Nexon's free-to-play multiplayer online FPS "Combat Arms" just added a new feature called the "Nut Shot," which awards points for shooting males in the nether region. But I asked the game-makers: What if you're playing a female avatar? Read More...

The cinematic director addresses the race controversy and whether or not he focused too much on Sheva's female form. Read More...

Developer-Made Version Of 'Mirror's Edge' Heroine Faith Vs. Fan-Made Version Of 'Mirror's Edge' Heroine Faith
In an inspired bit of blogging last month, Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft presented these two images of "Mirror's Edge" protagonist Faith.

He showed the official version made by EA-owned Swedish development studio DICE, as seen up to the left here. And he showed a version made by a gamer on a Korean message board apparently in the interest of depicting what that gamer found to be a more appealing vision of Asian female beauty, which is on the right.

The result:

  • Hundreds of comments debating the depiction of women in games
  • Dozens of arguments about designers from one culture who craft characters drawn from another culture
  • And... what we didn't know until now, at least one crest-fallen developer at DICE.

I asked "Mirror's Edge" producer Tom Farrer if he'd seen the images -- of course, he had -- and what he thought of them. His unvarnished answer: Read More...

You can debate whether it says more about me or the Xbox 360, but my New Xbox Experience is very... male.

Since the NXE transformed most of the Xbox 360 dashboards in the U.S. this week, I've witnessed a stark reminder that almost everyone my 360 is connected to is a guy. Or at least they play one as an Avatar.

I have 59 friends on my Xbox 360 friend's list, 50 of whom have made Avatars. All but two of them have made male Avatars. When I flick through the NXE's line-up of my friends' Avatars, it seems like I'm looking at the line for the men's room.

Microsoft's creation of the Avatars has been seen as an attempt to emulate the approachability of the Wii brand and Nintendo's Miis. But the gender balance of my friends' Avatars and my friends' Miis are as different as Microsoft and Nintendo's apparent success at courting more than guy gamers.

Take a look at this:

Think "Madden" is strictly for the guys? Gamestop doesn't think so.

On Monday, the national video game retailer launched "Girls Night In," a microsite aimed at women encouraging them to host their own "Madden NFL 09" parties and "designed to help educate wives, moms and girlfriends about the Madden phenomenon."

The website promotes the Wii "All-Play" version and offers football trivia and terminology, tips on how to play the video game and what items they'll need to host their own women-only "Madden" party. It begins by saying, "The start of 2008 football season is just on the horizon. Are you worried girls? Well now you don’t have to be... You can even learn some football facts that will impress the most die-hard NFL fans. So get the girls together, throw on a jersey, and get gaming!"

I called up Betty Shock, regional vice president of Gamestop, about their new initiative to draw females into playing the new "Madden."

"Madden is such an incredibly huge game for us, and what happens to females during the winter months is that they become football widows," Shock explained. "So what better opportunity to start the website and really get females to begin interacting with football?" Read More...

The art direction and selection of character classes weren't the only topics disputed heavily among the "Diablo III" team.

Unlike the previous games, every controllable character in "Diablo III" can be male or female. Sound innocuous? Lead designer Jay Wilson told me the gender option was the result of "quite a big debate."

For those who aren't familiar with past "Diablo" titles, the character classes were either one gender or the other -- the Necromancer was male, the Amazon was female, the Barbarian was male, etc. Like the desaturated art style and the inclusion of old character classes, some "Diablo III" team members wanted to stick with the familiar one-gender archetypes.

And why was that?

Last month, some "Age of Conan" forum members discovered that female characters in the MMO swing their weapons slower than males, causing them to do significantly less damage over time.

Developers at Funcom stated earlier this week that they "never intended for any character to be stronger/weaker than another based on its gender." They said the fix will be coming in the next several weeks.

