Some people may be wondering about the admission in my last post that I, a red-blooded hetero-male, play as the female version of Shepard in Mass Effect. Why is that, you ask?
For one, Jennifer Hale is the best voice actor in the biz. Her Naomi Hunter manages that balance of brilliant, sexy, and crazy so well, and her work on other hits like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Knights of the Old Republic is equally laudable. MaleShep is rather oak-like by comparison.
Second, I like to watch things I don’t see every day. Hollywood is never going to learn that diversity, and specifically unexpected diversity, is compelling to watch. That leaves it to the video game industry to pick up the slack. Of course, when given the opportunity, the video game industry will still force white straight male dominant crap at us (see the REVAN scandal, or less subtly, Duke Nukem Anything), but more and more total character customization is becoming the norm, and it has been nice to see game creators defend the rights of players to construct non-traditional characters, like David Gaider’s defense of gay options in Dragon Age II, or Casey Hudson’s defense of same in Mass Effect 3. I play FemShep because I’ve never seen a movie or video game ever to feature a swashbuckling female starship captain. Actually, without Janeway, I don’t think there has ever been one, and she was always more of a Captain Mom than a Captain Badass.
Despite the option for woman power awesomeness, it is clear from the marketing campaigns and ancillary media of these franchises that the male protagonist is the default, expected protagonist. Fortunately, most characters talk to the male protagonist and female protagonist the same way, proving that, at least in the worlds of these games, people truly are gender blind.