Genres Per Brand. Thank you all for your feedback and comments! Loving the discussion!

UPDATE; 2013-06-22, 3:45p: Changed Genres Per Brand charts to pie chart form. I will be adding IGN genre comparison soon.

UPDATE; 2013-06-25, 7:00a: Added data from E3 2012, refined key points including sample sizes and exclusively female protagonist counts.

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