Reading about this topic on a few other gaming blogs, I noticed a few comments from people who thought there should be differences between male and female avatars in terms of physical abilities. Here's what I found: Read More...

soe_girl_event_281×211.jpgSan Francisco -- Girls want to make games, too. It's just that they're intimidated.

At least that's what a survey conducted by Sony Online Entertainment has revealed.  Conducted among female students currently enrolled in game design, programming and visual effects at The Art Institutes schools, the survey showed that 61% "believe male dominance in the industry is a deterrent to women pursuing a career in gaming" and 42% "would like to see women portrayed as leaders in video games."

As a result, this inspired SOE to form G.I.R.L. (Gamers In Real Life), a scholarship program to educate and recruit women in the video game industry. The announcement of the scholarship program was made during the Game Developers Conference last month at an event for SOE's upcoming spy-themed MMO "The Agency."

Representives of G.I.R.L. included some of SOE's executive staff as well as women working directly on "The Agency" from SOE Seattle, like producers Sherry Floyd and Heather Sowards.

Being that women working in games is a topic I'm quite interested in, I sat down with both Floyd and Sowards the day after the event to talk about what it's like to be women working in a male-dominated field.

One reason why it's good to have women in games? They know how female video game characters should dress. During my conversation with Floyd, who works on the art content of "The Agency," she told me:

"We have to do a lot of women's clothing; half of the characters in the game are women. ... I think it's really good to have a female perspective there. I know more than once I've talked to an artist and said, 'Um, you can't cut the sleeves like that because her bra would show.' You've got full-figured women in the game, and they would have to wear a bra! [laughs] Actually, everybody's really respectful about it, and we do laugh a lot when we have these conversations. And I would say the men in our creative group definitely know a lot more about shoes, the cuts of blazers, A-line skirts versus pencil skirts and everything else than they ever cared to know. But they're definitely educated now, and they've educated me as well, so it's been really good."


carnivalgames_281×211.jpgAll I want are some options. And a chance to be me sometimes. Is that too much to ask?

It all started with "Carnival Games," which I played last August. When I went to create my character, it gave me a variety of choices for pants, shirts, shoes, accessories, hairstyles... you name it. But when it came to skin color, it only offered different faces in one pale hue. In other words, as a minority (I'm a Chinese woman), I could not replicate my skin color for my avatar within "Carnival Games" (much less if I were African-American or Hispanic). I found that a bit offensive.

A more recent example that reminded me of this topic was the (hotly debated) ocean exploration sim "Endless Ocean," where my diver had the choice to have either brown or black hair (sorry blondes, redheads and everyone in-between). As for skin tone, it asked me what kind of "tan" I wanted (clearly, African-Americans just have deeper "tans" than I do). The darkest "tan" I could get matched the skin color of someone from "Laguna Beach."

Then there are games that don't let you choose gender despite the fact that your character's sex doesn't affect the story. Like in "Crackdown," for instance (one of my favorite games of '07). Totilo reported that the "GTA"-style game backtracked on having women characters as cybernetically-enhanced police officers because of having to create "a whole new set of animations for a female bulking up." And then there's "The Club," which I saw a demo of last year, a score-based, arcade-style shooter that has eight characters, all with different attributes, and all men. Would it have hurt to throw a female in there? Couldn't she have a special attribute?

"Her special attribute could be cooking and cleaning," a co-worker joked. See what I have to deal with?

I'm not saying that all games have to have playable female characters (as well as the option for race) in them, and I'm totally fine with being a (white) dude in games (I love being Mario, Gordon Freeman, Max Payne, etc. of course). But based on my tendency as a gamer, when given the choice, I will choose to be a female, maybe Asian-looking. Why? Probably because I don't often get to be a female in games, save for the more "casual" titles that I tend not to play.

All I'm saying is that I would love to see more games (like "Rainbow Six Vegas 2") have the option to be a female character -- when appropriate and when the story permits. The same could be said of different races. There's absolutely no reason for a game like "Carnival Games" to not have any choice for skin tone. What do you think?

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