E3’s over and the gaming community is slowly falling back into the normal swing of things, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still lessons to be learned from this year’s show. Feminist Frequency recently published their yearly look at the number of women-centric video games showcased at E3, and while the numbers are still frustratingly low (8 percent of games vs. 24 percent featuring men), the games we did get show plenty of promise. I want to take a look at the specific games which starred female protagonists and/or featured women predominantly in their trailers, broken down by press conference. E3 has a long way to go toward equality, but we still have some games to look forward to in the next couple of years.
Battlefield V remains committed to the female soldier they’ve been using in their marketing thus far, despite the whining of male gamers everywhere that women didn’t fight in wars (insert heavy eye roll here). Kudos to EA for not giving in.
Jo-Mei Games’ Sea of Solitude not only features a female lead, but was presented by the game’s designer, Cornelia Geppert. She showcased her game with such raw enthusiasm and genuine emotion that I think I might be forever endeared to her and her team’s game.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood spotlights BJ’s absolutely badass twin daughters. Watch the trailer (above) and appreciate how they’re both 100% ready to smash some Nazis to bits. I’ve never played a Wolfenstein game, but you better believe I’m signing up for this one. Plus, it’s got co-op!
Lara Croft makes her usual appearance with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the follow up to 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. While I still have a serious issue with the gratuitousness (and sexualization) of violence against Lara in previous installments, there’s less of that in this trailer than before, so I’m cautiously optimistic. She’s also a frighteningly competent killing machine, if the trailer’s any indication.
Ubisoft saw the market opening left by BioWare and swooped right in with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a game where you can play as Kassandra, who’s debut took Twitter by storm. There’s dialogue trees! There’s queer dialogue trees! I’m extremely excited for this one.
Beyond Good & Evil 2 is a game we still don’t know enough about, but the new trailer was action-packed and really, really pretty, starring a WOC as lead. Jade shows up at the end, too, potentially setting us up for a female protagonist and antagonist. On the downside, Ubisoft (through Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRecord) is calling for spec work to populate the game world, which is all kinds of icky.
Skull & Bones has a lady pirate sailing the high seas alongside the rest of the cast, but the extent to which she’ll be playable is kind of unclear to me. I assume you get to pick between the three? Or maybe they’re just filler for the trailer and the game has customizable characters—we’ll have to wait for some more gameplay on this one.
For Honor: Marching Fire featured a lady knight as the POV character, which the base game also did exceptionally well. It’s not the kind of game with serious character development, but I have to mention it because they’ve been killing it with realistic female armor in these games, and I’ll always appreciate that.
Ubisoft kind of swept this one, huh? Kudos to them—we’ve come a long way since the days of “women are too hard to animate.”
Gears of War 5 follows Kait Diaz on a journey that looks to take her through all sorts of creepy, gross alien infested environments. Gears is a game I physically can’t play—it makes me extremely motion sick—but for a series I generally associate with big, gruff men in power armor, it was a pleasant surprise to see a female lead (in big, strong power armor of her own!).
Oh, and Nier: Automata’s Become As Gods edition is coming to Xbox. It’s a 2017 release, but it’s good news if you’ve been unable to play it so far, since it’s definitely worth checking out.
THE LAST OF US PART II. I am not kidding when I say I cried a little when I watched this trailer, and only part of that was from the tonal shift from soft lesbian kisses to extreme violence. You play as Ellie this time around, and I’m very pleased with Sony’s commitment to not hand-waving away her sexuality from the first game. It’s absolutely worth pointing out that a AAA game developer, one of the “big three,” started their press conference with a lesbian kiss and slow dance. This is a pretty huge step toward more diverse games.
Control is a weird, reality-bending shooter from Remedy (the Alan Wake and Max Payne team) that features a female lead. We didn’t get much about it, but women in shooters is an especially rare occurrence.
Nothing, really. Nintendo’s first party announcements were all team-based games where there are no “true” main characters, but it was still a pretty big disappointment to see nothing worth mentioning in this category. Even Fire Emblem had your typical Marth-look-alike lead character. UGH.
Overall, while the numbers might be low, we saw a not insignificant amount of screen time for women in big name game conferences. Ubisoft appears to have taken a good hard look at themselves after the “animating women” debacle from several years ago, and it’s good to see a AAA game dev kick off their press conference with queer representation. Things aren’t perfect yet—there was still a blindingly obvious lack of queer men and a comparatively small cast of POC—but it’s a pretty big step up from when I first got into games. Here’s to hoping E3 2019, and the months leading up to it, takes this momentum and runs with it.
Book reviewer, game player, writer, and editor, Heather can be found on Twitter @terminality_, where she mostly posts about her cat.