Nov 15 2012

No Room for the Ladies? GTA V’s Male Dominated Line-up

Published by at 10:00 am under Columns,Video Games

I don’t mean to be a killjoy, a Debbie downer, or that guy at a party who has to tell everyone that the keg is tapped, but I’m disappointed that at least one of the three playable characters in Rockstar’s upcoming GTA V isn’t female. I wouldn’t be saying anything if GTA V simply featured another single male protagonist; a loveable anti-hero or a salty down-on-his luck ex-con, perhaps. But this GTA promises to be one of their biggest, if not the biggest ever, and has three protagonists, yet Rockstar couldn’t find room in the wide story or enormous open-world for one playable female character?

Before you pull out your pitchforks let me say that I know the GTA series has always been geared towards guys. It’s an over-the-top and violent sandbox that features more bullets than words and more explosions than plot twists, what’s not to like? Well for one, traditionally females in GTA are either victims of brutal assault or victims of terrible dialogue. But that’s not the only reason.

I’m not saying they should have added a female character because it’s politically correct or because they should do something about their tarnished public image. I’m saying they should have because it’s about time the girls get a protagonist that steals cars and blows things up with the rest of the guys.

Can’t she be scantily clad and have an interesting back story?

That’s not to say it wouldn’t help their public image a little. In an interview last week with the NY Times, Rockstar’s Dan Houser said “I don’t think we revel in the mistreatment of women at all,” after the reporter asked him about the treatment of women in their games. He went on to say, “I just think the world we’re representing, in Grand Theft Auto, that it’s appropriate.” This has traditionally been their answer to questions like this and it’s a valid one; in our world it’s ok because it is satire.

Rockstar and the GTA series has a knack for pretty much doing whatever they like, offending everyone who doesn’t like what they see. Their rap sheet runs the gamut from drug dealing and racism to the theft of cars and the murder of prostitutes. It almost seems as if there’s some sort of controversy every time they release a game. In fact their first controversy, over the original GTA, wasn’t a controversy at all. Turns out it was good PR.

Last month Gamesindustry.biz ran a piece about a guy named Max Clifford who was hired by the publisher of the original GTA, not to defend against negative press, but to create it. They manufactured the drama that surrounded their first release in order to create a buzz. That was in 1997, they learned a long time ago that bad press is pretty much the same thing as good press when it comes to sales.

Wow, just look at all that controversy. 

While the lack of a female protagonist isn’t necessarily an image issue for Rockstar – if history has anything to say any bad PR could be good for sales – it does show that even with a game as large and dynamic as this there’s still no room for a girl.

In an interview with IGN, Leslie Benzies, GTA Producer since 2001, talks about GTA V and player expectations, “We want every one of our games to meet and exceed the players’ expectations so they always want more, and as such GTA V feels like our most ambitious project yet.” He even talked about how three characters added variety to the story, “This is where having the three playable characters, all living in very different parts of the world, and a world that’s completely open to the player from the beginning really becomes an advantage.”

Obviously all we’ve seen are screen shots, but so far every Rockstar developer that has been interviewed has talked about how much they are pushing the envelope, how vast Los Santos is, and how dynamic the story will be. While I believe every word of what they are saying, that the game will be like nothing we’ve ever seen, doesn’t a game this “ambitious” and “completely open” sound like a good opportunity to add a female to the franchise? I mean girls do play games after all. In 2010, 42% of people who played games were girls. While some probably played GTA, I’m guessing more would have if there was a character that better represented them.





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14 responses so far

  • Postal

    Completely agree.

  • dolaction

    Catalina from San Andreas could hold her own.

  • trashcanman

    Meh. I actually enjoy playing as female characters given a choice, but I have to draw the line at armchair video game development. Way too easy to shout at every creator “hey, that last book/film/game/whatever should have starred a GIRL!!!”. It’s not really a valid criticism so much as it is a personal desire or contrarian sentiment. If Rockstar is more comfortable making games about men picking up hookers and then killing them before committing any number of other crimes against humanity, then it’s their call. And while there are girl gamers, there are a ton more men (boys, really) who will not play a game if the character is female than there are women who won’t play as a male. I wish I was joking, but this is a thing that actually exists.

  • banko

    I’m more upset that they removed the whole dating scenario, now that they can actually make attractive women with the graphical upgrade.

  • http://saraclemens.com Sara Clemens

    Trashcanman’s last point is a solid one, but therein lies the rub: here’s a scenario where a player has three playable protagonists to choose from, so no one’s forcing any boys to play as an icky girl. Really? *One* can’t be female? Here’s a studio that consistently turns out complex game protagonists (John Marston, Niko Bellic, Max Payne) and they can’t manage to devote one third of a game to one who happens to be a woman?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll play GTA V as the three guys, just as I’ve always played as a male protagonist in order to be a the kind of gamer I want to be, but that’s a testament to my ability to buck up, not Rockstar’s having the “balls” to portray the majority of their female characters in GTA as idiot whores that exist as sex objects and homicide victims. Especially because they take obvious glee in giving the player the opportunity to treat them as both simultaneously.

    Dave Bast, you’re a man after my own heart.

    • Dave Bast

      :) Just calling it how I see it, Ms. Clemens.

