AS GAMES BECOME MORE DIVERSE, HOW ABOUT A BIT MORE DIVERSITY IN OUR MALE CHARACTERS?
We should applaud Life Is Strange 2’s boy’s own adventure
There’s no more Chloe and Max. Life Is Strange 2 has replaced its female leads with two brothers and the internet had a bit of a fit. Somewhere online there’s a special place reserved for Chloemax fanfiction and blue hair memes. Some fans are prepared to turn their backs on another complex, emotional adventure just because this one will have two male protagonists.
So has the poster game for empowered girls turned its back on gender politics and become just another dudebro adventure? Not quite. That makes the assumption all male identities are currently being served, and served well. In fact, despite female representation in games improving (though, admittedly, there’s still room to go), with Ellie, Aloy, and the Strange sisterhood championing new, complicated female heroes, we men are still put in the shoes of bloodthirsty avengers and blinkered treasure hunters.
If Dontnod can turn its sharp writing to male gender roles we could finally get masculine protagonists to be proud of, who aren’t angry men putting the world to rights at the end of a gun barrel, or smirking killers with hearts of gold, but killers nevertheless.
While it’s true many games often default to a male protagonist they rarely stretch the hero beyond a narrowminded lust for blood, gold, or power. Even the newly caring, fatherly Kratos does his parenting at the end of a blood-soaked axe. And while Nate Drake is a charmer, he’s slowly evolved from a cheeky, adventuring buffoon into a spec ops force of nature who leaves a trail of destruction in his selfish quest for more loot and renown.
Too harsh? Maybe, but the argument holds water – have male characters really evolved past Pitfall Harry? In Dontnod’s hands brothers Sean and Daniel could become genuinely balanced, interesting male characters. The tease, of course, is that younger brother Daniel will develop his personality based on the lessons you teach him. If at the end of our journey we have another dudebro gun for hire, a killer in a flannel shirt and floppy hair, then that’s on us.