2014 was a tough year for women and the gaming industry. Gamergate turned instantaneously sour when it redirected its aim into sexism instead of a critique of the relationship between gaming companies and reviewers. The controversy inevitably reached an all time misogynist high when feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian (FeministFrequency) canceled a speaking engagement at Utah State University after receiving death threats and the state could not guarantee her safety. But with the turning of a new year, and Gamergate hopefully fading into its patriarchal past, the gaming industry seemed as if it could finally get back on its feet.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, particularly with revelations about the conception of the upcoming Life Is Strange.
The episodic game is set to release later this month and in order to generate interest in the release, the developers of Dontnod Entertainment released a video diary series to provide an inside look into the creation of Life Is Strange. It is in this series that the gaming industry seems to show its unfortunate colors.
Sam Machovich writes, “While describing the new game’s touchy content—including topics like domestic violence and bullying—the team revealed a surprise about Life Is Strange’s development: it met a lot of resistance from almost all of its potential publishers due to the game starring a female character in the lead role.”
The difficulty in having a female lead isn’t new to Dontnod, who experience similar problems with the female-led Remember Me.
Still, the creators of Life Is Strange finally found support with Square Enix, who did not pressure a gender swap for the lead role of Max, a high-school student investigating a young woman’s disappearance.
Producer Luc Baghadoust expressed that the game’s choice of a female lead was not a statement nor intentional, but simply “felt natural.”
The first episode of Life Is Strange will be released on Jan. 30 for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.