  • Draugr

    Agreed!

  • Summer

    Haha. I actually dislike the GTA series, primarily because I got out of “kill EVERYTHING in sight” and my brother hated my use of the riot cheats (He liked killing/driving everything and getting a lot of money). Sure, me being a girl gives me a bias, but I know a LOT of guys that like to watch a girl *cough* and she could be skanky as hell and fit perfectly into the series. Oh well, not like I’m playing it anyways.

  • Mr. Right

    Why do people keep wanting Rockstar to make a female protagonist?

    All you’re clamoring for is to have a female lead ruined by their godawful garbage writing. Until they learn how to write a story that doesn’t seem like something an 11 year old “gansta swag” kid thought up, I have no interest in who they make their games about and will continue to download clear saves in order to enjoy the physics and gameplay without losing braincells watching the “story”.

  • Steve

    Well.. if it bothers you so bad go to school and design GTA VI so you can play the same game as a different character model.

  • Anna

    I totally agree and was really hoping that this GTA would include a playable female character especially once i heard that there would be multipile characters to play as …I am tired of the lame excuses that are trotted out as to why GTA never features any playable female characters even in DLC ( only in multiplayer ) …
    Its said it doesn’t fit their story lines and the theme of the series but anyone who knows anything about gang culture will know that there are plenty of female gang members who are as violent and criminal as any of their male counterparts …its touted that it doesn’t fit their main core audience /buyers who I assume are young white American males …but does making most of their protaganists in their 50 s (or seem like 50 ) conform to that did making niko Billic a East European fit that ? does their inclusion of gay storylines and characters fit into that ? (niko had to save a gay character from a homophobic gay beater and then theres the whole gay tony DLC ) and theres the fact that the only full on nudity in a GTA game was a male member done of which i imagine conforms to pleasing a white male straight American audience .
    I think the answer to why there are never female playable characters in GTA is far more simple than the reasons put forward .
    there maybe some of that activision attitude that games with female leads don’t sell as well though this holds far less validity with a game that has multipile choice characters and why no female charcter in DLC at least ?
    No I think the answer is simple the makers of GTA still believe girls don’t play video games they believe that guys won’t play as girls but biggest of all the makers of GTA simply have a low and negative opinion of females .
    After all they are willing to risk sales by making their protaganists much older and weirder than their suposed core audience and risk putting that audience off with the inclusion of gay plotlines .
    female characters in GTA are always either victims or idits the male character has to save GTA is also more than willing to exploit females with constant sexy sexulised publicity shots of scantily clad females like the one included on this page (it is also notable that said pics rarely relate to any in game character ) but actually catering to the growing number of female gamers by including a playable female character seems beyond their abilties even in DLC or when their game feature more than one playable character.
    Its a shame because GTA is more than a gangsta game it features great real like worlds with cool mini games many more girls would get into this series and this brilliantly made worlds if only rockstar would include a playable female character heck even as dlc .
    Its this lack of Female playable characters that has always had me prefering Saints row over GTA dispite the fact that GTA has a far better in game world with far more to do and my dislike for saints ever increasing over the top silliness the forth one sounds worse of all .
    The other excuse so often troted out is about it having a negative effect on the depth of storyline but bioware and Bethesda have already proven its possible to create deep stories and still give players the choice in what race and gender their character is .
    And besides why do so many game makers think their making movies ? if I want deep stories and charatirization I will watch a movie ..I play games to get into the world and being the charcter ..I would be more than willing to lose some of the deepness of the plot to gain more options and choices over the gender ect of my character

  • Cessy

    While I see what you are saying. I don’t think it is our place to tell developers what they can and cannot do. If we ever want games to be taken as seriously as movies and book we cannot demand that certain people be put in certain roles.

    Similarly, I also believe we should not demand that Crystal Dynamic and Ninja Theory put male protagonists in Tomb Raider and Heavenly sword.

    Remember, this is narratively driven game. (The point being that if this were a game like Skyrim or Mass Effect, I would totally understand as the player is suppose to imprint on the lead and the main character is much more inter-changable, but I would like to believe that since this game is narratively based, all the characters serve a purpose that is serviced by the story.

    After all we don’t go around telling Suzanne Collis to make a male Katniss or J.K. Rowling to rewrite Harry Poter as female do we?

  • Kat

    @ EVERYONE HERE:

    When asked this question, founder, president and lead writer of the GTA series and Rockstar games, Dan Houser stated, that they were simply portraying gang life stlye and as such stippers and prosistutes just fit with the setting and as such he had little intrest in writing a female lead. So as long as Dan Houser remains the preisdnet (and he probably will untill he dies) Rockstar in all liekly hood will not be making GTA games with females lead.

    And I do agree that he should be able to create whatever game he wants with whatever chracters he wants. The much more legitmate question is why rather than telling another compnay what to do, do people who feel this way, simply create their own studio and their own game doing this themselves?

  • geyxenocide

    In my experience, girls love GTA. Way more than I ever have anyway. It’s like they just can’t wait to express the “masculine” side of their psyche without receiving judgement. Meanwhile, I’d love to operate in the GTA world as a tough as nails chick. It seems like an odd choice not to include a female protagonist.

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