Developer Arkane has explained the motivations that saw it offer a playable female lead in its recent release Dishonored 2.
Speaking to Anita Sarkeesian in an interview for Engadget, co-creative director Harvey Smith responded to criticism of the first game’s handling of female stereotypes.
Your comment, which I’ll always remember – I’ll take it to my grave – was something like ‘While Dishonored is a game that does many things very well, the roles that it has for women are very narrow.’ And, y’know, at first you take some criticism and you’re like ‘Wait a minute!’ And then you go look and it’s like ‘Wow, every woman in Dishonored is either a servant, a prostitute, a witch, a queen or a little girl. We have a mistress also.
That was not an intentional choice. So when something like that pops up you can get defensive if you want or you can say ‘Guys, let me just ask this – did we mean that?’. And the answer is no, we did not mean that. Would the game be worse if we took an action on this or would the game be better? The game would be richer and more interesting."
Smith then expalined that every changed from the game’s first DLC forwards, with more involved and sometimes plyable female characters being introduced.
We made a deliberate [choice] to bring about more interesting roles,” Smith added. We had a union boss, we introduced female gang members. We just kept extending that to try and hit some sort of more plausible balance in the world. We carried that over into Dishonored 2 and we’re very happy we did.”
However, whatever you do, don’t read the comments on that Engadget video. This is why lots of work still needs to be done.