Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh: The major thing missing from this year's biggest video games

This year's selection of gaming titles is missing one major thing. But things could be about to get better, writes Siobhan Keogh.
Faith Connors in the action-adventure platform video game Mirror's Edge Catalyst.
Faith Connors in the action-adventure platform video game Mirror's Edge Catalyst.

This year, we've seen the release of the new, women-led Ghostbusters, and casting announcements for an all-female Oceans 8.

Ghostbusters was met with critical acclaim, despite facing backlash from some old-school fans of the franchise.

Likewise, in 2015, the world's biggest games industry conference, E3, was full of women, and it was glorious.

Mass Effect3 featured a female character as their lead.
Mass Effect3 featured a female character as their lead.

From Mass Effect to Dishonored 2, gamers were treated to a series of upcoming games led by female protagonists. It was like the industry, in response to a particularly bleak year for women in games, stood up and collectively said, "Women are part of this too."

Since then, I've noticed a bit of a seachange. The new Uncharted game teased the idea that the franchise could be led by a woman in the future.

Overwatch used one of its many women characters, Tracer, in the bulk of its marketing and, in a move that nearly blew my mind, on the game's cover.

It seems as if things might be looking up for the representation of women in genres of entertainment they'd previously been barred from, including in games. So why is it that almost nothing released so far this year has had a female lead?

I can think of just two examples that are anything close to blockbusters - I Am Setsuna, and Mirror's Edge Catalyst. (I suspect Mirror's Edge, which was panned by critics, will make many think twice about approving women as leads, despite the game's many real flaws.)

This year's E3 was comparatively a bit of a downer, too. Only three percent of games shown at E3 keynotes this year featured female protagonists. In comparison, 41 percent featured male protagonists. This is despite the fact that nearly half of all gamers are women and girls. In New Zealand, that number is 48 percent.

And before you suggest those gamers only play casual games, which wouldn't be showcased at a conference like E3, think again - women report spending significantly more time playing 'in-depth' than casually.

When I look at those numbers, I find it incomprehensible that anyone could be angry at women who are pushing for increased representation.

It would be remiss of me to not point out that there are bright spots on the horizon. By the end of this year, we should see Dishonored 2, assuming it's not delayed. In Dishonored you can continue to play as Corvo, the protagonist from the original game, or you can play as Emily Kaldwin.

With Dishonored 2, gamers were treated to a series of upcoming games led by female protagonists.
With Dishonored 2, gamers were treated to a series of upcoming games led by female protagonists.

I love the idea of playing as Emily, particularly because she was the damsel in distress you had to rescue in the first game. ReCore could be a hit, too, although developer Armature Studios' track record is far from spotless and mostly consists of ports.

And next year is looking better, too. In February we should finally get our hands on Horizon Zero Dawn, which is being created by the studio that developed Killzone. I mean, Killzone isn't the best franchise, but it's pretty good.

Then Mass Effect: Andromeda is scheduled for March - you'll be able to choose your gender as you have in previous ME games, but since they're using women in their marketing I'm calling it a win.

But while I am absolutely celebrating the (generally) positive direction female representation is going in, the fact remains that it's still nowhere near where it needs to be, and 2016 has been a bit of a disappointment.

No one's calling for the eradication of games featuring men as the sole protagonists - I mean, that has a zero percent likelihood of happening anyway.

But speaking as someone who's been playing games for a very long time now, it's way past time to see a little more of myself reflected in a form of media that I, and many other women, love.

- NZ Herald

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Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh has been playing video games for almost as long as she's been able to read. Her passion for games started with Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd in Miracle World, grew when she discovered the Final Fantasy series as a teenager, and became near-obsessive when she worked as games editor for PC World magazine. She'll play almost every kind of game there is, from shooters to strategies to adventure games to Peggle, on any platform she can get her hands on. Her love of games isn't limited to the screen - she also plays both board and card games on the tabletop. When she's not gaming, she's tweeting lame jokes about games on Twitter. Occasionally she takes a breather from that and talks about running and fitness instead. Siobhan works as community manager for New Zealand's largest locally-owned technology company, but her views on gaming are her own.

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