The Wargamer

26 May 2017

Editorial: Sex bias does it affect wargames

The editor muses on this hot topic

Published on 15 JUN 2014 12:30pm by Nik Gaukroger
  1. business and industry, background / research material, english

It can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention that one of the biggest stories coming out of E3 last week was the brouhaha over Ubisoft’s refusal to countenance female (playable) characters in the latest instalment of its successful Assassin’s Creed game. Inevitably the internet has grabbed this with both hands and poured derision on Ubisoft who have done themselves no favours with offering some pretty ridiculous reasons for not including female characters – some of which have been demolished by ex-employees. All in all it has been a pretty unedifying spectacle, and one that an industry fairly well known for under-representing females in lead roles could well have done avoiding. 

So does this sort of issue affect traditional war- and strategy games? Well I think we can safely say that for the most part it doesn’t. Certainly historically based games are inevitably going to representing male combatants as, with very few exceptions, that is what they were. War has been the preserve of men throughout history, and those women who did take part are generally the (remarkable) exceptions and because of that often get more coverage than their actual numbers justify. The biggest exception to this may be the Soviet forces during WW2. Of course, in many traditional style wargames there is no direct representation of the combatants anyway, so it’s all a bit moot. 

However, before we all get a bit smug about this I’d just throw up a quick thought as to where there may well be an issue with war/strategy games – those that move outside of history and represent other genres – for example Sci-Fi and Fantasy. There is no fundamental reason why these genre’s should not represent women in a representative manner alongside, and equal to, males. Alas, these genre’s (especially fantasy I’d suggest) do not have the best track record in this respect, with males usually being the strong lead characters and females all too often represented in unrealistic and sexually stereotypical ways. 

So, maybe historical war and strategy games get away with it on this issue due to the subject matter, but in other areas things are just as bad as elsewhere?