Gamasutra penned an exposé delving into the lack of female leads in video games, and what they revealed probably doesn't come as a surprise to anybody...
According to numerous unnamed sources that used to work for Activision, the publishing giant relies so heavily on focus tests and market trends that they routinely force game designers to make drastic changes mid-development or even completely rework the whole project before giving it the green light. While Singularity was named as having fallen victim to some of those "challenges," the primary example from the article is an original game concept that Treyarch began working on in 2007 called Black Lotus:
One individual, a former employee, tells us that the original concept for Black Lotus' protagonist had been modeled on actress Lucy Liu, whose action-heroine roles in films like Charlie's Angels and Kill Bill formed the basic inspiration. "Black Lotus was a great project internally," says the source. "We were all very proud of what we were trying to make and the team was excited. We made great progress."
But 2007 was a year when the top sellers on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 included Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Assassin's Creed and Madden NFL -- and the conclusion Activision took from that was that there was no room on the market for games starring a female main character. Another former employee with knowledge of the situation explains: "We were all on board, and then Activision killed it, said they don't do female characters because they don't sell."
"Activision gave us specific direction to lose the chick," says the other source plainly.
That game will finally see release as True Crime: Hong Kong, albeit with a completely different premise and another studio at the helm. The article goes on to describe first-hand accounts of the exchange leading up to that eventuality:
"Activision has no room for 'we are making an open-world game with a Hong Kong action movie feel with a female lead,' because that game doesn't exist right now," says one source. "What they do have room for is, 'we are making an open-world game with a gangster main character who can steal cars and shoot people, but it will be in Hong Kong instead of Liberty City. And then they go, 'Hey, GTA IV sold 10 million copies, so that's what we expect from you.'"
Look to that methodology to explain why all of Activision's flagship properties are male-led, says the source: "If Activision does not see a female lead in the top five games that year, they will not have a female lead," says the other source. "And the people that don't want a female lead will look at games like Wet and Bayonetta and use them as 'statistics' to 'prove' that female leads don't move mass units."
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